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How to commission a painting

Custom paintings by Emma Cownie
Selection of Commissioned work by Emma Cownie

How to commission a painting. This for all you collectors, decorators, and art enthusiasts who are intimidated by the thought of commissioning a painting, but thrilled at the prospect of working with an artist on a piece of your own. It’s easy.

Here are my 5 steps.

1. The Brief – send me an outline of what you are looking for in your commission; i.e. size, subject matter, and include as many good quality reference photos as you can.  I can edit or combine images on request. Here’s an example of a project where I did this last year. If its a pet portrait, what sort of background would you like?

2. Size of the Work – This has a bearing on the price. Here are some guidelines. These prices include free packing & shipping. Most canvas sizes can be ordered to suit commission requirements.

60×50 cm – £295      (Approx 19.68 x 23.6 inches – US $380)
70×50 cm – £345     (Approx 19.68 x 27.5 inches – US $445)
80×60 cm – £450     (Approx 31.49 x 23.6 inches – US $582)
100×80 cm – £650   (Approx 39.49 x 31.49 inches – US $840)

3. Logistics – Timescale, is this work a present for a special event? A custom painting can be a unique gift for a loved one. I will need to know special dates well in advance so there is plenty of time for the work to thoroughly dry before it is packed and shipped.

4. Deposit – I will need a deposit usually 25% of the final price, this is to cover the materials and any design work, such as sketches or other mockups.

5. Final review – You will be sent images of the final painting. I finish my work by painting a neutral colour around the edges so the painting is ready to hang. Your work will be shipped and a tracking number provided.

That’s it. Sit back and admire your painting for years to come.

Get in touch to discuss ideas. Email emmafcownie@gmail.com

Commission of a painting of a spaniel
The progress of a painting commission

So to sum it all up…

Custom art work by Emma Cownie
5 steps to a commission

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Anatomy of a commission

Hudson Cropped
Hudson the Poodle

Here’s Hudson the black poodle. He’s a handsome chap. I was asked to paint a picture of him. Pretty straight forward, eh?

Well, the challenge was that the commission required that Hudson was to be portrayed not in this rural idyll but in New York City, waiting outside Malecon coffee shop where his owner popped by every morning for her coffee. Hudson is one of those super cool dogs that will just wait. He does not need to be tied up.

 

I was provided with a couple of photographs of the said restaurant but there were a couple of issues that needed dealing with. Take a look.

Firstly, there were signs and bicycles in the way of the front of the shop. There was no clear view. So I googled the restaurant in the hope that I might find some more useful photographs online.

Several photos of Malecon restaurants in different locations in NYC. The second problem is that Hudson in the original photos was sitting in grass and I could not see what sort of tail he has and what happens to it when he sits down, whether he tucks it under or not. So I searched for some poodles images. Did he have a long or short tail?

IMG_0780
Hudson sitting on the lawn

So I spent a morning using a photo editing program called Gimp (an open source version of Photoshop) and adding poodle tails, taking out bicycles and playing around with compositions.

I finally decided that I lived the photo with the lit interior best. I thought the lights would make a more interesting image. I had a problem deciding where to place the dog as he was black and would not stand out against the dark background. Initially I placed him to one side in front of the plant container but finally settled on in the foreground so that he was the main focus of the picture.

So I send this final image to the customer to check that she’s happy with the composition and I have the right sort of tail for Hudson before I make a start painting. I also got her to agree to a rectangular canvas, rather than a square one, that way I could fit the dog and all of the shop front in easily.

My final problem is that I added a shadow to the dog to give the picture a more dynamism but there were few, if any shadows in the photos I had. I so searched the internet again for reference images.

 

So I did a lot of thinking about the likely direction of shadow that the awning would likely cast and the length of the shadow, drawing lines on the image I’d sent to the customer. So once, I decided on these things and also kept in mind the information I had in the original photos I got started. I began with the letters of the restaurant name as I this was the element that I was most concerned to get right. Once I had painted these in, I relaxed and enjoyed the work. As I was using a small canvas (41 x 33 cm) it was easy to turn and paint upside-down, side to side as well as right side up. Overall, allowing for dying times, the work was done over three days.

This is what I painted.

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Hudson, New York

If you are interested in finding out more about a commission, click here