So what is it like to be a commissioned artist?
For starters, it means you operate independently of the gallery system. And, it means you create art for your patrons after you've met them.
Also, for better or worse, it means that instead of a gallery handling it, you get to make all the sales. Welcome to my world. :)
The entire process is, as you would imagine, very different from being gallery-represented.
When you're a commissioned artist it's actually more like being a performing artist, for example, an actor or a musician. As a performer the creation process becomes theatre for my patrons.
You could say I paint before a live audience. As in theatre, people pay the entertainer before the show in hopes the performance will be good, maybe even very good. I perform, always striving toward excellence.
I stay on top in the artworld by being innovative, always inventing new ways to paint and making sure to take risks, especially in terms of experimenting.
That's risky with commissioned art because typically patrons want to see a certain look the artist is known for rather than a new invention. I'm fortunate to have found people who love my inventions.
For example, the "Early Walk" Series on canvas is about pulling imagery out of the paint and the painting. That's not the way you would traditionally paint a commissioned piece.
You can also see my mural "Energy Positive" is completely different, therefore riskier, than the mural "Fifth Avenue Terrace".
Really, I always want to take risks. I want to do something different every time, yet sometimes I become fascinated into painting a series.
While most commissioned artists tend to co-create with their patrons, I'm very fortunate to have complete artistic freedom with every work of art I create.
My patrons sometimes contribute two or three words to suggest an image, for example, "a terrace" or "a vineyard". I develop the words into a concept and then paint the concept.
As you've probably guessed, commissioned artists experience serious perfomance pressure. Here's why.
When a patron buys a work of art from a gallery there was not the same kind of performance pressure on those artists. Their art was created before the sale, not after as with commissioned art.
The pressure to create greatness and continue to be gallery-represented happens in the studio long before the sale.
With commissioned art the patron has no idea what the finished piece will look like. Period. Very different from buying an existing painting. With a commission, you are literally bringing a painting into existence.
The bottom line is that I have to create a great work of art every time to continue being commissioned. The pressure is pretty tremendous. Each painting has to be a hit and my patrons have to feel that that for themselves. Each one is, and they do.
All images and text
© Eric Jonsson 1985-2022 All rights reserved.