Mural Commission Basics

Murals are some of my most favorite things to create. It’s so exciting to walk into a new space with a new client, learn a little about them, and find a way to create a beautiful piece for them. It’s especially exciting if that client has chosen me to make a mural because they like my work, my particular style, or want to do something super outside the box, which I get even more head-noddy yes for.

Here’s some things to consider before enlisting any artist, not just myself, to create a mural for you.

A. What’s your budget? What are you willing to spend?
Murals are going to cost you more than a movable piece of artwork. They are more time consuming and require the artist to work around schedules and time constraints between both you and them. They are also often larger than a typical piece of work, and in this case, size does matter. Expect your mural piece to be a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. Yes, that’s money. If you want the piece, you have to accept responsibility to pay the artist for their time and their work. You would expect to pay a mechanic, a plumber, an accountant, or a lawyer for their time, and it’s no different with an artist. So, be real about what you can afford and how far you’re willing to go. And talk to your artist about your budget up front. They’re going to be willing to work with you, but you have to be realistic about what you’re asking for.

B. Where do you want the piece to go?
Think about the area you want painted, what you’re wanting to see there, and how long you’ll have to stare at it. But seriously, murals aren’t usually something you can move to a different room when you want a change of scenery and are tired of looking at it. Be sure you want what you really want. And, along the lines of the budget conversation above, be realistic about what you’re wanting to see and what it’s going to take to get there.

C. Why have you selected this artist?
Most artists are adept at making most things. We’ve all trained ourselves how to recreate what we see and experience into a style that’s uniquely our own. We’re also generally pretty good imitators, and of course can create things in styles that aren’t our own. But that doesn’t mean we want to do it. If you want a mural piece by a specific artist, be thoughtful on why you’re selecting them. Have you found a breathing human who happens to know how to paint, and you want them to do a Picasso-style mural on your wall, when all of their work on Instagram are soft, beautiful watercolors? See my point? Make sure you’ve found an artist whose work and talent you like and hire them because of that.

D. What happens if you don’t like the piece?
This happens. And it’s no fault to anyone really, especially if you’ve agreed on a concept with an artist, and the work is executed, and you just hate it at the end. But, be ready to pay that artist more to fix the work. Or, pay a different artist to do another piece. Either way, if you are unhappy with a piece that’s been created for you, don’t go so far as to insult the artist or any other by demanding free work simply because you don’t like what you’ve paid for initially.

Here’s how my mural commissions work:

  1. View the Space. Every wall, location, space, area, etc. is unique and different. I like to look at the space, get a feel for the room and the use, learn what colors are loved and hated, and understand what the client wants to see or feel everytime they are near the piece.

    2. Agree on a Concept. Once I’ve viewed the space and discussed the ideas the client would like to see, I create a sketch with a proposed color palette. This is delivered to the client via email, with a scope of work that details how long I think the piece will take and the cost. Once approved, the client agrees to pay 50% of the project up front to help cover the cost of materials to complete the work.

    3. Cost. I bill my murals on either cost-per-hour or cost-per-square foot. It really depends on the size of area, the difficulty of the concept, and how long I think it’s going to take me. I’ll discuss all of those factors with my clients at the time we view the area and when I send the scope of work. I also factor in a 20% contingency (which helps to cover me if it takes a little longer or I need more supplies than I originally thought) and will also add additional funds to the overall cost to cover materials. This evaluation of cost will differ if the area is exceptionally large, the client wants a difficult, time consuming concept, or other extenuating factors.

    4. Project Start to Finish. I work out an appropriate timeline with the client, generally based around my work-week and project schedule, that allows me to get the work done as quickly and efficiently as possible. I also take into consideration the client’s time (making sure not to steal entire weekends by invading their house the whole time, for example) but also ensuring I too retain some breathing room between the mural work and my day job. All murals are completed on a first-come, first-served basis, and I’ll do my best to work you in as quickly as possible if I have other projects before your’s.

    5. Final Reveal. Once the work is complete as agreed upon, final payment is remitted. I like to post to social both progress and final shots of the work, keeping the client confidential if necessary. And that’s it!

    6. What I like making: Interior murals in homes, offices, businesses etc. where they have an impact on the space. It’s obvious through my portfolio that I have some common themes, but I’m also up to a challenge and enjoy trying new concepts out, so let’s talk about what you’re wanting to see and how we get there. I don’t do portraits. I hate them. Sorry.

A note on my mural experience…

I’ve completed a small handful of interior murals around Cheyenne as an artist. I’ve facilitated even more (the count is roughly 50) in public, outdoor spaces on buildings. My expertise really lies in helping other artists and property owners to find walls and art pieces that both parties can be excited about. I initiated and implemented the original Cheyenne Downtown Development Authority Mural Project in 2015, where we completed 8 unique pieces of work in alley spaces, making the alleys more walkable and beautiful. I’ve also worked with my friend Eddie Fernandez on the annual Paint Slingers event to facilitate walls and artists at each year’s festival, generally completing 20-30 new pieces each year.

I regularly meet with and advise local business and property owners about the realities and costs behind putting a piece of work on their walls and working with artists, and pride myself on giving fair, reasonable advice. I never try to hinder anyone from doing what they want, but I’m not interested in having my fellow artists not receive what they deserve for their work. The advice I laid out above are based on my experiences in facilitating public mural art and some scenarios I’ve seen play out over the years.

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