It is some how assumed that as an artist when someone says will you do X for me the answer will always be why yes of course. For me this is NOT the case.
I don't often take commissions. The reasons are varied and subjective but mostly it's because I have had REALLY bad experiences with doing so. I learned this at an early age. In highschool I was asked to do a portrait of someone's dog and I did it with the expectation I would get paid. When I had completed the drawing which was pretty good I asked her for money and was flatly told "no thanks I don't want this any more." I felt as though I had been slapped in the face. Now I had this drawing of a dog...yay me. I think my mum kept it for a while because she really liked it.
What I took away from this was that people are asshats. They want free work and treat you like crap when you ask to be paid for the work you did. I have since learned this is not always the case but I now divide my art world into two very distinct parts. The art I do and give away because I don't expect to be paid for it, don't need or want to be paid for it or its part of the SCA and payment is not ever an option. (2) The art I do on rare occasions where I DO expect money.
Number 2 doesn't happen often because I'm not a sale's person. I don't have a clue how to sell my own work anyway and it makes me very uncomfortable to do so. I just like to make stuff.
I turn down commissions a lot because I just *know* they will all end in tears. The list of I wants usually turns into but that's not what I wanted. It's a frustrating process because no matter how hard I try I cannot read people's minds and my vision and execution of an idea will always be different from theirs no matter what. The headache and hassle and loss of friendships that sometimes ensues the taking of a commission has made me just never want to deal with it so I don't. I say no, thank you for thinking of me but no.
If I make art that someone likes and wants to buy that is a vastly different kettle of fish. Sure I will happily sell you this pre-existing painting. And if someone asks me to do them a painting and are not specific about it that's also great. But it's when the list of must haves are greater than days in the year that I get nervous.The problem with such things is invariably the recipient is never truly happy. I endeavour to please and feel as though I have failed when that doesn't happen. So this is a set up to lose situation for me and I'd just rather not.
It's nothing personal. Me saying no doesn't mean I hate you and we are not friends or what ever. It is an valid answer to a question/ query/ request. I hope that people will accept it, respect it and move on to find someone who can fulfill their art desires.
It is important to understand that people have the right to refuse anything. It took me a long time but I learned to say no and it feels great.