Tales from a Commissioned Artist IV: Gratitude

This painting was commissioned as a wedding present by a group of ladies who were friends of the bride. The ladies originally asked Jo Patton to paint the scene. She is a wonderful Fairhope artist. Her work has been an inspiration to me since I moved to Fairhope in 2003 and her work changed my approach to painting. When I look at Jo’s paintings, I get the sense that she is allowing herself to have more fun than most artists would ever condone.

Jo referred the ladies to me and I painted this little scene. If I were to list some things I am thankful for, that list might be Jo’s friendship, the times when paintings are created with ease, living in Fairhope, my amazing wife and awesome kids/young adults, painting for a living…… the list could go on.


A New Beginning, 14″x18″, oil on canvas

But not all commissions are so “fun”. There is a DARK side to these tales :@  Allow me to set the scene….

With a song in his heart, the unsuspecting artist raises his hand to knock on her door. The mansion looms overhead, magnificent and grand. But as his gaze questions the vacant and eye-like windows, a tiny shiver rises up his spine.  A sudden chill wind buffets his thin frame and the leaden sky rumbles. Perplexed, the artist knocks and waits. In due couse, the door opens. She greets our hero and bids him enter. The artist glances back at the driveway as cold drops collect on the still warm hood of his car, and enters………..

He was never seen again. His surviving wife and children sell his paintings and move uptown.

Yes, its almost Halloween and I couldn’t resist. But when entering into a commission agreement, there are some things to keep in mind.

What is the subject of the painting? Will the painting be from life, will you take photos or will they be supplied by the client. If so, catalogue the details and ask questions about what might have special significance.   Where is the painting to be hung? What size is needed for the spot and should the painting be horizontal or vertical?  Is the source photo clear, properly exposed and of adequate size?  Listen to the all the client’s requests and expectations, clarify questions you may have, and take notes! Ask yourself if you would have fun working on this project. If not, thank the client for the compliment of their consideration and let them know that you are not the right artist for the job. Refer them to an artist who may enjoy the job and wish them a beautiful day.

If you would enjoy the project, awesome! Give the client ONE price that includes your expenses. Don’t make it complicated and when you have agreement say this:  “I require half down before I start. How would you like to pay?” Smile and make eye contact.

Even with eyes open, not all commissions end in mutual satisfaction. In painting and in life, there are no mistakes, only experiences. But we can learn and grow from our experiences. Others may choose to see them as one more thing they should never try again, but that need not be us! We are brave and our lives begin at the end of our comfort zone!!! Go forth with zest and valor, and give thanks!


  1. Laura R Thomas says:

    This was very helpful. Liked your story, and loved your painting. I especially took note of the process of preparing for a possible commission, and your comment about life begins where we get out of our comfort zone. I believe that’s true in life as well as in art. Thanks so much!

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