working on commissionPrior to entering an artist/fine art buyer commission relationship, there are many factors to consider. What does the art collector expect as a finished product? Do they have a deadline for completion? Will they be visiting often during the artwork creation process?



Before even working on commission, it is best for artists to establish their personal guidelines for accepting commissions. Are you willing to be guided by painting the way an art buyer wants? If not, its best not to accept art commissions at all… unless they leave the art creation process completely up to you.

For tips on how to obtain artist commissions, please visit: How to Get Art Commissions


Advice for Establishing Art Commission Relationships Between Art Buyer and Artist


Meeting With the Art Collector

meeting hand shakeSit down with the art buyer and find out exactly what they expect in the artwork.

Show them plenty of art to give them a good idea of the kind of work you create.  Find out what they like about the artworks, and specifically ask them if they want these elements in the completed piece. Let them know that you will use your discretion in interpreting the guidelines, but they will have opportunities of seeing and guiding the creation process along the way.

This will lessen the probability of disappointments.

If the art collector says it is up to you, and they respect your creativity, take it as a vote of confidence. This is actually the best type of commission, where the artist has almost total freedom.

Commission Contract

commission contractA written agreement/ contract may be necessary in some cases, especially if the art buyer is not a personal acquaintance.

State the exact requirements of the commission in the written contract. Include dates and signatures of both parties. Write the the payment amount for the commission, and add the deadline date. Also include copyright information, stating that you will retain full copyrights. Write a good description of the finished artwork on the commission contract as well.

To ensure the client does not add on additional requests during the creation process, limit the number of changes in the commission contract. Cut down on alteration requests by charging extra per change.

Let the art buyer know all the terms of pick-up, shipping, and who will be responsible for damages.

Commission Deposit

artwork money depositAsk for a non refundable deposit (that will reduce the final price) to cover time and materials.

This protects the artist in case the art collector decides they do not want to buy the completed artwork. Imagine art commissions as a service like any other. When a contractor is hired to do work on a house, or similar services are rendered, a deposit is often required. Artists should require a deposit for the service of creating art on commission.

Skills for Commissioned Art

Ensure you have the skills to complete the art project.

Do not take on a commission you do not think you have the ability to complete. Let the art buyer know what you are capable of. Although it may be ambitious, the art collector may not be pleased with the outcome, and may even turn it down.

commission deadline watchCommission Deadline

Start the commission well ahead of the expected deadline date.

Allow yourself plenty of time to finish it. Waiting too long can result in a rushed and poorly executed artwork.

Also, try to not let the art buyer set a deadline that requires rushing the artwork. (ie a week before Christmas, as a Christmas gift) Help them to understand your process, such as preparatory sketches, under-painting, waiting for paint to dry, varnishing, etc.


Art Buyer Visits

Let the art collector see the artwork once or twice during the art creation process if possible, no more than that. No one wants to be a robot painter with an art buyer standing over their shoulder trying to guide every step of artwork production. This is very annoying for any artist, and will actually stunt the creation process. You may feel inclined to complete the painting as fast as possible, leaving low quality work that reflects negatively on your talent.


Working on commission may seem foreign at first, but with more commissions it becomes much easier. The more commissioned work artists create, the better they become at receiving them.


  1. As a glass artist, commissions are a significant part of my business and I love them because they are more challenging. I have to get inside the client's head and figure out exactly what they like about my work and about decorating their home. Often I end up designing something I've never tackled before and that expands my repetoire. I'll admit it's a little scary when I bring the finished piece to their home ... but in practically all cases, after it is installed both the client and myself find the work exceeds expectations.

  2. I'm finding your site very informative. Do you know of precedents for commission contracts we can use or look at to get ideas?

  3. @Julia Sattout


    There are a couple at these links:


Thank-you for your comment!