Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Concerning chickens,cakes and commissions...

"Out to Sea"
Original watercolour
by Glenn Marshall

I have been commissioned to illustrate a children's book about an adventurous chicken. This is not my usual genre but it could turn out to be quite lucrative and when I accepted the project it seemed so far in the future that I would have lots of time to look up,  research, learn and practise the various techniques leaving me  fully equipped and confident of doing a good job. Of course I did none of these laudable things and now am faced with having to complete a full series of sketches for next week.
Having a deadline though is not such a bad thing - it means my drawings will be fresh, loose and full of spontaneity rather than technically correct and boring...this is what I am telling myself of course!
So this afternoon I am going to grab the bull by the horns(or in this case the chicken by the beak) and get cracking (no pun intended!).
However this has made me think about commissions in general.
Now it seems almost heresy to suggest that commissions could possibly be anything but a 'good' thing - after all you have a subject to paint and a guaranteed sale for an agreed price. So what could possibly go wrong?
The first commission I received after I became a 'professional' painter turned out to be a steep learning curve for me. I was given a good price to paint two hotels (no not emulsion - do paintings of) for a client in York.
As this was my first ever commission I took a lot of time, and I do mean a lot of time, to get the first one right and when I presented it to the client he was satisfied with the outcome. I followed the same procedure for the second one but when I presented this one he was not so sure. "Leave it with me" he said, "I'll put it on the wall and see how it looks over the next few days"
After a couple of weeks he got in touch and said he didn't like it and wouldn't be buying it. I was too embarrassed to even go get it back and I don't know what he did with it to this day many years later. By the time I worked out the number of hours involved and the cost of framing both paintings, it was very clear that my first foray into this field was not an unqualified success.
Lessons learned but here are some tips that may help you to avoid the same mistakes:
The basic difficulty to overcome is that you are painting someone else's vision. As a painter you will know it is hard enough to paint your own vision, let alone someone else's - so get as much information as possible from the client about what he wants. Talk about colours, seasons, places and always make a series of sketches so the client can choose what he likes best.  I always do a quick watercolour sketch later so the client can get a rough idea of how the painting will turn out and confirm he is still happy with the layout and the colours.
Now this takes time and money so make sure you include this in your price. Above all make sure you obtain a non refundable deposit that will cover these expenses. If you are presenting your painting unframed it is a good idea to get it 'backed and wrapped' with a plain mount - it looks better and only costs a few pounds.
 I hope this will help you to have successful commissions.
My last job before commencing with the adventurous chicken is to bake a fruit cake.
We will be open every Sunday afternoon from 1230 - 1530, here at Finley House on Main Street, Sewerby so if you are in the area please call in and have a look ..there might even be a piece of cake left!

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