What does it mean for an artist to paint commissions? In the art world, a “commission” is the hiring and payment for the creation of a piece of art, often on behalf of another. I think I speak with confidence when I say the word itself can sometimes be intimidating for an artist. Most artists create art as an expression of their being; their inner belief system as it relates to their surroundings, their family, political, religious, or any multitude of ideals supporting their purview.
A commission causes the hairs on the back of an artist’s neck to stand up for a few different reasons. Initially, there are warm, fuzzy feelings, the “oh, cool, someone loves my art so much they want to pay me to do something special for them.” That is a great feeling. Only to be followed by the dreaded “what if” stage. What if they don’t like it, what if I can’t do what they want, what if I don’t like it, what if, what if, what if? After pulling the confidence and self-deprecating artist “self talk” out of the rabbit hole comes the “I can do this!” And I will do this! So, here you are all psyched up to paint a commission. What now?
Last year I was commissioned by John Wayne Enterprises to paint 13 paintings as a tribute for the 100th Anniversary of John Wayne. So, here is how I tackled the task! The first thing I did and do with most of my work is to get in the right mind-set. With the John Wayne Tribute paintings I started by preparing myself.
I watched all the old John Wayne movies I could get my hands on and read as much information as I could on John Wayne, the man and the movie star. By preparing myself and gathering information, it lessens the anxiety and at the same time starts to inspire ideas and creative energy. For me, the more prepared I am the more capable I feel in my ability to produce something that will make the client happy and be a good piece of work that I am proud of.
The dichotomy of painting for someone else is that you are essentially painting to someone else’s specifics, needs, ideals and it is very different than painting from your own place of inspiration. As you start painting, however, all of those fears typically wash away and you work from a place of centeredness that feels familiar. Try to keep in mind that at the end of the day, if you are not happy, start over and work until you are happy! It’s art, it’s meant to be fun, and it’s meant to push you in new directions. Unfamiliar territory is not a bad thing; it is just a different thing! So, with a little injection of self-confidence grab your boots straps – and just do it! No one is judging you and if they liked you enough to pay you for your time, they will like what you produce for them. Do not let fear of the unknown and fear of something different block your creative energy. It is up to you to create your destiny and you can do it! Just paint! The inspiration will follow.