Angry Artist Alley: How do I order a commission?

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This article is pointed more for the consumer and not artist (although i recommend both of you read it). I get asked this quite a bit at cons, and some people are too nervous to ask the artist even though the sign is in plain sight. So be brave, because you may never ever get the chance to request whatever you want next time you go to that con ;)

You might think it’s really obvious people will want a commission. But why the hell do you always see signs on everyone’s table that says “Yes, I do commissions!” I’ve got two hanging on my table, and one inside my portfolio. Do I really need that many? Hell, I don’t think people really pay attention to  my table but it’s there. Usually people just ask. Or they don’t know it at all. Or too scared to ask.

But uh…what’s a commission?

The quick answer is that you can ask the artist to draw something for you, for a price. Your request will determine the price, and the artist will execute it for you. Approximate time varies between artists and projects.

Is it just for drawing?

Nope. Crafts and even services (like music) can be requested as commission. At comic conventions, drawing just happens to be the biggest thing around.

To the consumer:

  • Before you even CONSIDER ordering a commission, LOOK AT THEIR ART. If you LIKE the art, THEN YOU ASK. Not the other way around. If you are staring at the price tag and not even the art, this is very poor conduct. At least glance at what you like before you choose whether or not you want a commission. Often there are samples in portfolio binders on the table, please check those out too.
  • Please do not ask the artist drawing behind the table ‘hi, did you draw this?’ It’s kind of a given, but you have no idea how many times people ask me that when I’m doing a commission behind the table. It really grinds my gears, but you know, it’s the same feeling when people ask you how much something is on the table when there’s a freakin price tag right next to it. And sometimes when the person didn’t draw the work they are flattered that you think they did. Now, if they’re not drawing behind the table, that’s when you have reason to ask.
  • If you see a sign that says ‘I do commissions!’ or ‘ask me to draw anything!’ or ‘I do requests!’ or any other similar sort, please ask “hi, can I order a commission?” instead of “do you do commissions?” The latter is when you can NOT see a sign on the table. This is because not all artists will do requests, and that when there’s a sign on the table, you don’t want to have the artist constantly repeat themselves.
  • Don’t just blindly ask ‘how much does a commission cost?’. This confuses the artist many times, because it can cost anything. Instead, point to an example, ask about an inked piece, or pencilled piece, etc. Give some sort of direction before you just ask that question. This clears a lot of things up. **to the artist: this is why you need a portfolio or set examples on the table so people can see what you’re capable of.
  • Pay beforehand. Because if that artist drew it and you forgot to pick up your commission, you practically wasted the artist’s time to do other commissions as well as have them hanging with a piece of work they have no idea what to do.
  • Remember to pick up your commission. No seriously, if you forget don’t blame it on the artist.  I still have a Heart no Kuni no Alice bookmark from five years ago, person never paid for it or picked it up yet.
  • If you’re an artist, avoid asking ‘how do you do this?’ Artists have trade secrets and sometimes aren’t really comfortable talking about it. Not everyone is very open to how they execute things.
  • If you are going to use it as a website logo or company work, you must inform the artist. That kind of work should require a contract or document, most commissions at comic conventions are more for non commercial purposes only (like a souvenir or gift, not like a resale or company mascot thing).

To the artist:

  • Customer should pay FIRST. The half and half thing is too much of a hassle, and you should be responsible for working your best on a commission. To make sure your customer gets the commission, please read this article.
  • Don’t half ass it. No.
  • There will be times where you have absolutely no idea why someone in their right mind asked you to draw something, but you don’t mind drawing it. I’ve had a kid come to my table asking for Shugo Chara when my entire table was infested with drawings of people jumping in the air, punching the paper, or slashing a weapon at the viewer. She was ten and her dad just told me she liked my work. Well, hope she liked it. 
  • If someone is going to use it for their website/company, you should charge much more, as you are literally giving them commercial rights to use your design on everything they’re using it for. It’s completely different business, and should be dealt with more professionally.

How do I order a commission at a convention?

1) Look at the artist’s work first. Hopefully there’s a portfolio, and a stand with lots of prints or whatever. If it’s crafts, you can often pick up and touch the stuff (but make sure there’s a sign that says it’s okay to touch, because sometimes it’s not). If you like the work, THEN ask for the price.

*if you ask the artist for the price and THEN ask a request, it’s like paying someone to draw something for cheap without caring how good or bad it looks. This is VERY poor conduct, and I am really against it. This situation is often caused by people who under price their commission work, and often upsets the balance of everyone else’s commission prices.  When I see a booth selling sketches for under ten dollars, it makes me sad, because I feel the artist feels that they aren’t worth more than that.  Pricing my own drawings for twenty is already low (I don’t sell sketches I sell inks and colors), but because of the ‘competition’ of prices, it’s probably going to stay that low until people consider selling their sketches for more than ten dollars.

2) Politely ask the artist about a commission. If their table has a sign that indicates they will draw requests or do commissions, then just ask for a request directly. You don’t have to first ask ‘did you draw this?’ and then ‘do you do commissions?’ Just ask ‘Hi, can I order a commission? How much does it cost for ________?’ This gives the artist a peace of mind when they know you are somewhat committed before asking the price. Also tells the artist that you respect their artwork before asking how much it would cost. Of course, sometimes budget is not good, but the fact that you liked the work before you thought of the price is a better feeling for the artist than asking for the price and walking away.

3) Tell them what you want. Remember, this is a comic convention. Be mature about what you want. There’s a line between asking something ridiculous just to piss off or make the artist uncomfortable, and asking the artist to draw something you like but not sure if they’re okay with it. If you are really asking something absurd, highly detailed, gundams, added background, or pornographic, prepare to pay extra money.

4) Give them the payment, leave your name and number for them. Also, remember where their table is located. Artist will contact you when they’re done, or in some other way (depending on artist’s preferences). For you artists, check this post out.

5) Come back to the table and admire it. Upon receiving, regardless if you like it or not you should thank the artist and be happy. If you didn’t like it, then pay the artist AGAIN and ask. I’d hate for that to happen, but hey, at least you will be given ‘another chance’ with a little extra cash. Don’t toss it. Think of it like this: the artist probably spent over an hour for you, you should be happy for that.

Someone once asked me to do a bleach commission, and although I admit it wasn’t the best thing in the world, when he saw a picture of it (because i had to drop it off for him), he told me to ‘just keep it’. I was so heartbroken :(

….and there you have it.

This guy pre-ordered two color commissions from me and picked it up at Animation on Display 2014. Of all the things he requested, I have not been asked to do a color commission in about two years (although i constantly do color stuff on my own for my prints). Like I said before, sometimes you just get that art request that seems to be really out of place, but sometimes is really fun because of it. Here’s my happy customer:

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Rebecca and Nami, One Piece. Color commission, Marker. Each was trimmed and came with a backing board (which is why he could hold both pieces like that). I got so excited when I got this request, I hope that guy feels the same too.

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3 thoughts on “Angry Artist Alley: How do I order a commission?

  1. I’ve found that when it comes to people asking “Are you the artist?” and such, it’s often times just because during con, lots of artists (myself included) get up for breaks, to catch panels, etc, and their helpers are the ones left at the table. It’s understandable if you wanna talk to the artist directly and not their buddy or their mom… I personally never find it that offensive simple because of the understandable circumstances.

    • There’s a difference of someone’s shock finding out that you can draw and you’re selling the work, from finding out you’re behind the table and you’re the artist. My implication was the first one, and it’s a personal thing for me, since my work is VERY distinct most of the time. I get peeved because I’m drawing on brown paper and my work is on brown paper (and everyone else draws on white paper) and they still ask me if I was the one who drew all the pictures on my table that have brown paper >.>’
      I don’t have helpers, which might be another reason why it bothers me more too.

  2. Pingback: Angry Artist Alley: FAQ for Newcomers | Jackie Lo Art

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