“Commissions and Themes: What Should I Get?” April 29, 2010 – Posted in: A Picture's Worth, Blog, Featured Columns – Tags:

Since the focus of this (awesome) site is (awesome) commissions, I thought I’d focus on some ideas for same.

Over the years on the Yahoo! group to which I belong, several collectors have posted themed commissions. Having a theme is a great way to build your collection, unify it and popularize it. The theme becomes a thread that permeates the collection which in turn makes it wonderful conversation fodder and also gives it future display potential. (Museum shows are always themed. Same goes for your stuff, whether on your wall or that of a gallery.)

Another benefit of a theme is that it gives the artist a conceptual starting point, always good for preventing “idea block” and getting him/her focused. Granted, it can also have the opposite effect: if the artist isn’t crazy about the theme, he may delay in getting to it, or refuse it all together. I’ve often told the story of the fan–a columnist for a popular comics publication at the time–who was getting commissions of female superheroes nude on top with animal bottoms. No kidding. He came up to my table at a Chicago con and showed me a few of the pieces he’d had done. (Wonder Woman as half horse. Invisible Girl as half manatee. Probably Catwoman as half cat–I’ve mercifully blocked most of it out.) Then he asked for one from me. From what I recall he wanted Mary Marvel as an octopus from the waist down. Trying hard to hold down my lunch, I politely refused. I’m hoping no one reading this is getting any ideas either!)

While it may take the artist extra effort to “think it out” rather than just start drawing any old pose of a character, let’s face it: we’re supposed to be CREATIVE! So it should be fun to think of something cool and original and/or fun for your theme. Obviously give them a choice. If you sense apprehension, go with a standard commission of your favorite character instead.

What kind of theme should you choose? Possibilities are endless but make sure it’s nothing too offensive (see above) or difficult/time-consuming (like characters in historical battle scenes with hundreds of figures); and something that means something personal to you. Some ideas: favorite, color, location(s), time period, food, type of story, fairy tale, U.S. Presidents, famous covers, unlikely “never before” pairings (e.g., Little Lulu meets Darth Vader), TV shows, movies, pets, events, anything!

You can combine your chosen character or switch them with the theme. (Example: Wolverine posing with different historical figures, or different superheroes each posing with the same historical figure such as Abe Lincoln. You can let the artist choose the variation or choose on your own.)

Some themes to which I’ve contributed and enjoyed have been: M.O.D.O.K. and Grendel (both of which you can see in my sample section), silverfish, Winnie the Pooh, playing cards (you’ll need 52 or 54), periodic table of the elements, dancing girls, famous characters in literature, DC’s Hero for Hire series, anyone who’s been a member of the Legion, JLA and Avengers, even just guests at a particular convention.

If you attend conventions regularly, you can have all of these themed sketches and/or drawings in one sketchbook. Or if loose, into one of those vinyl portfolios with clear pockets like the ones from Itoya.

So now that I’ve hopefully stimulated your creative juices, what type of theme do you have or would you most like to try? Feel free to comment and tell us! (And if yours is one of the wonderful collections to which I’ve had the honor of contributing, THANK YOU! Please take credit here as well.)

Or better yet, just order your first commission from Craig by clicking HERE now.

[edit: since the writing of the article we’ve implemented bar-none the best commission policy in the business.  We’ve taken all the risk out of commissioning artwork!  Read all about it here! – Craig]

Thanks for reading!

See you next week,


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