And Another Thing…!

Rants

I’m keeping an eye out for work opportunities once again and once again I’m in awe of the lunacy of people out there. Why do people think it’s perfectly acceptable to be ridiculously demanding in their requirements – such as saying the excellence of work they require, what they want submitting artists to do, how they want them to do it etc. Whilst at the same time saying things like “there’s no upfront payment but if this book does well we’ll all make some money”.

Seriously, people, this is your book, not mine. If you want to see your work in print then work for free, it’s your prerogative, but don’t expect talented creatives to bend over backwards creating illustrations for you – for nothing! I mean come on, in this instance particularly, they’re writing a children’s book. D’you know what’s one of the most important parts of a children’s book? The pictures!! Wise up my friends, if you want a fantastic book and you don’t happen to be friends with or related to an illustrator who’s willing to do you a favour then face facts, you’re going to need to put a little of your own money into this venture. Yes, if your book bombs then you’re going to be out of pocket, but that’s the risk everyone takes when they’re trying to start their own business in this world, you can’t just go around with your hand out saying “pweeese can oo do this, and this, and this, and this, and this… for fweeeee!”

Then there’s the people with their projects and worthy causes, the project type of person is the guy (or girl – let’s not be sexist here) who says “Oh I love graphic novels and I’ve got an idea for one so how about someone illustrates it for me…just for fun.” or “I’m running a fund raiser for one legged orphaned chickens and I want some free illustrations.”

First off, illustrate an entire graphic novel…for fun? I’m not saying it wouldn’t be a little bit fun, drawing is fun, I wouldn’t do it otherwise. But to slog away, hour after hour, day after day – because make no mistake, illustrating an ENTIRE graphic novel isn’t going to take a couple of minutes here – to slog away at it in the sure and certain knowledge that you’re just doing it for schitz and giggles is going to impact on your work. Your first panel will be a Leonardo (and by that I mean the artist) but by the time you’re on the fourth or fifth panel it’ll start looking more like a Michaelangelo (and by that I mean the turtle).

Playing devil’s advocate here I can say all right, I s’pose what else are these guys (or girls) going to do? They’ve got a burning desire to see their script all fleshed out and they’re hoping there’s someone out there willing to work for free – and maybe there is, there’s no harm in asking.

Or is there?

Where does one draw the line between it being ok to get work for free if you’re a down on your luck student with a dream but not ok to get work for free if you’re a down on your luck small business with a dream, or a tight fisted corporation with a scheme. Where do you say hold on a minute, I’m working my tuchis off, for you, for free, for what?

THEN of course they sometimes come out with the whole, oh it’s an excellent addition to your portfolio, or, you’ll get your name out there and fame will rain down upon thee, or, there might be more work available in the future and next time we’ll pay you!

Ah yes, the old “jam tomorrow” argument. This isn’t Alice Through The Looking Glass, this is real life. So let’s sit down and work out what your budget is and what kind of art work you can reasonably get for the amount of investment you’re able to provide. I’m not heartless, I understand sometimes people are working on a shoe string budget and I’m always trying to do my best to help out the little guy, but I’m not a total schmuck who’s going to put my heart and soul into doing a ton of free work for someone, no matter how important their mission is to them.

And sod the one legged orphaned chickens!

What Makes Us So Special?

Rants

As a starving artist, I’m frequently to be found wandering the internet highways looking for work. Like the worldly wise tramp in the song “King of The Road”, after a while you get to know your way around and where to look for potential tit bits and scraps. So, I was at one of these proverbial soup kitchens the other morning and I was looking at the variety of freelance work they had available. Not just for illustrators either, but for pretty much every trade and professional you could care to mention. They had adverts for writers, escorts, programmers and adult movie stars, they had the lot. As I surveyed these dozens of job categories I was suddenly struck by a slight difference in the sections, the illustration section was the only one that was peppered with little symbols that signified competitions were available.

Yes, this site has recently introduced a new “exciting” concept, the competition! Not content with seeing people scrum to be the lowest priced creative talent on the market, now they want people to actually work for free. They don’t just say “work for free” though, no that would be too obvious, illustrators are too smart for that, no, instead they say “ooh, who can work for free the fastest?” to quote Tim Minchin “What, are we f***ing two!?”

Even this guy wouldn’t fall for it.

Seriously, illustrators, can’t you see what they’re doing? You’re working, for FREE! Just because they’re calling it a competition doesn’t change the fact you’re working for FREE, on the promise that maybe, just maybe, your work will get chosen by the client, thereby making you the winner and allowing you to get paid for your work (minus a cut for the site of course…)

The reality is, chances are you won’t get picked. In the mad free for all scrum of desperation, chances are someone else is going to get picked, or the client will go away from his computer and completely forget he even set up a competition in the first place. Whatever. End of the day, you’re left with a piece of work no body wants and you’re not one penny richer.

But you know the think that ired me, and prompted this rant in the first place? It’s the fact that the little “competition” symbols are all over the illustration sections, advertising, design, painting, caricature, cartoon, logo – they’re all at it. However the other sections on the site, the writing sections, the computer programming sections, hell, even the adult film star sections. They don’t have competitions, they don’t haveĀ “Who can write the most gripping novel? Winner gets paid.” and they don’t haveĀ  “Who has the most novel grip? Winner gets paid.”

I reckon she’d win…

Why are we so special, do the rest of the creative community took down on the illustrator section and just laugh? Are we, as a group, so gods damn moronic that we can fall for the painfully obvious “Let’s see who can sell themselves out the fastest!” infant school rubbish?

Yes. Yes it would seem that we are.

What a load of horse poop.

The Goldilocks Zone – Is it out there?

Rants

Trawling from freelance site to freelance site looking for illustration commissions puts me in mind of the film “Tootsie” oddly enough, Dustin Hoffman’s character, Michael Dorsey, is schlepping from audition to audition trying to find work as an actor in New York. Every time they tell him he’s too old, he’s too young, too tall, too short…or just not right in some way. He quite rightly points out that he’s an actor, he can change himself to suit their needs but, they don’t care.

It’s a lot like that as an illustrator, but I guess it’s a creative industry standard. You’re doing way more legwork than you ever get back in terms of actual work, you’re swimming upstream with thousands of other equally talented artistic salmon and there’s a tiny handful of jobs out there. This of course leads to one of my personal bug bears, the dutch auction website.

For those of you who perhaps have been blissfully unaware of a dutch auction, or websites containing them, I shall briefly explain. Imagine if you will, an auction, although instead of the price rising in increments with the highest bidder succeeding, in a dutch auction, the price goes down and it’s usually the lowest bidder who wins. This is unbelievable douche baggery of the worst kind, instead of buying something, as you would do in a regular auction, all the creatives bidding on these sites are selling something – namely, themselves. And ridiculously cheaply. I have seen shocking bids, absolutely shocking. Say for example a client has gone on to one of these websites and posted up a job looking for an illustrator, say he wants 100 images and he says his budget maximum is going to be fifty bucks or pounds. Yeah, that’d be 0.50 cents or pence per image, doesn’t that just make you want to vomit? That’s how it makes me feel, and then to basically see the squiggling mass of desperate, desperate illustrators clawing over each other to debase themselves for this tight fisted nobodies amusement. I’ll do it for 25p, I’ll do it for nothing, I’ll pay you to let me do it!! Alright, the last two never happen, but that’s probably only because the websites don’t have that function.

It’s just not fair and it’s not right, and whilst I’m not guilty of ever doing it to that extent, I do more often than not, grossly undersell myself, and it kills me. I can’t stand seeing a piece of art with a mind bogglingly over blown price tag, particularly if it’s rubbish – (everyone’s a critic right?) But still, there’s got to be a line somewhere between underselling yourself, overselling yourself and just right. I need to find the Goldilocks band somewhere in all this madness. That sweet spot where dignity and self worth can sit in harmony with customer satisfaction and value for money.

I doubt I’m the only artist out there who’s plagued with feelings of angst over how much one should charge or accept in payment for your work. It’s art after all, it may have taken you hours or days, you may have put your heart and soul into it, how can you accurately put a price on that?

It’s tricky, very, very tricky. Client’s ought to know this, they ought to know that whilst they’re well within their rights to turn down massively over priced art where the artist has clearly priced it with their heart rather than their head, but at the same time, surely they’ve got to think “Here I am, offering someone ten dollars for a couple of days work, that seems fair…wait, maybe…just maybe it’s not fair…maybe it’s actually tantamount to slavery? Who can tell?!”

Meh, that’s just something that bugs me is all. There it is.