View Full Version : Help! - Family Scene Portrait Commission

01-27-2006, 01:07 PM
I really need you guyz help here please...... I know it will always be debatable about how to price your works...... but Im stumped here ....
I have been approached to do a family commission, this includes two adults, two children and two dogs!!! setting in a living room on and around furniture..... I have NO IDEA of how to even begin to price this? - any one have any thoughts.... I have only ever done head and shoulder portraits (max of two peeps) or Animals portraits ( max of 3 dogs) all on 9 x 12". I will have to work on a bigger format probably 12 x 18" which in itself is out of my comfort zone

.. all thoughts and ideas most welcome....... thanks for helping out

01-27-2006, 01:10 PM
Is it your family???? that makes a huge dif.
If it's just a family, I'd charge what you charge normally and the hourly of course plus the cost of your supplies. It can be open for negotiation. When I've done gardens for people I charge a flat fee per hour, ect. If it's someone who is a good friend or something, of course that would change

01-27-2006, 02:38 PM
Hi Diane,

no, not Family, I do not know this person as such, but they just bought one of my latest works, and on that have requested this Commission.

01-27-2006, 02:57 PM
I haven't been dong stuff long enough or even would let anyone see anything I did until recently. But, my brother is the real artist and did some commissions. He, I believed, charged per hr and for supplies like canvas. It was pretty much the same as I did for doing a garden for people. I would discuss the hourly fee and if possible we could negotiate price abit. I think if you tell them your fee and maybe give a little wiggle room for them if they want you could come to a good price. What do ;you usually charge???

01-27-2006, 03:03 PM
I dont really have a pricing plan........ much a sort of gut reaction to finished works lol

01-27-2006, 03:15 PM
Wow. You could sketch it out, just a family like small pic, and get some idea how you would do with it and how hard it'd be. Get some idea what you have in store and then do a negotiating price. What I charge for setting up a garden for someone is 10.00 an hour. people seem to be fine with that price. Somewhere around 10 -12 per hour. does that sound okay to you.

Pat Isaac
01-27-2006, 05:46 PM
Do you have pictures of what they want? Is everyone included in the picture the way they want it? If not this will certainly take some time to compose. The size would certainly be a consideration as more materials would be used. Most of my portrait work has been head and shoulders and no more than 2 people. Last fall I received a commission to do 5 people in one image, but just head and shoulders. There is a thread of it in the OPforum you could look at. http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=301392
The piece is about 20 by 24 finished. I charged per head unframed.


01-27-2006, 06:18 PM
Thank you Diane, thank you Pat, ahhhhhhhh yes I remember seeing this one....... turned out so lovely ...

Ohhhhhhh I forgot to mention - she knows exactly what she wants ...... she wants herself sat on a couch with one of the dogs on her lap, with her daughter at her feet playing with the other dog .... and her husband sitting in a chair reading a newspaper with her son reading over he's shoulder.........

...... sorry, must of been still stunned lol, I forgot to mention it - lol

I am not sure at this stage how she intends photographing this, if it will be in composite photos

01-27-2006, 06:39 PM
yikes! Sounds like she's a norman Rockwell fan, you've got your work cut out for you- especially if they want furniture too. DO NOT undersell yourself. I'd talk to other portrait artists or try to find similar work and see how it's priced.

Good Luck

01-27-2006, 07:04 PM
Thanks Imp ....... yes perhaps I will post this to the portraiture forum... thanks!

01-28-2006, 04:10 AM
DS a word of advice, having done a few commissions.

First, say you need to see the photographs. If she takes them badly, you are in trouble. They need to all have the light in the same direction, for example, if they are individual images which you have to put together.

If she plans to have someone photograph the group scene she wants, that is a different matter ... but even then, you must ask her to take individual head shots -WHILE THEY ARE ALL IN POSITION, or else you will get lighting which is all over the shop - one person lit from the left, another from the right, etc.

Once you have the photos, look at them carefully, and send her a mock-up of the image, done fairly roughly in pencil. At that point, you should ask her for 50% of whatever you intend to charge ... and inform her nicely that this is a non-refundable deposit . This will cover you for the work and time, just in case she rejects the finished piece. I have had this happen. I did a garden scene for a client. I spent ages fiddling, putting in bushes and changing things at her request. She weas thrilled with it. I agreed to buy fome core for it, because she wanted to take it out to New Zealand. When I delivered the Fome-Core, she confessed that she had hoped her husband would pay ...but he had refused and she had no money of her own. I was gutted, but being a nice person, and sorry for her -(what a control freak her husband was) I told her never mind, I would sell it in a local show. She was incensed; said it was HER garden, and she did not want anyone else owning her garden picture. I told her she had to buy it then. She did not. I sold it ...luckily ...but I vowed never to work again without a deposit. However, I stupidly did exactly the same thing a year later - did a large still-life pic without a deposit - client liked it ver much - I had worked to her specifications on size - but refused it because, she said, her husband didn't "feel it would look right in their tiny holiday home on Guernsey", and I was stuck with it, after two long car trips to her family home - a massive stately home - the other side of England! She was so rich, to her, I was just a tradesman and could be treated as such, it was like saying to the gardener "no thanks, I don't want that pot of flowers after all".!!! I was FURIOUS. I sold it later, but now - never, never again without a deposit!)

Remember what you charged the client for the pic they bought. They might be thinking that you charge the same for every pic - clients can be like that- so you must get the price sorted before you begin.

Good luck! Hope you dont mind me telling these stories at length, but they may help - people can be unpredictable.

01-28-2006, 06:01 AM
Hi Jackie, many thanks, this will be a great help, and I love to hear your stories. Im glad you got to sell those, their loss for sure - but still very annoying and upsetting. I dont like to take deposits, but I know you are right and will do this if this should go ahead, as I had a problem last year with a commission. I think it was more my fault, and ended up with a Face Portrait that the client didnt want and I am stuck with - I had put so much time and effort in to it and it turned out Stunning, but she said she had one from the same photo and didnt want another!!! ....... so a hard lesson, but a good lesson learnt (albeit at my expense).
As for the painting she has already bought, the Sale price was my best to date and inkeeping with what everyone here thinks I should be pricing my work at - so am very pleased with that, so on that basis I think I now have a starting point for the pricing and a better idea of how to conduct the transaction - Thanks and thanks to all ....... feel alot better about this now, originally when I read her email my initilal reaction was to reply immediately and say No way ..... only for the fact I had never done anything like this before, but then that was exactly the reason why I started to consider it - if it does all go ahead she doesnt want it until the Summer, so plenty of time to consider and plan.
Jackie, where do you buy Foam Core from, I would have to buy some of this, and think about packing and postage - it will be a larger piece and going to California ..... it would be probably 12 x 18" Wallis from the Pad you Sold me :) , by the way, have you anymore..... I am running low

Ohh, by the way, she informed me that before she bought my painting she did a thorough search on me on the internet and looked at everything she could ........ thought that a little bit creepy lol - but I suppose only natural .... (hope she doesnt find her way in here and reads this!!! :eek: :) )

01-28-2006, 12:17 PM
You know, i think one of the most difficult things about commissions is asking for the money. Even when I feel I'm worth every penny, I can't help but ask for it in an almost "apologetic" tone. It really makes me mad that I do that.

And the more official you make it, the better- if you handle the financial stuff in a casual manner, it may be treated that way by the client. I went out and bought a pad of generic "contracts" and use them every time- it helps to have a "hand out" and it makes them realize that you take the money seriously, especially if you have trouble talking about it like I do.

When I first started pet portraits I worked in pastel- a older couple was referred to me who insisted on oil, which i hadn't worked in in years and had no idea of price- i was unprepared and just said $150 for an 11 x 14- well, they just looked at each other and I thought UH-oh....and ( they were so sweet ) they just said "Honey, that's not enough money!" Evidentally, THEY had done their homework- unlike me! Even though it worked to my advantage because they were so nice, i felt very stupid, very ameture-ish and NEVER met a client unprepared for ANYTHING again.

BTW, it was a double blessing- doing their dog for them in oil got me started on working in oils again which has been AWESOME! I still love pastel but it' nice to be back with my oil painting again.

I think Jackie's advice about the photographs is right on- don't even bother unless you have all that- it will be a nightmare trying to make it work without it!

01-28-2006, 04:05 PM
Hello Imp ......... many thanks ......... yes talking 'money' and talking about your art too, are two of the hardest things aren't they ......
Well I have taken everything on board and contacted the Client, informed her I could only give an estimate at this time until I viewed the photographs, at that I would require a 50% deposit if she should decide to proceed......she has emailed me back and confirmed and is ready to send deposit :eek:
..... we are talking alot of money here ...........

Where is the Knee Knocking icon *****

Pat Isaac
01-28-2006, 04:44 PM
Good for you. Sounds like it is progressing well. The money conversation is always hard, and I also learned the hard way to be very professional about it. You'll have to post pics.