The Genesis… I Never Knew I Could Commission Art

In September last year (2014), I made a solo trip to a remote Indonesia island - to a rustic beach resort I frequently visit when I sought a place of solace, the ability to focus, and inspiration away from the chaos that surrounds me back home in the city.

After my first tech startup was acquired, and after having worked with the acquiring company for a year, I was ready to work on something new.

I went to the island resort with seven startup ideas, and the intention to think deeply; and pick one to focus on.

When I arrived, the resort owner whom I had come to know well from past visits, introduced me to a couple he had just hired. The wife was the guest relations manager on the resort, and the husband was the resort’s artist in residence. He was primarily responsible for teaching Art to the students from the Singapore American School who would visit the resort regularly as part of their holiday program.

They welcomed me to their residence on the resort which doubled as his art studio; and there I saw works of art in progress. He showed me a piece he was then focusing on — a watercolour painting of a tropical bird perched on a branch. On his mobile phone, he showed me photos of the painting; and demonstrated how, with the camera and several apps, he worked on creating the final art piece of the resort owners who had commissioned him to paint an original piece for the resort; and to create prints for the rooms on the resort.

Before that day, I would hesitate to ask an artist how much it would cost to create a commissioned piece. Finding an artist that I liked was challenging enough. I was not brought up to think of commissioning a piece of art for myself, or for anyone for that matter.

I had been in galleries — those posh places where you try not to look at the price tag. And I had attended art fairs. But without a bank named after me, or any royal blood in my veins; without ultra-rich parents or an astronomical salary — what would someone like me, have to do talking to an artist about commissioning an art piece. After all, isn’t the art world all about inaccessible artists and ideas, and price tags in the hundreds of thousands, if not millions?

But there was something about the situation that day. The artist in his t-shirt, shorts and flip flops; and I was barefooted on the wooden floor of the resort. I asked him what I never thought I’d ask any artist in my life — “How much will it cost to commission a piece?”

His answer surprised me. “oh, just about 500 dollars”.

That’s where it dawned on me. Anyone can commission a piece of art. And there are talented artists all over the world, who would gladly create for their clients an artwork that’s both beautiful and meaningful to the owner and beholder.

And it struck me even more to realise that today — with the Internet connecting every single one of us on earth; and with powerful smartphones in every pocket, artists and buyers can now communicate through rich, fast applications that allow for the easy sharing of ideas, pictures and visuals.

On that very day, barely 3 hours after landing on the island resort, the idea for The Commissioned was born.