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Artists Beware! A Timely Warning From A Pro

Posted by: J L Meadows on 02/03/2013 - 6:59 PM

Hey, all. As some of you know, I love cartooning and animation as well as illustration. One of the best animated-character designers in the business, Stephen Silver, has posted this rant on Youtube to try to wake artists up regarding the predators out there. It's well worth a listen:


Oldest Reply

Posted by: Janine Riley on 02/03/2013 - 7:37 PM

" 40 years & 10 mins" ! I have said a very similar statement.
Art doesn't "just" take the time to draw/paint/photograph it. It may take weeks, months, years to pull together what it takes to produce one great piece.
You want to know how to paint a flower ? Plant a garden first. Try to capture the soul of a horse ? Spend years mucking stalls & carrying water buckets in the winter.
Never mind all those nights spent up at the kitchen table trying to grasp a wisp of a child's hair.
The small fortune of materials that you need to upgrade your skills - that could have taken you family to Hawaii.
My artwork is my mistress - & she is expensive to maintain. I would at least expect some respect.

Go ask someone for their Mobile phone or laptop - for free- & see their response.


Posted by: Melanie Spencer on 02/03/2013 - 7:47 PM

I think it was a lengthy video just to say 'Don't give your art away for free to companies that ask you because no one else works for free' This pretty much sums it up.


Posted by: Alfred Ng on 02/03/2013 - 8:00 PM

Thanks Melanie! you sum it up very well, it such a long winded rant, all he needed to say was don't give away your art. I did not have the patient to watch the whole video.


Posted by: Mike Savad on 02/03/2013 - 8:05 PM

i was waiting for some reviews here first before deciding if clicking on a video would be worth it or not. i find many of the videos here are very long.

and while i didn't listen to the video at all, i have to say, always have your wits about you, read contracts, understand them. and know what your getting yourself into and how it might hurt you. many people are quite naive and think of only the best, when they should be thinking about the worst so they can prevent it from happening.

---Mike Savad


Posted by: David Larsen on 02/03/2013 - 8:56 PM

You know who gets art for free? Family and maybe some very close friends. That is all.

It is kind of like being a techie and someone asks you to fix their computer for free. The answer is no unless it is your mom.


Posted by: Shana Rowe on 02/03/2013 - 9:30 PM

True David..but the other side of that is sometimes people expect too much for free just because they are a friend or family. You have to know where to draw the line there too!!


Posted by: Cindy Singleton on 02/03/2013 - 9:32 PM

Just went through this again today. Turned down an opportunity to have my work seen by millions! I've had so much smoke blown in my face over the years, it's become easy to see through.

"Your work is wonderful! Beautiful! Amazing!" etc.

"Let me have it for free, and so many people will see it and want to buy it. You'll be rich!"

Seriously. If you think my work is so great, then pay for it.

I've found that the greatest promotion has always come from those who value my work and have been willing to pay for it.

I learned this the hard way. When I was first starting out as a professional (10 years ago), I was a sucker for those lines. I hope new professional artists believe in themselves enough to understand this - if someone truly values your work, they will pay for it.


Posted by: Lynn Palmer on 02/03/2013 - 10:04 PM

When I had a business I would get requests for free art frequently but I always declined. I found that more often than not, they eventually returned and paid for the artwork.


Posted by: J L Meadows on 02/03/2013 - 10:47 PM

The thing is, many, if not most, artists are insecure. They believe that what they offer is not a necessity, as is food and shelter, and so they're always got something of an inferiority complex regarding their life's calling. That's why they're easy to exploit.

I'm sorry that some of you didn't bother to listen to any or all of Stephen's comments. He was trying to warn younger artists of the pitfalls of the business. He's quite respected in his field, and he didn't have to say anything, you know. And he makes a valid point. You know those animated feature films you enjoy? Ten-to-one they were created in part by free labor - asking animators to do unpaid overtime is epidemic in that business. Because some go along with it, everybody's bottom line gets lowered. From what I've read, Pixar is not a union studio, and so, unfortunately, abuses occur. And why? Because artists let it happen. That's what Stephen was trying to say. And I think it was worth saying.


Posted by: Douglas Wilks on 02/03/2013 - 11:10 PM

It is interesting how many friends and others have asked me for free images. I wonder how many businesses will just give away free products to friends and family. The perception seems to be that digital photography doesn't cost that much as film did years ago. That is greatly inaccurate, as you have to look at all of the costs; camera, lenses, tripod, memory card, accessories, time, energy and time spent locating or creating the scene to be photographed, a computer, software programs, gasoline (if you drive to a location), printer, paper, ink, marketing (business cards, brochures, etc), and more. The only person who can protect you from losing money and making mistakes in any business, you. Lawyers, accountants and others can advise you of what to do. Ultimately you have to do what you believe and feel is in your best interest, or learn a hard lesson that could cost you dearly.


Posted by: Dan Carmichael on 02/04/2013 - 12:05 AM

You are never going to stop it. This is a theme that has been discussed in photo forums for years.

I could go on and on about the content of those debates, but will not. I will get to the bottom line.

There is a large amount of amateurs / non-professionals out there who are totally satisfied with giving their work away with the only payment being a credit, or even less: the satisfaction of telling friends and relatives "See? That's my picture in that ad!" And their replies to pros is consistent: we really don't care if we are screwing up your profession or your market. We have a right to give it away for free if we want, and that's what we are going to do. And you know what? They are correct. They have that right.

Until you stop that behavior, you will never stop users / abusers from expecting that behavior.


Posted by: J L Meadows on 02/04/2013 - 12:28 AM

True, Dan, but fortunately, most art that's given away isn't worth much to begin with, and the people who create it probably know that and are grateful anybody wants it. *shrug*


Posted by: Dan Turner on 02/04/2013 - 12:31 AM

If artist A wants big bucks and artist B charges considerably less for the same work, why pay artist A's prices?

If there is no difference in the mind of the buyer, then there is no difference. Besides being illegal, price-fixing isn't the answer. Better work, or at least the perception of better work, will allow artist A to command higher prices.


Posted by: Dan Carmichael on 02/04/2013 - 12:35 AM

Not true, JL. There is some very good art and photography being marketed out there for free or for unusually low prices. People are just going to have to deal with the fact that there ARE talented people who do not place the same value on their work as others, and that for many, bragging rights is sufficient payment.


Posted by: Dan Carmichael on 02/04/2013 - 12:37 AM

@Dan Turner
"Better work, or at least the perception of better work, will allow artist A to command higher prices. "

or finding niche markets.


Posted by: J L Meadows on 02/04/2013 - 1:53 AM

But for those artists who DON'T want to get cheated, or who put monetary value on their work, Stephen's comments are worth hearing.


Posted by: Shasta Eone on 02/04/2013 - 2:44 AM

The only paintings I have " given " away were in gratitude for services received. This was to a non-profit agency to help them continue on with their services / helping people. They auctioned the painting, received the funds, and life goes on.


Posted by: Mike Jeffries on 02/04/2013 - 4:46 AM

I gave away a painting for free once to a very smooth talking lady? who claimed to represent a well known charity who apparently were going to hold a grand auction of artists' works. I have never seen or heard of it ever since!

Art Prints

I was old enough to know better and had always charged as much as I thought the market would stand for my work resisting all kinds of offers from people who wanted to adorn the walls of their business or galleries with my work for free. My advice for what it's worth is to never enter any such arrangement whoever it is who asks for one from you.


Posted by: Martin Davey on 02/04/2013 - 7:47 AM

Well she had good taste anyway Mike!


Posted by: Kendall Kessler on 02/04/2013 - 8:35 AM

I wish every artist in the world would look at this video! I get to aggravated with artists that want to sell a painting for less than it costs to have it framed. I get paid for what I do and that is all there is to it.


Posted by: Charles Kozierok on 02/04/2013 - 8:42 AM

This guy has his cause and effect backwards. There aren't a lot of poor artists because people do work for free -- people do work for free to try to get ahead in a marketplace saturated with unknown artists.

There's nothing wrong with giving work away for free as long as you reasonably feel you're going to get something valuable in return.


Posted by: J Scott Davidson on 02/04/2013 - 8:46 AM

A very interesting subject. I have only recently begun to offer my photographs for sale. As an amateur I have been paid for a few images. The boost these sales gave me was... well, somewhat intoxicating. But as an amateur I always worried that selling my photographs would morph my wonderful hobby into a dreary job. The economy is the true reason I have chosen to sell my photographs. And to get back to the point, if I could eat a little better by selling for a little less, I would have to consider it.

In my case my insecurity has less to do with my thinking regarding the value of my art. I feel very strongly about images that can transform your mood each time you see them. My issues lie more along the lines of not knowing if my images are good enough to move people. Would I give an image to someone who truly loved it but could not afford it? Most certainly. If by giving one of my countless images away would brighten an unhappy persons lot, wouldn't I be obligated to give freely?

But, the video, and a good portion of the conversation focuses on the commercial theft and false promises that others seem to be profiting from. I am cautious when entering "contests" which seem to be clever ways to troll for free imagery. But I would never even consider giving an image to an entity. An individual, perhaps, but an unfeeling corporate greed machine? That should be easy to avoid.


Posted by: J L Meadows on 02/04/2013 - 6:07 PM

**This guy has his cause and effect backwards. There aren't a lot of poor artists because people do work for free -- people do work for free to try to get ahead in a marketplace saturated with unknown artists.

There's nothing wrong with giving work away for free as long as you reasonably feel you're going to get something valuable in return.*

Mm-hm. And how's that working out for you?


Posted by: Marcio Faustino on 02/04/2013 - 6:54 PM

It is worthless to say don't give your work for free without saying how to sell your work. It is very easy to say it once you have people buying your work.

The problem is that many starving artist are not selling anything even when they never give nothing for free. I am a good example.
So, giving thair work for free or not doesn't make any difference. The only difference is that they are trying everything to become noticeble.
If they could sell they weren't giving nothing for free.

If you have people asking work for free, doesn't metter if you give your price, they never will pay for your work. If there is nobody asking for your price! Any silly free proposal will make you feel alittle bit better about your work.

Between sellnothing and see your work nowhere, and see your work somewhere even if it was for free. See it somewhere will always make you feel better about what you do.

I am agains working for free but it is not that simple.

A journalist took a photo from my website and published it without my permition in one of the biggest paper in Ireland. I complained and hey paid me something. I could sue them but believe me. I am glad to see that at least one of my photographs was published in a national paper even if I did't get any credit and a cheap money after complain.


Posted by: J L Meadows on 02/04/2013 - 7:08 PM

But Marcio, you can include that semi-sale in your profile. You can say, "one of my photographs appeared in (biggest newspaper in Ireland)". That gives the impression that you are a pro, and have sold work. That's a big plus.


Posted by: Marcio Faustino on 02/04/2013 - 7:24 PM

But anybody can do the same, about any free work, it doesn't mean it will make any diference unless if you tell it for your potencial buyers. but you have to find them first. and to find them you have to be on the right place at the right time, you need money to invest and try until get in there. And this has to be said too. Because if you say don't work for free, young artists will be desapointed with themselves to find out that it didn't help them to make any money with thair art.


Posted by: Marcio Faustino on 02/04/2013 - 7:30 PM

Also, many of these known artists has to remind thair public that anything thay make will sell. Doesn't metter what it is because people don't buy only thair work but also thair names. And name is what begginers young artists doesn't have.


Posted by: J L Meadows on 02/04/2013 - 7:48 PM

Marcio, I'm just saying that it sounds to me like you got a good break that could add to your street cred. Make the most of it.


Posted by: Dorinda K Skains on 02/05/2013 - 12:47 PM

Thanks for posting this...

If your artwork is worth a business’ time/effort to contact you... then they see it as potentially a good marketing/image tool for them... and they should be able to offer $, however small, from their marketing budget... or an equal amount of their product/services in payment.

If it is a non-profit asking for a donation... they can usually manage to get you season tickets, or print extra images of your work to sell later... or set aside event space for you to sell your work...

If it is for family/friends... one can cheerfully ask if they prefer a little discount off the price... or would they prefer to trade for it. At the very least... there is most always something to be traded, as most people have a talent/skill worth trading for. I have traded artwork for a series of spa treatments, printing work, loan collateral, studio rent, fresh seafood deliveries, etc... (retail value for retail value).

When a new owner pays, works or trades for an artwork, their perception of the artwork’s value increases... and therefore your artwork at least maintains its value... and does not decrease because of free give-aways.

(He has also posted a Part 2, addressing/ranting about contests, pay-to-enter contests and reading their fine print... knowing when they compromise your copyright ownership by just entering them)


This discussion is closed.