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Thread: Commission And Be Damned

  1. #1
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    Default Commission And Be Damned

    Lots of comic book artists take private commissions for work, often using trademarked characters they've worked on, often charging hundreds, even thousands of dollars. It can pay better than a publisher page rate, and the more?*successful?*you are as a comic artist, the more you can charge.

    But over the last few years, there seems to have been an increase in the amount of commissions that just aren't being delivered, or delayed for years. Artists take on more than their schedule allows, their regular work takes precedence, and those who have paid upfront are left hanging. Some customers seem unwilling to talk openly, afraid it will affect the quality of the work, or its eventual arrival. But sometimes it spills out publicly.

    Take the comic art message board is a comic statue forum. Where the artist Jason Craig, known for his?*work?*on Wildstorm and Dynamite comics, currently artist on Evil Ernie, posted his appeal, this time last year. It all went wrong, for him and for his commissioners, and a year later no one seems to have received a completed piece, though we've seen an unfinished Zatanana piece aboce, with Craig citing sick relatives, his own sickness, raising five kids, house troubles, money being stolen from him, splitting up with his partner but keeping her debt, losing his house, living in a lot, and losing his Paypal and bank account.

    Which doesn't of course change the fact that he accepted money for services he has been unable to deliver.

    But he's not alone here, although the reasons he cites seem to be rather extreme in comparison. There are more and more artists it seems, who are willing to take on commissions on top of their scheduled work without fully thinking through how they can fit it all in... or sometimes just not even caring. I've covered a number in the past but I'm starting to encounter more and more.

    And with Christmas coming up and people trying to plan that special gift, be warned, it's just possible you might not even get it for next Christmas...

  2. #2
    Zen Master of Cool Adam's Avatar
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    I've got perspective on this issue from both sides.

    From the commissioner's POV, I want to say that while EVIL ERNIE's artist may indeed be in as deep as he says he is, it's worth noting that when you ask artists where the hell your artwork is after however long you've waited, the excuses are often this dramatic in nature.

    Indeed, having worked as a salesman and spent some time with the girls over in our telemarketing section who talked to my customers, only the employee or intern of a politician can tell you better than I that an amazing percentage of the world is willing to lie its head off to you. Dishonest people are not rare; when there are decent stakes involved, they are easily the majority.

    But having said that, I will also be honest and say this has happened to me, as a writer. The first commission I accepted took way, way longer to finish it than it should have - and what I learned from the experience, after giving myself the sharp rebuke I deserved (since the guy didn't; he was a gem about it when he should've been threatening to kick down my door), is that it's a mental problem. In practice, it feels very much like writer's block, and who knows, perhaps it's exactly the same.

    The general problem for us creatives is that many of us are unprofessional, in the most neutral sense of the word; we are artists used to being excited/enjoying whatever we're doing. When other people tell us to do stuff that we don't find personally interesting, our drive is suddenly extinguished. Just going through the motions - and doing a good job going through the motions - is revealed to be very hard to do. But of course, that's what separates the men from the boys, the women from the girls, and the big furry things from Alpha Centauri from the little furry things on Alpha Centauri. You gotta learn to get around it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Adam View Post
    I've got perspective on this issue from both sides.

    From the commissioner's POV, I want to say that while EVIL ERNIE's artist may indeed be in as deep as he says he is, it's worth noting that when you ask artists where the hell your artwork is after however long you've waited, the excuses are often this dramatic in nature.

    Indeed, having worked as a salesman and spent some time with the girls over in our telemarketing section who talked to my customers, only the employee or intern of a politician can tell you better than I that an amazing percentage of the world is willing to lie its head off to you. Dishonest people are not rare; when there are decent stakes involved, they are easily the majority.

    But having said that, I will also be honest and say this has happened to me, as a writer. The first commission I accepted took way, way longer to finish it than it should have - and what I learned from the experience, after giving myself the sharp rebuke I deserved (since the guy didn't; he was a gem about it when he should've been threatening to kick down my door), is that it's a mental problem. In practice, it feels very much like writer's block, and who knows, perhaps it's exactly the same.

    The general problem for us creatives is that many of us are unprofessional, in the most neutral sense of the word; we are artists used to being excited/enjoying whatever we're doing. When other people tell us to do stuff that we don't find personally interesting, our drive is suddenly extinguished. Just going through the motions - and doing a good job going through the motions - is revealed to be very hard to do. But of course, that's what separates the men from the boys, the women from the girls, and the big furry things from Alpha Centauri from the little furry things on Alpha Centauri. You gotta learn to get around it.
    As a professional writer this is beyond true. Well said.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Adam View Post
    I've got perspective on this issue from both sides.

    From the commissioner's POV, I want to say that while EVIL ERNIE's artist may indeed be in as deep as he says he is, it's worth noting that when you ask artists where the hell your artwork is after however long you've waited, the excuses are often this dramatic in nature.

    Indeed, having worked as a salesman and spent some time with the girls over in our telemarketing section who talked to my customers, only the employee or intern of a politician can tell you better than I that an amazing percentage of the world is willing to lie its head off to you. Dishonest people are not rare; when there are decent stakes involved, they are easily the majority.

    But having said that, I will also be honest and say this has happened to me, as a writer. The first commission I accepted took way, way longer to finish it than it should have - and what I learned from the experience, after giving myself the sharp rebuke I deserved (since the guy didn't; he was a gem about it when he should've been threatening to kick down my door), is that it's a mental problem. In practice, it feels very much like writer's block, and who knows, perhaps it's exactly the same.

    The general problem for us creatives is that many of us are unprofessional, in the most neutral sense of the word; we are artists used to being excited/enjoying whatever we're doing. When other people tell us to do stuff that we don't find personally interesting, our drive is suddenly extinguished. Just going through the motions - and doing a good job going through the motions - is revealed to be very hard to do. But of course, that's what separates the men from the boys, the women from the girls, and the big furry things from Alpha Centauri from the little furry things on Alpha Centauri. You gotta learn to get around it.
    That's kinda lame though...lots of people don't feel passion about their jobs and still manage to do them...you don't think I want to tell my clients to STFU or not do that horrible report?

    The problem is that artists don't think like businesspeople (or aren't capable of that). And there is very little to no consequences. What am I going to do if artist X has my $350 in cash and leaves the con with my email address because he couldn't finish my piece? or my 45 days of paypal coverage have long since passed because the earliest for any commission is 8 weeks via a web order?

    You have to better than "I am an artist and I don't have passion for this work you've paid for so I am just not going to do it".

  5. #5
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    It all went wrong, for him and for his commissioners, and a year later no one seems to have received a completed piece, though we've seen an unfinished Zatanana piece aboce, with Craig citing sick relatives, his own sickness, raising five kids, house troubles, money being stolen from him, splitting up with his partner but keeping her debt, losing his house, living in a lot, and losing his Paypal and bank account.
    I knew a plumber like that once. By the end, phoning him up was like listening to a Cliff Notes version of the Book of Job.
    Adam, calkundera and nickog like this.

  6. #6
    Wrote the Book on Cool The Valeyard's Avatar
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    I hear Jason Craig has a new project with Josh Hoopes and Rob Granito with action figures by Shocker Toys.
    alekesam and DarthEwok like this.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Adam View Post
    I've got perspective on this issue from both sides.

    From the commissioner's POV, I want to say that while EVIL ERNIE's artist may indeed be in as deep as he says he is, it's worth noting that when you ask artists where the hell your artwork is after however long you've waited, the excuses are often this dramatic in nature.

    Indeed, having worked as a salesman and spent some time with the girls over in our telemarketing section who talked to my customers, only the employee or intern of a politician can tell you better than I that an amazing percentage of the world is willing to lie its head off to you. Dishonest people are not rare; when there are decent stakes involved, they are easily the majority.

    But having said that, I will also be honest and say this has happened to me, as a writer. The first commission I accepted took way, way longer to finish it than it should have - and what I learned from the experience, after giving myself the sharp rebuke I deserved (since the guy didn't; he was a gem about it when he should've been threatening to kick down my door), is that it's a mental problem. In practice, it feels very much like writer's block, and who knows, perhaps it's exactly the same.

    The general problem for us creatives is that many of us are unprofessional, in the most neutral sense of the word; we are artists used to being excited/enjoying whatever we're doing. When other people tell us to do stuff that we don't find personally interesting, our drive is suddenly extinguished. Just going through the motions - and doing a good job going through the motions - is revealed to be very hard to do. But of course, that's what separates the men from the boys, the women from the girls, and the big furry things from Alpha Centauri from the little furry things on Alpha Centauri. You gotta learn to get around it.
    I've accepted a commission exactly once, and vowed to never do it again for this exact reason. I don't trust myself to do it right on on time for something that isn't my work and, knowing my own limitations, I won't claim otherwise. I'm not meaning that as a rebuke to anyone who does things differently. I'm sure most people who take commissions fully intend and try to do the right thing, and I certainly don't know their limitations better than they do. I just know me, and know that I won't, so I don't pretend.
    Fysh, Adam and abcdiablo like this.

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    Comparing Jason to Josh Hoopes or Rob Granito is so far off the mark. I know Jason personally and he's gone through some really tough times recently. He's not out to scam people at all.
    botc76 likes this.

  9. #9
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    There is nothing that turns me off of an artist faster than this very situation. I once purchased a finished page plus an 8 x 11 commission from an artist. He asked if he could ship both at the same time, mentioning that I should see delivery in a few weeks. Sounded good to me. A few months later I reached out and asked how progress was coming. "Things have been crazy. I plan on getting your commission finished this weekend." Flash forward a year. After a handful of similar interactions, I finally received my art. Both pieces had simply been thrown in a large box with no protective sleeves or any other additional packaging. Also, the page had been splattered by what appeared to be coffee. Not only have I never again purchased art from the unnamed pretentious asshole, but I have avoided all of his printed work. Sadly, it has been my experience that many "professional" artists are, in fact, not.

  10. #10
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    I've been taking commissions for a few years now, and I've learned to pace myself. I'm guessing that a lot of the artists who end up in this situation take on more than they can handle. I'm working on my own comic now, and every time I take a commission I have to stop working on it because I just don't have the time to do both. If I were working professionally I'm pretty sure I couldn't do that, so I probably wouldn't take on commissions. I get that artists want to appeal to their fans and want to get the extra cash, but they should be honest with their fans and themselves about whether they can handle the extra work. If they can't, then they shouldn't take on commissions or at least set a limited number of commissions or do lower quality commissions. They'd get less money, but at least they'd get the work done.

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