Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Portrait Commission Woes

  I took on a family portrait commission a while back... The client and I agreed that I would draw the sketch out first, then see whether he liked what I came up with, and then I would proceed with the actual piece.

  He sent me quite a number of pictures. We discussed the project further. He wanted it to be done and delivered to him by the 6th of Oct as a surprise for his wifey. I told him that wouldn't be a problem. I proceeded to sketch and ink my idea on an A5 paper.

  This was what I came up with:
  Admittedly, the wifey didn't look so much like herself. The little boy looked alright. I drew the hubby very well, though. Tis' alright. With a whole lot of revisions, I was ready to draw the actual piece.

  I had a busy schedule at that point in time- with appointments, and my braces, and taking the time to do my own art as well... But I had a deadline in mind, and I wanted to send out the finished drawing way before that.

  Fast forward a couple of days later, I finished the sketch. Feeling pretty confident in what I had drawn, I showed the drawing to the client for approval to move on to inking. Apparently, though, the client thought otherwise. He said the wife didn't look like her. I told him I had remeasured multiple times and that I had drawn her exactly as she was in the picture he gave me. He said she looked too fat- so I made her face slimmer. I explained to him that it was the angle of her in the picture that made her jaw looked bigger. He insisted she didn't look like her, so I sent him a side by side comparison of her and the drawing of her I had done. He then finally agreed that I indeed had drawn her like the picture, but that he still thought she looked fat.

  In Chinese, we call it "trying to pick bones from an egg"... Finding fault when there isn't any.

  Following that, I asked him whether I could proceed with inking, and that if the sketch was approved for inking, that I would need full payment to proceed.

  He didn't and hasn't replied.

This was the final sketch: (it's lighter cause this was the sketch phase)
  I was (and still am) pleased with it.


  Following this project, the faults I'd like to find with said-unnamed-client is that, if he didn't like the angle of his wife in the picture, then why did he sent it to me in the first place? Also, why couldn't he just have given me a reply? I would have been slightly huffy and annoyed at him; yes, but I would still have remained professional. We had agreed that I wouldn't ask for payment unless he approved the sketch, but I also have never had any of my clients think that the drawings I made not meet their expectations.

  He did, however, teach me an important lesson- after the small sketch phase; collect downpayment immediately.


  I must, at this point, remind myself that Art is relative. What one person likes- another might not. Let this be a reminder to myself and also a lesson to artists who take up commission works on the side to make some pocket money for yourselves (cause you may be like me and have two cats; and cat food is expensive)... Collect downpayments in case your client bails out on you. Never work for free. Even if the client doesn't like the preliminary sketches, you keep the downpayment cause it's only fair for you.

  And if a friend tells you that you "should do them a favor", considering that you guys are friends... lawyers don't fight for their friends in court for free; doctors don't give their friends free surgery; teachers rarely give their friends' children free tuition... You, as an artist, shouldn't be any different. You have a skill to offer to people, and you should value yourself enough to charge for your good services. Never let anyone try to make you think any less of yourself. :)

  Now, excuse me whilst I go eat a tub of ice-cream to feel less huffy about this incident. I'll feel better by the time I go to bed, though, don't worry your pretty little mind about me. ;)

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