How To Commission An Original Watercolor Painting

If you’ve never commissioned a painting before, it might be a little daunting, so I’m going to take a moment to talk about how commissions work!

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Commissions are an opportunity to get personalized artwork from an artist you love

Personalization can mean many things. Maybe you have a wall in your home that needs a piece of art, and you’re looking for a specific scale, or a color palette that will complement the room. Perhaps you want a painting that helps you to feel a certain way - calm, energized, joyful. Is there a story you want the painting to tell?

Commissions are also a wonderful way to commemorate a special occasion! There are so many times when a camera phone is the easiest way to capture a significant moment, but those photos and videos don’t often do the memory justice. Paintings can turn a quick snapshot or a video screenshot into a treasured object that will last a lifetime.

A commissioned painting also makes for a unique, one-of-a-kind gift. It’s a real showstopper - I can’t tell you how many times people have been brought to tears upon receiving such a special and significant present from a loved one.

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Commissioned pieces can be based on your own photographs, or a subject that is already present in the artist’s work

It’s very common to commission a painting of something, or someone, that you cherish. It could be a loved one, your family, your pet, your home, or a scene from someplace you’ve traveled to. In this instance you will need to provide photographic reference. It can be helpful to provide several for the artist to choose from if you aren’t set on one.

Your painting could be part of your healing process, or an act of self love. I’ve had several people approach me seeking paintings of themselves, because they were struggling with self esteem and wanted to see themselves through an artist’s eyes. Healing has been a monumental part of my own artistic practice, and it’s an honor to show up for another person’s growth in this way.

If you fall in love with a painting that already sold, or you like a piece but want it in a different size or color palette, you can commission something similar. No two paintings will ever be the same (and we wouldn’t want them to be), but starting with an existing painting as inspiration is a great way to get something that is suited to your specific needs, but also coexists with the artist’s current body of work.

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When deciding on dimensions, you should consider how you will frame your piece and where it will hang

I offer commissioned paintings in three standard sizes so that they are easy and inexpensive to frame. Each standard size comes matted, so you ought to consider the outer dimension of your mat when selecting a frame.

The small is 5x7 inches, matted to 8x10 inches. This is an intimate size, perfect for gifts and tabletop frames, a home with limited wall space, or a small hanging area.

The medium is 8x10 inches, matted to 11x14 inches. This scale is still a reasonable size to gift, and has enough space to paint multiple people, or give more detail to a scene.

The large is 11x14 inches, matted to 16x20 inches. This size is perfect if you’re looking to fill up more wall space and want to get as much detail as possible into the image.

I also offer work in custom sizes. Custom sized pieces are great if you plan to have the work professionally framed, or already have a specific frame that you’d like to fit the piece to. If you’re looking to fill a large wall, consider whether you’d like one big piece or several smaller ones that relate to one another. These pieces do not come with a mat.

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For commissions, it’s important to choose an artist whose work you admire and whose process you trust

I personally don’t like to share sketches or work in progress shots, because I’ve found that it is difficult to convey the vision and direction of a piece before it is done. It’s important to communicate as much as possible up front, so that once the work begins, the artist is free to do their thing!

Work should only begin after an initial deposit is made. I personally like to handle commissions in two installments: a 50% deposit is required to begin the piece, and the final 50% is due before the finished painting is delivered. This guarantees that we are both equally invested in the piece.

Commissioned paintings are an opportunity to collaborate, support an artist, and purchase artwork that is completely unique to you. Every artist will handle things a little bit differently, but as long as you pick someone whose work you love, you should end up with a priceless work of art.


Jeffrey is currently accepting commissions for watercolor paintings! Now is the perfect time to prepare for the holidays. Learn more about her commission process below.


Jeffrey Arlyn