Thursday, January 3, 2013

Tau Empire Suits, Tauros and Some Notes on Commission Paint

Old School here with some shots of a simple commission I completed for a client and some notes I have on commission painting. All of the models in the photo minus the one crisis suit without the white helmet were painted by me. Lately I have had a Tau bug and it doesn't seem to be going away. It's no mystery really, they were my first army and I really guess I never got over them. Let's take a look and take a little about commissions or at least my personal views on the basics of commission work.

Here is a shot of one of the prior commissions from a different artist (center), flanked by two of the models I painted. I was approached just before the holidays by the client via e-mail, who let me know he already had models painted by commission and he was not happy with them. Once he sent me a link to the "business" of the other painter, I could see why. Basically, the painter did not have a grasp of any form of the basics of painting, other than the idea that the paint goes on the model somehow.

I don't say that to be overly harsh, I am saying it because I find it offensive that somebody would take money from people in exchange for poor work. I don't believe that the client contacted them and said "I would really like a blue/grey scheme with plenty of brushstrokes in it please ... oh and can you use brown floor wax to dip my grey firewarriors into? I really dig brown shading on grey cloth."

The bottom line is that when you pay somebody to paint for you, there should be an understanding of the end result and what techniques will be used. Unfortunately, that isn't always the case and I have seen things like this before.

Now while that all sounds negative, there is a lot to like about commissioning work and about performing commission work. As a customer, the client asked me to paint some tau, so I asked exactly what he was looking for. I asked a series of questions so I could gain an understanding of the end result he desired and also the technical look he desired. He wanted a very basic and clean paint job, without a lot of fancy techniques. Essentially, he wanted them to be painted for the table and look clean! Once an idea is grasped, a price can be negotiated.

Neither the customer or the commissioner should talk price for a project until both understand what the client desires. If there is any doubt for the client as to whether or not the painter can handle the order, he should provide some prior work.

Once both parties are comfortable, the client should send the models (insured and signature verified always!) and a portion of the total commission (75% or more is my personal preference). This makes the painter happy because he isn't scared about payment and it gives the client a piece of mind that his work should be done on time or he can hold the remainder of the payment over the painter's head. Having a target date for completion ahead of the order helps out with getting your models back in a timely manner.

*A note on price* If you find yourself as one of those clients who thinks it costs too much, even at really reasonable rates, to get something painted, please consider the time it would take YOU to paint the models and then consider what that would look like in an hourly rate across what you are looking to get painted, then factor in paint and brushes, ect. You will find most times, that commission painters aren't asking a whole lot for basic work and if you still think it is too expensive - you can take it on yourself.*

Once work begins, the painter should provide updates, so the client can see what kind of work is being done and possibly stop any potential mistakes before a mistake is repeated over the entire project. I find that not only does this help both parties out, but it also eases some of the anxiety on the client's end and will allow some more leeway if deadlines have to stretch or if there needs to be changes. Basically, it just boosts every one's comfort level.

Finally, once the job is complete and everyone is happy, the client should pay any remaining payments and then the seller should ship it out (insured and signature verified once again).

A happy client should always provide some testimonials and a really nice client should show off some tabletop photos of the models being used (I love seeing models I painted on the field, as they kind of become my babies for a little while when I paint them). This will help the painter get more business and will make sure he is still in business the next time you need stuff painted!

One last tip I have is to shop around and really check people out. Avoid sketchy artists. On the internet, you could ask around in the forums or check out their previous work. In person, it is a little easier - make sure they don't live in a van behind the game store and that they actually have some examples that YOU would play with if they were yours!

You get what you pay for. If you want Golden Daemon work, be ready for those kind of prices, if you want basic work, still expect to pay a reasonable price. If something seems too good to be true - IT IS!

In any case, I really enjoyed painting these models and getting back to very basic painting can still teach you a thing or two as an artist. I really enjoy painting, but would certainly consider commission work and probably will if I get deployed soon, since It would be nice to return to a fully painted army.

That's it for now. If you are still reading and have some experience either buying commission work or performing it, I would love to hear your thoughts, advise or opinions.


  1. Sound advice for both sides. Commissions of any ilk are tough. Art related ones are the hardest due to personal preference. Sadly, I just don't have the mind set for commissions any more. I did a few waaaaay back in the mists of time and some were fun while others were painful. Of course the only way to know if it's something you would like is to try it right? Maybe I should try being the client and see how that goes...

  2. Outside of painting things for some local people I would never want to take on commissions because of the constant pictures. I suck at pictures and would hate to cause distress for both parties and I don't think I have the right outlook for it online. By staying local I can pop into the store on gaming/painting nights and show the progress or even work on it with the other party present. I also like that I can teach things while I paint at the shop or if I ever get around to hosting painting parties again.

    That said all of the above are really solid points if you are going commission a project or take one on yourself. The Tau look fantastic by the way, the owner should be proud.

  3. I know I am looking forward to seeing what OST will do with the Tau I brought to him to be painted. Hope to see you at the game store soon.

    1. Hey Adam, plan to see me very soon and some Tau in well a few minutes here. They are the very next post in the schedule.

  4. I've painting other peoples miniatures for just under a year now, and for the most part I agree with OST and his views. One thing I would add though: If I can't do the job the customer requires, I make it a point of pride to find him someone who can do the job for a good price. Contrary to appearances, there aren't that many of us out there (or at least not that many that can stay in the profession for long without burning out) and we do chat to each other, refer customers and exchange techniques. There are a lot more customers that painters, so we can afford to help one another out and we often do. Most of us are gamers first, and it's reflected in our behavior and camaraderie. Most of my customers started out as just that -customers. They all end up as friends eventually. Every one of them.

    1. That being said, there are some commission painters out there for whom denial is not just a river in egypt. They overestimate their abilities and charge accordingly, which is why you see examples of what OST is talking about. They're the same sort of people who appear on X-Factor convinced they can sing. They don't tend to last very long. That being said, never, ever, book a commission with someone who doesn't display regular photographs of recent work on their website.