Thank you so much for your interest in custom artwork. I look forward to working on a special piece for you!
Options & Ordering
What medium/media will you use?
Typically, I work with black pen, pencil, charcoal pencil, vine charcoal, watercolor, Copic ink, and/or sumi ink. You may prefer a certain medium/style (see custom artwork examples), and/or I may recommend a certain medium based on the photograph(s) you send to me. Here's more information about some of my favorite supplies.
The medium dictates the paper I will use. For watercolor work, I'm currently using Arches cold press paper or Fabriano Artistico hot press paper (both 140lb). For drawing, I use Strathmore charcoal and drawing paper, Canson Mixed Media paper, Copic sketch paper, and Canson bristol paper. I may use other stock than these, depending on suitability for the project and availability. All papers will be acid-free, and media that smudge (ex: pencil, charcoal) will be sprayed with a professional fixative to help your artwork last longer and resist smudging.
What sizes are available?
My standard size is 8x10 and 8x8 (square) -- the latter sometimes working well for artwork of moments between human subjects. If you need a different size, let me know, we can discuss options (and sometimes a particular subject matter will require custom dimensions). Dimensions are approximate, and represent the rough size of the opening in a mat or frame that will accommodate the artwork. Typically, I make the finished artwork itself slightly smaller than the dimensions of your mat opening (but my paper will be slightly larger than your mat opening) such that there is white space between the art and mat opening edges, rather than having the mat overlap any of the lines/strokes of the actual artwork. I do this intentionally, as part of my style, because it enhances the memory-like feeling of the artwork, as if viewers can see that meaningful moment or place in their mind, or peer in at that isolated memory.
When you are determining your desired size, remember to factor in size for a mat/frame beyond the edges of the artwork.
Will my artwork be vertical (portrait) or horizontal (landscape) in orientation?
It depends on the subject matter. We can determine the orientation when we discuss which photo(s) I will use as the inspiration for the artwork. If you have a strong preference, please let me know before I begin the work. Square dimensions can also look really nice for certain images.
Can you recommend anything as far as matting/framing?
I always recommend professional framing for the best care of original art, but if you want to try your own hand at matting/framing, let me know, and I can share some guidance.
For professional framing, local residents can check out Frame of Mine (8th Street SE) or Capitol Hill Frame & Photo (on Pennsylvania Ave. SE). Ask me about possibilities for a discount with these stores!
I have not personally tried Framebridge, but they have lots of contemporary framing options and a storefront location on 14th St. NW, and they can ship within the United States, which helps if the artwork you order will be a gift for a remote friend/relative.
How much does custom artwork cost?
My pricing depends on a lot of factors: the medium, size of the piece, complexity of the subject matter, number of human subjects to be included (if applicable), whether I need to take source photos (for example, of your home), whether you need me to combine parts of multiple photos, turnaround time you need, etc. I don't have standard/one-price-fits-all pricing, so I'm unable to give specific quotes until we are scheduling delivery of the artwork, when I'll know what my then-current rates are, and once I've learned more about your specific project, seen your reference photos, etc. It takes hours and hours of time for me to deliver quality work, so it can be costly to commission a piece of artwork.
It is more time-consuming (and therefore more costly) to depict subjects who are directly facing the camera, compared to at an angle or facing away, to combine parts of different images, to add pets to house portraits, to depict lots of windows, etc. More background detail can take additional time (and usually materials), so it can involve more cost, as well.
Additional costs may also include sales tax, shipping, etc., as applicable.
Do you have any products at a lower price point?
Yes! You can order prints, cards, and more through my shop website for pickup from my home near Lincoln Park (Washington, DC). These and other prints and swag featuring some of my artwork are also for sale through Fine Art America. These make great gifts, too! I intend to add to the selection over time as I make more art of local establishments.
As an alternative to my custom art commissions, sometimes I announce a pay-what-you-can option, where I accept submissions of photos that I can reference to make a piece of art that you can then elect to purchase at a price you decide is fair and affordable. Unlike a commission, those who submit photos within the pay-what-you-can structure do not get to request or determine the size or medium, nor do I give any guarantee of turnaround timing, and on rare occasions, I may politely decline to create artwork from your photo if I determine I am unable to work from the photo, for any reason.
How do I pay?
As we make plans for your commission, I will put together a client agreement that lays out the specs for the project (size, medium, what to include/omit, etc.). Then, I will begin work on your piece after we both sign the agreement and you make an up-front deposit of 50% of the total cost of the completed artwork, including sales tax (if applicable). Due to the custom nature of the work, all sales are final.
I use an invoicing system to bill for commissions, through which you can pay by credit card. If an alternate means of payment is needed, please let me know, and I'll let you know if I can accommodate. You can purchase fine art prints, cards, ornaments, kitchen towels, etc. from my studio shop with credit card. If you prefer another payment method, let me know, and I will let you know if I can accommodate.
Is there a shipping charge?
Local clients typically pick up their finished artwork from my studio, which is near Lincoln Park (on Capitol Hill, DC). For orders outside the neighborhood, we can discuss your shipping needs (depending on how quickly you need to receive the piece, etc.) and the associated additional cost.
Do you offer gift cards or gift certificates?
Yes! A gift certificate is a great way to celebrate a birthday, Valentine's Day, Mother's Day or Father's Day, anniversary, the winter holidays, or a new home purchase. They also makes a meaningful baby shower gift for expecting parents, a way to celebrate the arrival of a new baby, way to honor a beloved former home for someone moving, or lots of other occasions.
You can purchase gift cards through my shop website, or if you want something a little more specific, contact me to make arrangements. In the past, clients have ordered gift certificates for pieces they are commissioning (calling the shots on medium, sizing, reference photos, etc.), as well as to enable their loved one to commission the piece.
You can also purchase gift cards for my studio shop, so the recipient can select prints, cards, etc. of their choice.
The Subject Matter / Selecting a Photo
What photos work best?
For portraits of human subjects, my style works best if your photo captures a special moment between the subjects (typically 2-3 people, but more can be included if desired), where the subject(s) are engaged in something, and the photo is shot from the side or profile. I don’t recommend a formal (or even informal) camera-facing portrait where subjects are smiling at the camera. If your photo of a very special moment isn't the best quality, still send it to me, because using fine art techniques is a way to turn mediocre snapshots into meaningful, display-worthy art! If you are having trouble deciding between images, you can send me a few, and I can give you my thoughts on which would work best.
For house/building portraits, it's important to pay attention to lighting, angle of the shot, whether there are distracting elements blocking the way (a tree, for example), etc. It can help to take photos from across the street, as well as from the front walk. I often prefer to take my own photos of the home or building I'm depicting (when local) so that I can get the visual information I need.
Can I submit a photo taken by someone else?
Only if you have rights to this image. When you submit your photo(s), you are indicating to Erin Malick Thompson (and Erin Thompson Studio) that you either own the image or have permission from the copyright holder or other owner to reproduce the image and for me to display the derivative artwork as I see fit for my own marketing purposes (for example, on my website, on social media, in print form at art shows, etc.). By submitting an order, you also agree that the reproduction of the image will not violate the rights of any other person. In submitting your order, you agree to indemnify Erin Malick Thompson (and Erin Thompson Studio) and defend and hold Erin Malick Thompson (and Erin Thompson Studio) harmless from all actions, liabilities, damages, losses, and expenses, including, but not limited to, attorney’s fees and costs, arising out of or relating to possession or reproduction of the image and any breach of your representations of the photo.
Do you ever include backgrounds?
In my portraits of human subjects, I typically prefer not to include too much background detail, because my specialty is focusing on the connection between the people in the artwork, rather than on the landscape/surroundings, which can detract from the featured moment. However, certain situations call for background detail, and I'm happy to discuss your vision!
Will the finished piece look just like me/us (or just like our house or special building)?
When I create a piece of art, I focus on capturing the moment and essence, rather than a photo likeness. However, some medium/styles lend themselves to more of a likeness, so depending on your vision for the finished piece, you can select a medium accordingly (and we can discuss this).
Similarly, when I create a house portrait, it will not be a photo likeness nor an architectural rendering, but rather will be an artistic rendering in my personal style. The only time I use a ruler is to determine the outer dimensions of the artwork (I do not use a ruler to measure or draw lines in my artwork), so there will be a handmade feel to my lines (as they are entirely done by hand and eye).
Receiving the Finished Art
How long will it take to receive my finished artwork?
I take my time with each piece of art to ensure the finished piece will capture the moment meaningfully for you. At any given time, I have a lengthy docket of commissions waiting to be done, so turnaround time is not immediate. As of Fall 2022, there are more than 50 people on my waitlist, which I will be working through on a first-come, first-served basis, and it is conceivable it will take months to more than a year to get to your name, so sign up today to start the clock sooner than later! Of course, this forecast is subject to change based on demand and my capacity. Different media take different amounts of time, so if you are flexible on medium (other than pen/watercolor), it may be possible for me to deliver sooner.
Upon completion of your order, I will be in touch to plan for pickup/shipping. The remaining balance is due before pickup/shipment. Upon receipt of your final payment, I will make your artwork available for pickup and/or ship it to you.
Can I get my artwork more quickly?
Possibly! If you have an especially urgent need, contact me so we can discuss rush options, if they are available at that time.
If I buy or commission a custom portrait, will I hold the rights to that image?
Erin Malick Thompson (and Erin Thompson Studio) reserves all rights of reproduction and all copyrights in the artwork I create (including the preliminary design and any incidental works made in the creation of the final artwork), prior to and following completion of the sale. Reproduction of the artwork without the written consent of Erin Malick Thompson (and Erin Thompson Studio) shall be prohibited. This is standard practice in the art world. This means Erin Thompson / Erin Thompson Studio may produce and sell prints or products from the artwork (and from any incidental or derivative works I create) in any form and may display it in my portfolio, at art shows, on social media, etc. If you have personal concerns about this, due to the nature of your artwork's subject matter or for any other reason, please talk to me about it so we can work something out.
May I post a photo of the finished artwork on social media?
Yes! I love to see photos of my artwork once it's been matted/framed, or in the recipient's hands! Just please be sure to tag me (I'm @ErinThompsonStudio on Instagram and on Facebook).