Thursday, August 19, 2010

Why people won't pay for your art

Pricing and getting paid decently for your work is one of the hardest things to deal with as a professional artist. Ideally, we'd all just create and have people give us enough money to live happily ever after, but the reality for most of us is that we have to constantly sell ourselves.

We have to submit to galleries, show portfolios, scan craigslist and other job posting sites for freelance work. Some of us get agents. It's not the easiest profession in the world.

A huge hurdle that lots of us face is that if you don't work in a creative field, you often don't know what art/illustration/design is worth. I'll be honest, in the past, Monkey + Seal have taken a lot of low paying jobs since sometimes you have to do what you have to do to pay the bills. However, if you can at all help it, turn down these jobs!

Often, we get approached at conventions and shows and asked to do book covers. Unfortunately, it's not by large publishers (although we're hoping to change that soon) but by everyday people who have an idea they want to see made into a children's book, or who have written a novel and want a cover for it to self-publish.

According to the Graphic Arts Guild Handbook: Pricing & Ethical Guidelines (which all creatives should own, btw), for a small press (runs of 3000-7000 units) book cover, you should be looking at anywhere between 1,200-2,500. Even assuming it's smaller, offers of $200 are a bit insulting, to be perfectly honest. We're super happy that you like our work, but for some of our illustrations we have spent upwards of 50 hours on. Illustration takes research, thumbnailing, colors and value studies, and piles of sketches before the final execution.

Besides the 50 hours, what clients are paying for are the years invested in honing our craft. Even for our paintings, if you see us whip something up while we live paint, even though we might finish something in an hour, that doesn't take into account the thousands of hours we've spent sketching, researching, studying other artists, playing with color, learning how to use our paints, experimenting with various mediums. So there is a lot of time invested in what you don't see. After all, Michael Jordan didn't just play basketball for those 48 minutes in every NBA game. Every day that you weren't watching him dominate the court, he'd be practicing in a gym, first there, last to leave. He got paid the big bucks because all of the behind the scenes work that the average viewer doesn't see.

Another large hurdle is that our culture doesn't value art like it does other trades. For example, for some reason, people think artists "just paint and draw" unlike, say, auto mechanics or doctors. This, however, is plainly false. The best analogy I've ever heard is like this: you don't go into an autoshop and say "Can you please fix my car, and then maybe if I like the way that it drives and it makes me some money, I'll pay you." You'd probably get thrown out. However, all the time, we hear "Can you please do this book cover illustration for me, and then maybe if I like it and it sells a lot of copies, I'll pay you." Not cool, people, not cool.

The more of us that take this spec work (which is highly looked down upon), the more and more people hiring us will come to expect that as a norm. Not cool.

If you think of hiring a creative:
-Our work takes time! Please be respectful of this - we usually can't do an illustration in an hour!
-If we can do an illustration in an hour, you'll probably want revisions, and those take more time.
-If you think we charge too much, please try and do it yourself. What we do is a craft - it takes lots and lots of practice.
-Please don't try and sell us on "exposure," unless you're representing 200,000 viewers/readers, or have a name like Nike or Pepsi. Even then, you should have been around long enough and have enough funds to pay us anyway.

So if you are a creative:
-Stick up for your work! Don't be afraid to ask for what your time is worth.
-Don't take spec work! You're working for free!
-If you have to take a job, we know that sometimes if its between a low paying gig and paying rent, you need to take the gig, but resist if at all possible!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Free Your Brain of Clutter

Do you have unfinished projects? ideas? or unkept promises? Anytime we take on a project or a promise to deliver, we use up our temporary present memory to store "to-do lists" in our minds. These to-do lists continually remind us that there are things left to be done, and will not go away until we feel closure with a project. When we want to start a new project, suddenly we remember that we needed to edit that document, finish off that embroidery for grandma's birthday due a month ago, or frame that painting, etc. Not just art projects, but personal ones too, such as that pile of laundry, or unworn clothes you've been hoarding in the closet, or the drawing desk full of clutter. How can we invite new ideas in when we are full of clutter?

So dust off that unfinished novel drafts, baby scarf, or sketches you wanted to turn into murals. Commit to following through and finishing them. You'll feel pounds lighter and ready to take on new projects and plans for world domination.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Sneak Peek - Postcards

While live painting as this week's featured artists over at the Blue Macaw via Market SF, we have developed a whole new line of postcard-sized art! Seal came up with the theme of "Steampunk animals," and we really took that concept and ran with it!

These images are parts of two of the new postcards that we'll be featuring at the SF Zine Fest on September 4+5th! Woo, it's coming up soon, so mark your calendars for a whole new line of postcards for sale at the Zine Fest!
We are hard at work trying to work on a bunch of new and exciting projects as we have also confirmed a booth at the Alternative Press Expo this coming October 16+17th, so we want to really step up our game and have some great stuff for you to check out. We appreciate your support and patronage, and we hope to keep producing art and products that you'll enjoy.