July 13, 2017

A Horse Sculpture of Your Own: The Art Commission Process

A Horse Sculpture of Your Own: The Art Commission Process

Enjoying a piece of art that was created especially for you is a unique experience. The results are a one-of-a-kind artwork full of personal significance and a bond with its creator. In an effort to shine some light on the mysterious work of the artist, I’m going to share my approach on commissioning an original horse sculpture and some basics for getting started.

Finding the right artist

Subject matter is often only a starting point in finding an appropriate creator. For example: If you’re searching for someone to sculpt a portrait of your cherished childhood pony, you’re going to have a lot of options. Each artist will approach a subject differently, and the key is to find an artist whose style and interpretation appeals to you. 

My style is quite free: While I do focus heavily on accurate anatomy, I’m not really interested in a down-to-every-vein kind of realism. For me, it’s important that the viewer can really see the hand of the artist (in some cases literally, leaving my finger prints in the clay), and that I capture the essential essence of the horse.

It is possible that an artist may decline a commission because they do not feel it is a good fit, or that the work deviates too much from their regular practice.

Horse half-pass drawing for sculpture

You’ve found an artist, now what?

Contact them! Some artists may not accept commissions for various reasons, but it never hurts to ask. While I don’t accept all of the commission requests I receive, I have an outline right on my website to give potential clients an idea of the process.

This is a brief outline of my art commission arrangement:

  1. There’s an initial consultation between you and me to ascertain the parameters of the project. Subject, scale, finish type, and budget are all discussed.
  2. A non-refundable 10% design fee is charged in order to retain me to create drawings that will determine a design that is acceptable to you. The 10% design fee is deducted from the final payment of the project.
  3. Once a final design has been established, a production, and payment schedule is determined. At this point a 50% installment is required in order for me to begin creating the sculpture. 
  4. Once the sculpture is finished and the work is acceptable to you, the final payment is due before the sculpture can be released for delivery.

I want it this way!

This can be a worrying point for many clients – how much control do I have over the final outcome? I very much welcome special requests because often they help shape the sculpture and how it’s executed. For example, in the commission of Lulu the Oldenburg foal, the owner had a particular affinity for a certain photograph and the way Lulu was cantering. It was decided very early on, despite the difficult position, to make the sculpture’s pose in that manner.

Air dry clay horse sculpture by Susie Benes

"Lulu" coming to life.

I love bringing a client’s vision to life, and I provide regular update photos of the sculpting process so that things can be adjusted if necessary. However, I tell all my clients that I want to make sure I create a unique masterpiece for them, and the more freedom they give me, the better I’m be able to do this.

In the early consultations it’s paramount to address ideas and concepts right from the beginning to help shape the work. Being clear from the start is especially important with sculpture because it can be hard to make large-scale modification once the main body of the sculpture is built. It can also affect the final cost.

It’s how much?!

While it’s often more costly than purchasing a ready-made piece, the commission process itself requires a lot of time commitment from the artist. Not only in terms of communicating with the client, but also designing (and potentially re-designing) the sculpture, as well as ensuring that all the client’s requests on the artwork are met.

Mixed media clay foal horse sculpture by equine artist Susie Benes

What if I’m not happy?

It is a possibility that despite all the hard work on both your parts, you may not be satisfied. This can be unfortunate, and it depends on the agreement you reached in your initial consultation on how to proceed.

In my case, you’re not required to buy the sculpture if you aren’t completely in love with it. I want you to be 100% satisfied with the final work. If you aren’t, you can apply your payments to the purchase of other work by me at any time in the future.

I hope this brief introduction to the commission process was helpful and gave you some small insights when you go and get something special made for yourself.


What's Next?

Check out my latest sculptures

Who am I?