My Biggest Mistake When Taking Commissions

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I love being able to say my years of experience drawing for money has been nothing but smooth sailing. But, that’s.. not exactly the case. I had a couple of rough patches with my experience with commissions.

Insert this commission…


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Named “Evening Entertainment”. This painting houses several characters interacting with each-other and their fictional tribal environment. This is the largest commission I’ve done to date. I can go on about how long it took me to get this piece done and the amount of detail and research I put into the piece, but let’s talk about something different.

My biggest mistake with this image primarily, was taking on waaay too much. I originally started gathering interest in January 2011. I was heavily inspired and ready to tackle the beast. I decided to have a certain amount of characters in the image. Once I saw the interest with clients grew, I got greedy and decided to open up more and more slots. Little did I know I bit off way more than I could chew. I had other commissions in line along with the group picture and I kept taking on more. I’ll get it done, right? I’m fired up! Nothing can stop me!

Well, inspiration is a fickle thing. I was always on to the next newest thing, and that was the new commissions coming in that I kept. Advertising. For.

I lost interest and I kept pushing the group picture farther down my queue while taking on more work.


This charade went on for 4 years.


Time passed, and I decided to completely start off with a clean slate.  It was time to put on my adult undergarments on and own up to the biggest mistake I made in my career. In those 4 years, my work improved significantly. That first project was not only god-awfully old, my workflow completely changed, and the original file was lost on my previous laptop. I wanted to make sure that these people who trusted their time, and finances in me and believed in my abilities would get something that was 3 times worth what they paid for and was something I was proud of.

So, I set off and tracked down everyone involved and sent everyone involved an individual message. I gave them the option to let me make this right. They could let me redraw the piece or opt out completely and allow me to give them a refund. Either way I was cool with it, and I still appreciate everyone’s extreme amount of patience when it came to finishing this.

Would I do something as large as this again? Actually, yes. But instead of biting off more illustration work while having such a  large project, I would hold myself accountable. I would have an accountability partner, and I would stream every step of the way with my clients.

With all those mistakes said and done, I have learned a couple of serious lessons when it comes to taking people’s money in exchange for a handcrafted image. 5 of them to be exact.


Have you made any mistakes when working on something for a client? How did you make it right? Share your experiences below!

Until next time,



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