Commissioning art can feel like a really challenging feat when you're doing it for the first time. You're probably wondering how to go about it, where to find artists, what the best websites for art commissions are, or what happens if the artist runs away with your money. By the end of this article, you'll know how to commission an artist in 5 easy steps with confidence and zero risk!
When our founder, Malcolm Collins, decided to pop the question to (now wife) Simone, he decided to do it with art! His plan? To commission artists to create multiple pieces of art featuring them both.
However, there’s a piece of that story that isn’t always included in the fairy tale that was their marriage proposal.
How Malcolm commissioned custom portraits to use in his marriage proposal
Spoiler alert: Malcolm didn’t choose 18 artists at random. And they weren't all magically available to work with him (much to his chagrin).
Finding artists whose styles he loved, replied to his inquiry and were available to work with him was no easy feat!
He browsed among thousands of artists and contacted hundreds.
However, many artists never got back to him. Others agreed to do it but never finished their artworks.
Fortunately, in the end Malcolm had 21 amazing illustrations created by 18 different artists (check out some of them below!) that he used to make his proposal an unforgettable moment in his life and in internet history!
This event led Malcolm and Simone to do something they never thought they would do! (But, I'll tell you about that later).
Today I want to show you how to commission an artist in 5 easy steps!
Hint: you won’t need to browse among thousands of artists who may or may not even be available to work with you!
Without further ado, let's dive into how to commission an artist to create a personalized portrait for you!
1. Choose the right platform to commission an artist
Wherever there are artists, you’re bound to find someone that’s taking commissions and ready to work with you. However, that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to do it, especially if this is your first time commissioning an artist.
Going back to Malcolm’s experience when commissioning art for his proposal... You don’t want to spend days or even weeks trying to find an artist you like only for them not to be available.
Or worse. For them to ghost you after you’ve paid them for an artwork they have no intention of delivering.
You’re wise. You know better. You want to choose a platform that has all the guarantees and security measures you need to ensure your experience is as safe and smooth as possible.
Here’s what you’ll need to ensure you’re using the right platform to commission art online:
1.1 A clear refund policy
This is the first and most important element you need to look for when commissioning an artist, be it on your own or through a third-party platform.
Before you go through with your order find out the following:
- Under which circumstances are you eligible for a refund?
- Will it be a full refund or a partial refund?
- Can you cancel the order at any time? If so, are there any 'kill fees'?
- Will you receive your money back or will they give you credit to spend on their site?
- If there are no refunds available, what security measures are there to protect you if things go wrong?
Before you commission an artist, make sure you have all you need to withdraw safely if things don’t go as planned.
1.2 A straightforward process
If you want to have a nice experience when commissioning art, find out how the process will work first.
- When will you be charged?
- Will you have direct contact with the artist?
- Is anyone watching over the process or is it all automated?
- Will you receive a draft before your artwork is completed?
- How and when will you receive your final work of art?
It’s a good idea to learn how the process works to ensure you don’t feel lost or stressed as a result. Is there anyone you can ask? If not, is there any place that explains the process?
When you commission art through ArtCorgi:
- We charge clients upfront and hold the money in escrow until the order is complete to protect both the client and the artist.
- We will be there to watch over the process and guide you through every step of the way. You won’t have direct contact with the artist. Communications will go through us and be smooth and prompt! This ensures we’re there to solve any conflict on the spot.
- You will also be shown a draft of your order where you’ll be asked to provide feedback. We want to make sure you get exactly what you want!
- You’ll receive the final artwork via email as a high resoution png or jpeg file (3000 pixel height/width file at 150dpi or higher).
1.3 Clearly listed prices and a safe checkout process
Having clearly listed prices will help you budget for your order properly and ensure you don’t go over your budget.
Similarly, if the information is straightforward, it may also save you from unexpected fees.
If you’re working directly with the artist and they don’t have clearly listed prices, message them and ask.
Give them information about what you want to order, ask for a quote and how long that quote will be valid for (ie. Will that same price apply if you place your order 2 months from now?).
Another essential thing to look out for is the checkout process:
- What payment methods are available?
- Is it safe?
- Can you easily request a refund through that method if needed? If you send the money via PayPal’s ‘Family and friends’ option, you won't get your money back easily!
- Is your payment information safe and encrypted during checkout?
2. Decide on a topic and a style for your original artwork
Now that you’ve chosen the right platform to commission your portrait, it’s time to find the right artist for your project! This should be easy if you already know what you want to order. However, if you’re not fully sure or every style appeals to you, you may struggle to decide!
You need to determine if the artwork is going to be for you or a gift to someone else. If it’s the latter, you may want to choose a style and artist that they – not you – are likely to enjoy.
For instance, here's an example of why this is so important:
- If you want to give your beloved grandma a family portrait – the odds are she will prefer a traditional realistic portrait over an anime style portrait.
Now that you’ve decided who the artwork will be for and what style is likely to fit better, you can polish the rest of the details!
- Will you order a family portrait?
- A proposal artwork?
- A hilarious fantasy portrait of you riding a corgi into battle? You decide!
3. Find an artist to commission and give them enough information to create your piece of art
Good job on deciding the topic of your artwork and the most fitting style for it! Now you should find an artist that has this style and can create your artwork!
Browse through their samples to see if they've already done similar things in the past. If your idea matches with the content in their artistic collection, you’ll be more likely to receive an amazing artwork when commissioning that artist.
If you request something that differs greatly from what the artist can do, there’s no guarantee that the artist will be able to pull your idea (or your requested style) off with good results.
Here's why you shouldn't ask an artist to use a different style:
- If you ask someone who only draws humans to draw a fantasy creature, the final artwork may not be as good as it could have been if you had chosen a concept artist from the start.
Find an artist that can create an artwork in a style similar to the one you had in mind. You'll get better results if you choose an artist who's already an expert in the style of your choice.
Now that you’ve chosen the most fitting artist to commission, you need to provide them with enough reference photos and direction. Some artists feel their creativity is limited when the client provides exhaustive detail in their descriptions.
On the other hand, some artists thrive when the client provides extensive descriptions and details.
However, you won't know upfront if your artist prefers creative freedom or thorough descriptions.
As such, if you can’t ask them directly, you should provide enough information about the piece.
Detail the featured people/pets, what the most important element for you is (ie. the mood is essential in this piece; the likeness is what I value the most, etc.). All the while letting them know that they have creative freedom to change things if they feel it will make the piece look better.
If you’re ordering a realistic style and resemblance is important to you, be sure to provide plenty of reference photos from all angles to aid the artist in capturing the resemblance as accurately as possible.
4. Request to see a draft and provide feedback on it
This step is essential in ensuring you will be fully happy with the final artwork.
Not every platform and artist out there offers this possibility. But here at ArtCorgi we believe it’s too important not to include it.
If you’re working through a third-party platform that doesn’t offer the option to see a draft of your artwork, you may not be able to do anything about it.
However, if you’re working with the artist directly, you should be able to request to see a draft of the piece to provide feedback on.
That should be something you both decide and agree on before proceeding with the order. If they don’t want to show you a draft of the artwork, find out what changes you’re welcome to request to the piece free of charge once it’s completed.
Once you receive your initial draft and you need to provide feedback, be as clear and straightforward as possible to guarantee your artist will understand your requests.
Additionally, always point out the things you’ve enjoyed as well as the things you think need tweaking. Positive feedback will make your chosen artist feel happy and get their creative juices flowing.
When an artist feels happy while working on your piece, you can rest assured the result will be amazing!
5. Receive your final work of art + Check everything is correct!
After your artist has received your feedback they will proceed to complete your order!
If you’re working through ArtCorgi, you should receive an email with your completed artwork inside along with any comments your artist sent for you.
Check your artwork to see if everything is as you requested or if it needs any tweaks!
If you notice anything that needs adjusting, you’ll need to let the artist know. Or the platform if they’re the responsible ones for this.
Depending on the severity of the requested changes, it may be free of charge. Or, it may be charged separately.
If everything is as it should be: Congratulations! You just commissioned an artist successfully!
Bonus: Celebrate and show everyone your masterpiece!
Don’t forget to leave a positive review on your artist’s page to thank them for their good work! Moreover, It will also help them work with more amazing clients like you in the future!
Here’s a recap of How to commission an artist in 5 easy steps:
1. Choose the right platform to commission an artist – Check their refund policy, learn how the process works, look for clearly listed prices and a safe checkout process
2. Decide on a topic for your custom artwork and a style that fits it the best – Choose a style that the person receiving the artwork is likely to enjoy and let your creativity run wild! Your wishes are our artists’ commands!
3. Find an artist to commission that matches your needs – Choose an artist whose style is similar to what you had in mind for your original artwork. Pushing an artist out of their comfort zone may not give you great results.
4. Request to see a draft and provide feedback on it – This step is essential to guarantee you’ll be happy with the final piece. Provide feedback on your draft and encourage the artist to continue doing a good job!
5. Receive your masterpiece and check everything is alright – Do you see anything that needs some more polishing? Ask the artist to rework it! Is it perfect? Celebrate it! Don’t forget to spread the word about the artist you worked with and give them kudos for the good job!
Oh! Yes! About Malcolm and Simone.
After browsing thousands of artists to find the ones he wanted to work with, negotiating with them, ensuring they completed their promised artworks, etc. Malcolm was dismayed to see just how hard it was to commission art online!
This led Malcolm and Simone to do something they never though they would.
They founded their own art commissioning marketplace to make it easy, safe and fun for everyday people to commission artwork completely hassle-free.
Thus, ArtCorgi was born! We’re here to serve YOU! And allow you to work with artists in a safe environment where your creativity can shine without being compromised by anything!