Debate and Discussion

Because You're Worth It.
Ironscarfs Ghost at 2:06PM, Oct. 11, 2008
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Okay, here's the deal:

The guys from ?Comics like your samples, so they give you a script to draw up on spec. They want to see five pages of continuity, featuring their character(s) before they make their decision. That means, according to recent UK page rates at least, you're going to draw 600 quidsworth (over 1000 US dollars) of art for the priviledge of being considered. If they don't want you, you get nothing, zilch, nada for your efforts. Even the pages you've drawn aren't much use to you because !Comics doesn't want to see samples of ?comics characters.

Let's put the boot on another foot. You need your house rewiring so you call an electrician. The conversation goes something like:

“Hey, I hear your pretty good and I need some work doing. If you come round to my house and rewire one room for free, I'll give you the job if I like what I see.”

Even if he's new in town, that conversation is going to end abruptly! So why are we devalued in this way (this could apply to illustrators too) and why do we allow ourselves to be devalued? To my mind, asking artists for work on spec, is insulting and wouldn't be tolerated by any other profession.

What's your opinion? Have you ever been asked for work on spec? Should we just accept this as established practise?
Er……..boo!
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:03PM
Hawk at 2:45PM, Oct. 11, 2008
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This is something that happens a lot, especially on the internet, and I think it's something that artists need to be aware of.

Here's the deal though… in the example you mentioned, a comic company can't tell how good you are at making comics unless they see comic pages. And to know that you can deal with continuity, consistency and story telling, they need to see multiple pages. Is five pages too much? I don't believe so.

The thing is, unlike the electrician metaphor, the comic company isn't getting something for free. They don't use the five pages of the artists they didn't hire, and those artists keep that work and can use it in their portfolio. In that sense, the author isn't blowing $1000 worth of work. They're investing in their portfolio, which they can use to get hired somewhere else.

Now, here's the other side of that: if the comics company is asking for artwork or materials that they will eventually use and that will also decide your employment, this is where you could be getting ripped off. I know people who have done concept artwork for a prospective employer and yet didn't get hired, and then the company still used their concept artwork without compensation. This is wrong AND exploitation. Artists need to be well aware of the agreement and be prepared to protect their work. I would mostly recommend against applying for any jobs in which your current portfolio is not sufficient to get the job.

Also, here is the best thing I've ever read about the topic of artist exploitation:
Unfinanced Entrepreneurs
Part 1 - http://www.povonline.com/cols/COL209.htm
Part 2 - http://www.povonline.com/cols/COL210.htm
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:46PM
ozoneocean at 2:49PM, Oct. 11, 2008
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It's because there are so many artists… There's always some willing to do that. I throw jobs away if the money isn't right, I don't need the hassle or the drain on my time.
 
last edited on July 14, 2011 2:32PM
Mushroomcomix at 6:27PM, Oct. 11, 2008
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I agree with Hawk, as long as they aren't going to use your artwork then their should be no compensation. It's kind of like a job interview when you are creating those five pages for them, they need to know that you can do the job before they give it to you. But if they do use your work without compensation than that's when I would get pissed and demand something.
last edited on July 14, 2011 2:08PM
isukun at 10:01PM, Oct. 11, 2008
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A lot of artistic professions do the same thing. Take animation, for example. Many of your professional studios will include a animation test as part of the hiring process. They do this not only to test your skill, but also to see how well you work under pressure with a deadline. In the case of the animator, though, you never get paid for that work (on the flip side, however, it's usually not something the studio then turns around and uses in a production, either).

In a way it makes a lot of sense. How can a publisher or studio properly measure your reliability without testing you? You can always get online and look up reviews on an electrician or ask friends who have used the same company, but how does a company judge an individual on their capabilities. Web sites don't work because there is no way to tell how long you took or how much you did on your own. References will always be hand picked and skewed in your favor. Resumes are custom tailored to make you look good. So really the only thing left is a practical test.
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:04PM
KingRidley at 11:25PM, Oct. 11, 2008
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Ironscarfs Ghost
So why are we devalued in this way (this could apply to illustrators too) and why do we allow ourselves to be devalued?
Because art is relative based on what the viewer thinks, while electricity always works the same way.
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:16PM
DAJB at 1:40AM, Oct. 12, 2008
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There are companies out there that will rip you off but, in the scenario you describe, I think you have to look at the five pages in the same way that a singer/actor/dancer will look at an audition. They have to show that they can sing/act/dance and - even if they've done a little work before - they also have to prove that their acting/singing/dancing is right for the part in question. They may attend hundreds of auditions and still never get a part. That doesn't mean they're working on spec. They're just auditioning.

Working on spec is really about producing work which is used but for which you will only be paid if the project is a success and makes money. There's a lot of noise being made about this just now, but it's not always a case of one party ripping off another. This is how many indy comics get made, simply because the finance isn't there. The trick here is to pick projects you think will enjoy working on and which will look good in your portfolio. Then, if the project does make money (most indy publications don't!), then that's a bonus.

It is tough for artists. But, believe me, it's even tougher for writers. As a writer, you usually can't get someone even to read your work unless you've first had it drawn up by a competent artist.
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:03PM
lothar at 2:03AM, Oct. 12, 2008
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Ironscarfs Ghost
… recent UK page rates at least, you're going to draw 600 quidsworth (over 1000 US dollars) of art …
for 5 pages ??
thats like 200$ a page ? dammmm ! i wish i could draw !
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:45PM
Ironscarfs Ghost at 12:21PM, Oct. 13, 2008
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KingRidley
Because art is relative based on what the viewer thinks, while electricity always works the same way.

Electricity does, but electricians most certainly do not!
Er……..boo!
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:03PM
isukun at 1:01PM, Oct. 13, 2008
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Electricians also typically work on contract. If they do not provide the advertised service, you are not obligated to pay them or you can take them to small claims court. Quite honestly, though, you are talking apples and oranges. Electrical work is technical, and while there are some degrees of quality, there are far fewer points to judge the work on than there are in artistic presentation and professionalism. There are only so many options when determining how to fix faulty wiring. Still, even the electrician can be (and often is) judged on their ability to do the job.

Another thing to keep in mind is that many technical jobs are certified to help consumers get some idea of what they are getting. The certification is only granted when the individual can show they have the capability of handling themselves in the field. Artists don't get practical training for a professional environment, so employers don't know what to expect out of your work ethic, enthusiasm, or ability to work under a tight schedule. Maybe you procrastinate a lot and make excuses while it takes you a week to churn out one page. Perhaps you can work fast, but the quality of your work goes down drastically when you don't take your time. You could just not care about working on other people's projects (but need the money) and the quality of your work when working with their characters and storyline may reflect that.
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:04PM
Ironscarfs Ghost at 2:42PM, Oct. 13, 2008
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Isukun
Artists don't get practical training for a professional environment, so employers don't know what to expect out of your work ethic, enthusiasm, or ability to work under a tight schedule. Maybe you procrastinate a lot and make excuses while it takes you a week to churn out one page. Perhaps you can work fast, but the quality of your work goes down drastically when you don't take your time. You could just not care about working on other people's projects (but need the money) and the quality of your work when working with their characters and storyline may reflect that.

No one would seek to deny that. What I'm saying is that, assuming your portfolio already includes examples of continuity work (just common sense) and that you can draw a page a day, that's still a week long job interview they're going to expect from you for no recompense.

There are an awful lot of what ifs that a prospective employer might raise with regard to his potential employee, but to expect that potential employee to be working for you for free with no obligation on your part, before you decide he or she is up to the mark is unfair. It may be standard practise but that doesn't make it any better. Whether or not that work will or will not be published is for a different topic.

Also, nobody has mentioned whether or not they've done work like this. I did many years ago and I know others who did. I don't know of anybody who actually got a contract out of it. All the contract work I ever did came from my portfolio as presented, or more usually from contacts or recommendations. I think the whole practise gives a false perspective of how the industry actually works.
Er……..boo!
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:03PM
Hawk at 3:36PM, Oct. 13, 2008
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I think I see what you're trying to say, Ironscarfs Ghost. All I can say is to reiterate my advice on choosing who you apply to. Apply to companies who will look at what you already have in your portfolio when considering to hire you. Don't apply to companies that want you to do part of their project before they'll consider you. You're right, it's not a good hiring policy. If they're interested in you and want to see you create something in the style or genre they're looking for, you might want to consider making one page or piece of artwork… But make sure it's something you can put back in your portfolio for future consideration by other companies.

I've never applied to a job in the manner you were describing. I went through the standard channels, meaning I went to school, filled my portfolio there, and then got a job using that portfolio. Of course, my job is in CGI Animation, not Comic Books or Illustration, so there are some definite differences to how the two industries work.
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:46PM
isukun at 6:05PM, Oct. 13, 2008
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Whether or not that work will or will not be published is for a different topic.

Actually, it really isn't a different topic. There is a pretty big difference between a publishing house or company that is taking advantage of you by using that work, but not hiring you, and a publishing house or company that has you work on a completely different small project to judge your performance. Artists are not the only ones who are often tested with small projects before they are considered for a job. A lot of jobs have probationary periods, unpaid internships, apprenticeships, and application exams (including practical tests).

I have a friend who works for Inis as a programmer. Before they hired him, he spent a full weekend coding a puzzle game using assets they gave him as part of his application process. He's not an artist, but still had to go through the same thing. In fact, he had to do a similar test for the company he worked for before Inis.
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:04PM
Ironscarfs Ghost at 6:52PM, Oct. 13, 2008
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isukun
Actually, it really isn't a different topic. There is a pretty big difference between a publishing house or company that is taking advantage of you by using that work, but not hiring you, and a publishing house or company that has you work on a completely different small project to judge your performance.

Granted, a huge difference. But that has nothing to do with the question I raised, which was solely about the ethics of comic book hopefuls having to undergo these protracted tests. I couldn't see the point in debating the issue of artists being ripped off in the way you describe, as it would be a rather one sided discussion on this forum!
isukun
I have a friend who works for Inis as a programmer. Before they hired him, he spent a full weekend coding a puzzle game using assets they gave him as part of his application process. He's not an artist, but still had to go through the same thing. In fact, he had to do a similar test for the company he worked for before Inis.
I'd put that more into the realms of a ‘real’ interview: although it's a long one. It's hard to comment without more background, but I've been through similar processes myself over the years, for different types of occupations. It's a question of degrees really. What I'm talking about is an inordinate amount of work to expect anybody to do without entering into some kind of contract, handed out casually by an editor who's already seen appropriate samples,to a young hopeful in most cases, who thinks he has a foot in the door to his dream job.
Er……..boo!
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:03PM
isukun at 7:28PM, Oct. 14, 2008
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What I'm talking about is an inordinate amount of work to expect anybody to do without entering into some kind of contract, handed out casually by an editor who's already seen appropriate samples,to a young hopeful in most cases, who thinks he has a foot in the door to his dream job.

Programming a game from scratch with nothing more than graphical assets and making sure the code is optimized and efficient isn't exactly a small task. He spent a good 36 hours on the project. You also seem to be missing the point that a lot of employers don't give you trial tasks like this to test your ability to draw.
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:04PM
Ironscarfs Ghost at 3:49AM, Oct. 15, 2008
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Isukun
Programming a game from scratch with nothing more than graphical assets and making sure the code is optimized and efficient isn't exactly a small task. He spent a good 36 hours on the project. You also seem to be missing the point that a lot of employers don't give you trial tasks like this to test your ability to draw.

I don't recall missing that point! But neither do they seem to give them to test your ability to work to the necessary schedule. I'm must have undertaken this task five or six times in the past and always with a brief that went something like.
“Take your time, we want to see your best work. Come back in one month and we'll look over the results.”
And one month is the least amount of time I was given to produce six pages.
I don't know of many professional comic artists who can make a living from six pages a month, but it's not the kind of test you're implying. Smacks more of keeping people on the books should artist x or second choice Z not be available to me.
Er……..boo!
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:03PM
isukun at 5:02PM, Oct. 15, 2008
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I don't know of many professional comic artists who can make a living from six pages a month, but it's not the kind of test you're implying.

At the rates you're talking about, plenty could around here. Still, seems like it could be the kind of test I'm implying even from your description. Why should a studio just assume that you can dedicate 24 hours, 7 days a week to a job application? They have to take into account that you may be looking at other job offers or that you might just have a full time job already. You shouldn't have any problems getting less than a week's worth of work done in four weekends and I'll bet anything they're going to look at you much more highly if you're able to send in five or six pages that match the quality of your portfolio pieces after two weeks than they will if you do the same after five weeks.

I'm sorry, but this just sounds more like whining than a legitimate argument to me at this point. It might be unreasonable if they were eating into your work time with the project or if they expected to use your work in a publication without paying you, but you've already stated that's not the case.

Smacks more of keeping people on the books should artist x or second choice Z not be available to me.

Which is pretty much how freelancing works in a lot of professions. I don't see any problems with that, either.
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:04PM
Ironscarfs Ghost at 5:47PM, Oct. 15, 2008
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I find it amusing that ‘I’m sorry but' so often precedes an insult!
I
What's your opinion? Have you ever been asked for work on spec? Should we just accept this as established practise?
I think we can agree to differ on this. You find it acceptible, I don't, as a result of my own experiences. I don't wish to denigrate your position.
Er……..boo!
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:03PM

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