Commission Advice from Louise McNaught

Following our recent blog post 'Our Top Ten Rules When Commissioning Art'. Chantelle Purcell speaks to Louise McNaught to find out what the artist's perpective is in the commissioning process. We learn how developing and challenging the process can be to an artists' practice. This interview is packed full of handy tips, experience and advice.

Commission of bees, painted on uncommon supports. 2012 (13.5 x 10 x 0.8 cm & 15 x 13.5 cm)


Top Tips:

1) Be as accurate and as upfront as you can about cost, this is normally the first thing Clients want to know - ‘How much is this going to cost me?’

2) Never be afraid to show your art, whenever or wherever you can, even on your iPhone - you get commissions by people seeing your work, even people you would’t expect to commission you! (I recently got a commission from someone seeing one of my paintings on my husband computer at work as it’s his screen saver!)

3) Try to be flexible (within reason) to accommodate the Client’s expectations, this could be doing a sketch/mock-up of roughly how the piece will look, gives them some idea and gives the opportunity to become part of the process.

4) Be aware that a commission is not always going to be something you find easy or it may even turn out you don’t enjoy it for some reason, but they are always opportunities for opening yourself to new ideas, opportunities for learning from and expanding your practice (and testing your limits!!)

5) Be professional and never moan or whinge to the Client about how hard it is - they don’t need to know!

6) Try and give the commission a title, I have found Clients appreciate this as it gives the work some added importance.


Rabbit in Headlights (3), Pencil on rejection letter, 2012, 21 x 29.7 x 0.1 cm


What advice would you offer to artist’s who haven’t made work through the commissioning process?

My advice if you have never done a commission before is that you will probably be scared and apprehensive (or even that it is beyond you, like when I was commissioned to paint a building for the Head of the BBC!) but everyone has to start somewhere - so just do it and learn from it! The more commissions you, do the easier you will find the process.

What is the most strangest or unique commission request you have taken on?

The strangest commission I had was probably to paint 2 large paintings of the New BBC Broadcasting Centre, I had never painted a building before but they liked my style, so I just accepted the commission (as I was an art student and needed the money!) and did the best I could. They were very happy with the end result, but I did find the commission extremely challenging and many times thought it has defeated me!

What has been your favourite commission you have created, so far?

My favourite commission was one I called 'Mr Blue', acrylic, spray paint and pencil on linen (90x90x4cm), where a lovely Client via Degreeart commissioned me to do a large painting on one of my stags with blue running through him - rather than the fluorescent paints I usually use. This lead to discovering the perfect 'blue' paint, which was fun, and that I have used in other pieces since, and I also loved how the stag looked that large. It was virtually life-size! It really added to my practice and made me want to do further large stag paintings!

Mr Blue, Acrylic, spray paint and pencil on linen. 2012, 90 x 90 x 4 cm


How would you say making work through the commissioning process has developed how you approach your work?

I have been doing commissions probably on and off for the past 10 years, but they have definitely become much more frequent since I have done my Fine Art Degree and become a Degreeart Artist. They have challenged me to do things I would not have normally done, therefore expanding my skills and practice. Some of them have been very challenging and there has even been the odd one I would not do again if offered - but least that is something I know now by doing it in the first place. They have made me more professional as there are always deadlines for commissions as they are often for birthdays/presents etc. But some of them have been really lovely to do and it always rewarding when you hear back how pleased the Client is :).


Visit Louise McNaught's profile to see more of her work