blog-sketch.jpgAs promised: negotiating the deal and first sketches.

The deal: I made a written proposal to the oil exec regarding number of paintings, approximate size, and price per each.  The proposal also spelled out my commission process:

  • charcoal sketches
  • sketch review and approval or changes
  • 50% deposit before start of painting
  • remaining 50% paid before shipment of painting

He then called me and we talked through it. I have found that occasionally, people who are price insensitive don’t necessarily care about the price being paid – they want to bargain for some sort of discount. I suspect there’s some sort of satisfaction in knowing they didn’t have to pay full price. Live and learn, and make your initial price proposals accordingly.

Another aspect of this concerns the gallery and its split on the deal. Since the collector found me through one of my galleries, I feel it is necessary to give the gallery its normal commission split. Collectors who are working directly with the artist may try to find out what this commission split is, and then ask for that much of a discount “since the gallery isn’t in on the deal”. It’s happened to me before and will no doubt happen again; but I will not cut deals behind the gallery’s back, nor will I fail to give the gallery its split. My gallery dealers are my business partners.

We are now in the stage of initial sketches for one of the paintings. I created several different compositions (different horses, angles, action – one is shown above) and the family has made requests for minor changes to compare versions of the sketches. We’ll see where it goes from here!

8 Responses to “The Big Commission, part II”
  1. Susan Fox says:

    Just curious, what size do you do the charcoal drawings? On what kind of paper? What’s the max number of sketches per painting that you think reasonable for what they are paying?

    Good point about pricing and taking into consideration that one may be asked for a discount. I think that sucks, but it appears that that’s how it is in The Real World. But I want a discount when I take the car in for servicing next time and, of course, they’ll be happy to oblige, right? Not.

  2. Tania says:

    This is facsinating, and very educational. I love hearing about how other (read: more successful lol ) artists work and I love hearing about the business side of art.

  3. Larry Jewett says:

    people who are price insensitive don’t necessarily care about the price being paid – they want to bargain for some sort of discount.

    Reminds me of a trip I took to Ecuador once. My friends and I haggled for sweaters in open air markets.

    I feel ashamed of it now because the starting price for these very nice sweaters was only about $10 and I was trying to argue it down. Some of the people i was haggling with only make a few hundred dollars a year in income and here I was (rich by comparison) essentially trying to deny them a few extra dollars.

    Collectors who are working directly with the artist may try to find out what this commission split is, and then ask for that much of a discount

    I suppose if the gallery were getting all but 1 thin dime, the “collector” would only want to pay that to the artist?

    How cheap can a person get?

    If some “collector” told me that, even if I didn’t have a gallery (which I don’t), I would find one (any one) just so i could jack the price up for that particular stingy “collector”. Either that or I would tell them to take a hike.

  4. Larry Jewett says:

    By the way, is that a handlebar mustache or just a (five o’clock) shadow?

  5. Julie Chapman says:

    Susan – I’m just doing the sketches in my regular painting sketchbook, which is a 9×12 spiral-bound Strathmore recycled-paper thing, so the drawings are less than 9×12 in size. I’m sketching probably 3 different ideas for each piece, which is more than I normally do (and one reason why commissions can be a little nerve-wracking)…which doesn’t count variations on a composition that are being requested.

    Larry, you shouldn’t feel bad about haggling in South America. I visited Ecuador too when my sister was in the Peace Corps there – she insisted that we always haggle for items, as otherwise 2 things happen: North Americans get viewed (with resentment) as rich, and prices go up for the locals, who can ill afford to pay more. A “haggle factor” is built into pricing, as it were. It’s part of the social grease and is expected.

    The line on the face above is part of my ‘style’: I often outline planes and value changes, then fill them in not quite as dark. Rungius painted in this manner: check out a painting of his to see how he did this.

  6. Joni Johnson-Godsy says:

    Hi Julie!

    Thanks for sharing this process with us! It is interesting to say the least.

    It makes my hackles go up when I think of what this wealthy person is doing. He has more money than GOD and quite obviously lives a VERY privileged lifestyle, a lifestyle that most people could only dream of. We all know that this guy has a personal attorney. We all know that he has a personal physician. We all know that he has a personal mechanic and that his food comes from a grocery. We all know that he is not expecting any of them to cut him deals. Why is a professional artist any different…? BECAUSE WE ALLOW IT!!!!!!!

    I know how happy we all are to get commissions like this one. The work is great, the exposure is great….how can we loose, right? Well, I believe we sell ourselves short by selling our work (work that has taken a lifetime to perfect) at discounted prices because not only are we not getting the money we deserve for the job, but we are actually “training” buyers to EXPECT price cuts. I feel this sets a dangerous precedence. If NO artist sold their work at a discounted price, then the expectations of buyers would be quite different. We are cutting our own throats by allowing this. The professional dog trainer in me (see shivers at the idea of encouraging (by allowing) this behavior in art buyers.

    Lets face it…no one really NEADS art. Art enriches our lives and we love it. But it is not a necessity for our survival as a species (there are some who would argue this…). So a buyer is buying a “want” not a “need”. The price of “wants” should never budge. Why should the very wealthy take from the not so wealthy….it’s simply NOT ethical…

  7. Julie Chapman says:

    Joni – should I talk you down? (chuckling a bit – thanks for the indignation) – now, please note that I didn’t say this collector actually DID any of these things…but they are things artists should be aware of in the commission process, as I have experienced them all more than once.

    I have a little different take on the issue, though: art is a ‘soft’ item in that the price is not set by fixed costs and profits throughout a supply chain … the price is, well, whatever the artist, gallery, and collector can agree on. Is a Terpning worth the gazillions people pay for one? I tend to think not; they’re magnificent, but there are plenty of other artists painting just as well and making a fraction of the money. The market has decided – for now – what one of his pieces is worth. It ain’t logical, in other words.

    Collectors who purchase multiple paintings from a gallery at one time frequently ask for a discount, and I think that’s just fine – they’re spending quite a lot in so doing. I didn’t pay list price for my car when I bought it – I called around and haggled. This collector is commissioning multiple pieces at one go, and the same logic can be applied.

  8. Joni Johnson-Godsy says:

    Yea, this is obviously a hot-button issue with me and I just don’t agree that haggling with a very wealthy person over the price of a piece of art is doing yourself justice. I feel that a gracious buyer respects what an artist must charge for a painting to be worth their while to create. I do agree however on discounting the art a bit for multiple purchases. Even retail stores sometimes do that as a reward to good buyers.

    Here is a question for you….Do you think a buyer would ever try to haggle a price down if buying DIRECTLY from Robert Bateman, Carl Brenders or Howard Terpning? NOT!

    Howard Terpning’s work sells for major $$$$$$ because buyers now know that he is going to be thought of as one of the great painters of our time. He has been around long enough and produced great enough art to seal this in the minds of art buyers. So when someone buys a Howard Terpning painting it is almost a guarentee that it will be worth quite a lot more in the future than it is today. His work is an investment now, not just a purchase. In my mind he is one of the most brilliant fine art painters of our day, and CERTAINLY in his genre. I am happy when anyone can get a nice financial reward for their work, expecially while they are still alive!

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