Several times a year, I am approached by a collector who wants a particular kind of image in a size/format that I don’t have available, and so a commissioned piece is the route to go. I recently finished two and am about to start another, so being currently on my mind, I thought I would discuss the process. In many cases, the collectors have work of mine and/or have known me personally for some time, but in others, it all goes through a designer or gallery, and I don’t have direct contact with the buyer. The pastel sketch (really a small, complete version of the image), mentioned below, can sometimes be eliminated if all concerned are very clear on the imagery desired. The description that I share with galleries and collectors is copied below. I have developed a process for creating a commissioned artwork that has so far worked out very well for all concerned, and goes as follows: The collector finds a piece or several related pieces among the photos of my completed work (either sold or in the wrong size) that they like. They then determine the size of the piece that they want, and whether they would prefer an oil or a pastel. I give them a price quote for that size and medium, and then we discuss the imagery that they are drawn to, and how it would relate to the format of the piece that they want (horizontal, square, or vertical). The new piece can have color similar to one of my finished pieces and the landforms of another, and could be the same scene as a square one, but in horizontal, and so on. One thing that I won’t do is exactly duplicate an already executed piece in the same format and medium. Once I feel clear on what I’ll be doing, I do a small pastel, to scale, of the scene that has been worked out. (I will keep this pastel and frame and sell it afterwards, as it is done on spec and not included in the price.) After the collector has approved the sketch, I will need a deposit for half of the price of the piece, and then I will begin work on the large finished painting or pastel. It usually takes me 2-3 weeks to complete the big piece, depending on what else I have going on. Final payment is due upon delivery, and I will handle framing in my usual way, or the client can use his/her own framer if they prefer. Of course, I can only do commissioned pieces within the range of my own style.
A Recent Straightforward Commission
I recently completed this vertical piece of the sun behind a cloud creating a reflected gleam as the water hits the sand at bay’s edge.
A designer in NYC who I have worked with for years, thought that it was the perfect image for clients who have bought my work over the years and were re-doing their dining room—except that it was too narrow. Therefore, I painted the below, with many small differences in addition to format.
It was great fun to look at both pieces in the end and observe which things I liked better about which piece, and also what elements and affects are simply different.
An Early Corporate Commission
Years ago JSO ART Associates commissioned a piece from me for the first-class lounge at Kennedy Airport for American Airways.
The pastel triptych was based on a version of the pastel below, an image I have explored a number of times in different ways.
The finished piece, pre-digital camera for me, has been moved (from a building since torn down), but still graces the wall of an AA hospitality lounge at JFK . (I love it when my art has history!)
I also did these two commissions for JSO within e few years of the AA one, both based on earlier pieces of mine, yet quite different upon completion.
A Complex Commission
A couple who already owned a handful of pieces of mine saw “Contrasting Shapes” online and wanted to purchase it. Upon finding out that it was sold, they decided to commission a piece of their own reservoir view.
After a great deal of back and forth, many photographs of their nearby view, and lots of discussion (all very pleasant, as they are lovely people—always a plus!), we decided on a triptych (for length and interest) that emphasized the folds of the mountains. We also cleared out a few trees (virtually!) to be able to see more water. I did a few pencil sketches to firm up what was going to be in the painting (like the notch on the left) and to get the shape of the water right. Then I did the pastel, 6″X18″ (which I appear not to have a jpeg of).
Painting the final piece involved a great deal of detailed decision-making, since the collectors had been studying and admiring this view for years and were interested in accuracy. Often, when I paint, various details get omitted or changed to serve my vision of the whole, but in this case I had to do both—capture each mountain accurately, while also satisfying my own need for simplicity. The monochromatic palette was a big part of the solution to this duality of intent.
A Recent Commission and Two from Many Years ago
A couple from Washington, DC (also consistently delightful to work with) commissioned their first piece of mine about ten years ago. Having a longstanding affection for the Catskills, they wanted a 24″X48″ painting of the Esopus, our local stream, at dusk. First I did the pastel version, to scale, below.
The final version is below (excuse the bad jpegs of some of these older pieces—I did not really understand the process with my first digital camera).
A year or two later, they decided that they wanted an image of their own town. After seeing a few pictures of their (then) home, I pitched the idea of a vertical, to fit between two windows in their living room.
They were recently interested in acquiring a new painting (number six, by now). They had looked over a number of pieces of mine online, loving two that were not the right size for the wall that they had in mind. The husband contacted me, and together we decided on a commissioned piece that would combine elements of the two that they had liked, which would arrive as a surprise for his wife.
Another Straightforward Commission
A decorator that I have worked with for years had a client who liked “Winter Brilliance”, below, but needed something smaller and more horizontal. They also decided on a pastel.
Since the new piece mostly involved a shift in format, we skipped the pastel phase. Of course, there are plenty of other differences between the two pieces in color, shape and details.
A Commission for my Biggest Collector
The collector who now has 37 pieces of mine (and has a wonderfully decisive and generous nature) between her apartment in NYC and her weekend place in the Catskills wanted a large piece, either urban or road/headlights, for above the couch in her apartment (you can see that wall in my blog post, Open Studio and House Party). She liked the vertical piece below, so we decided on a horizontal triptych with a similar sky.
The pastel triptych.
And below, an installation shot of the finished piece.
A Change in Palette
During one of the shows that I had with Art Forms Gallery in Redbank, NJ before they closed several years ago, someone very much liked the postcard piece, “Autumn Seaside” which was already sold.
He was interested in a similar piece, a bit more horizontal, that had more greens in it, so I did a pastel like the above, working more greens into the areas that already have them.
THEN, it turned out that the collector wanted serious greens—as in a summer palette, so I did the pastel, below.
Finally, the finished piece.
It might look as if these commissioned pieces are a major part of my work (and there are quite a few more than these), but the examples I have discussed have been done over many years. Only once did I find the process difficult at a certain point, and understood that the collector was seeing me as a style and pair of hands to execute her vision. After that I became more careful to be clear that I make the necessary aesthetic decisions as I am painting, after the initial discussion has taken place—which most people assume, anyway.
I quite enjoy doing these collaborative pieces every so often, always making sure that the image that I am painting is something I would be interested in doing anyway.
Afterwards, I am happy to be back in my studio making choices in my usual fashion, following only the interior logic of my longstanding process.