So we wanna be having fun, and creating a place where you can work, that you can confidently deliver this, uh, commission to your client with clarity in what you're going to deliver. And when you're gonna deliver it.
Welcome to the bold artist podcast, summer sessions, where we're talking about hot topics for the season, that'll make a difference to your art. I'm your host, Mary Janelle joined by my co-host Charla Marsal. Let's get to
It. Welcome to the bold artist podcast. I'm here with Charla Marsal in the summer sessions, and it's been a really hot summer. Finally. Finally, it's been a hot summer here. Hasn't it? Charla
Yeah. We had a lot of rain in our neck of the woods. We had a lot of rain in June, but it has heated up. My studio is a sauna right now. So, those of you watching on YouTube, if you see our, my cheeks begin to flush it's because it's hot in here. So, we have a hot topic for you, as well. And um, we wanna talk today about taking commissions, uh, all the steps that an artist might have to take in taking commissions for the commission to go well. I know that that's a topic that comes up often in our Bold School community, among our students at Bold School, they, um, begin to spread their wings as artists. And what happens? The first thing that happens is friends and family begin to say, could you paint this or that for me?
Could you, could you do a commission is what they're asking. And then the artists are faced with, how do I do this? How do I do it? Well, what are the logistics? Am I ready for that? And Charla and I have both been there. Now, we do different style art, and our experiences in the industry are slightly different, but we definitely have the experience of taking all those steps, taking commissions. So Charla, um, we were talking pre-show, and we came up with some of the steps that we felt are really crucial. And the first one, um, was having a contract. Um, what are some of your initial thoughts on an, an artist who's just spreading their wings, um, facing the idea of having a contract? What does that mean to you?
Well, I think it means that you have to start with, this is a business and I think a lot of artists don't think of it as a business and they get excited and they're so excited that somebody just wants a piece of their art, that they just jump into it and then realize far too late that this is not gonna go as easily as they thought, because there's a lot of stress comes with a commission mm-hmm there's expectations. So when you start out that this is a business and you want to act professionally and you want in that sense command respect for what you do and the business you're running, uh, because you are gonna get paid for this. So it is a business transaction. You start with a contract. I think it really sets everything up in a very professional way. And especially when you start with your friends and relatives, cause that's usually where commissions start.
Right off the bat, they're like, oh, you, you are taking this seriously this, is a business. And I'm gonna have to listen to you because you know something that I don't know, and I want your services. So, here here's the next steps. And it and a contract can mean a lot of different things. You can have a, a professional legal contract drawn up. If you want, you can find things on the internet to help you. And you can also, uh, just use emails as your written word of agreement, as long as you're really clear in your, you write professional emails with everything clearly written out. And then that person responds in agreement and confirmation and sends you, uh, you know, the first down payment for the commission, then you, you've actually got a contract that can hold up in court just through emails. Um, but just setting that up and, and stating that these are my terms, these are what you, we both need to agree to. These are my promises and these are our terms. Then I think you're setting yourself up for success right off the bat with a contract.
Yes. Yes. I often use email as my form of what I'd call a contract or an agreement. And if, you know, sometimes you know, the client and you communicate with them on various forms of media. There's so many ways someone can contact you these days. They can contact through email or messenger or texting, but I tend to use email as my way of business communication, where that's, where my agreement is laid out. So, um, I've been in instances where I may be talking to someone about what they would like me to create, and I will say to them, great, I'm gonna send you an email that captures this conversation. And what they don't realize is that is essentially in my view, a contract. And then if they text me, and they say, oh, Hey, I got your email. It sounds good. I will respond, "Do you mind responding to the email that exact, you know, statement that you, you texted me," because then I have that email documentation that just kind of wraps it up in a nice, neat little package.
Um, when you were, when you were speaking and you, you talked about the communication part of it. So, we've talked about the contract and agreement. That's so important, especially even if you feel like it's just a friend or relative, it's, it's still so important that you practice that to be a professional. But then there's this aspect of communication. And sometimes we might think, oh, communication means I send that email, but there's actually so much more to communicate, to make a commission go well. I feel like any time a commission's gone off or wrong for me, it's because I didn't communicate everything up front: the deadline, the price, the method of payment, at what times the payments were expected, how the, how the customer would receive delivery or how they would proof the work, if they were going to proof the work or be able to make revisions. All of that are things that I think an artist needs to research and create their own system or process of taking a commission and what they need to communicate.
So, um, yeah. What have you found in, in the area of communication, Charla?
I think it's, it's like managing expectations for yeah. For you, but more so for the person that's asking you to do painting for them, you manage their expectations. They see a whole bunch of great work on your website or in your studio or wherever they've seen your work. And they're like, I want a piece like that, but they've got an idea in their head, what they want, especially if it's of a loved one or an animal or whatever that they love or whatever. And you have as a process and a way that it works. And they might think that I want blue, red, and green in my painting, 'cause they're my favorite colors. And you know that that's not gonna look good together. So, you need to manage their expectations. And by when they say, Hey, can you do a painting for me?
And you're like, Hey, I do have time. So, that could work out, but let's discuss the process. And then you communicate with them exactly how it works. You want a deposit up front is non-refundable or whichever way you're gonna go with that. And you need a specific type of reference photo. You don't do this, you will do that. Um, how you choose your colors, the, the, the types of revisions you're willing to make, like all of those things laid out so they can see, well, oh, this is great. Like, I, I can trust you or they might be like, no, no, no, no. I want full control over this. And I'm giving you a thousand dollars or $5,000 and I want full control. Then maybe you can say right off the bat that, you know, this is not gonna work out. Um, but I can recommend another artist that you could check out and then nothing bad happens because you've managed expectations. And then down the road, if something goes a little bit of awry, you can refer back to the expectations that you laid out and say like, um, I let you know ahead of time when we sealed the deal, that that was not gonna happen. And then maybe that's just a gentle reminder and they're like, oh, sorry, sorry. I completely forgot, you know, it just helps it's communication. It's managing expectations.
Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. And then there's this other aspect that is perhaps a, a piece of communication, but it's the clarity in which the artists can create the artwork. So there's like all the logistics, like deadline payment, um, and those kind of expectations, but then there's the creative license within the artwork. And that's the, the clarity for the artist and the client where you, you talk to them about your realm of expertise, how, like you just said, choosing that palette, there needs to be clarity. If they're looking to match the pillows in their living room, um, that isn't the same kind of creative license as if the artist could choose the palette that they're working with. So there needs to be clarity on that creative license. And I think the artist could possibly be flexible with that and really work with the client, but that's the artist's choice and that needs to be communicated. That clarity needs to be communicated. And, um, what have, what has been your experience with, with that kind of clarity in the artwork? Charla, do people come to you and say, um, do clients come and say, I, I love everything you do, Charla, just create for me, or do they come with some kind of their own clarity saying my pillows are blue. My wallpaper has flowers and you have to do it this way. And, and how do you respond to that?
Well, I think part of like, so we, we have a contract, we have some communication expectations set up, and then we say we get into what's more the fun part. Okay. Like what, what do you want me to paint? And so, like, one of the things that I've set out I've, I've asked them and say, well, let me know your favorite color, like one color that you really would like in your painting. And one color that you really detest, you know, 'cuz I actually don't love green. So, I don't really want a full on green painting in my, in my, on my wall. So, I will say, uh, what's your favorite color? What's your least favorite color. And then I will explain, I will take your favorite color and incorporate it into the painting. It may be, um, the paint, the dominant color, and it may not be the dominant color.
And I will do my best to keep that main color. Like if you don't like green, it will not be the dominant color of your painting. But then I explain my process is somewhat organic. I can control my palette and I can make it happen. But some of my best work happens when I don't have that constraint on me. So, if you say you want a yellow and blue painting with nothing else in the painting, I will say, actually I don't work that way and you're not gonna get my best work by putting that constraint on me. So, I don't think this will work out. Or I won't say that, but I'll say like, I can't work that way, and this is how I work. So, I give them clarity in my process, and why I'm asking for one color and not three colors and what to expect from that.
And that usually helps them. They understand a lot of times, uh, people who are asking for the painting just don't understand what it takes to create a painting. They'll send a blurry photograph or I've gotten many photographs like where, um, a hand is over the face and they'll say, can you just fill in their face? Like, no, I can't. I've never met this person. And there's specific lighting and specific expression. Um, like there's ways we could put a flower in front of their face or something, but so you can discuss options, but be very clear of what you can actually give them. Maybe you are really great at filling in faces that have missing parts. But if you're not, if you've never successfully done it before, don't promise that. Be very clear. It's okay to say, I, I can't do that. It's not my level of expertise. It's not a place that I practice.
Well, I hear a whole other podcast coming on, knowing how you work, knowing your realm of expertise, which is a great conversation for another day. But this leads me to think about confidence. It leads me to think about entering into the commission with confidence. Even if you are a beginner at taking commissions, a beginner artist, you can have a confidence in your skill level at that moment in where you're at on the stepping stone that you're at. And entering in with the, the right, um, contract agreement, um, series of emails, communication, clarity, all of these things bring you confidence that by the time you pick up that paintbrush and begin to execute on that commission, you are doing it confidently knowing you can deliver. And, um, Charla, what, in what ways would you speak into the confidence of an artist? Um, in just being able? 'Cause I, I know that one of the questions we get a lot is, how do I know I'm ready? How do I, like, I'm nervous? Uh, a lot of our students within Bold School are beginning to do their very first shows, and um, they're beginning to take on their very first commissions, and there's uh, a very, uh, it's nerve-wracking, and they need that boost of confidence. What would you have to say?
Yeah. Well, I think when you have, when you can work with confidence, you're gonna have more fun with a commission. Like when, when you're doing your own thing in your own studio for other reasons, then it's a different, it's a whole different story. It's a whole different ballgame. But if you are going to do commissions, it's a great way to make money when you're especially starting out as an artist, but you need it to be fun because commissions very quickly become really, really stressful.
So by setting up your contract and your communication, having clarity in your process with your clients, you will create a place where you can work in confidence that you can create what they want. If you think they want a rainbow portrait of all different colors, and there's just all these things you have to fill in pieces of their face and you have to put a hat on their head, or take a hat off their head or whatever, and you've never done that before, you're gonna be really stressed out, and you're not gonna have fun. And when the next commission comes down the road, which is guaranteed set amount of money, you're not gonna wanna take it. So, we wanna be having fun and creating a place where you can work, that you can confidently deliver this, uh, commission to your client with clarity in what you're going to deliver. And when you're gonna deliver it, you will have fun. And you'll wanna take on the next one. And your work will continue to be a place. Your studio will continue to be a place you really wanna be in.
I love it that you, you talked about having fun doing commissions, cuz I have met so many artists, even seasoned artists who loathe commissions because they feel it really stifles them. It drags them down, but yet they, they have found ways to rely on it financially. And so it becomes like a, a thorn in their side as an artist. Yeah, but it doesn't have to be that way. I, I think that with the right approach to all of these things that we touched on today -- and we've barely scratched the surface of the conversation -- um, but all of the things that we touched on today can bring the fun back into it. And I love it that you brought us back to that. Thank you for joining us on the Bold Artist Podcast. We're so happy that you are here today, listening on all audio apps, including Spotify, and here on YouTube, we hope that you are on our newsletter list. The Bold School newsletter is one you don't wanna miss. Our upcoming classes, and a lot of happenings inside of our community that are growing artists, growing wholehearted, skilled artist. So, do check us out on boldschool.com and get on that newsletter. Until next time, keep creating.