Are all artists rich flakes who don't want to work?
January 18, 2006 8:47 AM   Subscribe

Why can't I find an artist?

I've got a project I'm creating that is animated (Flash) stories for kids, but I'm having a hell of a time finding a suitable artist. It's not me being picky, it's just a lack of response, interest or followup. There is no requirement that the artist know Flash...I've got someone else for that. I just need them to create the pieces of the animation and deliver them in a digital format.

The first artist was a friend of a friend, who was apparently desperate for the money (though admittedly I can't afford to pay much, it was a reasonable hourly wage for a short term commitment). She expressed interest, but only after I had to get out mutual friend to push her into answering my emails.

The second one responded to me saying he was too busy (fair enough, no fault on him there).

Numbers 3-6 that I've emailed, to the addresses they put on their online profile, didn't respond to me at all.

So I posted the job on the internal job listing site of a local art/film school. No response at all, even though I posted the wage at "Negotiable flat fee". I thought that would interest some starving student artists.

What's the usual process here? Are all artists flakes? What do I do to get someone to help me on this project?
posted by Kickstart70 to Work & Money (26 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
No, we're not all flakes ;-). Sorry you're having a problem. I think you're following standard operating procedure --just having some bad luck. How close is your deadline?
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 9:01 AM on January 18, 2006


She expressed interest, but only after I had to get out mutual friend to push her into answering my emails.

Why exactly would you want to do business with someone who you have to harangue into taking your money?

I think it's a fair bet that the "artist community" as you find it is going to have a higher than average number of flakes. For every working artist, there's at least one other who believes that just sitting around thinking art-y thoughts is what it takes to be an artist, just as there's any number of "writers" who don't put words on a page for months at a time. Many people are lazy. It's not a conspiracy against you.

You should also remember that you're petitioning a group of people who have made a life choice to earn less than they could at other things so they can pursue their own Vision. Meaning theirs, not yours. Many of those people are not going to be interested in following your specifications.

You also don't say exactly how this collaboration is supposed to work. It's animated - how? I'm assuming it's not traditional cell-based full-motion if you can have an artist independent of the Flash coder. Perhaps the people reading your pitch don't understand how it's supposed to work either. Perhaps they think you don't know what the hell you're talking about and working with you would be miserable.

If this not a pitch you can post here?
posted by phearlez at 9:06 AM on January 18, 2006


As an illustrator myself, I can't tell you how many e-mails I get from people who need illustrations for kids stories. The majority of these requests usually claim, "I can't pay you anything NOW, but it would mean great exposure for your work!" or "I can't pay a LOT, but when I make it big, we can work something out!" I imagine I'm not the only one... but warning lights always automatically start flashing when someone approaches me and says, "I've got this idea for childrens' stories!"

Make sure when approaching artists that you understand they are professionals just like any other. I think there is a huge assumption that since this is one of those careers that people enjoy doing, that they can afford to do it for peanuts.

You wouldn't call up a plumber or electrician and say, "I can't afford to pay you your regular rate, but think of the exposure!" or "...but I promise it will be fun work!" Exposure doesn't pay the bills.

Of course, you say that you ARE paying, but admittedly not a lot. If you care to share what you're considering paying, that might explain the lack of interest.
posted by Robot Johnny at 9:11 AM on January 18, 2006


I find this kind of response in a variety of areas including plumbers, contractors and house painters. Every walk of life has it's flakes. Particularly where I live.

That being said, I know of at least one person who might be able to help you out. Scott Bateman. Don't know if he's up your alley style wise though.
posted by FlamingBore at 9:13 AM on January 18, 2006


Maybe you're pitching it to fine artists rather than illustrators? I think also that by not setting an hourly rate or laying out exact scope (if this is true of your pitch) professional illustrators and artists become a bit skittish.

I know for myself after having been burned a few times by flat rate projects that grew to monsterous proportions that a lot of creatives avoid anything that sounds like it has the potential to become unwieldy and financially draining.

Perhaps trying to nail down the scope in a way that lets artists know exactly what the parameters of the project are will enable you to find someone who's a great fit.
posted by stagewhisper at 9:14 AM on January 18, 2006


Oh, and I have no idea what he might charge you, but it's worth a shot, no?
posted by FlamingBore at 9:15 AM on January 18, 2006


(on preview, Johnny Robot nails it. )
posted by stagewhisper at 9:18 AM on January 18, 2006


Taken Outtacontext: I don't really have a deadline on this, just I want to get it moving. I've written the story, found a Flash animator, and just need the artist to get the first stages done.

Unfortunately, because of wishing to protect the concept I can't post the exact details of the project. I'll share them with someone who contacts me directly however.

Robot Johnny: Part of the problem is not knowing how much, reasonably, I should pay an artist. I am funding this out-of-pocket and I'm just a sysadmin with a baby on the way, so I'm definitely not able to pay massive amounts. The first person I talked to (the only one where I've managed to get that far) I offered $20CAD/hour. Considering I only earn slightly more than that before taxes I thought it was reasonable. I've not mentioned 'exposure' at all, though I have no issue with giving credit, and I've said that if stage 1 of the project went well I'm open to upping the wage to keep a valuable artist available for my project.
posted by Kickstart70 at 9:21 AM on January 18, 2006


You may find the $20 per hour as part of the problem. It's not nothing, but over here in Ireland that would be seriously laughed at.

I charge £30 per hour as a discount rate for jobs I'd be interested in doing (I'm a graphic designer). Jobs I would find a struggle (corporate work etc would go up to closer the £50 per hour mark.)

I know you only earn slightly more but being an artist is an expensive vocation and they have to cover materials etc (software, computers etc in mine)
posted by twistedonion at 9:33 AM on January 18, 2006


Kickstart70,

Myself, I would never do illustrations for $20/hr. To me, that's ridiculously low (and even then, I prefer to set a flat rate based on the job, and not work hourly), but I can understand that if you're paying out of your own pocket, instead of a professional budget, that it's a lot of money for you. But I can also imagine, without many details to go on, that your story involves at least a few characters, in different positions, different facial expressions, backgrounds and props, etc... don't underestimate the amount of work involved in animation.

I think you'll have your best luck targeting students or young, eager non-professional illustrators simply because they don't know how to price themselves competetively... even though that's not something I condone as I am a firm believer in students learning how to price themselves as professionals lest they never break the habit of not realizing their worth.
posted by Robot Johnny at 9:57 AM on January 18, 2006


Robot Johnny, would you mind if I contacted you off-site with what I'm looking for and you can give me a reasonable appraisal of what I need to be paying? I'm quite willing to pay what it takes to get this done properly, but given that this is the first time I've even considered hiring an artist I'm a bit at a loss as to the steps I need to take.

Thx
posted by Kickstart70 at 10:02 AM on January 18, 2006


Sure thing, Kickstart70. My contact info is on my user profile.

Also, for anyone else either creating or paying for illustration, animation, design, etc... the Graphic Artist Guild's Handbook of Pricing and Ethical Guidelines is an invaluable resource that helps you learn what to charge for your work (and what to expect to pay) as well as the proper etiquette and protocol for negotiating payment, contracts, estimates, invoices, etc. etc...
posted by Robot Johnny at 10:19 AM on January 18, 2006


Unfortunately, because of wishing to protect the concept I can't post the exact details of the project.

Maybe you could post the details important to an artist like:

Number of scenes/backgrounds.
Characters to animate.
Aniticipated simplicity.
2d vs 3d rendering.

Throwing out a figure like $20/hr is not going to help you in budgeting for the project because I assume you have no idea how long it will take an artist to create. If this is something that is going to only take an experienced and talented artist 2 hours to do, I don't think they would be much interested.
posted by JJ86 at 10:24 AM on January 18, 2006


Maybe you could post the details important to an artist like:

Exactly. You don't have to tell us what the story is, or sequence of events, or anything other than something along the lines of "4 character designs, profile and 3/4 views, 7 backgrounds" etc. If providing the breakdown like that is going to give away your idea then you don't have an idea.

If you don't have this kind of breakdown then I'd bet that's a big part of why you're not getting any traction. The people hearing your fleshless pitch are discerning that you not only are going to need the work, but also a lot of hand-holding to actually discern what it is you need. And having taken work both as a software engineer and as a woodworker/artist -I- know that it's the people with the least well-defined needs who are consistently the hardest to please and the most work.
posted by phearlez at 11:34 AM on January 18, 2006


Robot Johnny has pretty much said everything that needs to be said on the matter...which I unfortunately know from experience. But I'll put my two bits in anyway.

If your pitch to these various artists has included the proposed fee and/or hourly, that may be why you're not hearing back from anyone. RJ and twistedonion are right on when they say that $20CAD/hr is lowballing it to the extreme. I personally am very wary of taking on jobs like this, because the clients are often...less than wholly serious. If the project is that important, why cut corners on such an integral part of it? The few times I have taken said jobs, I've either been stiffed outright, or the project stalled out at an early stage. It only takes getting burned once or twice to become a real hard-ass on the subject of pricing, rights, contracts, etc. An experienced freelancer will be very upfront with you about all of this, and should quote a job rate after you describe the scope of the project to them. Go snag a copy of the GAG Handbook linked above--it lays out the process of hiring an artist in excruciating detail.

Another consideration: animation is a strange beast, one that I'd wager many illustrators just don't bother with. Even though you have someone else to do the actual Flash work, your artist will still need to have basic familiarity with the program, if only to know what is and is not possible/practical in generating the basic character designs. In that respect it'd probably be easier to find an illustrator who can also do Flash, because I can guarantee there will be at least one snarl in the process that will call for some back-and-forth between your tech guy and your art guy...and that means time, which also means money.

And, well, a lot of artsy types are flakes. Don't bother yourself with 'em, because their working relationship with you would also be pretty flaky, and you don't need that. If you're serious about doing the project and need to stay within a budget, collaboration with a student is probably your best bet. Just don't do wrong by them. It's painfully easy to do.

(On preview, I should've just gone with skallas' answer of "you get what you pay for", which is so much less wordy than my version.)
posted by Vervain at 11:50 AM on January 18, 2006


phearlez: Exactly. You don't have to tell us what the story is, or sequence of events, or anything other than something along the lines of "4 character designs, profile and 3/4 views, 7 backgrounds" etc. If providing the breakdown like that is going to give away your idea then you don't have an idea.

skallas: If you're unwilling to pay ~70-150 dollars an hour for a professional then you're going to deal with non-professionals. Non-profs can be students, dabblers, self-taughts looking for practice, etc. They don't have the experience, communication, and customer service skills a pro does. Its not rocket science.

That's your disconnect right there...

A 'professional' charges a huge hourly rate - in any field - because they put time into all the details to create a turn-key solution. If you knew how to specify the project properly you might get away with $20/h for a student, but if you need to tap expertise to figure out what you want, you are going to have to pay a lot more.

Of course this discussion is doing a great job of closing the gap, so I probably should keep my nose out of it...
posted by Chuckles at 11:51 AM on January 18, 2006


Some excellent comments above, that could apply equally for any and all instances of "I want someone to put up a website for me."
posted by matildaben at 12:06 PM on January 18, 2006


Also a working artist, chiming in that $20/hour is lowballing. To overcome this, you'd have to a) offer me a possibly large chunk of the profits, b) have a project I personally liked, and c) be a friend or at least a good acquaintance. Also if there was enough strife in the project I'd have an easy time dropping it. And unless your job was tons of fun it would get subordinated to higher-paying work.

Another thing I've noticed is that willingness to pay up front = commitment to the project, on the part of the client, i.e. those people that come up to me with "I can't pay you money now for this children's book" never actually write the book!

I don't know, I think all of this was said before in various ways, I'm just adding a voice here.
posted by furiousthought at 12:07 PM on January 18, 2006


If a deadline isn't looming, have you thought about approaching a local art school? As a Web design teacher I once did the reverse and contacted an art gallery to see if they might be interested in have a Web site done as a project for the students. Big hit.

But in your case you could pay an individual student or if you have the time an inclination, find a teacher who might be interested in your project as a class project (with the best solution picked by you).
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 12:08 PM on January 18, 2006


it's the people with the least well-defined needs who are consistently the hardest to please and the most work.

so so true.
posted by twistedonion at 12:09 PM on January 18, 2006


Ditto, twistedonion.

Too often I am scared off by a client who has zero focus because it means I will be doing more work than was planned.

In an e-mail to Kickstart70 I recommended that his first step be to hire an illustrator to create a storyboard of what he needs and use that as a basis for continuing the project on further.
posted by Robot Johnny at 12:26 PM on January 18, 2006


I'd like to add that knowing what style of art you were looking for would be very important for me. A craftsperson may be okay with doing a project that merely hones his/her technical skills, but as an artist, I'm seeking projects that hone my ideas and my understanding of the world. If a theme I explore in my own work is also present in your work, I'd be more excited about collaborating on your project, and the money might not even be an issue. So, for me it wouldn't be enough to hear that you needed an illustrator/animator and the technical specs, but I'd want to know what the tone of the project is and a few examples of other projects that approach what you're trying to do.

Without that information, it's like saying, "I need music for my film. Composers: call me." What kind of music? Jazz, orchestral, indie rock?
posted by xo at 1:05 PM on January 18, 2006


"Rich flakes who don't want to work"? Your post title has the same effect as the warning pattern on a poison dart frog; keep your distance! Aversion to insults, or working for peanuts, aren't symptoms of a mental deficiency. Good day to you sir!

*dons hat, turns on heel, slams door*
posted by Scoo at 1:15 PM on January 18, 2006


Robot Johnny, would you mind if I contacted you off-site with what I'm looking for and you can give me a reasonable appraisal of what I need to be paying? I'm quite willing to pay what it takes to get this done properly, but given that this is the first time I've even considered hiring an artist I'm a bit at a loss as to the steps I need to take.

See, this kind of illustrates the problem. Do you even realize that you've just asked a professional for a *free* consultation? People pay for the answers to questions like these.

Robot Johnny is probably a sterling fellow and likes you fine, and I predict nothing but good things from your interaction with him/it; but you might like to open your eyes and realize that you can't even hire skilled manual labor like movers or fence erectors for $20 an hour these days.
posted by ikkyu2 at 6:13 PM on January 18, 2006


ikkyu2: See, that's part of the problem...how in the world would I or anyone else know that if this, like me right now, had never done it before. And no one I've contacted so far has responded to me with "Sure, I'll answer you for $100".

I've always been willing to pay a decent rate, but I don't even know what that decent rate is. For myself, I make between $20 and $25 an hour as a *nix sysadmin with 14 years experience. Yeah, I'd be charging more if I was a contractor - no dispute there. I don't expect different. But how the heck would I find out without people answering me, or some decent fellow like Robot Johnny to tell me?

FWIW, this is one of the wonderful things about AskMeFi...I needed an answer and got it by someone volunteering their time.
posted by Kickstart70 at 7:39 PM on January 18, 2006


A friend of mine runs a t-shirt site and has had a hell of time finding artists to draw simple designs for t-shirts, at $300 a pop. He's even offered a $500 referal bonus to anyone who can find one.
posted by delmoi at 11:44 PM on February 26, 2006


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