Chances are you may have seen this video
floating around. If not, it's a pretty good PSA on respecting yourself as an artist and not undervaluing your work.
But I'm not here to preach the same message, or repeat everyone else and blindly agree. Now, don't get me wrong, I agree with the video's message 100%. However, I've come to an impasse because of it.
I haven't advertised it on DA, but our little studio that makes Midwinter has been looking for a background artist since November. Originally we wanted to see if anyone locally would be interested, to make communication and discussion easier. So, we put up fliers at the local convention, at my college, and at some comic book shops.
They looked something like this: [link]
and we went through at least 10 posters over that convention weekend. To date, Maybe 15-16 have been cleared of their tags.
Yet not one application.
At first, it was like... "well, no shit, most artists into anime and manga only draw characters, or have rudimentary bg skills." This is especially true of young artists that would populate a college. But after watching this and some other videos as of late, it made me re-evaluate things and look at the poster again.
What if I look totally unprofessional? Or like the biggest dick ever that doesn't appreciate artists?
As I'm sure you've noticed, there isn't mention of payment on this flier... and for good reason. We do not have the funds to pay right away; we're not even getting paid ourselves. And as much as I want to throw money at other artists to support them, I can't afford a regular expense with my minimum wage part time job, especially for art that may be used for commercial purposes.
But, that was something I wanted to address with each interested individual personally, and make it clear that there will
be payment, just that it probably won't come until we get Midwinter off the ground.
Which... brings me to my dilemma. Joanna and I wrote up the flier with the intent of drawing in artists similar to us that would want to be part of a project like Midwinter, even if it's just to get experience. Above all, we wanted someone who could get into the project and have passion in it like we do, so we could move forward and worry about finances when we have money to work with.
But who am I to expect that? Am I really any better than those big companies trying to squeeze free art from young and unsuspecting artists? Who am I
to say that Midwinter is worth your time, your energy, and your passion for... nothing? How can I possibly expect someone--anyone--to trust that we will pay them in the future, when they very possibly don't know me or any of other other team members enough to make that call?
If I were on the other end of this deal, an artist with no real direction yet that saw this poster... I asked myself: would I really invest that kind of time into someone elses project, only hoping to get paid down the line? The answer was a flat out no. I mean, who's to say this thing won't collapse in a couple months? What if I do the first book and then get jipped and cut off?Does this whole situation make me a hypocrite?
Throughout this past year, I've been a big advocate of giving artists the pay they deserve, and inspiring others to value their work. It wasn't too long ago that I took a lot less money for the amount of work I did, but everything changed with a teacher I had last fall.
I'll go ahead and say it, for those who know him: it was Dustin, my vector teacher, someone I still look to for advice now and then to this day.
Since his specialty is graphics, not drawn figures, he commissioned me to make a silhouette of a young girl to use on a CD cover. Now, we hadn't discussed payment for it beforehand. I trusted him enough and, well... I was still rather scared to ask for money and inexperienced in commissions. In the end, I asked what sort of price he was thinking once I completed it.
Considering it was just a black silhouette with no detailing inside, I figured, hey, $5-10 would cover it. But instead, he asked me if $50 was okay
. As you can probably imagine, I was more than shocked and was very happy I wasn't drinking anything when I read the e-mail.
$50? For a small drawing like that? I was beside myself. I even expressed as much to him, and he told me flat out, "Kayla. You're a pro. It's time you start expecting to get paid for your work!"
But that isn't all. It turned out that it wasn't what his client was looking for, so he couldn't use it. Yet... he still paid me for my time and effort, the full amount. You have no idea the kind of impression that made on me.
That one action shifted not only how I viewed my own art, but others as well. I have a lot of artist friends, many of whom work upon request for nothing. Ever since my experience, I've made it a point to pay them a decent amount for their work if I commission them, enough money that says their art is worth it--at least to me--all in the hope that maybe they'll feel the same way I did and start valuing themselves more. Maybe it'll even inspire them to support their fellow artists as I've set out to do!
With that in mind... is it any wonder I question myself now? What am I doing? If I feel so strongly about giving the artists their due, how can I rightly reach out to other young artists and try to hook them into this decade long project, all on the basis of credit? Just talking about it and I know I sound shady!
I can make a million excuses about how we're different, that my intentions are nothing but good, how nothing will stop me from starting--and finishing--Midwinter, how the circumstances call for it, but at the end of the day... they're just words that hold no weight. I'm advising artists to be wary of people who want to use them, yet here I am trying to hire one who's willing to work for free for a little while. How stupid is that? How selfish
To be clear, I'm not looking for validation, but your thoughts. Discuss with me. Whack me over the head if you think I need it! What are your feelings on the matter? Do you feel there are exceptions to the rule? When do you work for free and when won't you?
Well... I think I'm done. If you sat here and read through all of this... I thank you.