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A letter to all you beginners out there - Don't do it. - The art of Thornwolf — LiveJournal
A letter to all you beginners out there - Don't do it.
I notice this a lot here and there but a recent occurrance of it on one of my favorite art sites really made me feel like I have to say something.

Just because you're a beginning artist doesn't mean you don't deserve compensation for your time. There's a lot of companies or independent projects out there who want to lure beginners into doing tons of free art for the "exposure" and a lot of it is because they know that kind of shit won't fly with a seasoned artist. They know how ridiculous it is to even ask so they don't bother asking someone who'd know what they're up to. And a lot of times there are really really talented folks, people who blow me out of the water with their works who undersell themselves or practically give their art away because they haven't gotten "out there" yet and don't realize their talent is worth anything. It's a cryin' shame.

You can get plenty of exposure by doing paid works, even if its very little pay, but at least cover your materials. Why settle for something that will probably go nowhere (and a lot of these types of independent projects do, sad to say). There's nothing wrong with doing pro bono work if its not expected by the company and you think it /would/ be a good idea to just get your foot in the door provided you think that there will be paid work in the future or good contacts (or if you really don't mind working like a dog for free on a regular basis), or if that's your thing, but this is not what this rant is about, its about the people who know they should be charging but don't anyways because they're being lied to by cheapasses who intentionally want to take advantage of them.

If you sincerely don't mind giving away your art, or youre doing it as a favor to a friend, charity (which is just out of the goodness of your heart anyways) then go ahead, but don't for one minute think that you don't deserve some form of compensation on a serious project, even if its being taken out to lunch, because you're not experienced enough.

Red flags go up when the project is presented in a professional manner but when asked what it pays the answer is something along the lines of "Looking for desperate/beginner/students to get their foot in the door" or "It's more a labor of love and is on a limited budget" (I've gotten that one before, if they didn't plan artistry into their budget they shouldn't even ask) "The reward is that you'll get your name on the website/project/newspaper/credits" etc etc the whole song and dance. Another one is that they'll skirt the issue altogether until asked several times.

Run. Away.

Your time is worth something. Bottom line if you plan to sell your art, you should be paid /something/. Makes sense, no? You wouldn't ask a mechanic to work for free, or to "tighten a few lugnuts and if you like what you see you'll pay him on a future overhaul if you should ever need one". They know that overhaul probably won't ever come.

And to those who have ever said those magical words "Well I was hoping to get this for free" or any of the aforementioned excuses for non-payment ...shaaaaaaame on you. Shaaaaaame. *wags finger* I sincerely hope no one ever takes advantage of you when you're learning a new skill. That's like teaching someone how to play chess and totally beating them their first game and pointing and laughing in their face that they're so bad. Just because they're new to the professionalism of art doesn't mean they eat less and have no rent to pay, nor does it mean that they're "easy pickin's" to sneak in under the watchful eyes of the rest of the professional world who wouldn't give you the time of day for your ludicrous request. We look out for our own, you know, and people talk. You know what you're doing by asking that, we're not stupid.

Note: It is perfectly legitimate to look to a beginner or student for /cheaper/ art, especially since oftentimes they don't want to have a huge monetary liability when they're still "feeling their way around the business", but to ask that they slave away for free right off the bat and balk that they charge /anything/ is really shitty.


Current Location: Lake Havasu City, AZ
Current Mood: annoyed annoyed

33 comments or Leave a comment
titanic From: titanic Date: October 10th, 2007 09:54 pm (UTC) (Link)


I found this to be very entertaining> and it exists in several places on the internet in various forms. Expands a bit on what you said, and covers a few more topics.
thornwolf From: thornwolf Date: October 10th, 2007 09:59 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Absolutely.

Ah yes. I love reading these. I've heard so many of them too. Currently I'm working on a project that pays after the project has already been sent to the printers and I'll get a portion of the profits, but there's a contract involved and I retain the rights to my own image and can sell it/make prints/do whatever I want with it, so I'm using this as an opportunity to draw stuff I wouldn't normally draw. It's no big deal, but it's not like the folks involved were devious about it and they admitted it wasn't an ideal situation but *shrugs* its my risk and I am willing to take it. However if they said I had no right to sell the image that would have been an automatic "no".
growly From: growly Date: October 10th, 2007 10:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
In the defence of the OP, she sounds like she's just a kid. The other virtual pet site I dealt with was all run by kids too. Kids even younger than I was at the time (I was 15/16, they were all 13).
Unfortunately, I had already agreed to work for them before I found this out and just as a suspected, they had no contracts, no organization, no lawyers, and the site never made it past a non-functional beta. :/
Really, I should have seen this happening as soon as they contacted me... They contacted me through Neomail of all things.

So yeah. There a lot of kids out there that think they came come up with a kewl new Neopets clone, and don't have any money but what mommy gives them, so they have to hire kids who will work for free, and since they're all kids, the site usually never goes online, never gets big, and nobody gets exposure or payment for anything.
thornwolf From: thornwolf Date: October 10th, 2007 10:49 pm (UTC) (Link)
Well yeah but kid or not they need to learn what they're asking, which is why I was disappointed that they didn't seem to read astolpho's link.

steppinrazor From: steppinrazor Date: October 10th, 2007 10:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
It also has repercussions on working "professional" artists - it drags the baseline down, so to speak. If people know they can get good work for free (and often enough, they can), then they'll squeak by taking advantage of new artists, thusly leaving seasoned artists out of work - and also driving pay rates down, in general. Basically, nobody wins.
thornwolf From: thornwolf Date: October 10th, 2007 10:50 pm (UTC) (Link)
Very true. Hell just look at how China/Korea undercuts American animation studios D:
rickgriffin From: rickgriffin Date: October 10th, 2007 10:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
One of my huge problems getting to even be remotely where I am is going through the many times my parent have pushed me to do things 'just to get my work out there'. I have often refused, mainly on the basis that since I was (am still) still learning and I just didn't want to draw things that I don't feel like drawing.

(Still don't, but I've loosened up a bit)

Of course, my dad still has absolutely no clue how I've managed to make so much money over the internet doing what is essentially playing around in his view. ("People pay for that?" my parents often asked, wondering who in the world buys pictures of animals that stand on two legs just because)

The thing is, and I noticed this when I was in high school, is that there's so much art everywhere anyway, that there's not point to 'getting your foot in the door'. I'll look around my room and find art.

Studio lamp--had a designer, he was certainly paid for that.
Sunkist label--also had a designer.
Logo on plastic mug
Sobe label
Boxart for Phantom Hourglass
Cover art for three sci-fi magazines
Cover art for Warcraft III box
Molded glass root beer bottle
Facing on a box of tissues
Tablet--it wouldn't be nearly this inconvenient if it weren't art
Floral coaster
Luigi doll
Husky doll
Pikachu doll
Cover of several notebooks I have
Covers of several books still in my room
Logo on a plastic bag
Little Pikachu figurines

And I'm not even trying.
turbinerocks From: turbinerocks Date: October 10th, 2007 11:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
The thing about doing work for free to "get your work out there", it can make sense if it's work you would already be doing anyway, and you're getting a lot of actual print tearsheets for it. Don't do a LOT of it, but I don't regret doing band posters and logos for free (or nearly so) because having the printed piece can be good for your portfolio. Small press books and the like would be a good choice for working for free, there are a lot of labor-of-love publishers out there. Having your work on a novel cover, especially if you had absolute freedom, is prestigious no matter how you slice it.

The thing with art, is it's a desirable gig, so there will always be more people wanting to do it than there are jobs. Some illustrators work for ten years before they make a full time living off what they do.
altonwings From: altonwings Date: October 10th, 2007 10:47 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think one of the greatest tragedies of the schools that train in art is that so few make even the most basic introductory to business. A lot of artists need to realize that they will always be artists, but they also have to be responsible for paying the bills. It's what separates a professional from a hobbyist.

turbinerocks From: turbinerocks Date: October 10th, 2007 11:14 pm (UTC) (Link)
My college (Cornish College of the Arts) had several business courses they required of design students, and even a professional ethics course. The trick is enrolling in a DESIGN program rather than a fine arts program. I majored in design (emphasis in illustration) and we got plenty of heads-up about the business end of things, how to negotiate, what to expect in the field, what work for hire is, etc. I'd run far far away from any four year program that doesn't have a business component to it.
henchman409 From: henchman409 Date: October 10th, 2007 11:43 pm (UTC) (Link)
Very well said, and informative. My school provided no business advice whatsoever, and my forays into the professional field have been educational to say the least.

May I ask what prompted this? I saw one of the other posters mention a pet site--I've gotten several requests from similar parties, and all go happily unanswered.
thornwolf From: thornwolf Date: October 10th, 2007 11:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
I probably got more riled than I needed to but their last comment to me made me throw my hands up, joke or not.


But this was more of a "last straw" thing, I've been seeing similar things happen on Craigslist and the like. I even contacted one project where they were looking for a storyboard artist and advertising for a "movie" they were making and when I wrote them and asked what it paid and they told me they were looking for someone who would do it pro-bono to get their name in the credits and part of the profits the movie makes. *wank wank wank*
spiffystuff From: spiffystuff Date: October 11th, 2007 01:03 am (UTC) (Link)
may want to add that "you'll get a percent of the profits!" or somesuch usually is the same thing as asking for free art :P
Now, if they pay you some upfront, royalties CAN be good, and/or a bargaining chip, but offering JUST royalties is crap!
thornwolf From: thornwolf Date: October 11th, 2007 01:08 am (UTC) (Link)
ah definitely. Granted I've done some stuff that will give me a percent of the profits, and there have been some cases where I /have/ gotten what I was promised, but I also retained rights to my image. If thats the case I don't generally have a problem with doing that kind of stuff because I can reuse/resell the image as long as it doesn't directly compete with their product, and if its something I wouldn't have a hard time selling anyways. If its something super specialized then no I won't, but if its something general where the image could appeal to a wider audience, sure why not.
From: gizmo_nine Date: October 11th, 2007 04:30 am (UTC) (Link)
Client: "Well I was hoping to get this for free"
Artist: "well I was hoping to get a million for it. Guess we're both going to be disappointed."
vantid From: vantid Date: October 11th, 2007 05:56 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm getting a kick out of Guru listings. One I got today: I want 100 drawings in two weeks, and I'll pay a max of 60 dollars.

thornwolf From: thornwolf Date: October 11th, 2007 06:02 am (UTC) (Link)
lol good luck with that buddy! XD
vizon From: vizon Date: October 11th, 2007 02:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
I've volunteered to do some free work for a former professor at my alma mater who's making a little game with a group of students. Everyone on that little project is working for free, and I don't think anyone expects to "make it big" with the game as it's just a student project. I only said I'd do it because I like drawing alien creatures...but it IS going to take up some valuable time. I have another game designer asking me to help with his games also. This guy at least, has a game already out there (Cash Cow), but I don't think I'll do any more game art for free. Especially now that I don't have a lot of time to spend drawing for fun. And because I'm not that interested in getting back into the game industry.
33 comments or Leave a comment