Its a beautiful sunny Sunday morning and I've just returned from a walk in the country with my family and my dog. I decided to check for messages and went to my gmail account. Gmail is a great service. If you're unfamiliar with how it works, its very much like hotmail but from Google instead of Microsoft. There's a sidebar where text ads relevant to key words in your message offer you something related - in my case this means I often see ads related to illustration.
I usually ignore those ads but every once in a while something catches my eye and I can't help but click on it. Such was the case just now when I saw this ad:
Clicking through took me to a site where artists can bid on projects that appeal to them. As an abstract concept I see nothing wrong with this. As a concrete reality I think it is one of the most reprehensible, wrong-headed, and destructive ways any artist could operate. If you're looking to ruin the last vestiges of the profession of commercial artist, nothing could be more effective than to support this business model.
Here's the text from the ad I happened to click through to:
This project is perfect for someone who loves to draw in a realistic style.
"I need 12 different original (full color) illustrations of naughty but CLEAN (not too risque) old fashioned pin-up like girls posing with different types of cars. Your imagination is your only limit - only not too risque - again keep it clean. The illustrations will be used for a newsletter to be sent to people in the automotive industry, so imagine the type of girly calendars pinned up in mechanics' shops - only classier.
I will need to own the copyright to the images at the end of the project so that may I have the freedom to alter them to fit the publications if needed. (So, if your attached to your work, please don't bid. If you're a prolific illustrator and looking for a quick buck, this may be the job for you!"
That last bit about "I will need to own the copyright..." is particularly galling.
This buyer has set the following parameters as well: Estimated budget: $250 (it doesn't say if he means "per illustration") and expected delivery: "within 7 days of project award"
So far three foolish artists have chosen to place "bids" on this project. they all have varying degrees of talent, but what's most confounding is that the one with, in my opinion, the most talent is also bidding the lowest - willing almost to give his work away for a paltry $200!
I'm praying that he means $200 per and not that he's happy to do 12 illustrations at a bit under $10 each.
Even if he is offering to do the work for $200 each that's not enough for 12 full colour illustrations of this complexity in this short a time-span, and here's the critical part, with all rights of ownership relinquished.
I could (almost) see working this fast and this cheap if you're that good and that desperate for money ( although that's an incredibly sad situation if you're as talented as contestant #3 is ) but at least stand up for your right to own your own work.
That way you can resell it in a million possible ways in the future to justify the lousy terms of the original project: print the art on t-shirts, calendars, stickers, mugs, digital prints, sell it to other automotive related publications, offer it to a stock illustration house ( although I'm no fan of those joints! ) but forgodsake don't just give it away for a pittance!
Artists have never been savy business people as a group but the current market seems to be breeding a never-before-seen level of stupid. I know many younger illustrators enter the market with no hope of earning a living, doing illustration in the evening and on weekends while joe-jobbing at something else to pay the rent.
Participating in operations like ifreelance.com and allowing buyers to set ridiculous terms like this only accelerates the race to the bottom and will do nothing to elleviate your poor financial status personally or of the industry as a whole.
Heed my words or start packing, because if this continues your next apartment hunt will take place in Bangladesh.