Frequently asked questions about portrait sculpture commissions

The process of commissioned sculpture sometimes leaves one with a feeling of awkwardness and confusion. We have taken the time to put together this series of questions often asked by a collector embarking on their first figurative sculpture commission.

What is a sculpture commission?
A commission is an agreement made between a collector and an artist to create a designated sculpture. The artist is usually chosen for their artistic ability and interpretation. Collectors may also consider the artist reputation and the potential for an increase in the value of their piece as the artist’s reputation grows.

Are there other factors that increase the value of a piece?
Yes. The medium of the piece is sometimes a factor. One-of-a-kind sculptures are often more valuable than limited editions or large editions. The artist’s signature as well as the number that it is in a limited edition affect the value of a piece. Example: Number one in an addition of 700 (1/700) would be more valuable than 600/700 because it would hold more detail being one of the first pieces coming from a mold. Certificates of authenticity for limited editions may also increase the value of the piece.

When you are creating a sculpture commission does it take a lot of time with the subject?
Not at all. It takes approximately one to ten hours with the subject mater; anything longer than an hour or two is done in two sessions. Most of this time is spent photographing and taking measurements. For portrait busts (head and shoulders) the time is often minimum, a full figure takes more time. Unless the artist and the person commissioning know the pose they want the subject to be in, it may take one photo session to try different poses and come to a decision, and therefore a second photo session may be necessary. In that sitting the artist can concentrate on the pose and the details of the hands, feet etc.

If you are sculpting a child or baby do they have to sit still for this?
No. With small children Ms. Mongeon spends most of her time on the floor playing and taking measurements and photographs. She hates sitting still myself, so she certainly would not insist on it with a young person, besides being still often inhibits the natural personality of the child from being exhibited. All of her subjects seem to enjoy the sittings, from B. B. King to the babes.

Where does the first sitting take place?
When possible the artist likes to have the first sitting at the subject’s home. It helps to have them relaxed, sometimes when a subject is long distance and unavailable she will fly to the subjects home. In cases like this the traveling expenses are passed on to the client.

Is that it, just photos and measurements?
No the second sitting takes place when she feel the piece is almost completed. It is at this point that the subject visits her studio. She take approximately thirty minutes to an hour working around the subject. After this amount of time she looks to the collector for their input. They may see things that she has missed. One time she remembers feeling the work was finished but the mother was just little hesitant. It was then that they discovered that this young girl was a talker. The artist had sculpted her mouth closed, but with a little work she was able to put those lips into action.

What if I cannot come for the second sitting?
Sometimes photographs or video can be taken of the sculpture and e-mailed or sent to the client for their approval; however, a final sitting at the studio is really the best.

What is better, a full figure or a bust?
It really depends upon the desire of the collector. The important part is capturing the spirit of the subject in the piece. With a full figure piece many other factors can assist in capturing the personality. For example: Becky loves soft ball, so a piece is created of her in her jersey, or Elizabeth is forever making her favorite doll dance and that scene is set in clay.

What size is the piece created in?
For a portrait bust The artist usually creates them 80% life size. This is a good size for an average home. Anything larger looks monstrous. Full figure is a bit different; the smallest size is approximately 6” for a seated figurine. Or they can be created substantially larger. Life size is also an option depending on the final medium of the piece. The application of the piece is also another consideration. Is it to be placed on the mantle, a coffee table piece, or something to be set in the garden or by the pool?

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