How to Commission a Painting: Case Study with Jill & Brad

Today on the blog, I want to share a peek into the journey of commissioning a custom painting, particularly, what that process is like for both the collector and me, the artist. In addition to working on original paintings to stock my shop throughout the year, I take on special projects for clients and collectors who are looking for something more tailored. Just like your favorite item of clothing, when something is made especially for you, you can never tire of it. 

I love working on commissioned paintings because it's so much more intimate and dynamic. Earlier this year, couple Jill and Brad contacted me after finding my work online and decided to create something unique. They are newlyweds from Canada turned expats in UAE, and so that's how our paths crossed.

Jill and Brad decided to skip the wedding registry and commemorate their union with a custom piece of art instead. Pretty cool, right? You can imagine the honor to receive such a request, their first time commissioning a painting, and their first piece of art together as a couple. Now the only question was, what do we create together?

Fogo Island, Canada [ source ]

Fogo Island, Canada [source]

Jill shared a photo album of their wedding ceremony at Fogo Island, off the coast of Newfoundland, to use as inspiration and we decided on a palette of Prussian blue, teal, turquoise and purple greys. I loved the palette we agreed upon and was excited to use this set of inspiration for a new painting.

I sourced a few photos from Pinterest and shared them with Jill. Here were the pieces that meshed well with her and Brad's vision. These served mostly as a guide for the piece since it would be very blue overall.

After we emailed back and forth and Jill and Brad deliberated on several of my painting styles, they decided on a size and style, similar to two of my previous paintings. And with that, I got started. 

For the 40x48" canvas, I began with the first layer swooshing dark blues and Paynes grey. I also worked in some ink and experimented with alcohol as a medium. I documented my process throughout and shared it with Jill and Brad to keep them up to speed. 

After they approved of the initial stages and the first layer dried, I began to dive deeper into the composition. This is the most crucial part of the painting and where trust is really needed. Because of the nature of abstracts, it's not an exact science. I have a method to my madness if you will, and fortunately my clients trust me to do what I do best, paint intuitively.  A composition starts to form almost organically and it is my job to listen and pay attention to any patterns emerging. I feel more like a conductor than an engineer when I'm painting, just allowing the colors to play together and keeping them harmonious.

When I paused here and shared the progress, Jill and Brad expressed that they loved the jagged turquoise line cutting through the white space in the upper right corner. Can you see it? I loved it too and was happy they agreed to keep it. It would serve as an anchor for me to hold on to while I wrestle with the rest of the composition. .At this stage of the painting, I buckle down and try and bring it together cohesively. While paying attention to texture and form, I started to glaze some areas to add more depth to the painting and brighten up the perspective. 

After a few more talks and thinking, I finished up the piece incorporating more frosty grey blues and pops of purple and teal. All in all, the piece took about 2 months to complete. Typically it takes me several weeks to work through ideas and allow the piece to form without the pressure of a fast deadline.

I love how fluid and organic this piece feels. It reminded me of an agate crystal for its waxy and translucent ribbons of color. We couldn't decide on how to hang the piece since it looked nice upside down as well. I signed it in a discreet manner on the front of the piece to allow for flexibility in hanging. When the painting is hung upside down it had a completely different feeling, and I wanted them to be able to enjoy it in many ways for years to come.

I love how fluid and organic this piece feels. It reminded me of an agate crystal for its waxy and translucent ribbons of color. We couldn't decide on how to hang the piece since it looked nice upside down as well. I signed it in a discreet manner on the front of the piece to allow for flexibility in hanging. When the painting is hung upside down it had a completely different feeling, and I wanted them to be able to enjoy it in many ways for years to come.

They titled it "Icy Shores of Fogo" and I think that suits the piece perfectly.

They titled it "Icy Shores of Fogo" and I think that suits the piece perfectly.

It was a great painting experience from my side, but I figure it's best to let the clients speak for themselves. Here's what Jill had to say:

"My husband and I reached out to Amira to commission a piece of art that would commemorate a very special time in our lives. We were initially drawn to her work because of the vibrant colours she uses. They're fresh and modern, and every time you look at those colours and how they work together, it puts you in a better mood. And that's exactly what she created for us.

Our commissioned piece is beautiful. It brightens our living space and makes me happy every time I see it. And the process of working with Amira was wonderful. She gave us a lot of opportunities to provide feedback, she kept us informed and updated during the creation process, and she continuously put us a ease by taking time to answer any questions we had. We couldn't have asked for a better experience, and we'd definitely recommend her to others."

I'm very happy that my work was well-received. It truly is a collaborative experience and yet Jill and Brad gave me enough creative freedom to create a work of art for them without being too confined. It's unique and just for them, and will continue to remind them of the beautiful Fogo Island and their wedding experience.  I wish them well on their journey ahead!

Here's Jill & Brad's painting hanging, framed in their home.

Here's Jill & Brad's painting hanging, framed in their home.

Thank you for reading and hope you enjoyed this detailed blog post. The commission process is really that straightforward. To learn more, visit my page on commissions here. 

Enjoy these last few photos of the Fogo Island.

If you could commission a painting, what would you chose? An abstract, one of my camels, or something figurative? 

Why Commissions Work for (Some) Artists and Collectors

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Being a full-time artist is so rewarding, but you have to be flexible and up for the challenge. I'm a firm believer in painting what speaks to me and inspires me, even if it's just for one day, and I'm always fortunate with that painting moves someone else and they decide to add it to their personal collection. It's a happy job requirement of being a thriving artist. But, what about the many fans that have not bought an original painting of mine, even though they love my art?  

A scene I captured in Abu Dhabi on my iPhone last year

A scene I captured in Abu Dhabi on my iPhone last year

Heat wave big

The missing link can sometimes be the personal connection to the painting. The story behind it. And that's where commissions come in. A commission of a family portrait, a scene at the beach, or your favorite travel destination are all great examples of reasons to commission an artist to paint you an original work of art that speaks to you immediately. Having spent years and years of honing both my drawing and painting skills, I can honestly say that translating a photograph into a work of art is definitely included in my range of expertise. The real challenge is blending the artist's style and capability with the vision of the client.

Artists like myself tend to love commissions, but it depends a lot on the subject, and the client, for that matter. Take abstract art, my favorite, for example. It can start with working with the commissioner on the desired color scheme and size, but the opportunities are still endless. So when prospective clients come to me with commission requests, I recommend they spend time looking at art that they enjoy for a few days and then let me grow to understand their preferences. If they already see a painting of mine that has sold and they'd like one similar, then it becomes much easier. And if they would like a painting from a particular photo, then sending me multiple photo references is key to my inspiration and creative process.

Many artists, after they've become quite established (and therefore busy), decide they no longer can accept commissioned work and work exclusively within their own creative motivations and gallery needs. For now, I take commissions regularly (I am working on 3 projects at the moment) and have decided to temporarily waive my commission fee. This means, my commissioned painting prices are congruent with my original sales prices, making it an opportune time to get a custom work of art.

"Full Bloom" -commissioned original painting for a client office in Abu Dhabi

"Full Bloom" -commissioned original painting for a client office in Abu Dhabi

In sum, I think commissions are a great way for artists and art lovers to connect. We get to work on a myriad of subject matter, keeping our portfolio fresh, while embracing the challenge of making a client happy. Art lovers can build their collection in a more comfortable fashion, owning the art that is most personal to them, as opposed to going with trends or specific styling.

I plan on working on several portrait studies this week as well (in addition to continuing progress on several commissions). So, stick around for some behind the scenes pictures from my studio!

For more information on my commission process, visit: https://shop.amirarahim.com/pages/commission

Lots of love!

Amira