Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Painting on Commission

Be true to yourself...and your client!

I like to think of myself as being a pretty flexible artist and business person. Being married for 35 years has taught me to be accommodating, compromising and a good listener although she may argue a bit with the last point!

Listening to your current and potential customers, whether through social media, at shows, via emails or face-to-face is an all-important skill that I learned from my sales and marketing management days. You can't go wrong being a good listener. After all over 70% of effective selling is listening... to what your customers want and need... not giving them what they want to hear!

I am a small business person first and an artist second. Many would argue that we artists need not worry about the "business" since sales will come if our art is good...and accepted. Well that may happen but nothing is sold without a maker and a buyer getting together to close a deal. 

My product, the art, is unique to me in that I made it! Think of it! We create, find a market, communicate its availability and our product (hopefully) sells. Nothing could be better!

I get asked from time to time if I will create a painting from reference that is not mine but holds special meaning to the potential client. Firstly I ask if it is their own reference photo. If not I usually ( unless I have something similar) pass. I also can go to the site, do plein air sketches and take my own reference shots.

One recent commission happened by chance. A Facebook friend saw one of my posts about a new painting I did and inquired if it was for sale. Unfortunately it had just sold but I offered to paint a similar, not the exact, scene as a commission. I sent the reference shot off and it was accepted with my caveat that I can take creative license which was agreed along with the 50% down payment. They loved the sky reflections and the ripples in the water. The dramatic sunrise was inspiring for them. It was to be a Christmas present. I listened.

I completed the painting in about 2 weeks and since it was for a local collector I hand delivered it to their home and even helped with suggestions, as asked during negotiations, on its placement in the home. The client was thrilled with it and after a leisurely coffee together I made my way home with the final payment. 

Funny thing happened that evening. My client couldn't wait until Christmas to give it to her husband so she gave it to him that night!  I like to think that she was really happy and excited about the painting! So was he!!

Here's the painting:

"One Summer Day" by Warren Peterson. 16" x 20" acrylic on canvas
I've learned a lot of lessons in my 40 some odd years of painting, selling and marketing but the key one has always been that there is nothing like a happy customer. 

Remember that the best advertising is Word Of Mouth, so be true to yourself as a business person and artist while being true to your customers. You can't go wrong with this lesson.

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