Contract for partnering with another artist

Jan Heigh is soliciting advice for this question.

I am an abstract acrylic/mixed media artist and generally work no larger than 30×40". I've met a woman who does realistic wall murals. She has a good web site and does the work in her studio on canvas, rolls it up and mails to the client. She would like to have someone available to do abstract murals. It will be challenge for me to work so much larger but I'm excited about giving it a try!

Details have not been worked out yet but I need information about what things to be aware of before I sign a contract. Here are some things I know.

1. The muralist would charge me a small monthly fee to have my images on her web site.

2. She said to price my work for her as I like and she will add her commission on top of my price. I don't want to over or under price my work. What is the usual commission in these circumstances? She said to base it on what I need to make per hour plus materials.  Materials for a large mural would be a large factor to consider too. She usually ends up charging clients $30 to $50 a square foot.

3. So we need to come to an agreement on her commission and sign a contract that is beneficial for both of us. She would hire me as a sub-contractor per job.

Jan, regular readers and subscribers know that I don't like the idea of her "marking up" your artwork. That means she can get any price she likes and give you only what you requested. What if she marks them up 100%? I doubt this seems possible at this point, but I strongly dislike you giving control over your pricing to anyone. I'd rather you give her a list of your prices with the commission listed on it.

I also dislike that she is charging you for Web site space AND her commission. So, I would offer a very small commission. What that is, I'm not sure. Perhaps others have an idea. The smallest commission I've heard of (from art consultants or interior designers or even nonprofit spaces) is about 20%. But none of those charge the artists for anything else (like Web site or gallery space). Perhaps a good model would be a vanity gallery or co-op gallery–where there is a space rental fee or monthly dues in addition to a commission.

After having reread that last paragraph, I would negotiate a "No Web site fee" in your contract and a set commission fee. This would be more of an incentive for her to sell your work.

Can anyone else please help Jan out?

Image (c) Jan Heigh, Ampersand.

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12 thoughts on “Contract for partnering with another artist”

  1. I agree wholeheartedly that the contract should be focused on the “No website fee” in conjunction with a reasonable minimal commission fee of 20%. Also, allowing someelse to have control over your pricing can be a financial hazard. For research reading, check out this book, “Legal Guide for the Visual Artist” by Tad Crawford; chapters 10 & 11.

  2. Yes…I agree as well with what Alyson suggested…Here it is about 25% commission to interior designers or anyone else who helps to sell your work without the bricks & mortar of a gallery…That is the generous percentage…20% is also acceptable, though it is considered the cheap end of things…If the prospect is good & the clients are yummy, you could offer 25% commission with no additional website fees & you get to set the final price list…Or try for the 20% percentage with the same no additional fees & control over pricing…It is always good to get an idea of what exactly the other person was imagining as a commission, before making any real offers…I would ask that exact question first before stating any numbers…” How much were you thinking of adding as a commission ?” kind of thing…(also, if this artist happens to be amazing & has great connections, you might consider swallowing certain little details if it looks like a career maker- but that’s just me…)

  3. Jan, I would agree with Mary Richmond’s idea. If she is referring you and then you take the ball from there, at most she should receive a referral fee such as Mary describes. If you have a website (and if you don’t, this is the perfect motivation to get one!) then she could add your link and you could add hers so that should not generate a fee. Make sure to add a tag line to your name and link (brief dscriptive phrase about your work). NetworkSolutions is also a great build-it-yourself website package that I use- compares favorably with godaddy. If the people she refers toyou hire you on your own efforts and merit, then 10-15% of what you make seems quite generous!(don’t forget to figure any travel time or need for extra ladders, etc. into your pricing) good luck!

  4. What if you worked out an agreement on referrals instead of as a partner? I work with designers and architects a lot (as a tile muralist and designer) and have an agreement with all that if they refer me to a client (including another designer, etc.) that works out I pay them a commission for the referral. Depending on the size and importance of the job I then pay them 10-15% when the job is completed. By doing this much of my marketing is done through these other people and all of us benefit. I have my own website (they are easy to do yourself and maintain through many places such as or and am not tied to working with one person. This artist sounds as if she will be making money off the second artist as part of her “stable” and that she has figured out another way to add to her income stream. I agree with Alyson that letting her price the work gives her way too much leeway. As artists we all deserve to be paid fairly for our work and I think it probably behooves us to remain as independent as we can. If the writer is careful and honest they should be able to work out a simple referral agreement and save themselves a lot of time, money and potential heartbreak, at least from where I stand.

  5. Just a note–when I say referral, I mean the designer, architect, etc. gives me the contact info for a job they are working on and I do all the rest of the work. They do not act as an intermediary although often they do confirm that they referred me which often clinches the job. They do not act as an agent in any other way, hence the low commission. Some refuse the commission in which case I buy them a generous gift certificate to a nice restaurant.

  6. Thanks to everyone for their advice and ideas. It gives me more things to think about. We’ll have a meeting on Friday and I’ll learn more, I’m sure. One other thing she mentioned was adding page to her web site with herself and three other artists. Her web master said it would cost $400 and we would each pay $100 for our share. Time to get serious about my own web site! Thanks again, Jan

  7. Sarah Adams -- AV Framing Gallery

    Jan, As a gallery owner who takes a commission on all works sold, this sounds a bit suspect to me too. In addition to the rest of the great advice you’ve received, I would add to have a discussion of just how much work this artist will do to get you work. In my case, it’s my job to get my artists sales, and a lot of work goes into that…making and massaging contacts, meetings, walk-thrus, schlepping art, accepting the various forms of payment, insuring during my possession, among others. THAT is what affords me a commission. The artist responsibility is nil. They certainly don’t pay for space on my website. Which reminds me, if you are not already aware, is an artist-only web hosting solution that is very good. I use it, easily update it (on Mac even) and it costs me $15/mo. Well worth looking into, if for no other reason than their gorgeous templates. (Full disclosure, a referral gets me a free month, if I should be made aware of it)

  8. Jan Looks like you came to the right place with your question. Alyson’s readers are always so willing to share advice! Here is my two cents: I agree that the arrangement Mary Richmond speaks of, is a good idea, to simply pay a 10 or 15% referral fee to someone who might find you the work and then you take it from there. I first heard of that idea in Rebecca Pittman’s book, “How To Start a Faux Painting or Mural Business” (Allworth Press, New York — I checked for you; you can get on for $13.57) Another website you can check out is They have plans from $8 to $40 with a free 60-day trial. I just began to set up my own site there. I’m still in the process (haven’t yet uploaded all my images.) and I love how it’s so very easy to do it yourself! You don’t get a totally unique site like you would with your own web designer, but it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg either! You do use templates, but there are several selections from which to choose, and the best part is, with fineartstudioonline, you can have the URL to be instead of a long string of words like with some other template sites! Up till now, I’d had artwork on other template sites like and absolute arts, as well as blogging ( but I have never been able to tell someone to just type in my name and add <.com> to the end! Good luck with it!

  9. um…I went to look up how to do a mural…you know, cloth, glue, how to hang, that kind of thing…it is really really hard…& really really complicated…they use special kinds of muslin, wallpaper glue, cheesecloth, hire people to help hang the mural…it is a career…I think I put the cart before the horse…Maybe you should try painting and hanging a mural first…see if you like it, & if you can do it…it looks like fun…but you could take a course in this…really…(maybe the lady who already does this is willing to show you the ins & outs…?)could be a great business though…

  10. Hi Sari; Yes, I agree it is a whole new thing to learn which makes it an exciting idea for me. The muralist will help me get started and I’ll probably do a sample mural first to see if I can even do it! I know when it’s time to hang it a professional paper hanger should do the work especially if it’s a large piece. I also thought I might cut it up and stretch on canvas stretchers–in case I didn’t like the large piece. Thanks for responding, Jan

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