Few of us are artists but pretty much all of us have an inner source of creativity which is yearning to be expressed. If your preferred medium is paint on canvas, perhaps the process of commissioning a work of your own will be for you. Dr Lisa Cooper
I’m constantly surprised, and not always pleasantly, by the kind of creative offerings that have become commoditised products. Art in particular. These days it is reproduced, mass produced and even rent-able. If, like me, you believe art should be unique and permanent - and if you’re keen to share your ideas as part of the inspiration stage for the artist - then it could be the process of commissioning artwork will appeal.
Referring to a ‘commission’ as a process, for want of a better description, is undoubtedly too formulaic. Essentially every piece of art will be as unique as the artist, their influences and their individual interpretation of your brief within their style! In saying this there will always be a sense of order to the necessary stages. So, whether you’re looking to an artist with an established style to create something uniquely for you - or to make a request that is more closely aligned with practical requirements such as size - the guidelines worth noting will be as follows…
Your first point of call will of course be to identify the artist and associated body of work that appeals to you. Every artist has his or her own recognizable style, preferred medium and relatively consistent sources of inspiration. Sydney artist Dr Lisa Cooper is no exception. As the daughter of a butcher, and a philosophical butcher at that, Lisa is largely influenced by animals, religious iconography, flowers and gold. More poignantly Lisa is influenced by the death of her father at a young age and the memory of the flowers that came into the family home at that significant time. In particular the notion of flowers as temporary objects of beauty, juxtaposed with the strength and longevity of the memories they created.
When you commission an artist you are by no means instructing a guaranteed outcome! Each artist will have their own process for research and creation but you are also best placed to understand that you are not simply commissioning a work of art, you will also be commissioning a whole new area of idea exploration. There will be no replication of an existing work, only exploration of your brief in line with the artist's signature style. While you can share your thoughts at the commencement stage, you won’t actually have any control over the outcome or time period it takes to complete the work.
Interestingly the input stage at the commencement of the project is actually (almost always) the only stage of input! It is actually rare that a client would view a work in progress. In saying this it is important to note that the logistical parameters of the agreement are noted at this point and specifically include the size of the work, materials to be used and the price (of which 50% is generally payable up front).
On the subject of price there are two key considerations:
- artistic commissions, sometimes perceived as the domain of the wealthy, can actually be surprisingly and/or relatively affordable
- don’t expect to be able to negotiate on price!
Fundamentally art must hold its value, so that work in possession of past purchasers continues to maintain or increase in value and so present commissions do the same.
Another consideration will be copyright. Basically, from the moment something is fixed in a medium - be it a canvas, on a piece of paper, in a photograph, or in a digital file - it is copyrighted to the person who created it. That would be your artist. Even if you’ve had input into the process, the execution of the final product is copyrighted to them. Are you purchasing any commercial rights to the image? Do you want to use it on a book cover, or to promote something, or as part of an ad? Do you intend to sell copies of the image? All of these things may have some impact on the final cost of the painting.
Dr Lisa Cooper is an artist, researcher, florist and doctor of philosophy based in Sydney. Among her recent work is a commission by the Sydney Theatre Company to create a crown for the production of War of the Roses, starring Cate Blanchett. More examples of her work can be viewed online www.doctorcooper.com
Rennae Long (twitter.com/@int_insider)