View Full Version : Artists being ripped off

08-09-2010, 11:21 AM
I don't know how many of you read stuff over on deviantArt but I'm lost and in poking around this morning found this interesting post about a Flash game developer who admits to ripping off artists. Here is a link to some food for thought. I post it here because many of these games want a map and I have seen a number of requests for Flash game maps in the Request Forum we have.

news.deviantart.com (http://news.deviantart.com/article/125498/)

Original Article posted here (http://kaitol.com/how-to-hire-an-artist/comment-page-1/#comments)

As if it isn't hard enough to get something going in the Art field.

08-09-2010, 11:52 AM
As callous as the original poster sounds, I really think this is more of a wake up to the artists who are debasing the value of one anothers' work. There is a common complaint among graphic designers that clients expect them to be able to create a logo for < US$100 because there are tons of hobbyists willing to charge only $50. The problem is not the clients—they're merely comparison shopping. The problem is the artists who severely undervalue their own work. If you're making art as a hobby and happen to get $100 as a side-effect, that feels fantastic. If you're a commercial artist trying to make your living at it, then it's not even really worth booting up your computer for less than $500.

Sure, it would be nice if Flash developers were generous people with hearts of gold, but the reality is that they're business people. If they can get quality work for cheap they're going to. It's the artists who need to be educated about what they're worth.

08-09-2010, 12:03 PM
I don't think you sound callous - I agree. The dev who shops for the lowest price he can find for the quality he requires is only doing what every other business in the world does. I think the issue here is more that people just don't know what to charge for something that comes more or less naturally to them. I love drawing but to be honest I've made a lot more money digging ditches. Not that I'm doing that right now but over the course of my lifetime I have dug a few. Anyway, I think the point is that there are a ton of self taught artists who have the knack and coordination to produce good art but don't know what to charge. Because it's easy for them and because they enjoy it so much they give themselves away.

I think it's just hard to put a price tag on your own art. That doesn't mean someone else can do what you do. No two artists are exactly alike, otherwise forgers would never get caught.

After reading the original post I don't know what to make of it all other than to be aware that you tend to undervalue your own art.

08-09-2010, 12:39 PM
We are discussing on the CL board at the moment ways in which we can help cartographers with pricing, but there are many competing principles to take into account. It's interesting that Arcana chose to call this place 'the Cartographers' Guild'. Original Guilds are described in Wiki (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guild) as something between a trade union (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trade_union), a cartel (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cartel) and a secret society (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Secret_society).
At one end of the scale we could, for example, have a minimum charge that all guildmembers MUST charge for commissions taken from the site. But this would just be unenforceable (people will just conclude the commission privately), and there's a feel of something unethical about it too. I also think that if we were to do this, most people wanting paid commissions would just go elsewhere, and we would alienate our users by prescribing what they do privately - maybe not?
At the other end of the scale we could take no action whatsoever about what people choose to charge (which is the situation at the moment), which might mean that people are charging much less for commissions than they might and falling prey to people like Jax has linked to and depressing the price (perhaps unwittingly) for artists in general.

What we are looking at is using the guild to provide information on commissions. We are trying to put together an questionnaire for people on the guild to provide anonymous data on the commissions we do so we at least get some idea of what the pricing ranges are. Pitching pricing correctly depends on what the final product (be it a book or a game) might be worth, or it might depend on getting a decent hourly rate for the work or it might depend on how much the commissioner can pay - (s)he might be a poor starving artist too. It's a tough choice but ultimately it must be an agreement between the seller and the buyer. What would be good though, is for the sellers to have more information - perhaps buyers too. I'd like to think that most people (sellerrs and buyers) are decent, honourable folk and if there was anything approaching what could be called 'a fair price' they would be happy with it. The 64 dollar question is trying to find out what a 'fair price' is.

08-09-2010, 06:02 PM
We can make 64 dollars?! lol

I guess it brings up the question of what would you like from this guild? It's got to be one of the best places, if not The Best to hang out if you are into sharing your love for mapping. Could it be more helpful than it already is? I guess that depends on each person.

For me, I hope to keep honing my skills and developing my own style to a point where it is marketable. The critiques are invaluable, any time I put something up the next time I log in I look forward to seeing if there is any food for thought on what I've done. When it comes to the business end of things, I'm not quite ready there yet and it's unfortunately not something I really want to burn a lot of my time on, I want to draw, not run a business (I would guess that's a problem for many of us? I already run a business but it's not artistic at all.) There have been a few posts on how to get published and find commissions etc. What to charge? Well, we've had a few discussions on that but it seems to be almost more of a feeling than anything else. At least that's how I'm getting it.

Part of me feels like it's up to the one wanting the art work to offer a price they are willing to pay for it. If it's not worth the time and energy then I should say no. If I'm asked how much would I charge for 'yadda yadda', well, heck, I got a mortgage payment coming up how about that? ya know? I guess this is why there are Art dealers who can put a market value on a piece...is that something we are qualified to offer? I wish there was a machine I could put my artwork into and it would put a fair value on each item, but art is so subjective.

As an example:
Ascension does a map and it's totally awesome, I feel like barfing it looks so good. I do a map and it's not even close to as nice, how can I think of selling it? They are not equal, or are they? Of course Ascension is looking at something Torstan did and thinking, "Dangit, I wish I could do that, it's so good! My stuff sucks." So round we go. (sorry guys no offence meant, I'm just taking a couple of the better artists here and using your names freely...I could have used Ramah but for some reason I'm afraid he'd kill me :) ). The point is that in the end it seems likely to cause us to de-valuate our work. The opposite is equally bad, where someone thinks they can pee on a piece of paper and believe it's a gift to all mankind.

So, do you charge by the hour? It seems rather blue collar for a skill not everyone has. Charge by the job? If it's easy for you to make, you might feel like a pampas jerk to charge a high price.

So, it's a tough call. If I offered to do it for 'X' dollars and they readily agree, I feel like I undersold. If I say 'X' and they are shocked and move on, I feel like I was a jerk. I personally don't like negotiating for money it's a terrible thing to me. Maybe after a few years doing it I will feel a lot more confident about it but I was listening to a group of artists on a POD cast and they seem to be as wigged out about what to charge as I am and this is something they do all the time.

I'm not so worried about one off's to a private individual. Charge, 25, 50, 100 bucks whatever it's no big deal, you can live with it. However, when it comes to commercial applications, flash games, etc where people would be making money over time using your art, I'm at a loss. Is there some percentage you should get for your artwork motivating folks to play a certain game or buy a certain product? I would think you should get some kind of royalty but I don't know what that amount should be.

anyway I think I'm rambling so I'll just shut up for a while.

08-09-2010, 08:59 PM
I hate the money side, too. It's the main reason I don't actively seek commissions. If someone sends me a PM I'm more than likely to take it (no matter price) but I don't go around soliciting...I've no idea. I've done about 6 commissions: 2 freebies, 2 fifty buckers, and 2 hundred smackers (one for a book an the last guy I said to him "pay me what you think" and left it at that). If I tried to do it for the money then I'd have to compete with guys well established in the biz (much better, too) and some good friends from The Guild...I can't do that so I don't. I get my thrill from teaching and, hopefully, inspiring - my money from my glass. Jax, you're example is spot on for me...I look at everyone else and say to myself "love those colors, gotta learn that" or "gotta try that technique someday" or "dang, he upped the ante so I need to practice". Maybe we're not a true guild per se, but more of a friendly competition (like golfers or bowlers) with some art critique and teaching thrown in. Plus some humor, can't forget the humor. Now if only we could get a dart board and a shuffleboard table in here...and, of course, waitresses.

08-09-2010, 09:14 PM
I feel like the only really bad part of that article was that he keeps people in the dark about what's truly going on. I have no issue with him letting the artist name their price, though I'm not anywhere near a professional artist so I'm not sure how much my opinion factors in to all of this. I'm of the opinion that if both parties agree and are happy with the price of work, then it's fine. In the case of possible royalties though, I would think it ought to work like it does for music in movies and video games (I assume it works almost identical as far as royalties are concerned). I've never had to research how it works, but it seems to me if someone needs something for a video game, then maybe some sort of contract should be drawn up witch spells out what's to happen in the case of possible royalties. I dunno...just my two pennies.

08-10-2010, 02:30 AM
Interesting article. The responses in the blog are rather straight, too. I guess he didn't make much friends with this.
I generally take more money from business guys than from private people - it's a difference if you want the map to make money or to play a game.

08-10-2010, 08:47 AM
My first reaction was shock quickly followed by laughter when I proceeded to read twenty pages of responses that can generally be summed up as a giant middle finger to the original poster. However, it did provoke a thought on the subject, some people in the guild have already posted articles about how to go about doing commissions maybe we could have a sticky thread where people post the names of people or groups who have been a little dishonest in their dealings, just as a heads-up to other artists in the guild who are looking for work. Just a small thought.


08-10-2010, 11:29 AM
His general practices of preying on young, ignorant, unpublished artists keeping them in the dark, requiring overly tight deadlines then penalizing harshly for any discrepancy to avoid paying them is abominable. However, many of his contract procedures are standard in the industry. And these artists are signing the contract, so dooming themselves to his dishonorable agreement.

As I develop publications, and hire artists, I require a NDA, a contract based on a pre-agreed cost for such services. I ask those artists whose work fits my requirements what do they expect to get paid - and decide if it fits my budget and my experience what a given type of art (cover design, interior art, b/w or color) should be paid. I don't pay anything up front - most artists don't ask me for that, nor do I volunteer that. Often the 'final' is presented in a slightly smaller format with a watermark placed by artist, and the final is sent after I pay them.

I am on an extremely tight budget, and I generally only hire professionals - not top industry pros, but experienced artists who have publication works in their portfolio, and are willing to work within my needs.

From that blog page...
Some of the responders expect 50% up front, and for a top industry pro having never done business with me before, I understand, but I don't hire them, as this is not something I can agree to - however, I point these artists to the emails/DA pages of the artists I already work with so they can ask for my reliability in paying. Some of the complaints regard what if your game becomes successful, they expect a share of profits. If its not in the contract I won't do this, and if they ask I'll probably seek a new artist. These are contract pay for hire, not partners - I treat my artists with respect and pay them on time, and rely on their contributions, but I don't split profits arbitrarily, just because a given publication proves to be more successful.

If some nuance, anything extra is desired by the artist it needs to be stipulated in the contract. I won't give a bonus to artwork beyond the contract - and artist's don't expect that, at least not those I've been working with thus far. Now on the next job, I'd be expected to pay more. If I felt their art helped bring success to my product, I won't abandon them for being too costly - I will be the increased wages for the given work.

All stipulations, rights, for both parties need to be addressed in the contract. If its not there, it cannot be complied and should not be expected.


08-10-2010, 12:29 PM
Spot on, GP. Although if I didn't already have a relationship with you, I doubt I'd work without a percentage up front. Not that I do any freelancing at all at this point.

Anyway, there's this convention that you never tell someone how much money you make. A lot of folk believe that you keep it a secret in order to prevent others from undercutting your price and to reduce jealousy. The reality is that it serves to tilt the negotiation in favor of the client/employer. The artists don't know how much to charge, but the clients surely do know how much the art is worth. The only thing they don't know is just how low the artist is willing to go; thus the tactic of letting the artist quote a price. If you want the Guild to serve as a resource for helping cartographers set fair prices and make sure nobody is being taken advantage of, then something as simple as a suggested rate card could do the job. No enforcement necessary; only liberate the information.

08-10-2010, 01:34 PM
Though I've never needed to if I really wanted a particular artist and they agreed to the final price, but wanted some kind of assurances, I would send them to the DA pages of the artists I have hired as references to prove my reliability in paying, but I would not pay upfront. Because for me paying you half upfront for a $100 commission, that's like 10% of my total budget and I can't afford to lose that to someone that takes the money and does not finish the job. Its not a live and learn issue, its about survival as a business proposition. If they can't trust me, I go find another artist, because others are willing. That's how the world works.


08-18-2010, 11:43 AM
I'll just chime in here too.. not about the articles, nuff said there, but I'd like to add to what I feel the guild can do for us. As Ravs said the name Guild sort of suggests we should have a common price scheme to work from - but then again a guild would normally charge a percentage or set fee for membership as well and then help people who got in trouble with their clients or the really "cool" guilds - people who just got in trouble ;)
I believe that if the guild should go further than where we are now - a happy go lucky share alike help each other community (which is really nice) - then it should be with some price quotes that our members could work from and perhaps clients could look to (and thus know what is expected) - a sort of base-price. Then the really good artist could always ask more (as in all other fields).
A dangerous path would be adding LoneW's suggestion of a "black-list" since we could easily get in trouble with lawyers - cause we would never know who was in the right. At a forum that I'm running we delete those threads at once - just to be safe :)

And by the way - I agree with GP on his sentiment, in the rpg-business the money are small and we can't afford to pay up front most of the time. I'd personally prefer to pay a fixed amount if I hire someone for something - but some projects might be helped into existence by making percentage deals with other participants - then if you loose - they loose and if you win - they win :)
I wrote a long text about taking commisions (http://www.cartographersguild.com/showthread.php?11215-Taking-on-a-commission-))- but nothing about setting the price - but I would say that I've touched upon a lot of the problems you can get into (seen from the artists side of things). There will always be people who wants to cheat you - that can't be helped - but in my experience, most people are honest (to a degree*lol*).