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A Guide to Commissioning Art

Interior Feature

Written by Samantha Lund

Photography provided by Melanie Biehle

Buying art can be like falling in love—the emotional attachment you have to the pieces in your home makes your heart skip a beat each time you walk by.    

Hopping from one social gathering to another and hoping to find your match can be exhausting and limits your options. It’s the same when it comes to art. You can visit galleries, follow your favorite artists and hope one day you fall in love, or you can take matters into your own hands and commission a piece of art you know is just right. Local artist Melanie Biehle breaks down the process below.


Step 1: Choosing an Artist

Commissioning art is a creatively engaging and rewarding process, but it is also a commitment of time, money and trust. Before jumping into the process, it’s important to have a game plan. First and foremost, pick an artist you connect with and already enjoy.

    “For instance, if you’re looking to commission a portrait, don’t hire an abstract painter,” Melanie Biehle, a Seattle-based artist explains. “The key is to find an artist whose style will complement your own.”

    Biehle is a local abstract artist influenced by the city and the ocean. Her work is strongly influenced by street art, mid-century textiles and Southern California surf culture. Biehle has been featured in HGTV Magazine, Seattle Refined, Uppercase Magazine, Flow Magazine and Luxe Interiors + Design Magazine.

    For Biehle, the process that comes with creating a commissioned piece of art and merging her ideas with another person’s is rewarding. “I love the process of collaboration and seeing what emerges from blending ideas, color palettes, and styles to create something completely unique.”

    Most artists should have websites, social media accounts and client reviews. Don’t hesitate to ask for anything you need to feel comfortable about your choice.

Step 2: Know What You Want

There are a few key things to consider when commissioning a new piece: where it’ll go, what you want it to look and feel like, and if there are other pieces you enjoy and can point to for reference.

    Once you contact an artist, they’ll most likely ask you for some information like the size you want, the style and what timeline you’re working with. Your budget will also be a factor in the size, materials and timeline.

    Each artist works differently. Biehle also asks her clients if there are any color palettes they particularly enjoy or any colors they don’t want to see in the piece at all. She will visit a local client’s home to see the space where the painting will hang.

    Most artists want several details about the piece you’re looking for. “But not too many,” Biehle says. “You want to leave some room for the artist to merge their creative vision with yours.”

Step 3: Signing the Contract and Getting to Work

Once the basic details are communicated, the artist will most likely brainstorm, provide mood boards and remedial sketches or examples of their concept. Once the creative direction is approved and contracts or payment handled, it’s time to get started.

    Biehle normally sends one or two work-in-progress pictures to keep the client involved along the way. Then, once it’s finished, the piece is off to its new home.

    Every artist proceeds differently when it comes to each step of the artistic process. Some want more details, some fewer. Some are good at staying in contact and want you to be involved, and some don’t. Just like dating, pick your artist wisely and choose someone who makes you feel comfortable with his or her process.

Step 4: Fall in Love

Remember to leave a little room for magic. “It’s great to know what you want, and it’s helpful to provide the artist with direction,” Biehle says. “But if you also choose to enter the collaboration with a bit of an open mind, there’s a chance that you could end up with even more than you first imagined.”

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