So, I finished and delivered a HUGE commission recently. I’m trying to pretend it is not a big deal, but it really is a big deal: It is 72×72 – and the largest painting I have ever painted (aside from a mural). I’m big time now bitches!
It was taller than me!
I was very excited to work on this piece because the freedom of working in such a large scale is so liberating. What I’m really meant to do. Unlike most artists, I actually LOVE doing commissions. I think of them as interesting challenges – which really break up a regular work routine. I enjoy fixing things and adhering to guidelines from time to time. It takes a little longer – but that is what you pay for. So far, all of my clients have been so amazing, and trusting; Because of the work I do – I don’t normally attract many picky, indecisive, and/or anal customers. Most of the people that admire and commission my work embrace the fact that I’m so free and intuitive, and I am able to take their vision and create something unique for their space. I enjoy following through with projects like that. And I’m good at it. People always comment on the fact that I’m so calm and patient with clients. Most artist get their panties in a wad when asked to make adjustments to their masterpiece. And while I understand that, my attitude is that – if you are going to look at something every day I honestly want you to be happy. And I’m generally not a people pleaser – so that is huge for me to say. I don’t care about making adjustments at the end. I’m a professional and try not to take things so personal. Besides, if you want to make more than two adjustments (and nobody ever has) you have to pay extra $$. So there you go.
This large 72×72 commission was also a HUGE learning experience….
Most of the time, I’m a realist – which can be construed as a negative attribute by some – because I don’t believe that good vibes, prayer, yoga, crystals, denial, and avoidance will make all the evil in the world go away. But when faced with adversity, I have always had this amazing ability to find the learning lesson in everything, every experience – and not get me down (too much) I believe in hard work, a good attitude, and making my own destiny. I believe people should accept responsibility for their actions; realize that their actions have consequences, and not place blame on other people.
That being said, I will give you a little insight into a bit of the commission process, as well as some things that I have learned (and realized I need to adjust/change) the past two months while I painted and delivered/shipped several other large paintings, a few 48×60’s, a 72×72, a 60×72, and a 60×60:
When I give a completion date, that is the estimated date that it takes me to paint the painting. Around that date (or sooner) I announce “I’m finished! Look at my wonderful masterpiece!” (or something like that) That is not the date it will arrive to your home (some people actually believe that.) If you need the completion date and install date to be considerably moved up, then you will have to pay me extra – like 100% extra. Or I can always just say no. When you pay extra, then I can gladly squeeze you in-between other gallery work, and other commissions, but that also means I will be working 12-15 hour days. During this time I will need regular massages and trips to the chiropractor, so I’m not in pain and I do not resent anyone. Because you do not want me to be angry when I work on your art. And I have learned that money and massages help me get over my anger. I will also go through a whole tube of concealer trying to cover up my dark under eye circles; and for the record I use NW15 at MAC. I will also be eating out or picking up take out a bunch during this time – and dealing with a disgruntled BF who is use to healthy home cooked meals/salads and homemade turkey meatballs. But your generous 100% contribution will help me not complain one bit.
For the huge 72×72 I had to order the stretcher bars and stretch the canvas myself. This process takes longer and can be physically challenging. Which is why it costs more for custom sized work. I took it slow and was mindful of my back the whole time.
Because there was an unofficial rush on the deadline, I overnighted the materials. I could not find regular canvas in the weight I wanted in this size – so I bought a linen. Which is twice as expensive than canvas, but not a huge over expense in the grand scheme of things. Also, I initially wanted to rent a larger space to work in for a month or two – but by the time anyone even got back to me I had already stretched the canvas, and started painting. I did not have time to wait around. Time is money, and I do not observe “Island Time” like most people around here. Once this thing was stretched, and I was working on it flat/horizontal it took up almost the whole floor/space of my studio! I could barely move in there or work on anything else while this thing was drying. Between drying times I had to lift it up and take a photo just so I could see what I was actually working on. (I watched three seasons of the “Walking Dead” on Netflix while working on this monster.)
Normally, when I place an order for large stretched canvas to be freight shipped to me, and that means that they will technically only deliver to the door of my gallery – not to my actual studio (which is upstairs.) On the day that I know I’m getting a large delivery, I actually shower and blow my hair out and wear better than my normal ratty painting clothes, as well as makeup (things that do not exactly occur on a typical studio day) and I meet him at the truck with a smile. I try to look cute yet pathetic until he offers to help me take the canvas upstairs (this process has worked every time so far). I tip him $30-$40 depending on how much stuff there is.
I have an assistant that double primes my new canvas deliveries for me, [I then paint the masterpiece] then she paint the sides of my completed work, brushes a final seal on the work, puts hanging wire on each painting, and my price tags. Sometimes she takes the work to the photographer and helps me pack up work or take to the shipper as well.
So then I announce “I’m finished with my masterpiece!” and I email a photo/snapshot of the painting which the client then needs to approve and I make adjustments if needed (most of the time I do not.) If I am working with a gallery, I have to contact them first, who in turn has to contact the designer or architect, who then has to contact the client. Most of the time I never even meet or speak to the client. It is almost like a closed adoption process, and there can be up to two other people between me and the actual client. If one of these people decides to go out of town or does not answer their email in a timely manner, it can add up to 2-3 more weeks of a slow communication chain and adjustments (so be prepared for this.) I’m normally patient during this process, unless there is a set installation/delivery date; then I’m antsy.
Most of these new larger paintings (larger than 48×60) will not fit in my Jeep, so I need to rent a cargo van in order to take the work to the photographer (which is in Jacksonville, and about 50 miles/one hour away – the reason why I go here is because he is the BEST. A good image is priceless.) and then drop off at the freight shipper. And BTW – a 72×72 painting will NOT fit in a cargo van. The van door itself, is ONE INCH too small! I learned this the hard way, and had to think fast – and rent a small truck from Uhaul. Seems like overkill, but when you have to hand deliver something that you really should have shipped in the first place – and it has to be there in the next 24 hours – this is what you do. By my initial calculations, it was not any more money than the van, so that is what I rented.
So then the BF worries that I cannot drive said Uhaul, or said Uhaul will break down (I have broken down before and the BF had to come get me in the middle of the night 150 miles away.) So the BF insists on going with you for delivery, and protection – even though the BF is scared to drive the Uhaul himself (go figure.) The BF is also anal and thinks we don’t need to spend any more time in the big city than needed. We must return to the small, culture-less, vacuum of a town that we reside in immediately after delivery! So, basically you are in a large city with a Uhaul, but the BF will not allow you to go to Ikea or Crate & Barrel. Because In my mind, if you have a Uhaul in a large city, you need to fill the Uhaul up with Ikea/Crate & Barrel shit that you don’t need, just because you can. Ikea is janky. Don’t need to go to Ikea. BF is torturing me. Don’t ever take BF with you again. Lesson learned.
On the car ride home we stopped for lunch, and we ate at a TGIF – my first time since Highschool (and the BF had never been there.) We were the only white people in there and the food rocked! Had fried green beans for the first time. Went on a detox diet once we got home, but it was so worth it.
So, when I initially checked out the Uhaul I stated that I was going to said location – never talked about round trip or leaving it there. FYI. It is cheaper to leave the Uhaul in said location and drive a rental car back one way. BF talked me out of dropping off the Uhaul in the big city – “lets just drive it back, that is too much trouble….” so when I dropped off the Uhaul in Fernandina Beach, it was $400 bucks more than I had initially planned on. I begrudgingly ate this cost, and will not even let the client know how stupid I was to make this mistake. I was angry at myself for (A) taking the BF and letting him talk me out of the rental car, and (B) being stupid and not understanding the difference between the local rental and long distance rental. (C) Oh, and the ugly fat cow that works at the UHaul place was no help either.
Next time painting must be shipped.
And if you ever ask me for a discount, this is why I will say “suck it”
Disclaimer: The BF says that while completely factual, I’m not portraying him in a good light, but I told him that if anyone really knows us they will think this was completely accurate and really funny. I would also like to add that I’m treated like a complete princess who wants for nothing 90% of the time.