Commission Tips: Scheduling Artist Payments

Temporary Altars by Teresa Camozzi
Temporary Altars Mobiles by Teresa Camozzi, Miami International Airport, South Terminal, FL.

As the nature of commissioned artwork becomes increasingly sophisticated—with detailed planning, renderings, and architectural considerations—so too are the demands on today’s artist. And while the traditional payment schedule of “50% down, 50% upon completion” still holds for many artists, for others this model no longer complements the division of labor for a commissioned work of art. We asked four artists to share the details of their payment schedules, and what the client receives in return.

“I typically receive a maquette fee before beginning the commission contract,” says mixed-media artist Teresa Camozzi. “To create the maquette, I need architectural plans, elevations, palettes, and photos (if the site exists) to avoid issues like poor lighting, adequate wall or ceiling bracing/backing, expected sunlight, ambient air, and other issues.” Once the client approves the maquette, Camozzi receives 50% of the agreed-upon contract and the final 50% upon delivery, as well as any other associated costs allowed in the contract.

Tilted Windows by Linda Leviton
Tilted Windows by Linda Leviton, National Superconducting Laboratory, East Lansing, OH.

Metal artist Linda Leviton uses the 50/50 model for many of her projects, but when a project is large and spans a longer amount of time, she usually splits her payments into thirds. “The first third initiates the project and finalizes the details of the design,” Leviton explains. “The second third is used to buy supplies and work on the project, and the final third is due upon delivery. Sometimes this includes installation.” Whatever the payment schedule, Leviton works through it with the client on the contract at the outset of the project.

Turbulence by Daniel Sroka
Turbulence by Daniel Sroka, private residence, Florham Park, NJ

Like many artists who create work for the wall, photographer Daniel Sroka uses the “straightforward” 50/50 payment schedule. When working with an art consultant, he is willing to negotiate on the timing of his second payment. “I ask for the remaining 50% to be paid when the art has been delivered to the art consultant or designer. Often, this final payment is negotiated to be due after the consultant or designer has received the final payment from their client.”

Jellyfish by Bonnie Brown
Jellyfish (detail) by Bonnie Brown, Monterey Bay Aquarium, CA

Etched glass artist Bonnie Brown provides concept drawings at no charge to the client and includes a ballpark estimate for the project at that time. “In the rare instance that the client chooses not to proceed with the project, I can always use the drawing for my design book or on a future project,” says Brown. “But 95% of the time they like the design, and the drawing is finalized from their input and a firm price is established.” The client then makes a 50% deposit to begin a full-size layout of the work and etched glass samples for their approval or changes. The balance is due upon completion of the piece.