How to commission a painting and work with an artist
My husband and I agree on many aspects of home decor, but works of art are not one of them. He likes modern abstracts. I like traditional oils. Instead of trying to find a piece that we both agree on that would leave us with pretty bare walls, we take turns.
The last piece we bought was from an artist he picked, so the next piece was mine. I knew exactly who the artist would be.
Stacy Barter is a classically trained painter who has taught painting around the world. She is also a neighbor. Every December I visit the open studio sale that she organizes at home. I also try to stop by their local art exhibits. Every time I say “one day”.
One day when I see that perfect combination of theme, size and price grow together in a moment when I can also justify a waste; That is, if we don’t replace the roof (cough) or put in new landscaping (throttle).
Last month, around the time my husband asked what I wanted for Christmas, Barter sent an email saying that because of the coronavirus, she wouldn’t be doing her annual Open Studio sale while on vacation, but would still offer a 20 percent discount on each painting. My heart was beating
I jumped on their website and froze. Once again. Because I can never choose one. I resonate with so much of her art: She paints the California coast where I grew up. She paints the French landscape in which I want to live in my next life. She paints the historic city of Winter Park, Florida, where we live.
Finally, I narrowed down my subject and asked via email if she had pictures of our city in my (small) budget. She sends pictures of some candidates. Neither was the one.
Nobody was the one because I actually knew what I wanted. I kept looking for a painting of her that I had seen for the first time a few years ago, a painting of a couple walking down a charming street in our town with their dog at night. It had that magical, floating, enchanted feeling. This painting was out of my price range and had been sold, but the memory lingered.
“Since I’ve waited so long to finally get one of your pieces,” I wrote back, “I’m looking for a painting that meets my sweet spot and budget. Are you planning something like the ‘Late Stroll along Park Ave’ but smaller to fit my price range? “
“Let’s go over a few ideas I have tomorrow,” she replied. “I look forward to finding out what you will love.”
What? Is that possible? It is! She can paint another corner of the same street, but smaller. And crap! Just like that, I fell into the world of commissioned art, a luxury I always suspected was for art lovers who never did
have to ask how much.
The next day, Barter sent me several photos from Park Ave at night. One captures the restaurant where my husband and I had our first date seven years ago. That’s it.
The painting started with an inspirational photo. (Courtesy Stacy Barter)
Next, she writes a photo of the painting in progress. She had roughed up a couple that was walking their dog.
“Would it be too cheesy if the couple looked like us and our dog?” I ask. She loves the idea.
The commissioned work begins to take shape with a running sketch. (Courtesy Stacy Barter)
A finished, personalized painting found its way into our house for Christmas.
“I never thought of asking,” I told Barter. “I was just waiting for the perfect piece to come out.”
“It doesn’t occur to people that they can talk to an artist about what they’re looking for and enjoy a really enjoyable interactive experience,” she said.
Keep the following in mind when working with an artist to get exactly what you want:
Find an artist whose work you like. Make sure you like the artist’s style. You won’t change that.
What should be forwarded? Discuss the price and size, but also make sure you convey which of the artist’s paintings speaks to you the most and why. Artists “want a client who can express what they want to see in the painting,” said Barter. “You shared what you were excited about, which made the process easier. The toughest customers are the ones who can’t tell you how to look and feel. “
Not too direct. Because I wanted to make sure that her eye, not mine, was guiding this piece, when I made a suggestion I added, “Don’t do anything you don’t love.” An artist should be able to turn a client off ideas, that may not work well and offer a better one, Barter said.
Start with a picture. Many jobs start with a photo taken by the client or artist. That eliminates a lot of guesswork.
Keep doing. Unlike buying art from a gallery, you can’t see the end product of a commissioned piece until it’s finished. So check in on the way. Barter wrote me pictures of work in progress to input. For example, I once said I wanted the couple to be smaller and more to one side. Done. This move creates trust on both sides, said Barter.
It’s not for every artist. The best thing about commissioning an artist is that it’s a guaranteed sale. However, not every artist will work this way. “Some don’t want the interaction and just want to paint what they want,” said Barter. Other artists only do commissions, mostly portraits.
Just ask. Sometimes you get exactly what you want in life. But only if you ask.