Canadian Aerospace Artists Association


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A few ideas to get started with commissioning artwork.

Looking for a very particular subject, perhaps something you have a personal connection with? You may want to have one of our artists create it for you. Several of our members accept commissions as indicated in their gallery listings. We suggest scrolling through our galleries and choosing an artist based on their style and then contact the artist and ask if they are interested in taking the commission.

Alternatively, you may want to poll the entire membership by contacting the president who will send out your request to every artist simultaneously.

Either way, there are some things to keep in mind:

Artists who take commissions usually have a waiting list of clients, so if it's for a special occasion or a gift, start the process as early as possible. Also note that some media simply take longer than others to complete. For example oil paintings take several weeks to dry after completion before they are ready to ship to a customer, whereas acrylics or watercolours typically are ready to ship within a few days of completion.

Make sure you tell the artist up-front exactly what you are looking for. Most artists will make a sketch for your approval before proceeding, and this is the time to make sure you're both on the same page. Size, price, deadline and details of the subject must be thoroughly understood and mutually agreed upon at this stage, and most artists will require a contract and a deposit.

Once work has started, stay in touch with the artist; they may still have questions for you as the work progresses.

And if you have any questions about the process, please ask and we'll do our best to answer.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q: What is a commission?
A: It is a personal service contract in which the artist agrees to produce an artwork to the client's specification.

Q: Is a formal contract required?
A: That is something to be worked out between artist and client; however, it is sound business practice because it clearly delineates the expectations of the parties to the agreement and avoids conflict and recriminations downstream.

Q: How does a client find an artist?
A: A potential client can browse the CAAA's on-line gallery for an artist whose style appeals to them and the web-master can provide contact information (if not listed on the site). Alternatively, the client can ask the web-master to issue a call for proposals and interested artists can contact the client directly.

Q: Does the CAAA charge a fee for these services?
A: The CAAA does not act as an agent for the artist, only a contact facilitator and no fees or other considerations are required. Similarly, the CAAA is not a party to any contract or other agreement between client and artist.

Q: Is there a standard fee schedule?
A: Our member artists are individual contractors with their own fee structures and schedules.

Q: How much will a painting cost me?
A: This will depend upon a number of factors that include: the individual artist; the size and medium of the work; the complexity of the scene; how much research the artist must perform; how many preliminary sketches and/or progressive approvals are required; whether framing is included; any packaging/shipping costs; etc. These are all reasons why a formal contract should be used.

Q: Would I have to pay a fee up front?
A: This depends upon the individual but most artists will require a “good faith” deposit by first time clients and some may ask for progress payments as the work proceeds. This should all be covered in the contract.

Q: What is copyright?
A: Copyright is a law that protect intellectual property rights of artists, musicians, writers, playwrights, etc.

Q: As a client, why should I be concerned about copyright?
A: Copyright and ownership are two different things. If you purchase a painting in a gallery, you own it, but the copyright is retained by the artist. That means (with some “fair usage” exceptions under Canada's Copyright Act) you cannot use that painting to generate revenue, such as making copies and selling them. When it comes to commissions, the circumstances become a little murkier:

  • if you provide a detailed sketch of the scenario and all the specifications for the painting, you have reduced the artist to a “paint-by-number” technician, and you may claim copyright; or
  • if you ask the artist to “paint me a CF-18 doing something exciting” then it is the artist who is applying their skills of composition, draftsmanship, colour sense, imagination, etc., and he/she would hold copyright; and
  • most commission work falls somewhere between these two extremes and a copyright dispute could well be adjudicated as jointly held by both artist and client.

Q: Does copyright ever expire?
A: Copyright normally lasts for the life of the artist plus 50 years from December 31st in the year the artist dies. Some copyrights never expire, such as Canada's currency designs (including postage stamps). A copyright holder may assign or sell their copyright.

Q: What happens if I change my mind after commissioning a work?
A: This is one of the reasons why you need a contract. However, in general if the client backs out, they would forfeit any deposits or progress payments made to that point. If the artist reneges, the client should reasonably expect a refund of any fees paid to that point.

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