When to Turn Down a Commission

When to Turn Down a Commission

When to Turn Down a Commission

  • On August 24, 2016

By Melanie Bindon, Art Gym Denver

Getting a commission can be extremely exciting for artists- it means someone recognizes your skills and wants to invest in your creations. However, not all commissions are as ideal as our excitement leads us to believe.

Here are some guidelines for determining if you should reject an artistic job:

  1. If you feel like you can’t deliver in a timely manner
      • Galleries and clients are uninterested in artists who are late with their work. Earning a reputation for tardiness can hurt your job prospects further than the current project. Create structure and systems to follow through for success with your art practice.
  2. If you can’t competently execute the product
      • If the request isn’t in line with your skills, it’s better to turn away the project. Say the client wants a realistic portrait, but your main experience is in abstracts. Both of you may end up frustrated with the process and results.
      • If the final piece doesn’t meet quality standards, the client will likely be dissatisfied and refuse to pay for your time. Whether or not the piece is accepted, shoddy work can come back to haunt you.


    Photo Credit: CEA+: Ecco Homo Before, After, and After the After


      • Painful commissions come from clients who tie you up in restrictions or want to “help” by directing every detail. This is dissatisfying and makes production difficult. Come to an understanding ahead of time of expectations and how requests for additions or alterations will be handled.If the client places too many creative restrictions, comments, or suggestions.

It’s better to turn people down than to let them down. If you accept the commission, iron out all sensitive topics before starting. Being direct with hesitancies or concerns helps both parties get on the same page and mitigates potential problems. Write out arrangements in a detailed contract to avoid she said/he said problems. If a client is unwilling to sign, WALK AWAY.


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“Art is the imposing of a pattern on experience, and our aesthetic enjoyment is recognition of the pattern.”

– Alfred North Whitehead