First Art Commission ~ Lesson learned from

The Experience Of My First Art Commission (young artist)

I got my first art commission when I was a kid and he cheated me (the work was excellent and what he paid me didn't even cover for the purchase of frame and he didn't give me the rest).

Then I didn't know how to tell people 'no' or stand up for my right (I was a miserable 'people pleaser' and timid). I comforted myself by convincing myself that I was happy to just see the finished work (and I really did enjoy making it and was very pleased with the outcome). After that experience, I wasn't too excited about making portrait (may be subconsciously due to being cheated after I poured-out my all in drawing that portrait). It took me tens of hours, a lot of concentration and efforts to draw. It was one of my best pencil drawing till date. A older me (now) wouldn't have tolerated that. The experience was another blow to my self-esteem. That time I bought the frame 700 naira (excluding the transportation fees to the market) and he paid me 500 naira. Today that same frame goes from between 3000 to 5000 naira.

I eventually got back on my feet and was commissioned by my then best friend who paid me completely even before I started the work (out of respect).

Although I currently don't like commissioned project. I am most likely to reject a commission work because I like peace of mind. I currently hate commission because once in a while you would meet a crazy person. If you ever work as a receptionist or in retail, you would know that dealing with people can be very difficult. Strange behaviour pops up every so often.

To reduce the probability of financial scam, the best practice (for an artist accepting commission works) would be to ask for half the payment upfront before commencing the project. In this way, you would weed-out the jokers.  By paying half the money, they have committed (which is fair because the artist is also spending valuable time on that work and if the client isn't committed, they can easily 'ghost out' on the artist after all the hard work). There are some people who do not have the money but would be inspired to commission you with no means of payment. Asking for half the payment upfront would end those guys games. There are different characters of humans on earth. If the person keeps saying "I will pay you" in almost every sentence they utter, they probably wouldn't.

I use to worry about the resemblance of the artwork to the person or reference picture. I ask myself; "what if they don't like it?" Rejection of finished work for me is rare. The best way to overcome that fear is to just relax and do the work mechanically. I can assure you that I have already studied the reference picture carefully and believe I can do it before I agree to make a commission portrait (which is partly why rejection is rare, because it usually comes out well). 

Rejection is a real possibility however, if one panic, it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. Last week I published a blog about art competitions and the artwork not fitting well with my body of work after being rejected because I specifically made the artwork for that particular contest/exhibition and would have never made that artwork on my own. So a rejected commission work is usually not easily sellable (even though I like to pretend to the intended client that I can sell it off). Why would anyone want to have the portrait of a stranger in their house?

Finally, my estimation of how long it would take me to finish the work is usually way off, all the time. Anytime I think it would take me 1 week, I end up spending 2 weeks (always underestimate the time it would take). Although unfortunate. The good clients would ask you to take your time and do a good job.

Thanks for reading through. I remain; Artist Ife'ka Terry.

Undercover Artist