Tips For Artists: Landing the Big Commissions


I was too swamped Friday to write in the Tips column, but Saturday will do just as well.� The photo above is of my installation crew, after completing the huge Vernon Brejcha sculpture that I’ve blogged about a few times in the past week.� Note their smiles.� This is because I manage all my projects so that morale stays high.� I consider that essential for any project to�have the right vibe, which clients and casual viewers can sense, just as they can sense ineptitude.� I also pay well, which I don’t doubt contributed to the smiles.� I mean if I’m doing well, then everyone else does too.��

This piece�was installed in the new lobby of a prestigious hospital.� Yes,�it was a�major project: 330 pieces of blown glass, overall sculpture weighing 2000 lbs., running for 90 linear feet.� How did we land it, and the price we now command?� By starting small years ago, as with all my sculpture projects, and all my sculptors.

In the beginning, we were forced to do commissions for a fraction of what we now charge, since in the early ’90s we weren’t yet established.� Heck, we even lost money on a couple of the early gigs.� Most artists do.� But over time, I saw to it that the fees increased each year, until finally we were earning our due.� It’s my job to ensure that the fees increase so we can all count on nest eggs, and help other people do the same.� My clients never argue about this, because I always educate them on the process.

Did those early commissions automatically bring us the later commissions, and will the current ones automatically bring us more?� No.� The only thing that has continued to land us these commissions is our ceaseless marketing, public relations, and personal contact with clients.� Nothing is automatic.� It wasn’t for Monet; it isn’t for us.� Nor will I ever make that assumption.� Dangerous thing to do.

So if you want large commissions, you’ll likely have to start small, and cheap.� If you manage to avoid doing this, please tell me how you pulled it off.


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