Tagged: work

Baby steps

I just had a fantastic meeting today with Suzanne and Julia, two other Drink & Draw Montréal contributors. We talked about the future of the site and I mentioned that I didn’t post very often because each of my post is such a laborious process that it takes ages to come to fruition and involves much procrastination and stalling. I have known that I was stalling for a long time, but the discussion we had validated my feelings (and my choice of topics) and I decided to write smaller articles more often and it would increase my output.

Of course, I didn’t come up with that idea. That’s where the expression Baby Steps comes from. The thing is, often we don’t notice how much we are stalling while we are stalling. We are procrastinating because a task seems too arduous and it’s just easier and less scary to do something else. It’s the reason you hear about people trying to do a novel, but never finishing it, but you rarely hear about people trying to do a short story but never finishing it. It’s much easier to do a short story, so chances are you will finish, even if it’s rubbish.

The same can be said of anything, making art, packing for a move, doing our taxes. It seems so big and complicated that we push it back and never do it. I have been doing that with my writing for DnD. But our meeting gave me plenty of ideas of articles that shouldn’t be agony to write, so expect more in the near future. And we are planning on putting the drinking back into Drink and Draw, so expect more of that as well!

Informations about commissioning art

I need to update my website to add some information regarding how to commission art from me. Which has led me to wonder if there is a standard way to go about it. Which has led me to find these informative pages. I thought they might interest my readers as well.

The AOI’s guide to commissioning illustrations. The AOI is british  and their information about rights might differ from that in your country. They also aren’t  specialised in fantasy or sci-fi work, they deal with general illustration.

A sample of a contract to commission an illustration, shared under creative commons.

AxisWeb ‘ guide to commissioning art. They are into contemporary fine art so it’s a completely different crab basket.

Spec work parading as a contest

Spec work makes my head explode!

Maybe you have a business and you need art, or a logo and you are thinking a contest is the way to go, you give the same amount as a prize as you would pay for the work, but you get to pick your favorite in the bunch.

Maybe you are a designer or an artist and you don’t really know how to get your first gig and you see an ad for an art contest to create a logo and think it might just be the way to go.

I find that this sounds more like spec work than a contest. Yes there is a prize at the end, but basically, a bunch of people work for free, then you take your pick and pay only that one.

The line between a contest and spec work is very thin, but often when participating in a contest you get something even if you don’t win (critics, exposure, contacts) and if you win, you get something that you wouldn’t have gotten if you had done the work normally (send a quote, get the job, get paid.) If I participate in a contest on http://theartorder.com/ I get my art in front of a whole lot of AD’s from the biggest companies in the industry, and I often get feedback from pros. And If I show my portfolio to someone in the industry later, often they remember seeing it on ArtOrder. Now that’s something I don’t usually get from a mundane gig.

What does your contest have to offer that should incite artists to participate and run the risk of working for no pay? Is this approach better than asking people to send you quotes and portfolios and picking the best one?

I know there are sites entirely dedicated to contests and “crowdsourcing” and they look popular. Now, just because some artists lowball each other vying for work doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. And maybe there is a lot of traffic on those sites, but  I don’t want people to see my work on there because I assume that the people who are going to see my work here are either lowballing artists or cheap potential employers looking for spec work.

My position on this is pretty clear, now, readers, what do you think about contests? Please post in the comments.


For comments or questions you can also contact me at chantal (at) chantalfournier (dot) com.

I’d also like to remind you guys of my mailing list . I promise that I’m not going to use this list to spam you about trivial stuff all the time.  I have an option to sign up as an art director, a collector or just a curious person, I’m going to use that knowledge of my audience to tailor my mailings. I’m not going to give, sell or lease this list. Please sign up, you might even learn something!
Sign-up page

Quotes, estimates, pricelists etc. or: How to tell people how much money you want.

I have previously talked about deciding how much to charge for work. The next step is to let your potential clients know what you have decided about that.

Some  ways are more formal than others. Sometimes you will be asked for a ballpark quote because the client hasn’t quantified the work they are to outsource, sometimes because they couldn’t be bothered to explain (now, that’s scary.)

The Ballpark quote

Typically, when asked for a ballpark quote I send my terms of services (so the employer knows upfront what I’m about) as well as a few exemples of ranges ex. Color cover between xxx$ and xxxx$ depending on resolution, usage and turnaround (the more urgent the work, the more expensive it is.)
Sometimes it’s more detailed than that, and I send a quote dummy. I also send a link to my portfolio and make sure to link specifically to the type of work wanted (in this case I’d send a link to my portfolio and a link to some covers I have done.)

The Dummy quote

I actually have a dummy quote for 2d game assets that I used to send to indie game developpers that has detailed prices for many types of assets. Here is what it looks like ( albeit with a nice letterhead in a PDF.)

Name of Company inc.
42 street name, city , Québec, Canada
email@my Domain.com
Graphic assets for Generic 1 screen action puzzle game.

Design of main character: Included
Design of vehicle: Included
Set of 5 animations for main character: xxxUSD
Walk right
Drive right
Picking item (or doing whatever it is the character does)
Set of 3 animations for vehicle: xxUSD
Game Logo design: xxxUSD
Interface: xxxUSD
-Splash Screen
-Generic screen compatible with buttons for use for credits, instructions and menus
-Clickable (4 states) buttons:xxx USD
-3 different size/colors for different uses
Cursor with 3 states: xxUSD
Set of two special effects animations: xxUSD
-Puff of smoke
Set of 8 props (game pieces, gems, vegetable, etc): xxUSD
Terrain (1 file of the total size of the game area): xxUSD
Total: $xxxxx USD

Rights to be sold:
All rights to perpetuity. Artist to retain authorship of graphics (right to say she made them and to show in her portfolio.)
By Paypal or international money order

This quote is valid until Date usually 30 days in the future.

I use this dummy quote for developpers who have a vague idea what they want but sometimes they don’t know what kind of info I need to make a quote, this helps them and sometimes they just aren’t that far in their planning and want to budget for art before nailing the game design. I provided this quote on request to dev’s who were not ready to hire as a service/PR offer. I also updated prices everytime I upgraded my hourly prices (even if I don’t charge by the hour.)

The custom quote

My custom quote looks almost exactly like my dummy quote except it includes a payment schedule and more detailed infos about rights, rework, milestone approval and such.  And of course, I list assets requested by the client, not just a generic list of assets.


Pricelists are nice when you offer a standard service, for exemple, web hosting or business card design. It allows you to make a nice packageand hike your price by offering more in some packages. Like related services the client might not have thought about. However, some clients may feel limited by them, or think they don’t need half of what is in your packages.

The Ethics of art tests

I previously posted about art tests on Conceptart.org, in the jobs section. This is an elaboration on the subject because it is kind of a hot topic.

This is a case where we are lightly threading the fine line between enthousiasm and paranoia. On the one hand, we want to make money doing art. On the other we don’t want to be screwed by non-scrupulous individuals. And customers and publishers want to part with their hard earned cash and get hot art in return, not half finished scribbles or someone who clearly can’t deliver what they promised.

Why art tests?

This leads us to understand why art tests were instigated in the first place: to mitigate the risk involved in hiring an artist.

So they are only justified when an employer actually occurs a risk. For exemple, Massive Black give their potential employees art test. I guess it’s quite safe to assume that MB invests in the training and long term well being of their staff so there is a risk. There also is a risk when a company hires a freelancer under retainer, when they give large amounts of money upfront on a contract and other similar situations.

Other situations where I could see a risk is when a portfolio is “too good to be true” the person shows sequentials, animations, illos of enviros, characters, creatures, still lives. Can they really do that or was there any cheating? I know it can be insulting to think they tink you cheat, but the good news is, they think your stuff is too awesome to come from all the same person.

How do you deal with someone who wants you do do an art test?

There are a few possibilities:

  • You can take the test (obviously.)
  • You can try and figure out with them why they want the test and if there is another way for you to mitigate the risk.
  • Decline the offer.

What should you do when you take the test? Make sure that you can reuse the art for your own self-marketing purpose, and watermark the art, it should be done discreetly enough to show off your skills, but in a way that doesn’t let the potential client use it without paying.

In that particular situation you are the only judge, but it’s possible to ask politely for the rationals behind the test. Maybe they didn’t see what they are looking for in your portfolio, maybe you have more samples that match what they are looking for better.  Maybe they worry that you can’t take art direction, so refering them to past clients would help. Make sure to warn your reference that they might get a mail or a call so they aren’t too surprised. Maybe they want to be sure that you aren’t too good to be true, again, references might help.

So in the end, it all depends how much you want the job and how much you trust them. But asking questions cost nothing!

Penny Arcade!

The game I’ve been working on since February (I came in as the project was already underway) has made it in a Penny Arcade cartoon. Woohoo.


no spec

Sometimes someone thinks there idea is so great that others would pay to work on it, and they are actually doing you a favor by letting you work on it for free. Or maybe they don’t have the money yet but with your help they surely will get funded! Or better yet, they want you and a dozen others to work on the project and in the end they will pick the best work and only pay that person. Rings a bell? You may not know the word for it, but you surely have been asked to contribute to projects like that. It’s called speculative work, spec work, or working on specs and it’s seriously frowned upon by any professional worth their salt.

So much so that there is a website entirely dedicated to eradicating spec work: http://www.no-spec.com/

Creativebusiness.com also has a free article on why one shouldn’t do speculative work and the Graphic Artists Guild Handbook Pricing & Ethical Guidelines has a whole chapter about it. Basically, by working without any guarantee to be paid, not only you make yourself appear to be unprofessional and cheap, but you also increase your overhead, which means that in order to be able to do a decent amount of money, you will have to charge your paying customers more! So you are punishing good customers by helping bad customers. So I’m joining the no spec crew in urging you to turn down these spec work request, it’s bad for you and everyone in your business!