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Chris LoCurto

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January 18, 2012

Commissions and Commercialism: How One Artist Views Custom Work

January 18, 2012 | By | 32 Comments">32 Comments

Here is a guest post by Jana Botkin. Jana is one of the top commenters on ChrisLoCurto.com. You can guest post as well! Read how to here.

People always want to know how I’m able to do commissioned artwork, which is a work produced in response to an order.

“Aren’t you selling out to commercialism?” they ask. Actually … no. There is a misconception that artists are too sensitive to have others direct their work. I am happy to draw for people. It brings joy into their lives to create a personal piece of art, and it is a pleasure to be part of the process.

Sometimes, I wonder why someone wants a drawing or painting when the scene has been recorded in a photo. Occasionally, I even ask customers that very question. Often, the answer is that they simply prefer a graphite drawing to a photo.

But I believe there is a deeper reason. The nitty-gritty truth is that real life is messy. I get to clean it up with my pencil—a much more satisfying tool than a vacuum. I prune trees, move rocks, cause shrubs to grow, eliminate trashcans and power poles, soften age lines, move hair out of people’s eyes, smooth wrinkles out of clothing and even scoot siblings closer together.

These tricks present the best of what we remember about life, and sometimes just portray what we wish were the truth. I am serving the customer by illustrating their dream of reality or freezing one of their best memories in a frame.

Commercialism is defined as “derogatory practices and attitudes that are concerned with the making of profit at the expense of quality.” That’s not in any way what I do. Like Dave and his team, I offer hope. And that, whether free or for a fee, never goes out of style.

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  • http://www.SevenPillarsOfSuccess.Net Louise Thaxton

    Jana – checked out your blog and loved it! And I just ordered two sets of cards – love the trees.

    • Anonymous

      Thank you, Louise! The cards went to the Post Office yesterday. Those trees are stunning – even after many years they still leave me in awe.

  • http://www.SevenPillarsOfSuccess.Net Louise Thaxton

    Jana – what beautiful artwork! My mother was an artist also and she was commissioned many, many times to paint “old home places”! Sometimes she would only have an old snapshot to go by – and they would want her to add a tree or a plant which they said was there at one time. Her artwork graces several little country churches where the congregation wanted a painting of their church in the 40’s and 50’s! So, I could definitely relate with your post – and she never looked at it as commercialism – only as her art. Thanks for reminding of her today.

  • Misty

    Cabinart, we all need hope! Memories are ways we look at things that have transpired in our life and give us a glimpse of more things to come. Memories provide courage to face the hard times and have hope in the future. Loved your post on what you do and why…think this would be a helpful process for each of us. Thanks for sharing!

    • Anonymous

      Great words on memories, Misty. . . courage and hope!

  • http://specializingintheimpossible.wordpress.com/ Laura Johnson

    Love how you describe commissioned work! My husband is an artist and sometimes has trouble “just doing what the customer wants”. For instance, “copying” a professional photo. They already paid money for something nice, why do the exact same thing? And he prefers natural pictures to posed. I’ll have to share your post :)
    Thanks for sharing!!

    • Anonymous

      Laura, I hope this helps your husband. And he may want to rethink that professional photo thing – unless he has permission from the photographer, it isn’t a good idea. (There’s a reason to turn down those jobs!) Natural photos are so much harder to come by than posed ones. I am really thankful for digital photography these days!

      • http://specializingintheimpossible.wordpress.com/ Laura Johnson

        Yeah, he’s only considered (don’t know that he’s actually done any!) doing professional photos when the customer has bought all the rights to them. Isn’t there some idea that if it’s in a different medium (graphite vs. photography) it’s fine? I’ll have to look that up… Meanwhile we’re taking the safe road :)
        Only downside to digital… too many photos to go through and enjoy on a regular basis! :) We have a tendency to not delete.

        • Anonymous

          No kidding about too many photos! (I now have 16,000+)
          There are some false ideas out there about copyrights. If the original is can be identified by seeing the reproduction, then it’s not okay. Same with the old “just change 10%” idea. So you are definitely taking the safe route. (Bummer, I thought I had provided him a reason to turn down the boring jobs!)

  • http://uma-maheswaran.blogspot.com/ Uma Maheswaran S

    Wow Jana! That’s passsion at work. This is rare to find in today’s fast paced world. Many in this world do work for subsistence and a mere living. But, your pupose meets passion on your work. I feel that will bring great mental satisfaction to us in our work.
    Thanks for this inspiring post.

    • Anonymous

      Uma, it has been my hope that the faster, more technological and “virtual” our world becomes, the more people will value hand made one-of-a-kind items.

  • http://www.lifeofasteward.com/ Loren Pinilis

    That’s a great mindset to have.
    You’ve connected your work to a higher purpose. Just like Dave talks about bringing others hope in EntreLeadership, you’ve figured out your unique way of serving others. And I imagine that passion keeps you motivated and going.

    • Anonymous

      That, and the fear of having to find a job!

  • Anonymous

    Great post!! Very inspiring art. I visited your blog…so cool!!!!! I love the part of ” freezing time” for someone, making their memories tangible and lasting. What if we could all serve our clients, customers, family… by making their life more beautiful? Thanks for sharing!!

    • Anonymous

      Thank you, Lily! In hard times I question the value of extravagance like art. Writing this clarified it for me.

      • http://www.bluebridgecomm.com/ Joel Fortner

        I spent more time on your site today too. Just love your drawings. My fave thing on your blog though was “Look! A turtle!” I laughed.

        • Anonymous

          Oh good! The turtle made me laugh when I flipped it over (it was on its back.)

          • http://www.bluebridgecomm.com/ Joel Fortner

            Did he tell you a joke?

            • Anonymous

              You win!

  • Anonymous

    Very nice drawing Jana. We build everything to order. Helping people get exactly what they want does give them (and us) pleasure. Seeing the look on their face when your done is one of the perks!

    • Anonymous

      And sometimes they even cry!

  • http://www.ginasmom.com ginasmom

    I love the elegance of the cleaning up paragraph, beautiful and satisfying way of looking at life.

    • http://www.ChrisLoCurto.com Chris LoCurto

      Wow! Well put!!

      • http://www.ginasmom.com ginasmom

        Thank you!

    • Anonymous

      It is very satisfying to provide people with tangible evidence of their memories. On the other hand I may just a control-freak living out my fantasies with a pencil.

      • http://www.ginasmom.com ginasmom

        Mmmm maybe, but they are beautiful fantasies… nothing wrong with that!

  • http://www.backyardlifeblog.com Raun Lauterbach

    Fabulous post! What a great and healthy way to look at the process of doing commissioned work! Thanks for writing!

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for reading, Raun. It is a great exercise to find beauty in a plain scene, and exercise qualifies as healthy, yes?

  • http://www.bluebridgecomm.com/ Joel Fortner

    I have never thought about art in this way, Jana. You’re not only living your passion but serving others with it. Love this.

    • Anonymous

      I fervently hope so, Joel. Reading blogs like Chris’s readjust my attitude when I have to create a piece that doesn’t float my boat. I just remember that I’d rather draw an ugly house than be a ______ (fill in the blank with some menial job because I didn’t finish college.)

      • http://www.bluebridgecomm.com/ Joel Fortner

        I’m sure even your “ugly” houses are magnificent.

        • Anonymous

          Yep. Silk purse of a sow’s ear every time!