Art Commissions | Artists and Clients

Orla Gilkeson is an artist living beside the sea in County Down who paints in an abstracted contemporary style, capturing the essence of seascapes and landscapes around her.

She was recently featured in the prestigious ‘Ireland’s Homes, Interiors and Living’ magazine – the September 2021 issue. She also has an upcoming show at the Blackshaw’s Gallery in October 2021.

She has completed many Art Commissions and shares her experience of ‘Art Commissions | Artists and Clients,’ in this guest post.

Art commissions are an important part of my business and it gives me the chance to share my process and creative vision with my customers. It can be an exciting collaboration for the artist and clients to work together and share their ideas. It can also stretch me as an artist and help me to produce a piece of work that I otherwise would not have created.

To help make sure that the whole process runs as smoothly as possible, I’d like to share some of my best tips for Artists and Clients when it comes to commissioning art.

Table of Contents

Art Commissions Tip 1 Keep the Communication Open

Art Commissions Tip 2 Be Transparent About Pricing

Art Commissions Tip 3 Be Clear About What You Both Want

Art Commissions Tip 4 Know What You Are Good At as an Artist

Art Commissions Tip 5 Enjoy the Process!

Art Commissions Tip 1 Keep Communication Open

II have found that it’s usually best to meet in person to try and eliminate any miscommunication. This isn’t always possible, especially if the client and the artist live in two different countries!

However meeting the client for a coffee, or having them drop into your open studio means they get a sense of who you are, what your process is like, and your painting style. I paint in an abstract contemporary style although some people have expected me to do realistic portraits, or other types of painting which would not be part of my own creative journey.

I try to make sure that I point any inquiries from customers towards my Instagram or website so they can get a good sense of my painting, but I still sometimes have clients coming with unrealistic expectations of what I can produce. Some clients believe that because I am an artist with a Fine Art degree and years of experience that I can paint anything at all. Most artists specialise in a particular style.

Letting a client see my work allows them to commission art from me that hopefully suits both of us. Artists and clients are both coming from different perspectives, and that’s why it’s so important to keep the communication open.

Art Commissions Tip 2 Be Transparent About Pricing

Talking about money is always the most awkward part of the conversation so I find that it’s best to be as transparent as possible.

I have found the best way for me to calculate price is:

Price = hourly rate x how many hours spent on art commission

So if your decided hourly rate is $25 and the painting takes 20 hours to complete, then the price will obviously be $500. I know some artists work on the basis of $/square footage but this wouldn’t be my preferred method.

There are some other things to consider too, such as how well known/in demand the artist is. As artists we often don’t like to think of building a brand and the business side of things but that is essentially what we are doing with our names. Some artists have greater brand awareness and so their prices will be in the thousands rather than the hundreds.

Obviously the larger the canvas the more the commissioned artwork will cost. Canvases can be expensive and larger ones can be $100 or more to buy, so you need to price this in.

A piece of art is a luxury rather than a necessity, but that doesn’t mean that all your clients will be wealthy. I like to make sure that everybody has a chance to buy my art, so I do allow people to pay monthly and over a few months if they need to.

Art Commissions Tip 3 Be Clear What You Both Want

This leads on naturally from the idea of keeping the communication open. Clients usually come to me with a place that is special to them, that they would like me to paint. For example a local landmark, a beach, a wood or perhaps somewhere in the mountains.

Sometimes the client is happy to hand the idea over to me and let me exercise creative judgement and license, which is obviously ideal for me as the artist. Some clients are more specific about what they want and like to be more closely involved in the process. Either way I like to make sure I check in with the client, and I usually try a few ‘mock-ups’ or sketches to give them an idea what the final piece will look like.

Doing this makes sure that there aren’t any unpleasant surprises when the piece is finished, and both the artist and the client have not been wasting their time. We both need to be as clear as possible about the direction we are heading in. Although it can definitely be a pleasant experience for me if the client is laid back and happy for me to exercise my judgement, it is also possible that this could lead to the client not being happy with the final result.

This is why it’s so important to be as clear as possible about the outcome, and why I keep the client involved in my artistic process throughout. I also send pictures as the layers begin to develop, and I am letting one layer dry.

Art Commissions Tip 4 Know What You Are Good At as an Artist and Know Your Market

This is important for Artists in particular but it will obviously affect your clients as well. If you really like hyper realistic pencil sketches of dogs, but are ‘just ok,’ at them it’s an unfair thing to offer your clients. Some artists are fantastic at hyper realism, leave it to them. You need to find your style and then you can be confident that you can better serve your clients.

At the same time you have to consider who your ideal client would be and know your market. There is simply no point in indulging yourself in painting in a certain way if there is hardly anyone out there who appreciates your style. Artists, you need to know the kind of client who is likely to appreciate your art and commission, and if there are enough of them out there to make your art business sustainable.

Art Commissions Tip 5 Enjoy the Process!
Commissioning an artists should be a fun process for both artists and clients! Approach it with warmth, joy and passion and a spirit of cooperation. As the writer Neil Gaiman says, ‘The world always seems brighter when you’ve just made something that wasn’t there before.’

You can visit Orla Gilkeson’s website at or her instagram at

If you enjoyed this post you might also like ‘What is abstract art?’

What is Abstract Art?

It’s worth reading this article on ‘Art Commissions,’ also:
As well as this one:

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Nope, Not Pam says:

    Very interesting, it really needs to be run as a business, doesn’t it?

    1. Yes absolutely! Not all artists are business-minded by nature though! Thanks for the comment.

  2. Lovie Price says:

    agree with all of this, and pricing a piece is something that i often get asked about from newbies.I used to have a tough time answering that one. Most agree with your suggestion but as you stated- it isnt always possible depending on the demand for ones style of art and/or the demographic . For myself i prefer the size pricing( with a solid minimum), but will add in for extras such as border mats, framing and hanging hardware- along with their preferred shipping of course. It also varies with medium since the costs of water color vs. acrylic vs. oils are very different. I think my best advice is to go out into the area( or look at similar pieces online if thats what one will be doing) one is planning to sell in and check out average prices.

    1. Thank you for taking the time to leave such a valuable comment!

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