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.

Always On The Go…

Ponderings

I’ve been really busy recently, working part time in a job which is fun, plus I’m doing a lot of illustrations in my free time. No surprises there. Working on a new series of images at the moment, it’s all very hush hush but I’m planning on putting a whole heck of a lot of effort into this, the plan is to seriously market these images on calenders, notepads, coasters that kind of thing and see what happens. Fingers definitely crossed.

I’ve also been given a commission to do which has me head over heels with happy if everything goes ahead without a hitch. Although I have learned by now not to count my chickens before they hatch, the best laid plans have an alarming tendency to go horribly wrong at every turn so, I’m not holding my breath on the commission until money has changed hands and I’m definitely hired. Everything up to that point is just idle promises really isn’t it, no matter how friendly they sound. I’m really hoping I’m not going to be let down, really hoping.

If you’ve got any tips, tricks, feedback or leads I can follow for illustration opportunities then please let me know, I’m trying out every angle I can attempt. I’ve got the dream and I believe I’ve got the drive, so hopefully the combination will mean that my ultimate goal of working five or six days a week designing illustrations for people will be achieved in the not too distant future.

Watch this space, as they say.

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.