Tuesday, November 1, 2011


"Three Acorns"
12" x 10" mixed media on gallery wrap canvas
$180 includes shipping in the US

We all have those frustrating stories about commissions gone awry...and today is mine.  I got a call from a client wanting to purchase my acorns.  She fell in love with "Acorn Duo" and wanted me to paint another one just like it only a different size...and on stretched canvas if it was less expensive than the cradles I make (MY FIRST MISTAKE TO QUOTE HER A LESSER PRICE FOR THE DIFFERENT SUPPORT) remember they are paying for our expertise, not the support...so our prices should reflect the same for size...in reality I should have charged more for the larger support...sigh...(insert "Acorn Duo) for a reminder...So...that necessitated a conversation with her about composition and when we change something that is 6" wide to 10" wide the same view of the subject will not look as good compositionally. She kept saying..."I'm not an artist"...BUT...and after a few minutes she began to understand what I was saying about composition...I told her I could do something similar, but that would work within the scope of the support size.  I also told her I would send her a photo of the background to see if she was happy with that...as she had talked about the colors matching her walls and towels (a bathroom piece)...SO, I did a close rendition of the background you see here in Acorn Duo.  I sent it over and got a response by phone at 9 p.m.  It began like this..."I'm not an artist, BUT" and then she proceeded to tell me she didn't like the green on the left side and the color of the background wasn't the same as the photo on my business card which just so happened to be Acorn Duo. I explained to her that colors translate differently in different media...even on computer monitors...but, to make her happy I told her I'd replicate the color in the background of the photo on the business card. SO, I mixed colors and RE-PAINTED THE BACKGROUND without the green (I was sad that went away) and closer to the color on my business card.  That action necessitated a conversation with her about how the leaf stamps (made by me :)) will look differently with the more solid background...she kept saying "I'm not an artist, BUT"...and finally when I explained that with the blue and green being analogous colors the contrast wouldn't be as strong as if the stamp color I used was orange, so she MIGHT be ok with it showing up more...sigh...after that she just said "I'm not an artist, SO...just paint it like you know best...make sure you have more leaves or acorns to make up the difference for the wider support"...whew...I know you all know that I already knew that...sigh...So, we signed off and I finished the painting...

I sent over to her the photo you see at top and these others to make SURE she was happy with the end result... She replied that she LOVED it and wanted to know if I could meet her at a mall that is on the east side of 

town from me for delivery...ANOTHER mistake on my part...DO NOT DO THAT...if they are that strapped for cash, then maybe they should wait to purchase something...sigh...again...SO, I get there...she sees the painting and says she loves it, pays me the balance and we go our separate ways...

A few minutes later she tracks me down in the mall and says she really doesn't like the stamping and could I either paint her another one or take out all the stamping!  Sheesh...I am a little taken aback and I explain to her that the stamping is part of my signature work, and the color for the background was a mixture that will take some time to replicate.  

Well, long story short...I decided on the way home with my painting in tow that to do all those changes OR paint another one would not be cost effective...PLUS...I came to the very clear conclusion that she wanted a more traditional artist, and I didn't WANT to change my piece like she wanted for a few dollars...It would no longer be my work...so, I decided to send her check back and explain she was probably looking for a different artist...which is what I will do...LESSON LEARNED...AGAIN!

The moral of this story is...don't undersell yourself, stay true to what you are as an artist...don't change your price for a commission...be upfront in the beginning and say, after a painting has been approved IF they do not want it they forfeit their deposit (which should be half up front) and that is that...FOR ME...I'm not sure I'm cut out for commission work...I love what I do, the way I do it too much to devalue my work in that way...I admit I've had many successful commission jobs...but for me they have been very willing to take the piece after we've discussed it the way I paint it...so...I am not totally giving up...but, for awhile I am...just until this lesson doesn't burn quite as much!  SO, as I do...I'm already on the next assignment, with gusto and a smile!!



Jessi said...

I have had similar experiences and feel the same distaste for commission work because of it. But this piece is AMAZING and the client is missing out!

Saundra Lane Galloway said...

Thanks a million Jessi...I say live and learn for the next time...if I allow a next time! HA

martinealison said...

J'ai rencontré ce type de client... à fuir au plus vite!
Je trouve que tu as été même très patiente. Tu me diras que moi aussi j'avais été très patiente...
Je pense que ta cliente confondait l'art avec celui du plâtrier peintre.
je n'ai rien contre les plâtriers peintres entendons-nous bien...
Gros bisous

Anonymous said...

Saundra, don't let one person do this to your excitement and enthusiasm. Watch for your red flags, as you got from this lady, to know whether you can even do what the client is wanting. If it goes against what you feel is the integrity of your work, then of course! Turn it down. I would guess that the odds are the client came to you for a reason and will love your touch to their ideas. If not? Then you have the option of handling things just as you have. I know, though, that this process was stressful for you.

I still love the idea of commissions simply because they often stretch the artist. Well...they would me, at any rate. Sometimes their wants open up our imaginations and we land on something that we love and can use in other pieces.

At any rate, poop on her and I love this acorn piece so very much. I think it is beautiful!!

Art with Liz said...

Gosh Saundra - thanks for sharing your experience. I have started taking commissions and every bit of advice helps. This person lost a really great piece of art - more fool her! BTW I Loved! your 'Among the trees" - that elk just makes everything come alive.

Saundra Lane Galloway said...

HA. ..thank vous pour faire me ris de ce Martinealison ! Comme toujours vos mots sont un confort ! Les grands baisers redressent de retour à vous !

Thank you Sherry...I DO agree that some commissions stretch an artist...I have had some of those just this past summer...THOSE I like...I just need to really pay attention to those red flags. My problem is my first reaction is to do whatever someone else wants even if it is inconvenient for me...sigh...gotta balance that!

You are welcome Liz...I am learning over and over that to stick to my policies I make are the best way to go...And, thank you...I'm really happy with "Among the Trees" all because of that little sneaky elk trying to hide...AMONG them...tee hee...thus the name!

Avocaken said...

I was "burned" on my very first commission. We agreed on size, price, composition, subject - everything. When I was done and delivered the customer wanted this changed that changed didn't like the composition blah blah blah. I cancelled the commission (they wanted monetary compensation for the cancellation).

If I EVER (never is probably too soon) agree to a commission I'll require 50% non-refundable down payment. AND a signed contract containing a photo of the "rough draft" of the painting.

Hang in there there are poopy people who just like to exercise their ego(s).


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