How to collaborate with an artist successfully

5 tips from our Founder, Vani Krishnamurthy

Sonya E., Hammock Under the Trees;  36"x22", acrylic

Sonya E., Hammock Under the Trees; 36"x22", acrylic

Artists are special. I say this with the most sincerity you can possibly imagine.   

Think of an individual who has actually stopped to notice something about life or this world. She spends the entirety of every day working through that feeling and figuring out how to express it.  Not with words, which would allow for a sense of immediate gratification, especially in our social media world. Instead, she uses physical media that needs to be carefully prepared and applied for an eventual display. All this and she has no guarantee of viewers understanding the message. Clearly, this individual is not only creative, but is also meditative, diligent, romantic, and patient as well.  

Rebecca A., Painting III; 78"x60",  mixed media

Rebecca A., Painting III; 78"x60", mixed media

Having worked AS an artist and WITH artists my entire life, I have loved and hated them for the exact qualities that make them so unique. I have loved their creativity, but hated not being able to contain it. I have loved the patience they have in creating beautiful work, but hated not being able to rush them to a deadline.  

There isn’t one way to work with artists; they wouldn’t be so interesting as a group if so. However, there are a few cardinal rules to working with an artist successfully, which if followed, can most likely result in owning the most personal, meaningful, and also beautiful creation ever.

Here’s what I’ve learned over time:

1) Choose the right artist for you and your vision 
Peruse previous work and observe which images keep you interested. Ask yourself what it is that is making you go back to certain images – color, texture, or composition perhaps? Think about whether those aspects would be important in what you envision for your project.

Jessica B., False Start;  18"x24", oil on canvas

Jessica B., False Start; 18"x24", oil on canvas

2) Understand the artist’s unique process 
Ask the artist questions about how he creates his artwork. Every artist has different ways of deriving inspiration in the beginning, keeping himself on track in the middle, and figuring out what the finishing touches are at the end. Therein lies the story that you may want to tell yourself and others when referencing your finished piece of art. It is this story that also makes you feel connected to the artist and allows for a natural collaborative relationship with him. 

Mel D., Night Sky 2;  60"x52", oil on canvas

Mel D., Night Sky 2; 60"x52", oil on canvas

3) Set some key boundaries
When speaking with the artist, make sure to be as specific as possible about major, non-negotiable aspects of your project.  Size, subject, medium, and general color schemes are important to voice, if you have a very clear opinion on them. There may be other preferences you have, but remember to keep those at a minimum. You need to let the artist have room to create her best work. Too many boundaries and details might make you feel comfortable in the beginning, but it may not result in a work of art with the creative depth that it might have had otherwise. Instead, think about specifying any dislikes you have, so that the artist knows to avoid something that you are certain of not wanting.

Lauren M., Something Old, Something New;  36"x36", mixed media

Lauren M., Something Old, Something New; 36"x36", mixed media

4) Give the artist a grace period 
An artist produces his best work when he is feeling most inspired to create, which means he might miss his deadline if he is prioritizing the quality of the finished product. Be sure to accommodate a cushion for the artist to have extra time. A week or two late is better than wondering “what could have been” with regards to your work of art. 

5) Make an active decision to trust the artist
Once you’ve chosen your artist and gone over the non-negotiables, make an active decision to trust her. The most interesting aspect of working with an artist is to embrace a little bit of the unpredictability. The end product will never be exactly as you envisioned. It will actually be better if you allow yourself to be open to different possibilities. Just as you want your fingerprint in this work of art, the artist needs to have hers as well.