How to Commission A Painting

How to commission a painting from an abstract painter and get a piece of unique art that feels like you.

I commissioned Melanie to create an original piece of art for our home. From the initial conversation, to delivery of the piece it was a very collaborative process. She took the time to visit our home to see our style and sent me a mood board so we could iterate on the color palette and overall look and feel of the piece. Melanie met every deadline we discussed and was very professional to work with. As an added bonus, she’s very smart, funny and delightful to work with. I highly recommend commissioning her to create a unique, one-of-a-kind piece of art!

Melissa Heaton

Strategic Education, Communications and Policy Leader, Heaton Public Affairs

You see an artist’s work. You love it! You search her online shop only to find that the painting you wanted to purchase has been sold or is smaller than you’d like it to be. Bummer.

You’d like something similar to a painting she’s already done, but in a different color palette.

You wish you could hire her to create an entire collection of paintings for you based on the one that you love.

What you want most is a piece of art that feels like you.

Is any of this even possible? What do you do next?

How do you work with an artist one-on-one to commission a painting that you want to wake up to every day?


I believe that the art commission creative process can be easy and fun! Here’s how I collaborate with my clients to create a piece of art that becomes part of their home and life and can help set the tone for their day.



Step One: Explain what you’re looking for in your own words.

I’m going to take you through my process by walking you through an actual commission that I did last fall for my client, Melissa.

Melissa contacted me after seeing my work when I helped my son’s first-grade class out with their art project. Since she lives here in Seattle, I visited her home. This allowed me to get a sense of her interior style and where the painting might live. It gave us a chance to discuss what kind of feeling or energy that she wanted the painting to bring into her home.

Note: If you’re not local, it’s easy to do this via video chat, phone, or email!

After finalizing some of the painting details like size, type, and timeline, I provided Melissa with a price quote. I collect 50% of the project fee up front before I purchase any materials.

Note: If I ship the painting to you, we will discuss different options and how they impact overall cost.

Don’t be afraid to discuss price with your artist!

Only you know how much you can afford to spend on art. You may not be able to buy a huge piece, but perhaps you could purchase a smaller painting or order a custom-sized print that’s more suitable for your budget. You can often get an idea for how much artists charge for their original paintings by checking out their current work for sale.

Step Two: Show the artist examples of their work that you love.

I have a couple of painting styles that I generally work in – lots of details/abstract cityscapes and more meditative flowy/abstract landscapes. Letting the artist know which of her existing paintings you like most is a super easy way to get your custom art commission moving in the right direction.

Melissa loved my Big Bear watercolor painting. We used it as a starting point for developing the look of her large scale acrylic abstract landscape painting commission.

Big Bear is the first painting of my California Love art print collection. This piece was inspired by the Southern California landscape on a trip from Seattle to Los Angeles to Big Bear. This painting style and color palette was new to me at the time. It came to me while working fireside in a cozy cabin tucked away in the mountains. I hope the print can promote a feeling of both relaxation and adventure.
I love using mood boards as a tool for abstract painting and surface design commissions. It's a great way to explore color palettes and styles and to make sure that you're visually on the same page with your client.

Step Three: Approve the artist’s mood board.

I love using mood boards as a tool for abstract painting and surface design commissions. It’s a great way to explore color palettes and make sure that you’re visually on the same page with your client.

I usually get started on my client mood board by heading over to my vast eye candy collection on Pinterest. Since my own personal creative process includes lots of types of image collection and organization, I already have tons of images that I love that could be useful to communicate color, vibe, and style.

Once I’ve sifted through and chosen the images that best represent the mood, creative style, and energy that my client wants me to communicate in my art, I put the images together in a one page PDF and email it to her for approval.

Perhaps some of the colors aren’t quite what the client wanted. This is why starting with a mood board can actually save time, paint, and energy going forward.

Once my client provides her feedback, it’s time to move on to the next step.

Step Four: Email Updates

After the creative direction is approved, I start work on your painting and send you one or two work-in-progress shots along the way. Feedback on the piece is welcome during this stage.

Step Five: Final Sign Off and Delivery

When I’ve completed your painting, I’ll send you an image of the final piece. Once you give me the okay that you’re ready for me to deliver or mail it to you, you’ll send me your final payment and I’ll prepare it for shipping.

If you commission a painting on stretched canvas I’ll ask you if you want me to install hanging wire so it will be ready for you to hang on your wall when it arrives. If you’ve selected a collapsible canvas to save on shipping costs, I’ll make sure you have all of the information that you need to quickly and easily assemble it upon arrival. If you’ve chosen an economical for shipping unstretched canvas or a large watercolor paper painting, I’ll cover it in archival paper and ship it rolled in a tube.

Once your painting has been carefully packaged, insured, and mailed, I’ll send your tracking information so you can start planning its welcome home party!

I hope that this has been helpful. It’s easy to get overwhelmed when we think about the big overall thing (whatever that thing is) without breaking it down into steps. Email me if you have any questions about my art commission process and let me know when you’re ready to commission a painting.


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