Huge Rush Order and Hard Lessons Learned

As the Christmas season rolls in, I get flooded with commissions. I love it, painting lovely families and their pets is such a joy! This year I got to tackle the largest commission I’ve ever done in terms of size and with the tightest deadline I’ve had yet.

I was commissioned to paint 4 individual pet portraits, each on 16×20” canvas. And I had to finish and ship them all within 10 days. It was insane. I love how they turned out, but it was definitely a struggle to get them done. I had to have approval on the sketches before I could paint, feedback on the final paintings and make sure they were completely dry before packaging them to ship. This means the total time I actually had to paint them was just 7 days, on top of other smaller commissions and a day job. There was no time to re-think artistic decisions and precious little time for any corrections to be made so I had to do better than my best to get them all done right the first time. It was such a huge relief once I was finally able to send them out, and an even bigger relief to hear they arrived safely and on time.

The commissioner of these portraits contacted me through Etsy, asking about larger paintings done on canvas so I was excited to start from the very beginning. They were super lovely to work with as well. They knew what they wanted but left plenty of room for me to be creative, they weren’t afraid to mention if I had made a mistake and they also super quick to respond whenever I contacted them with a question or a progress shot.

It was incredibly stressful but also super enjoyable to work on these portraits. I finally got some experience painting on large canvas, which had been a goal of mine for this year that I hadn’t gotten a chance to try. I have also never shipped anything this large, so the expensive shipping cost was a crappy surprise, but live and learn. I also realize how much more paint a large canvas consumes versus small paper. I barely broke even with this commission and came very close to losing money. Something important I learned during the process was to more carefully consider materials, shipping and including a fee for rush orders. While these were financially difficult lessons to learn, I still had a very positive experience, and I think the knowledge I gained from it was worth the loss.

Completing the Largest Commission I’ve Done Yet

Recently, I have completed the largest commission I’ve taken on in my career so far. I don’t mean in the physical sense, but rather, in terms of scope and deadline. It was challenging but I learned a lot from the experience.

I was contacted through Instagram by a woman who was looking to have 5 portraits painted as Christmas gifts. She briefly outlined what she was looking for and once the final details were worked out I was able to give her a quote. She commissioned to paint her lovely and talented dance instructors.

This meant 5 full-figure, 8×10″ portraits complete with fairly detailed backgrounds. I was a little nervous about some of the backgrounds as they aren’t exactly my strong point. I mentioned this to her and she said she’d like me to try anyhow, and we’re both pleased with the results. I’m glad I decided to take on the challenging backgrounds and I feel I definitely improved from working on them.

Time Management:

I needed to have them finished and ready to ship by the end of September, so I had roughly 30 days to complete them all. I do currently work a full-time day job, so it was a bit of a challenge as I’d have to let layers dry for a while before I could continue on each one. Each day after work, I would set aside 2 hours to focus on these commissions. I ended up working on two-three different portraits at a time whilst layers on other ones were drying. This method worked out pretty well and I was able to get them shipped a few days early.

Client Communication:

For large projects like this, I realized it’s super important to keep the client updated on your progress rather than simply accepting the commission, getting paid, and then disappearing for weeks until finished. I sent the sketches in groups of two and three until they were all accepted and I could begin painting. From there on, I messaged the client once a week with the progress I’ve made on each portrait to make sure they were looking alright. This was a good balance as there were no surprises on either end, and I was able to correct any mistakes before it was too late.

Painting Scenery:

I have very little experience painting scenery. My style relies heavily on brushstrokes and the textures and colors that come from layering those various shapes. I was worried that having all the extra texture of the background would take away from the instructors as the main subjects. Before starting the backgrounds, I did some mini thumbnail tests in my sketchbook to figure out the best way to approach them. I’m glad I did that, because I was able to find a nice balance between all the detail and texture without distracting from the rest of the portrait. I definitely still have some work to do in terms of improvement here, but I made a good start with this project, and more importantly, the client and her dance instructors are very happy with their portraits!

Lots of Commissions After a Slow June

Business was painfully slow in June, but luckily picked up for the month of July. Mostly painted pet portraits (my favorite!), but I did get some fun new inquiries as well. My favorite commission this month, was painting an animal in a glass bottle with a detailed background.

I love designing unique bottles for the animals I paint in them, but it’s something I hadn’t done in a while. The client was super lovely to work with. She asked for a fairly detailed swamp-like setting, which I was a bit nervous about at first as I don’t often paint detailed scenes. It turned out to be a fun challenge, though, and we were pleased with the result.

Process of painting a watercolor, bottled salamander in a swamp

Painting stages

Another unique commission I’m currently working on, is painting a snowy evergreen scene for a local client. Lots of backgrounds this month so it’s been good practice. Got clearance yesterday to go ahead and start painting the sketch, so I’ll be sure to post some progress shots later.

Between working and waiting for approval of various stages of paintings, I’ve just been working on filling in some gaps in my portfolio. I’d like to continue painting animals, but I’d really like to paint more food and just general…non-animal things as well. Admittedly, it’s been more difficult than I thought to adapt my style to other subjects. Hopefully some pieces will actually be making the cut soon. Always a work in progress~

As always, thanks for reading and I hope you have a lovely week! 🙂

More Commissions & Last Call for Christmas!

Haven’t really had the chance to work on those lofty shop update goals I mentioned in an earlier post, as I’ve had a lot of commissions lately. Not that I’m complaining, I’d love for my day job to consist solely of painting adorable animals and lovely people. Between those and my current day job, however, I’ve had very little free time for all the other shop updates I’ve been wanting to do.

On the other hand, I can start plenty early for next year’s seasonal shop update by starting all those ideas I had in January 2019!

Here were a few of my favorite commissions over the last couple of weeks:

I have to say, it’s been a huge learning curve for selling things during the holidays. From item stock to time management. It’s been rough trying to figure out the last day you can ship something and have it arrive in time for Christmas. But hopefully I’ll have improved a lot and will be better prepared next year!

Last Call for Custom Art Christmas Gifts: DECEMBER 10th!

As of right now, DECEMBER 10th will be the cutoff point for ordering any custom paintings to arrive before Christmas. (US only) This date may change if I get a bunch of orders. (I’ll keep you posted!)

You can still order after the 10th of course, but they may not arrive until after Christmas at that point.

(For international orders, I can’t really give a date due to the delays packages can face going through customs, but the sooner the better!)


Prepping for the Holidays & Commissions

I know, I know, Christmas still seems like miles away. Never too early to start preparing for seasonal products when you hand make them, though! (Honestly, I feel like I’m pretty late on this)

This year will be my first Christmas season with an Etsy Shop and open commissions. I already wish I had started planning this sooner but, live and learn, ya know? I’m really excited and I have tons of ideas of things I want to make and add to my shop, but we’ll see how time and resources work out for that.
Continue reading