I commissioned the sun!

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Commission a painting from a child

Oh, look at this magnificent sun that Maia painted for me! I love it, love it, love it!

The painting is large—2 by 3 feet—and drawn with oil pastels and then painted with tempera on poster board.

It is also Maia’s first “commissioned” artwork, which may need a little explanation…

I’ve been rearranging our house a bit. In fact, as my friends will tell you, I’m always rearranging our house. And they’re probably tired of my joke about it being the cheap way to redecorate. I usually limit it to moving furniture around, sometimes draping some fabric somewhere, and hanging (or taping up) Maia’s latest artworks. This time, besides the obligatory rearranging of furniture, I’ve taken almost everything down from the walls and have been trying to decide what to put back up. I’ve also been framing some of Maia’s recent art (and Daphne’s first paintings and drawings!) to hang.

Sun Painting

I really wanted a big, happy yellow painting for our bedroom wall, though, and didn’t have anything that fit the bill.

While I don’t generally ask Maia to draw or paint anything specific, I wanted a sun painting by her. So I explained the concept of commissioning a piece of art. How someone might ask an artist for a painting to be made just for them and even sometimes specify what they want the painting to depict. I asked Maia if I could commission a painting from her—a sun—and she was so excited by the idea!

She spent so long working on it, mixing the colors just right, and wouldn’t let me near the studio until she was finished. And then she asked for more “commissions.”

I have to admit though that I left out the part about artists getting paid for their commissioned artwork. At first, I thought I would offer her a small payment, but then I worried about her wanting or expecting payment for all her art. So I didn’t. And she’s been so thrilled with just the idea of working on commission (with plenty of kisses, hugs, and praise). But who knows, maybe I’ll bring up the subject of payment for commissions. What do you think?

Update :: I had Maia’s sun painting transferred to canvas.

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  1. dynajenn says

    Beautiful! There is something to be said for intrinsic reinforcement. What is the true payment for art? A wonderful final product, feeling the creative juices flow, growth, happiness, peace, who needs money? I think if artists were all financially independent, they wouldn’t charge, they would create because that is enough in itself!
    So thankful for your blog on this blustery (in Canada) night!

  2. Alex says

    Even with an older child, we go by the motto, “Never try to gruntle a gruntled baby.” :) While we always introduce new experiences, I try not to offer what she doesn’t seem to need.

  3. Crystal Jigsaw says

    That is absolutely gorgeous. It shows a beautiful portrayal of happiness, vibrant and colourful. I bet you were so proud.
    CJ xx

  4. says

    Very good stuff Jean!!!! Brilliant and a good stretch for your little one! I love that you explained to her waht commisioning art work is. That sun does show so much detail. And, I am with you on the furniture rearranging – I think it has to do with function and aesthetic. And as we have kids who are constantly changing, so too does our home!

  5. erica says

    i LOVE it! we have a few canvases that the kids have painted that are scattered in our house – love looking at their works of art…time to make a new one here, too!

  6. Halley's Mommy says

    Personally, I think you should encourage this and segue it into raising money for a charity of Maia’s choosing. A friend of mind did this with her son (now in college, hard to believe!) and his little clay pinchpots which he would make in their art/play studio. I still have 2 of those pinch pots, which we bought… and all his proceeds at the time went to UNICEF. I love that memory, those pots, and the fact that he grew up to be this artful guy with a big heart and a head for facts and figures.

  7. Halley's Mommy says

    LOL! After posting my comments I read everyone else’s and it seems I’m the ONLY mommy suggesting you introduce your daugher to concepts like money, sales, or value being placed on artwork. Oh… ROFL @this. While I generally understand the views here, I have to add one thing: It seems to me that waiting for children to understand money concepts when they are around peers at school who start getting allowance or whose parents start paying them for good report cards… This just seems a little backwards. If money and value are a part of our culture (and face it, they are) why wouldn’t we take a proactive approach on this like we do with healthy eating and valuing creativity every day? I’m just kind of confused why teaching our children how to price or sell their artwork (just as they would a lemonade stand in the 60’s) isn’t a widely encouraged idea.

  8. Alex says

    Oh, I think an art stand would be darling! Some neighbor girls had a face painting stand a while back. I LOVED it.
    The thing is, a mom asking for a painting from her daughter is very different from a lemonade stand. The lemonade stand is not about the joy of making lemonade, and creatively; the goal is making money. The commission is about being creative and expressing love through a gift. Children have many, many years to gain financial skills and understanding. I think the joy of giving freely is something I am much more concerned about communicating. If you haven’t read Punished by Rewards by Alfie Kohn, I really recommend it. It rings true to what I’ve seen as a teacher and in myself as a student: assigning a set value to something naturally rewarding makes it less joyful, and often makes kids less interested in doing that thing. It encourages them to do the bare minimum. (If that sounds insane, please read the book!)
    My 3 1/2 yo sees me pay bills & buy things at stores with both credit cards & cash, sometimes pays cashiers and receives change, plays with change, reads a few books like Alexander Who Used To Be Rich Last Sunday which involve money, and is involved in a number of discussions regarding which combination of things we would rather afford with a finite amount of money. She knows Grandma gets more money if she works an extra long day. If you are concerned with that sort of thing, you can set up a play store too. There are many opportunities other than paying your child without her asking for it.

  9. says

    Fabulous! I think it’s great how Maia took her “commission” so seriously and produced such a beautiful painting! She is creating for the love of it and I would avoid bringing money or any kind of reward into the picture as I think it could squash her enthusiasm. When she’s a bit older she may have the idea to sell her artwork and I think that’s great if it comes from her.

  10. Carly says

    I have a bunch of my kids’ art framed in the house (including in our bedroom). I’ve been searching for something the right colour for our main bathroom and I just recently decided to buy paint in the colour I want so the kids could paint something for the space. I love the idea of “commissioning” them to create art for me. I’m totally stealing this idea! You’re wonderful!

  11. says

    Beautiful sun! I think her ‘payment’ could be something like choosing the dinner menu for that day or a fave out to eat place or helping you make a dessert or her choosing. Why am I so food-oriented, I wonder? :]

  12. Halley's Mommy says

    @Alex… lol… The book sounds interesting & not an insane concept at all. :) I’ll check it out, thank you! As I said, I agree with the overall idea of a child tackling a new area of learning when they’re ready and ask for it. There’s something to say for allowing your child to stay a child! Don’t you think? I guess I was just coming at this from my unique view as an artist and mommy. I went thru art school with kids who were completely unable to price or place a value on their work. They gave away enormous paintings and tossed whole books of drawings in the trash. (Could you imagine if any other profession disvalued their work so? Dentists doing free root canals? lol!) Now you have etsy and all these handmade avenues popping up and there’s a new energy placed on people valuing creative works. I think there is a way to still pass that on to children without it being vulgar. To me (an artist) a commission is something you ask of someone whose work you like and they, in turn, give something back… dinner, money, a hug. All are good payment, I think. Now if only I could “commission” a girl scout to make me some thin mint oreo-type sandwiches…

  13. Amanda says

    Maia’s sun painting is amazing! Doesn’t it bring a whole lot of joy to have your kids beautiful artwork hanging in your home. I think you’ve given me an idea for our house. We display artwork but not in frames and maybe it’s time we did because I admire my girlie’s artwork so much. Thanks Jean : )

  14. says

    A fabulous picture. I like the idea that if there is to be payment then it is given to a charity. However I believe that things like rewards at school are given to encourage a behaviour that then becomes intrinsic and needs no external reward. Her behaviour – the joy of creating the artwork, is already intrinsic so leave it as is. But if you did want to thank her in some way you could say that as you now do not need to buy a picture for that space you have a nominated amount to spend on a family activity and let her choose.

  15. Haifa says

    Thanks everybody for your ideas, I work in a nursery and we make an art exhibition every year from the kids art work we introduce an artist and the kids try to duplicate some of his work this year”s ” Wassily Kandinsky “. So we’ll think of selling some of their work for a good cause!!!!