Tommy Williams

Tommy Williams

Painting, Drawing, and Life

How much does it costs?

That is usually the first question an artist gets asked when a client is ready to execute a commission. Often this question is asked before an artist even knows exactly what a client wants. Like everything else, the Devil is in the details. Before a client asks the price question, they should have certain information ready so an accurate price can be quoted.

1. What do you want? This sounds so basic but often a client really isn't sure. Maybe you want a portrait. Is this portrait a single subject or a couple?  Is it a portrait of several generations posed together? Is a pet to be included? Do you want a specific background? How much detail do you want in the background? A color gradation is going to be priced much differently than a depiction of the Golden Gate Bridge. You want a landscape? Is there a specific building to be rendered such as the house where you grew up? What should be the focus? Is there a particular style you are interested in such as abstract or Contemporary Realism? If you can be as specific as possible on the front end, there will be fewer surprises on the back end. 

2. What size do you want?  Size does matter, but bigger isn't always more. Sometimes an 8" x 11" rendering can be more intricate than an wall mural but letting the artist know what size you are wanting can help clarify a lot of issues and the artist can give you a more educated quote with this knowledge.

3. Did you have a specific medium in mind? When clients tell me they want a drawing that leads me into several directions where I need to narrow down choices for them. Most of the time the client means graphite rendering when they ask for a "drawing". But they could want a charcoal rendering or a pastel "painting". You want color? Did you want something done in oil or water color? Did you want acrylic or gauche? Not sure? This is a good time to ask the artist what he or she thinks would be a good solution to the effect you are wanting to commission. Ask them to talk to you about the pros and cons of each medium. Believe me, there are differences.

4. When did you want it? This will also have a bearing on price. It will give the artist a better idea of what medium would be best for your commission. A charcoal drawing can be completed in a much faster time than an oil painting. One characteristic that adds to the time of an oil commission is the drying time. Most oil painting s are done in stages and there is drying time required between each stage. Even if the painting is done "Alla prima" ( all in one sitting), the oil paint has to be completely dry before it can be varnished. Depending on the thickness of the paint, an oil painting may need as little as six weeks or as long as six months before it can be preserved. Remember, accurate drawing takes time! Depending on the artist's work load, your commission may be complete in as little as two weeks, two months, or there may be a waiting list for as long as a year. If the artist you are commissioning is a popular one, it may be several months before he or she can get to  your commission, much less complete it. This is why it is a good idea to consult with the artist well in advance of the date you need your piece. Great custom artwork is never a last minute choice. You want the artist to put thought into your art, give them the respect and time they need to do just that.

These are just a few questions you should have answers to when seeking out a custom art commission. I know you want the answer to the $64,000.00 question which is, "HOW MUCH???" As you can see, it isn't a question that can or should be answered by using a pricing chart. Once armed with the answers to these questions, an artist may still need to do more research on their own to give you an honest quote. Don't think the artist is being evasive. They are usually just making sure they give you the best price possible and are taking all factors in consideration. Unlike a lot of professions, the artist is usually judged on the entire commission experience: Quality, Time, Price. Hopefully these tips will make your art buying experience more enjoyable! Until my next blog,

"Let whoever may have attained to so much as to have the power of drawing know that he holds a great treasure." Michelangelo

Thanks for your time!

Tommy Williams

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