This was first drafted in mid December as a Christmas post, but I feel it's relevant for any gift giving occasion, and am going to go ahead and post it with only minor revisions.
Now that the holiday season has engulfed us and Small Business Saturday is in the past, we've hit Gift List season. This is when well intentioned bloggers of all stripes create gift lists for readers who may be stumped for creative, thoughtful gifts for hard to buy loved ones. Many of these lists have a 'handmade' theme, with a focus on helping out small businesses. Having a difficult-to-buy
-for loved one myself (holla, Joseph!) I definitely have used such lists as inspiration, and the one thing I ALWAYS see skipped is the gift of original art.
I'm not really sure why original art doesn't make the lists, as I'm sure all of these bloggers have favorite artists or have been sponsored by an artist at some point. Maybe it's because they assume the commission process is difficult (it's not) or overly pricey (nope!). Maybe they feel like their audience wouldn't be interested in owning original art, or have no interest in having a one-of-a-kind portrait commissioned to celebrate their family. It's a shame that these blogs don't use their influence to help illustrative artists, but that doesn't mean that original art is a bad fit for their blogs, or for your home. Although my blog is completely biased, let me convince you to give commissioned illustrations a shot next holiday season.
1. There's an artist to fit any taste or budget. Like watercolor? I can name several artists who specialize in that. Prefer oils? I can link you to those too. Marker? I got you covered. Realistic? No problem. Sweetly cartoony for a kids room? You're golden. From $10-$1000, you can find a style, medium, and price that works for you and the person you're buying for. In my shop, a watercolor family portrait (3 figures) costs only $50 for my most detailed style, and only $35 if you prefer my convention watercolors. Many of us are more than happy to work with whatever constraints you have. The goal, after all, is to make art that fits your life and your home.
2. Many of us can work from photographs or can assemble a desired scene for you. No need to spoil the surprise for your loved one.
3. I promise, noone else will give that person the same gift you've given that year. Even if they were to receive original art, the style, content, and medium would all be different.
4. A well done commissioned portrait can become a family treasure, and may inspire a new tradition. As the family grows, they may revisit the artist for updates, or branch out to other artists for a beautifully eclectic collection.
5. This is something most people don't think to buy for themselves, but are often thrilled and touched to receive.
6. This may be the only piece of original artwork your giftee will ever own, as most people buy prints/photographs to decorate with, forgetting that many artists quite happily take commissions and that original art is an attainable goal.
7. You are supporting a small business. Commissioned original art is hand made with painstaking care by an individual who has dedicated years to honing their skills. A big part of my business comes from selling commissions- at conventions, in person, and online. Commissions help me pay my bills, buy comics from other artists, and test new art supplies. Unfortunately, illustrators tend to get skipped over and forgotten on Small Business Saturday, but we have a unique contribution to offer in your holiday shopping.
8. Turn around time is shorter than you think. If you catch me in late November, not only can you take advantage of a sale, but you'll get your commission in two weeks.
9. Commissioned art is fantastic as a birthday present, a wedding, engagement, or anniversary present, to celebrate a baby shower, perfect for Christmas, graduation, or any milestone, really.
10. A commissioned family portrait, portrait of a lost loved one, or a dear pet is an extremely thoughtful, heart felt gift. What parent wouldn't enjoy a beautiful painting of their child? What doting pet guardian wouldn't appreciate a lovingly rendered oil pastel of their faithful companion? What grandparent wouldn't enjoy a sensitive color pencil illustration of their grandchildren? Commissioned art is personal, it shows you've put care and thought into this gift. It's a wonderful way to commemorate a stage (or even stages) in a child's life, in a family's growth, or to remember a loved one.
11. If you enjoy rendering with color, but not drawing, you can commission an artist to create the lineart, and opt to color it yourself, saving money and making the gift even more personal. Many artists are more than happy to work with you to suit your needs. You just need to ask.
What if the person you're buying for is an artist? That shouldn't stop you! Joseph has started a tradition of commissioning artists I'm friends with or admire to draw my character, Kara. It's so exciting to see who's drawn her, and how they choose to depict her! Just because we CAN draw for ourselves doesn't mean we don't LOVE getting art from other artists, seeing how they interpret our favorite subjects is always a treat. In an upcoming post, Joseph will go over the general commissioning process, citing examples from artists he's commissioned.