It's easy to look at somebody else who's successful and think you should be like them. You should do what they're doing.
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, Marijanel joined by my co-host Charla Maarschalk. Let's get to it.
Speaker 3 (00:20):
Welcome to the Bold Artist Podcast. I'm here with my co-host, Charla Maarschalk, and we are in the Summer S,essions where we're talking about hot topics for artists. And last week we touched on the subject of taking commissions. And we talked about everything from a little bit of thoughts on contracts and communication, clarity, just what is involved in taking a commission. And Charla said something very profound that I thought deserved some further discussion. You mentioned staying in the realm of your work, where you know how you work, and you stay in your zone. And I would love for you to clarify that a little on, on, in the context of taking commissions. What does that mean, Charla, to stay in your zone?
Well, I, I say that because we're artists, and we wanna be free, and we wanna be able to do whatever we feel like doing that day. Um, and there's a level where you can do that in a commission process, but I think it's best to leave all of your experimenting and learning and growth for your, your own time in your studio. When you're creating work, that you're inspired to create. When you're working on a commission, you stay staying in your zone means staying where you are, you know, that you can deliver. If you've, so you're painting portraits, you're painting likenesses, you're painting most likely loved ones or something very specific that somebody's asking you to paint. And that will create a lot of stress. They're going to give you money. You've made a promise and now you have to keep it. If you decide I'm going to paint, um, a beard when you've never painted a beard before and suddenly your first, this is your first beard painting, and it's a commission, and there's a lot lying, lying on this project.
You're going to be stressed out, and you're not going to have fun. And it doesn't mean you won't succeed. Okay. I, I speak from experience here that I've taken commissions in the beginning that I wasn't ready for. And I can paint a painting in a couple of days. I usually give myself some more time for commission work. So, I'll, I'll price that accordingly. I'm gonna make this much money and this many days. And then I took this commission that was very difficult, and it took me six weeks to finish it. Now, I didn't paint eight hours a day, every day. I had a lot of time in between 'cause I was stressed, and I just left it. Um, which takes me to actually another point in that when I take commissions, I always give them, I say, I'll do this within the next six months.
I never say I'll have it ready next week because you never know what can go wrong. So, it didn't matter so much on my delivery that it took me six weeks to paint this painting 'cuz they weren't expecting it yet. However, it was six weeks of my life that I'll never get back because I was very stressed and really worried. And in the end, what I got paid for that commission really didn't pay for the time that I...
I committed to that commission. And you can't run a business like that. Yes, we are artists, and we can work all night, and we can work all weekend. And that's a wonderful thing, that we can be flexible. But when you stay in your zone, you prevent all of those stressful things from happening. And they probably will happen because life is life and, and maybe you'll get carried away at some point. I've, I've started commissions over from scratch because they've gone really bad. Some of that stuff is inevitable. But when you stay in your zone, you're more likely than not to be successful and to be able to deliver something that's really meaningful and beautiful to your client. Just don't experiment. Don't try something new or pretend that you can do something you can't.
Yeah. So, you're saying, don't, yeah, don't experiment on the actual piece that you're getting paid for. Do that separately. Grow your skills separately, and then bring it into in your zone, into what you offer a client. Do you think that there's a lot of artists out there that are just over promising and then struggling through their commissions?
Yeah, I see I've I, I came up on this early in my career and as a photographer before, and I won't call myself an expert in Photoshop, but I know Photoshop really well. I was able to say no to this, um, ask of a client. But I see a lot in our community where people get asked to compile photographs into one painting. So, it could be, you know, it, it just could be, well, actually one, I was asked to take five kids and put into one painting, and I just said, no, I'm not going to do that.
Yeah. They're asking five separate photographs with different lighting, different moods, different expression, different backgrounds, and wanted you to recreate those likenesses as a group that is... That can be done. I'm sure that there's artists who do that, and offer that service, and can have their ways, have their process. But if that's not your zone, if that's not something that you are an expert at, you are, you could be looking at a potential nightmare to, to do that kind of job.
It's not potential. It's guaranteed nightmare. And we, it comes up over and over and over in our community, um, that people have said yes to something like this. Now, it might not be five people. It could just be two people, and you can be more successful that way. But what you don't recognize, when you see, when you see these two photographs is that the angle of their faces could be one, could be taken slightly up, one taken slightly down. And when you put, put those two pictures together, it doesn't make sense because you know that you, you just intuitively know that you'll never see that in real life. And then you got the lighting and people think they can change the lighting. But when you're working from a reference and you need a likeness, lighting hits features in specific ways. And to change that lighting will quite easily change a feature.
So, you need to be very skilled in practice in order to be able to do that. And then I've had people ask, well, do you know somebody who knows how to use Photoshop and they can, uh, fix the photo, make the reference photo for me, but that's a very highly skilled thing to be able to do, as well. And if you're gonna hire somebody to do that, 'cuz hopefully you're not expecting them to do work for you for free, you need to be willing to pay them. And that needs to reflect in your, um, in your commission pricing. So, all of those things come with time and experience and expertise. And it's not that you can't do it, but normally, especially when you're starting out, this is not something you should be promising.
Or just thinking, you know, take the commission 'cuz you want the money and the hope that it'll all fill in later, you're not gonna be able to, it's it's just not gonna be worth the time that it's gonna take.
And you're not gonna be able to pay the people who you need help from. So, one of the things, um, if you'd like a solution to that problem, which I've done successfully on several occasions, is just talk the client into having separate paintings. So, is their children, or their grandchildren. And they want one really sweet, loving painting of all of them together. And I tell them, you know what? These are personalities, they're unique personalities. And I could paint a separate painting of each of them and really bring out their personality. I can use different color palettes. You know, maybe we can add elements in to that painting that that includes their personalities. And then in the end you have portrait of that child separate one from the other. Maybe they'll take it with them one day. You know, you don't know really what you, what will happen to those paintings.
But in the meantime, you can display them together on your wall and they will look beautiful.
And they will work together. 'Cuz it's the same artist. It's the same style.
A friend's kids where we did them at the same ages rather than there's different ages. There's so many ways you can do it. And then one other thing on that is price pricing. They'll often say, well I can't afford two paintings. Well, you just do them smaller. You do two smaller paintings rather than two large paintings. And together, you know, they make a beautiful art piece on the wall.
So, you can offer your so like you can offer solutions to your client.
That keeps you still in your zone, but gives to them an option of how you could work for them if they love your style. But it's outside your zone. That is so wise and brilliant. I love that. It actually reminds me of a year that I couldn't do family photos. And so, I happened to have a really good photo, like separate photos of our family, and I clustered them on the wall, and that was our family photo of the year. And that offering solutions like that to your client saying like, listen, this is outside my zone. What you're asking isn't, isn't what I do. It's not what I offer, but I could do this. And I love the kind of creativity. It also puts the control back, um, into the artists' hands. Um, helping them to work in their level of confidence. Is there any kind of question, self-reflective question, that an artist could ask themselves prior to committing to a, a, a commission where they can ask a series of questions of knowing like, am I in my zone, am I over promising? How do they even know their style and capabilities? Good enough to, to have that kind of clarity when they say yes to a commission.
It's a big question because it, it comes into, like, just discussing, um, well just how much you believe in yourself. You know, like, how, how much trust you have in your own process and your own skills. And I don't really think you should be taking commissions if you're, if you don't really feel like you've reached, um, a certain place. Um, I'm not totally, totally sure how to explain it, but a lot of people will work with the idea of fake it till you make it. Um, there's a, there's a, a level of that that I agree with in business in life. You kind of gotta fake it a little bit, pretend that you can do more. You gotta believe.
Not pretend. You just gotta believe that you can do more.
Yeah. And I see it that you have to wade out deeper into deeper and deeper waters in order to learn to swim.
And then you start, it's like learning to walk or run. You, you challenge and stretch yourself, and you kind of have to take those first steps. So, there's an aspect of faith and stretching yourself, but it's kind of like, uh, a lot of artists will just jump into the deep end with absolutely no, um, transitional steps of learning something. They just... I, I think I have done that myself, like looking in retrospect. Looking back on my artistic life, I have many times gotten myself into situations that were over my head in commissions or in promises that I made to clients.
And I've learned the hard way. What's great about this is you're verbalizing that for me, you're putting it into words of what I could have done differently of just asking those questions to myself. Am I ready for this? Can I deliver this? Is it in my realm of expertise? Don't experiment while you're, you know, doing someone's work for them. Like, keep that separate. Experiment on the side, and then bring it into the work.
Yeah. Yeah. And so I think it, it just comes down to practicing in your own studio and seeing what you enjoy doing, seeing what you're good at, seeing what people are responding to. And if you love painting, um, babies, you know, like grandchildren and newborn paintings, then you need to be practicing that so that you know that you can bring that forward. Learn what is the difference in a young and an old face so that you, you're not making the, the faces look too old or whatever. Practice and become confident that you can deliver. And then you'll, you, you can do it, and you can enjoy your work. If you don't like painting newborns, then you could try painting a couple and you know, work your butt off to make sure that you can deliver something to that client. But then recognize, I don't like this, and I don't want to do it just because it's money.
I'm gonna move into a zone that I actually enjoy. Maybe that's pet portraits. Maybe you love painting animals and you're fulfilled by it. Then that's where you go. Like, trust your own senses. And don't think that somebody who paints a newborn painting is a better artist than somebody who paints a dog painting. Just know that that is where you feel fulfilled. That's your strength. That's what you should be doing, in that sense. We talk a lot about this when we talk about our own unique styles and message is. It's, it's easy to look at somebody else who's successful and think you should be like them. You should do what they're doing, but that's not true. They're unique. And they're doing, and they're living their life. You need to go into your unique path. And part of that is just sensing where you are fulfilled.
If you are fulfilled painting trees, then that will be your calling and people... There's special trees to people. I've seen people ask to have trees commissioned to be painted because, like, I even have a few trees in my life from my childhood that I'd love to have paintings of. That could be an actual thing that you do. It's where you're fulfilled and it can change people's lives. I've seen people who paint childhood homes. So, they're architectural artists, and they paint childhood homes for people. It's so meaningful. So, go where you feel fulfilled, and trust that, practice it. And then you will, you will feel really confident that you can stay,
Stay in your zone,
Stay in your zone.
Yeah. Well, what I hear there is stay in your zone and stay in your, your realm of fulfillment. Um, and both of those together are very powerful.
And so, thank you for sharing that with us today here on the Bold Artist Podcast. I hope that you're all on our newsletter list through boldschool.com. We've got all kinds of wonderful, exciting happenings in our community.
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