Cover Art Saga Continues: The Search for an Artist

The search for an artist continues. Emails flying back and forth. Met another artist at his gallery. Questions from some galleries coming in where been dropping off the Call for Art. It.s a been a great learning process for me. And here.s some things that I can share with my diligent readers.

First, if I had thought the construction world was crazy, the art world is even more so. In the construction business, we do a lot of estimates, proposals, and budgets for free on the hope of getting business. From the feedback I.m getting, a lot of artists are being asked to put together sketches, talk about concepts, and so on, on the hope of business which never materializes. In my draft contract (see below), I had the payment schedule worked into four tranches with the first tranche occurring after seeing the first sketches. Artists like to work on the ‘retainer’ system with money up front. If I were the artist, that.s how I think I would like to work as well. After all, unless worked with a patron a couple of times, it.s hard to know what to expect. I see their point and will make the change.

Second, it.s easy to think artists have it made. You look at the price tags of their works: 10k, 15k, 20k and you think, wow! But those are the artists who have made it. It.s like Rowling and the Harry Potter series. For every Rowling, there.s tens of thousands of writers who do not sell millions of copies. Artists generally approach the galleries asking the buyers if they would like to display their works. Space is limited. And there is a lot of talent floating around. So it.d be hard for a new name to start out. I wouldn.t be surprised if a lot of successful artists were quite frugal: a habit from the years they spent paying their dues. Oh, and how do I know there.s lots of talent? It seems Victoria–with its wildlife, proximity to ocean, proximity to forests–attracts a lot of artists. And I happened to stumble into an art school as well. The teacher had a class going on and invited me to watch the session. There were also examples of students’ work all over the walls. All of a very high quality.

Third, I had thought by including a sample of the contract (outlining the number of revisions, payment schedule, schedule of deliverables, etc.,) it would make things easier for the artists. One artist that I chatted with pointed out there are ‘softer’ ways to start of a patron-artist relationship. He asked me about my background. I told him I was a project manager in construction. He understood immediately, since he was a recently retired architect. I had based my contract on a construction scenario. Construction scenarios can be litigious. So the contracts assume the worse case. You can argue that they protect both parties. But really, the unstated premise behind the carefully worded contract are that people are dirty rotten scoundrels ready to take advantage of you. I could see his point. But here.s the story: I had carefully worded my contract hoping to give the impression to potential artists that, ‘Look, put together this nice document to make sure you get paid what you want on time!’. That it could be taken in another manner was sort on an unintended consequence. Well the contract is below. You can decide yourself. In my defence, it.s a one page contract (ie the very minimum) and it.s just a standard form that I found online from sample contracts other artists had put up on their websites who do commissions! The moral of this story is that I.m going to need to be flexible and diplomatic to get the best cover illustration for the book. And that.s what it.s all about. From the artist.s perspective, I.m sure they want to do a good job as well!–after all, they put their name on the work of art as well!

Fourth, did you know that not only do you have to find the right type of artist (ie abstract artist for abstract visions, figurative artists for figurative works, and so on), you also need to find the artist that understands the mood of a work. There was one artist who could do brilliant portraits. But there was one catch. The works had to be happy and full of smiling people. The ‘Dead Man.s Hand’ didn.t quite fit that description! But you know, I appreciate honesty!

Fifth, there.s lots of requests for me to put out the Call for Art with a lump sum price: for example, I.m looking for this and will pay x dollars for it. Now, all the other suggestions been amenable to. But this one sticks for me a little bit. I would think the artist would know better than me (since he.s the art professional) how much time it would take to conceptualize a work, purchase the materials, do the research, talk with the client, and create the work. And I also would like to think the artist would know better than me how his time is worth. And then overhead, consumables, and so on. So I.m sticking to my guns on this one. I.m asking the artist to quote a number that he.s happy with. This shouldn.t be too much to ask, no?

Well, here.s the sample contract, you be the judge!–

To aid assiduous artists in quoting the Call for Art, a sample contract has been drafted. It outlines the deliverables, payment schedule, and number of revisions to be included with the base price.

So that I can meaningfully compare packages, here are a few things to include with your submission:

  • base price. This is the price to put the whole thing together
  • hourly rate for additional revisions. Some revisions are built into the contract (see below). If more revisions are necessary, I want to make sure you are remunerated
  • five jpeg images showcasing your talents as applicable to this project
  • a short description of why this project interests you and what you bring to the table probably wondering how I am to work with. First: YES I have commissioned art before. The project was a complete success for both myself and the artist. kept in touch for over twenty years and his piece just went out on exhibition last year! So why not ask him?—he.s in his late eighties and long retired. Second: I am completely open to meeting up in person or talking on the phone. A quick meeting or phone conversation and you will be able to get an idea of whether this project is a good fit for your talents. Thanks for looking and hope to hear from you.


The Agreement is made the __________ day of __________ (month) __________ (year) between:

Name (Patron):


Phone:                                                                        Email:


Name (Artist):


Phone:                                                                        Email:

The parties agree as follows:

  1. The Work: the Patron is commissioning a painting ‘The Dead Man’s Hand’ (the Work) from the Artist as specified in the Call for Art (attached) at the purchase price of $_______ (x dollars). The purchase price includes all direct and indirect costs in creating the painting and delivering it to the Patron, including but not limited to purchase of the materials, consumables, shop expenses, labour, overhead, shipping, and taxes.
  2. Deliverables: 1) individual rough sketches for each of the six subjects (bartender, waitress, three gamblers, and dog). Allow for up to six revisions, if necessary 2) global rough sketch showing general layout and positions of subjects. Allow for one revision, if necessary 3) transfer sketch to final medium. Allow for one revision, if necessary 4) finished work. Allow for one revision, if necessary. Should the Patron request the Artist for additional revisions, the Artist can complete additional revisions at a rate of $_______ (per hour).
  3. Right of Refusal: should the Patron be unable to purchase the Work from the Artist when the Work is completed, the Artist will retain the Work and the payments made prior to completion. In that case, the Artist will retain the Work free from any claims or interests of the Patron and the Patron will be free of any further payments.
  4. Copyright: the Artist grants the Patron the right to use the Work as a cover illustration for a book the Patron is writing and the right to reproduce the Work for the purposes of promoting the book (e. on blogs, flyers, and advertisements). Notwithstanding the rights granted the Patron, the Artist retains reproduction and copyright rights.
  5. Project Schedule: delivery of the painting will take place within six months from the date the contract is signed. Should the Artist be unable to complete the work within this period, the Patron will retain the work complete to date and the Artist will be free from any claims or interests of the Patron and the Patron will be free of any further payments.
  6. Payment Schedule: payments will take place according to the following schedule:
    1. one-quarter upon approval of the six individual rough sketches
    2. one-quarter upon approval of the global rough sketch
    3. remainder upon delivery

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