Thoughts on Commissioned Art – EP 279

Getting commissioned to create a piece of art for someone can be an incredibly validating experience. Finally, all of your hard work has paid off. All you have to do now is iron out the details and paint the painting, right? Unfortunately, creating commissioned artwork is not always that easy. On this episode, I’ll dive into an often-overlooked obstacle with creating a commissioned piece, and communicate the tools you need to overcome it.

Outline of This Episode

  • [1:28] The destructive power of a single squirrel and choosing awareness and curiosity over judgment
  • [7:37] Identifying the real problem with commissioned work
  • [9:43] How to actively manage your mind

Chasing the wild squirrels

Did you ever watch the cartoon Chip and Dale? Disney’s adorable little chipmunk duo who ran around wreaking havoc wherever they went? That’s the mental image I get when I think about an unmanaged mind. It’s like a box of tiny squirrels bouncing all over the place and it feels like you have zero control over what happens next. One mind squirrel that gets in the way of making great commissioned artwork is the thought, “I hope they like it”. When “I hope they like it” is your predominant thought while painting, it will create uncertainty and doubt. It will literally show up on your canvas. You will struggle to make decisions about the painting. You will second guess your mark-making. You will go back and forth and overwork the painting. You will get sucked into finding all the things wrong with the work as you’re trying to paint it. When your mind is unmanaged, you are not responding to the canvas, you are reacting to your thoughts.

Create a safe space

Part of our job as an artist is to create a safe space for our true creative voice to be heard. We do that by actively managing our minds and shutting down the squirrel party in our heads. So many artists hate taking commissioned work because they believe it to be a stressful and unrewarding experience. But what would you say if I told you that commissioned work isn’t the problem? It’s your thoughts that create all of that stress. This critical distinctions shows up in so many areas. It’s actually the root cause of most issues we face as artists that we like to blame on other things. The way you think about your art and yourself as the artist who creates it will affect every decision you make in your art practice and your business. In fact, it affects everything.

Trust your client

So we have a choice to make: We can either focus our attention on the idea that the client may not like the painting OR we can trust them. We can either believe every criticism and negative scenario in our heads OR we can embrace the fact that our client has seen our work and chose us for a reason. The reality is they already like your work! If they commissioned you, then they’ve already said yes to your skillset and the techniques you use. They believe in you, so why don’t you? This is why being aware of your thoughts and directing your mind is so important. We have way too many thoughts in a single day to be able to manage every single one of them. And most of the time, we don’t need to. But we can develop the awareness that our thoughts aren’t facts and trust that no matter what, we’ve got this.

Resources Mentioned on this episode

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