Artists Cheyenne Trunnell (left) and Molly Courcelle (right)
From providing a focal point to tying together a color palette, a beautiful work of art has the ability to complete a room—and a commissioned painting comes with the added benefit of being a highly personal touch. To help demystify the process of acquiring a custom work, we reached out to Asheville, North Carolina-based artists Molly Courcelle and Cheyenne Trunnell for advice. Here, they outline what to consider when commissioning a painting.
Select an artist who has an aesthetic you admire. It goes without saying that you should approach an artist whose work you like about a commission. But you want to make sure that you’re drawn to their aesthetic as a whole, not just a few pieces, says Courcelle. This will help ensure that you’ll like what they create for you, as an artist’s style can evolve over time, and you’ll ultimately be trusting them to make the artistic decisions about the piece.
Tell the artist which works of theirs are your favorites. While some clients can’t put their finger on what exactly what elements they’d like to see in their custom piece, Courcelle says that by identifying a grouping of past works they’re drawn to they can often pinpoint certain qualities they may or may not want. This can also be helpful in figuring out their preferences, such as busy versus minimal, ethereal versus defined, loose versus tight, and abstract versus realistic.
Carefully consider the dimensions. While many artists produce works in standard sizes, most will create a painting in a custom size as well. As with practically any bespoke creation, measuring carefully is key. Trunnell recommends using painter’s tape to tape out the dimensions you think you’d like on your wall, and then living with it for a few days to make sure you’re comfortable with the size.
Be specific about colors you have in mind. “Make sure the artist knows if you are trying to match a particular color in your home, or if you have any aversions to certain colors,” Trunnell says. Courcelle adds that providing the artist with paint samples and fabric swatches can also be helpful.
Describe the context in which the work will be viewed. Courcelle says to be prepared to share details with the artist about how people will take in the painting, including the direction from which it will be viewed (left, right, straight on) and how far away or close-up it will be viewed. “It’s also important to consider what type of lighting or sun exposure will be illuminating your canvas,” Trunnell says, noting that certain finishes used by artists can cause light to reflect off of the painting. In addition, if the painting will be flanked by windows, she recommends discussing whether you’d like the work to be a continuation of the view or something different to add interest to the space.
Try to keep constraints to a minimum. “The reason you fell in love with the artist’s work in the first place is because you have seen work that was created from a soulful space within,” Trunnell explains. “When you put too many constraints on the artist, it makes it difficult for us to be free and intuitive in our creative process, which in turn usually makes for a tighter and less heartfelt expression.” Courcelle agrees. “Don’t try to micromanage things,” she says, adding, “This is a collaboration.” By all means share examples of works that you love, and provide general direction as outlined above, but try to refrain from giving the artist too many requirements.
Photography by Anastasiia Photography. TSG Tip 322 from Asheville, North Carolina-based artists Molly Courcelle and Cheyenne Trunnell. Molly Courcelle and Cheyenne Trunnell are featured in The Scout Guide Asheville.