About daring to take an odd commissioned work…
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Trompe l'oeil on a client's entry floor

Commissioned trompe l’oeil  on a client’s entry floor

What to do if you are an artist or a free-lance professional in any case, and a potential client comes to you asking for an odd job? Something related to what you do generally, but not quite in your usual range,
not in your comfort zone ?

I had this happen about a year ago when a very nice couple came by my Blissful Gallery and asked me if I would consider painting a spread of life size leaves… on their entry floor…!?
I had some stenciled Gingko leaves on the floor in the back room at the gallery, so I could see what prompted the question, but as I asked what the lady had in mind, and it appeared that she wanted something a lot more realistic and elaborate.
What to do? Of course this was a far cry from my easel work. Further more, it was going to require another kind of medium (acrylics) and another set up, another technique… in short, was I wanting to take up the task?
I first visited their home and looked at the floor I would be working on.
I thought that it could be very charming, and I liked the idea, so I said “Yes” and gave them an estimate of my time and price… which they accepted readily. We fixed a date and I showed up on a beautiful sunny morning in October , with all my brushes, paints, cut up pics of real size leaves
and basically a ton of stuff to work with… water jar, paints, palette, rags, brushes, varnish…
I had spent time at home printing photos of oak leaves, maple leaves, in various colors and sizes and cut them up to use them as a mock up with my client. We spent some time together, spreading the paper leaves on the beautiful wood floor right in the entryway and moved them around until they were “just so”.
Then I went to work. Outlining the shapes, preparing each surface, mixing colors…

Preparing and shaping…

 

I worked all day.
It was looking fantastic when I left at the end of the day… but I was far from finished.
That’s where the rubber hit the road: estimating an odd job in time and cost is not that easy, nor often accurate.
I had planned to get done in one day what actually took me TWO entire days of non-stop work…!

The result was indeed worth every minute: leaves-on-floor-at-margos
My clients were so happy with the result, as it went beyond their expectations, they readily revised our initial agreement and agreed to pay for what I should have quoted the work in the first place.
As embarrassing as it was for me to have been so far off in my estimate, they were there the whole time and could see the work progress, so they were very understanding.
Still, there was something to take home with me: when writing an estimate for an odd commissioned work, it is better to OVER estimate it, and let your clients know that since it is after all, an odd job, you might be off mark somewhat.
Then if it goes faster than you expected, you can always surprise them with a lower cost at the end.
That would be better than being far underestimating…

In any case, should we accept odd jobs, taking us out of our comfort zone and having us stretch our techniques, explore new elements?
Definitely yes, with three added conditions:
1/ the job is clearly defined: the client knows what they want and communicate with clarity
2/ the work is exciting, interesting, or fun and it feels good to go for it;
3/ there is a primary sense of trust, of confidence and respect, right off, with the client.

Will I take more odd commissioned work? Of course. Because it is really good to stretch out of one’s comfort zone.
Will I refuse some? Yes. Because some requests are just too vague, or too far fetched, or boring…
Basically the deal breaker or maker is a gut feeling, which is for me the most important part of ANY job.

I love what I do…


Comments

About daring to take an odd commissioned work… — 2 Comments

  1. Good lesson to learn, in that it usually takes more time for something unfamiliar than what we may expect. Fortunately the couple was physically there to observe and were integrous, both in your favor.

  2. Interesting that you had this kind of request. And lovely that it worked out, as you surmised, it doesn’t always.

    I treasure the work that was done for us by Brenda Rose who made tile work from Stinson Beach

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