Made for You: Behind the Scenes of an Art Commission
Have you ever wondered what would be involved in commissioning a work of art? Do you have questions about the process? Are you intimidated by asking how much it would cost? Do you worry that you will go through the effort and expense and not get something you love?
I love doing commissions, creating a special work just for you–just for your specific space, the perfect size, subject matter, and the perfect color. I want you to show you how to get exactly what you want, so I’m pulling back the curtain and taking you on a behind the scenes tour of a recent project. This work was commissioned for a home in Toronto, and I’m going to walk you through it from start to finish.
I was contacted by a prospective client with a request to possibly create a piece of art for their home gym. The gym was a small boxy room without windows, and they were eager to install a piece of art that would bring color and energy to it.
We discussed the needs of the project, including the approximate size of the room, their love for one of my existing images and the special usage and climate needs of a home gym. At this point, the client also sent me photographs and measurements of the room.
Based on this discussion, I made a proposal document for the piece. Each commission request is unique, with its own opportunities and constraints. A proposal document provides a discussion of those unique features of a commission, outlines the work that is to be produced, and includes a price quote and payment schedule. A good proposal document makes sure that everybody has the same expectations of what is going to be created, the steps in its creation, and the financial nitty-gritty (which I hate even talking about—I’d love to do it all for free–but I have to keep the lights on).
Download the complete proposal here (without names or $), to get an idea of what to expect:
The proposal discussed the following:
The area for the piece was high on the wall, closely adjacent to gym equipment. It measured 114x28”. A single piece at that size would be extremely expensive to produce, as stretching, mounting and framing in sizes over 96” become much more costly. It would also be challenging to install and manage in the future if the piece needed to be moved. I proposed that we do a piece in two or three panels and included mockups in the proposal of how that might look.
The proposed piece was going to hang very near a treadmill, so we needed to consider both how much the work would stand off the wall, and how much wear and tear it would get. I proposed investigating alternatives and suggested that face-mounting the print onto acrylic as a possibility. This mounting method can sit quite close to the wall, be lighter than framing, and is resistant to wear and tear. Ultimately, this was what we did.
For this particular project, the client was very interested in my image ‘Spray’, but we agreed that simply resizing it to fit the unusual wide and shallow space wouldn’t give the best result. I used it as a basis for a unique image custom created to go in the space.
I was so excited to do this project. I had ideas for how ’Spray’ could be extended and altered to create an exciting piece that would completely energize a small dull room. I was absolutely over-the-moon when I got the email saying that the proposal had been accepted and the e-transfer of the start-up payment had been made. Now it was time to get to work!
Even though I had ideas of what the finished piece could look like, art-making is an iterative process. I went through many versions and changes over the next weeks before I settled on the one that I loved. I emailed a proof to the client and waited, holding my breath. I was so eager to see this piece on a wall.
I was even more excited to hear that the client was on board with the new artwork! Because it was such a large piece to view on a computer screen, and because they were here in Toronto, we decided to go ahead with a full-size proof print before we created the final art print. I made a full-size print of the work on plain bond paper and we taped it to the wall of the gym to make sure that both the image and the sizing were a good fit. Perfect!
We had decided that a face-mounted acrylic piece was going to be ideal for this project. Shops that will face-mount acrylic are easy to find, but I needed one that was comfortable working with artists. I made a number of approaches until I found someone who was in tune with my perfectionist tendencies. (They've since been swallowed by a large retailer, so I won't link to them.)
I learned that acrylic mounting is better done with prints made on one or two papers that adhere better to the acrylic. I had been planning to make my own prints to my agonizingly exact standards, so now I was concerned. However, they encouraged me to come by their shop and see the materials, run some color tests and talk about the final trim to make sure that I would be satisfied with the finished work. After spending time there, I was very comfortable that I would be happy. When the finished, mounted prints arrived in my studio a week later, I was over the moon.
On the Wall