I recently finished this painting of St. Adalbert Basilica which is a beautiful church, situated in a historical working class neighborhood on the West-side of Grand Rapids. It was painted for a couple who worship there. I created several different drawings of the church from various views and different times of day. They chose the composition they liked the most, and I made the painting based on that drawing.
Creating a painting for someone is a different experience from painting purely for yourself. It causes you to listen - and try to create for them, a piece they will love. They have to believe in your ability to produce - and you have to trust that you will be able to deliver the goods. I choose to see it as art blooming in the midst of a relationship. Making art in this context becomes a sort of dance between the artist's and the client's personal vision. Hopefully the client has come to the artist because they have fallen in love with their work and want to enter into a deeper relationship with the artist.
I remind my self that some of the most-loved paintings in the history of Western art were done through a commissioned partnership, incredible paintings like Velasquez's Las Meninas for instance.
There is the notion that art is more pure, when the artist is simply creating for himself - without any outside pressures to please. Perhaps it depends on the artist, and their ability to create something beautiful and courageous - possibly stretching the client they are working for. I have always loved the story of how Picasso finally finished his early portrait of Gertrud Stein after countless sittings and changes - only to have her remark that "it doesn't look like me" to which Picasso replied, "it will".