A talented student of mine asked me today if I request a deposit for commissioned works. It's an interesting question with no right answer. The points I can offer are based on my past experience and current practice in my studio.
I worked in commercial galleries from my 18th birthday to past my 34th. Every single time I had arranged a commission for a customer during that time, a substantial deposit was taken, at times up to the full amount. This was for several reasons. First, it was to secure the client's commitment. Second, it was to give the artist a go ahead, something a gallery would not likely do without such a commitment from the interested party. Third, it was to avoid a client backing out upon completion. Of course he/she still could, but would honour a paid agreement more easily. Most of the time, these transactions worked beautifully, resulting in the collector's happiness and sometimes emotionally moving acceptance of the painting. The artist benefited as well, often able to charge a premium for such a personal, particular kind of work. The only hiccup was when the client had a vision dominated by their own hopes for the final look. In these cases, the artist essentially became an extension of the buyer's hand, only without the understanding of skills and interpretation necessary for a great piece of art. In one fantastic gallery I had worked in, even an obstacle such as this was overcome by wonderful communication between the buyer, the gallery owner and the artist. Usually this only ended up strengthening all of the relationships.
As a professional artist, I have never taken a deposit. This is because I only take on commissions I'm interested in. There have been opportunities I turned down. I did not 'feel it'. It would have been a poor painting, if only in my opinion. I take requests for growth. If the subject matter sets me afire, I'm in. The option for the recipient to turn down the finished creation is always available. When I make something, I dig it or it doesn't leave the studio. My thought is if the person isn't tickled pink, the painting will easily sell to someone else. I've never had to do that. Happy creating!
Nikol Haskova Studio