Monthly Archives: October 2013

How to Get the Best Results When You Commission Art

If you have space on a blank wall, or need a special gift for someone, you can either shop around for a perfect piece of art, or you can commission an artist to make a unique and custom work of art just for you.  Normally, this doesn’t cost more than buying a painting that is already completed.
Here is some advice about how to go about this to get the best results.

DO contact an artist whose work is a good match for the work of art you have in mind.  DO NOT expect an artist whose work is mostly abstract to paint a photographic portrait.

DO give the artist sufficient reference material if you want a painting of something specific like a cabin, or your dog.  An artist’s job is much easier, and you’ll see better results when s/he has several photos of the subject matter that show the necessary details.  Ideally the artist should see the subject matter in person.  One patron actually flew me out to his remote cabin so I could see it for my self and gather my own reference material!

DO give the artist plenty of time to finish the piece, but not too much time.  One time a patron commissioned three large, framed oil paintings from me three weeks before he needed them.  Considering that oil paint takes two weeks to dry, I only had one week to complete the project.  Needless to say, I probably could have done a better job if I had more time.  On the other hand, if you give the artist too much time, say several months, your project may fall through the cracks, unless you keep reminding the artist.

DO pay the artist, or agree on a payment plan in advance.  Many things can happen, and time is valuable, so not knowing whether payment will ever be received for a custom painting that takes a lot of work to complete is a bit unsettling for the artist.  Believe it, or not, a painting of your dog is not marketable to the public.

DO ask the artist for a Bill of Sale which states who owns the copyright and reproduction rights (normally the artist, unless agreed upon otherwise), the title, date, size, medium, cost, and the artist’s and your signatures.

Here are three of my recent commissioned paintings.

Alaskan Brewing Co raspberry wheat beer painting

historic ma johnson's hotel in mccarthy alaska with model a ford

chugach mountains anchorage alaska fireweed painting


5 Things People Ask Me When I Tell Them I Work as an Artist

Oil paint palette

My palette with freshly-mixed oil paint.

When I meet people for the first time, they normally ask what I do for a living.  Here are the top five questions I get when I tell them I’m an artist.

1. But what do you really do?
I’m tempted to say that I sell drugs on the side, but that wouldn’t go over well.  Despite the starving artist myth, it is possible for an artist to make a living.  Being an artist is a real job.  I sell paintings and prints online, in galleries, at gift shops.  I am also a distributor for a custom stickers manufacturer, and occasionally I do graphic design.

2. What kind of art do you do… what do you paint?
I’m an oil painter, because I like the bright vivid colors of this medium and it’s most durable.  As for subject matter, I sell a lot of still-life paintings of beer, but I also paint trees, landscapes, bicycles, antique autos, but the sky is the limit and sometimes I paint that too.

3. How much money do you make?
I can’t believe people ask me this, but they do… a lot.  I would never ask anyone that.  I make enough to pay the bills, but when I’m dead, I’ll make a lot more.  But seriously, I understand why people are curious.  Everyone wishes s/he could be an artist (because people don’t know how much work it takes).

4. Where do you sell your art?
I sell paintings and prints at art shows, in galleries, brew pubs, coffee shops, cafés, gift shops, and from my online shop on  My wife works as my business/marketing manager, and helps me with networking online and in person.  I have upcoming shows at The Maury Pottery Sale in December, two shows at the Loft at Midnight Sun Brewing Company in January and in June, a show at Tap Root Public House in August, and a show at Modern Dwellers Chocolate Lounge in October 2014.

5. Do you make ends meet?
From what I’ve heard, many Americans can’t make ends meet (yet they still drive fancy cars, and live in huge houses).  We used to substitute teach to make ends meet, but realized that that was counter-productive to our long-term art business vision.  So we quit subbing last January and have been working on the art business full time, and yes, we have been able to pay the bills.  My wife also trades stocks and gets a couple tour guiding gigs each summer, but most of our revenue comes from selling my art.  We wake up and get to work early each day and sometimes we work on weekends as well.  Being your own boss takes a lot of discipline, but if we want to make money we have to do the work.  A major key is to keep overhead low.  My wife and I live in a small condo, drive an old truck, rarely go out to eat, and tend to spend money on quality experiences rather than material possessions.

Phew, that was a mouthful, and that’s why I get a little tongue tied when people fire all these questions at me one after the other.

Mural Project – Phase 2

Inside of brewery painting brew kettles

The larger version of the mural study, 18″ x 36″

I have now finished a larger study of the mural concept for the Snow Goose Restaurant and Sleeping Lady Brewing Company’s outside wall.  I took photos of both the smaller painting and the new larger one and superimposed them in Photoshop onto the building, a picture of which I had taken earlier this summer.  I am still undecided about whether I like the red or green floor option.  The red floor, which actually exists in the brewery, seems like it diminishes the beauty of the copper kettles.  I decided to see what it would look like if it was green.  I think the green makes the copper brew kettles pop a bit more, but I wonder if it is clashing with the green stripe on the building.  I set up an appointment for this Friday with the boss to discuss the two options.  The real scary part ensues if he gives me the go-ahead, because I have to make the biggest painting I have ever made.  I wonder if they will paint the floor of the brewery green after the mural is installed?  I would really appreciate your feedback, so please vote for your favorite option below in the Mural Poll.

brewery mural

Red floor option

brewery mural

Green floor option