11/26/21: Commissions

Ages ago — and I mean, time is amorphous for me in the best of circumstances, but my guess would be at the very least six months ago — I had tentatively suggested on my personal Facebook that I was considering opening limited commission slots. This was sort of a big deal for me — I was just coming off the high of having my work included in a collaborative art project and had just received my own copy of said project, and I was starting to think, you know, maybe there is something to this art thing. I was still more or less trembling with insecurity, but evidence was, someone at some point saw some value in the work I was doing (right?), or I would not have had this experience.

Almost immediately, I got PMed by someone who seemed to be interested in potentially taking me up on my offer. They had a very ambitious piece in mind, with clear themes, aesthetics, and even reference photos, ready to go, and was wondering if I thought it was a good idea and whether I could do it. I (admittedly nervously) told them I thought it was something I could probably do, and directed them to send their ideas and refs to me via email if they were still interested.

And… well, that all fell through.

There was another suggestion, by another person, about two months later, that they might have a commission job for me in the realm of actual physical art (as opposed to digital, which is what I usually, though not exclusively, do) that I likewise tentatively said was within my abilities, and which, likewise, fell through.

And honestly, I kind of expected it. I wasn’t very clear or forthcoming on what they could expect in the realm of deadlines or cost; they were, likewise, fairly upfront with the fact that these were ideas or possibilities that they were just kicking around, not set-in-stone commitments. I was just starting out, had only been drawing in any regular capacity for about two-and-a-half years, and with no real sense of urgency or purpose. Art was not my bread and butter — I had a full-time, nearly-forty hours a week day job that paid my bills and kept food on the table, and my art still, in my eyes, looked very firmly rooted on the “hobbyist” side of things. So I moved on, with neither much fanfare nor much teeth-gnashing.

Then on November 2nd, just as I was starting to gear up for holiday prep myself, I got a message from someone asking if I could do a commission for them, to be a gift for their sister for Hanukkah. At this point, I was nearly three weeks deep in a kind of slump, not having done any creative work after a weirdly painful rejection from an art zine that I had, until that point, considered myself a shoe-in for, so I was feeling a little… vulnerable, maybe? Gun shy? I had a long talk with my wife about the opportunity, and she spent the better part of the evening gassing me up before I finally decided to say yes.

I worked on the commission for almost three weeks — I was given a ridiculous amount of creative freedom (their parameters were basically “something witchy or gothy”), and was allowed to just use my intuition. I found some reference photos that worked for what I had in mind, and checked in with my client at the sketch stage, palette selection, and right before final render. They were supportive and complimentary every step of the way, and wound up loving the final product.

Unexpectedly, so did I. It’s the most intricate piece I’ve done to date, and turned out so much better than I expected it would.

I received my commission check in the mail yesterday, and am still having trouble processing that — despite how pleased I genuinely was with what I made — someone was paying me for these weird little things I was drawing.

Which is a strange, new level of self-doubt that I hadn’t previously discovered — I thought I would feel instantly more secure in myself and my abilities as soon as someone deigned to commission me; then I realized that those deals could fall through, so I thought, well, when someone commissions me and we actually follow through on that deal, I’ll feel more secure in my place as an artist.

And then, all through the process, as I stumbled and fumbled with dpi, and organizing layers, and color balancing, I thought, man, once I have check in hand, I will feel so, so much more like a real artist.

And now… I don’t know, man. I don’t know if I’m ever going to feel like, yeah, these people were right to spend their money on me — and it is a very much on me feeling, not that I feel like artists-in-general shouldn’t get paid, just that I can’t wrap my mind around me getting paid, you know?

Honestly, I’m past the point of waiting to feel validated — nothing externally is going to happen for me to finally see the worth in what I’m doing — there’s a lot of deep-seated issues there that aren’t going to resolve overnight, but I’m at least far enough removed at this point to recognize that I’m being irrational and unfairly self-depricating when it comes to my own harshest criticisms of myself.

Instead, I’m just trying to soldier on, drawing and painting things that call to me and are enjoyable, and on those rare occasions when someone approaches me with a commission, doing the absolute best I can with it.

If anyone is interested in a commission, by the by, info can be found here; I can handle up to three at a time, I think.

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