There is a subtle balance at play each time I take on commissions for painting. I see commission as a combination of two very important factors, known, and unknown. Picture some scales, on one side you have a solid substance that represents control or the "known" portion of what you are being asked to do. On the other side of the scales you have the unknown - a huge pile of airy material that represents the hopes and dreams of your client.
I generally do most commissions for work that is very similar to work that I have done before. This represents the control that I have in a commission. I know exactly what the work should look like with the exception of some changes that the client wants to make. I ask the clients many questions about how similar the new work will be to the other work that they like. I explain different changes that could be made and get agreement on things that will remain the same. In the end I increase the quantity of known information and ensure I'm not making assumptions.
The great unknown half of the commission is usually the thing that can make or break the success of the commission for the client. My job is to have mutliple consultations and emails back and forth before even beginning the commission. When they make a statement about what they want - I clarify and qualify the statement. Ex. For the commission they ask for a darker painting than the one it is based on. Qualifying questions will be - more saturated colour or less? Just the background or the whole thing? Nothing can be taken for granted. In the end the client will often ask for a change to be made. The nature of commission client's is that they aren't just getting a custom-made piece but they are also building the story of how they participated in the painting's creation. It's a story that they will tell all of their friends so give them a great experience.