There are several things you should consider before hiring an artist . I am a painter and a sculptor and so I am going to be talking specifically about those disciplines and mediums however most of the advice I am giving can be applied to all types of art.
I feel that the most important thing to remember is to have a clear idea of the project you want to have created with out limiting the artistic scope of the work to the point that the artist does not have any artistic freedom. After all , you are hiring a person who is knowledgeable in their chosen profession and part of what you are paying for is their expertise and advice, so give them a range with which to work from with out too many artistic restrictions.
Having said that the artist that you want to consider should have a portfolio of work that they can present to you that represents the style of artistic expression that they are known for. The artist should be able to supply you with several good references from past projects. If their artistic style is one that you appreciate then you can move forward. I always give my clients a list of the most recent major works that I have completed along with reference names and contact information, and the location of the installed sculpture so that they can go by and see my work.
You will want to give the artist an idea of the scope of the project. I often work with architects as well as individuals and the first thing I want to know is size, site and subject. Once I have that information I can give a client a “ball park” idea of costs involved and make sure that we are on the same page as far as their budget goes. I can often tailor materials and execution to suit the clients’ budget and most professional artists should be able to do the same.
Once the artist has gotten an idea of what you are looking for they should be able at this point to create a sketch for you so that you can critique the design. If this is going to be shown to a committee then a maquette ( small scaled sculpture) is also a good idea to ask the artist to make for you, since two dimensional sketches do not accurately represent how a three dimensional work of art will look.
The Maquette can be useful in several ways. . It is at this phase that you want to make any design changes because it is much harder, expensive and time consuming to make changes to the large scale sculpture later. It is also useful in making demonstrations to board committees. Also, I have found that it can make it easier for a client who is still in the fund raising phase to demonstrate what they are trying to accomplish. I have done several large public sculptural installations where having the maquette on display during the entire process was a great way to get the public excited and involved. The maquette can also be cast in bronze and copies sold or given to large donors as gifts. I donated a small copy of the seven foot “Battle Cross”, that I created for the Veterans Memorial Park in Tampa, Florida and it was auctioned off and raised four thousand dollars that went to benefit the Wounded Warriors Program.
After approval of the initial design the artist should be able to give you a time line and firm budget. These terms should be submitted in writing and on the artists’ letter head. The time line is a guide line that can sometimes be subjected to change depending on the clients availability for appointments and also if there is more then one decision maker involved, for instance a board or public committee.
The artist should make arrangements for the decision makers to meet at the artists ‘studio several times during the production phase for approval. I usually meet with the client once the wax clay “original” is ready for showing. At this point the client can minor design changes. If some changes are requested then I will meet with the client once again after the changes have been made for approval. After this the foundry will take the clay original and make a mold in silicon and plaster and from this the bronze will be cast. In my case I am not only the artist but also the foundry owner so everything is done “in house” which means that I have control of all phases of production which I find is very important because I can guarantee a higher level of quality and generally at a lower cost to the client since there is no “middle man.” I don’t meet with the client again until the sculpture is cast into bronze and before the patina is applied. I do however stay in touch with the client and keep them up to date at each stage of the foundry process so that they are aware of how the project is coming along.
Payment to the artist is usually made in several stages. I require a deposit upfront to cover my time while making the clay original. Before the sculpture goes to the foundry another deposit is collected to cover the cost of the bronze casting. A last payment is required when the sculpture is picked up or installed on site. This is listed and spelled out in the original agreement and regular invoices are sent to the client at each phase. Make sure that any artist you hire provides all this information in writing before the project begins to prevent any misunderstandings.
I hope this gives you an idea of how to go about finding the right artist for your project. I find that every project is different and unique so if you have any questions and would like some answers feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.