After a career of painting for others, there are just so many lessons I could offer in the service of offering commissions. None though, is as important as listening. When you step into your studio to paint, the simple truth is that while you may have been wonderfully inspired, it is truthfully only you that you are listening to. You are the driving force of creation. You are calling the shots and you have to live with the results.
When you are paid by others to paint for them, they are the ones living with the results and make no mistake here, they are your inspiration. Yes, it is true they already like your work or they wouldn’t have come to this point in choosing you to paint for them. But leave your ego at the door my friends as to what they want. As much as you think they want exactly what you want, in truth, they want exactly what they want and the two are rarely exactly the same.
Being commissioned may, in its simplest form, be about you painting for your client. But the complexity of it is about trust. A first time client only trusts what they have seen in a body of your work. Then they may read your bio, then speak with you and begin to form the relationship necessary to move forward into bringing their wishes into reality.
When though, they can see, feel, and hear you are listening to what they want, is where the trust really forms. So, why is mutual trust so important? Well beyond the obvious, trust equals comfort, and we all know comfort means they feel they will get what they want. You will get paid for providing what they want and that’s a good thing. Good communication builds trust and then action or proof builds on it.
Let’s assume for a minute that you are feeling very good about yourself and artistic skills. So much so that you allow yourself to think you know more than you do and make the mistake of assuming. Remember the old joke about the word assume? It goes like this - When you assume, you make an ass out of you and me! The result is delivering something that wasn’t what the client wanted, and guess what? They are then not just disappointed in the work of art, they are disappointed in you and themselves for trusting you, and they are often even disappointed with the whole artistic community. This then makes it hard for all of us to build trust in being able to follow through.
I can’t say enough what listening has done for my career. I feel it’s an honor to be commissioned even once by anyone, but to have been commissioned hundreds of times over decades of providing this service, is a dream come true. It not only validates my intentions for success, it validates the way I have chosen to achieve that success.
More articles about being an artist