This commission tips post is all about understanding the clients expectations for the job. There will be a lot of tough love in this post.
JJ blogging, fourth Article Friday post, with a bit of a hiccup there, and so far so good. Let’s see how everything goes in the next seven weeks.
First up: Painting Expectations.
First up: Painting Expectations.
You’re a commission artist and you have your first real client, or a couple of clients and things are going great. Then you are contacted by a customer that wants you to paint a model(s), band, horde, army, what have you and they send you a pic like this:
But you paint like this:
And they want to hire you. Well you’re at a crossroads. Damn tough crossroads if you ask me. Do you think you have it in you to paint at that level? If you don’t you lost a client and money. Nevermind that there are fewer pieces of your work out in the world being a walking-talking advertisement for your commission business.
Some will say they can and certainly try their best. Others will say they can’t and won't take the job. Others still will give it a go.
Breaking down each scenario above.
Breaking down each scenario above.
- Say they can. So the client wants you to paint above your current skill. Now you have their models and hopefully first payment for painting. You're stressing out and sweating bullets. Reading techniques online, asking friends and watching youtube furiously. You really want to paint the model to the clients expectations and get cash for the job. Yet you're finding that you can't paint to the level of detail they expect. You've printed off references pics they sent you. Matching the reference material to the model your painting there's a problem. The paint job on the model isn't cutting the mustard. Now you're sinking and soon you won't be able to see the top of the pool. Trouble times ahead. Dragons Be Here. My suggestion is to admit defeat and communicate that to the client. That'll be a rough conversation.
- Don't take the job. If you're aware enough of your ability to not take the job you're way ahead of the ball. Might be best to refer the client to a friend or someone you know that can paint to that ability. If done correctly you can make two close contacts. One with the client for being a stand-up guy who is honest and wants to help others. Other the referred painting buddy who now knows you're sending business his way. Someone may reach out to him wanting a different quality than what he's used to and may return the favour.
- Give it a go. This is the best option in my opinion. Instead of saying you can't paint to the expected ability and not taking the job. You've decided you want to give it a go to see if you're up for the challenge. It would be prudent to communicate that the standard they are expecting is above what you normal paint, and that you want a challenge. Encouraging words like 'Really love this opportunity to challenge my painting skills to a level I've been aiming for quite some time' can be exactly what the client wants to hear. It'll show your enthusiasm and dedication to painting.
What I can say with experience is that if you don't paint like another you will never be able to please the client. In my specific instance a client wanted me to paint like James Wappel. Unfortunately I wasn't able to provide a Wappel level paint job regardless of the client's micro-management. This taught me an extremely valuable lesson.
- If a client provides reference material of another artist. Clearly communicate to them that you are not the artist they provided. You can paint your interpretation of the reference material.
This brings up another sad and rather disappointing point. Options. People love options. They love options so much especially if they are going to order the same food they always do after looking at the menu. We like to think we aren't affected by events upstream. That things aren't predetermined for us. Yet we willing adhere to a system we purposely rally against.
What's worst is when you provide options to a client. Two models, one light other dark and the client chooses the lighter scheme. Then after praise about how good the models are turning out they cancel the commission because it deviated too much from the original scheme, yet the client chose the lighter option. Yes clients can change their mind. What they can't do is accept responsibility for changing their mind. We as commission artists have to bear that cross for them. We have to be the adult.
Let's move to another expectation that can be made of the artist: Deadline.
This can be rough for the client specifically. After all someone is hiring you to paint their models and they want them back as fast as possible. Unless you've been commission painting for many years and are able to paint a complete army in two weeks, Brandon from GMM studios. The time the client expects to get their 2k point army may be outside or your ability.
There has to be a bit of soul, or ability, searching before stating a deadline. You will need to take a look at your schedule and find out when you can paint and for how long. Then you'll need to know how long it takes you to paint something. Last thing you want is to commit to a deadline and only be done with a third of the models when it arrives. This is dangerous and potentially deadly to your commission work. It could undermine the confidence the client has in you. Which in turn could cause them not to send you anymore work and talk poorly about your inability to meet the agreed deadline.
Being aware of how fast you can paint will be useful in determining how long it'll take you to finish the commission, and when the client can expect to have the models in their hands. Knowing the commission will take far longer to complete than what the client wants helps you now so you'll avoid embarrassment later. Plus the client will be informed that you can't paint a 2k army for a tournament next weekend. Or a highly detailed HQ for a game the next day.
Knowing your ability and how fast you can paint something will be tremendously helpful when determining a deadline with the client.
There's a point to be made that a client should know that the artist isn't up to the task before hiring them. I wouldn't go to McDonald's expecting to get a 10 oz medium rare sirloin steak, or go to a Best Buy store and expect them to have online prices like Amazon. However we can't work with one person's opinion. Client's habitually wear rose coloured glasses and are outstandingly, sometimes purposefully, unaware of the commission painting business. We need to know and accept that some of the clients expectations are beyond us. Communication is like sunlight in these situations. Its the best disinfectant.
The next post will be a continuation of this theme with a very specific point, Communication.