Friday, July 12, 2013

Nobody Rides for Free

A few months ago I got a request from a teacher who wanted to use an image from my blog.  He had emailed me and said his students loved my drawing of the archaeology girl and could I send him the image without the watermark so they could print it on a t-shirt (free-of-charge, of course.) I told him I didn't own the image, it was developed under contract. Since I'm a firm believer in education and learning being fun, I was willing to be generous toward his students and draw something new for them, still free of charge. However, I was in Seoul at the time and it would take a few days to get back to my studio and get something to them. He thanked me and said that they were excited to get their own drawing for their club.

So a few days later I'd produced a new archaeology girl and sent it to the teacher for use and/or feedback.  He replied with sincere thanks but said the deadline to have t-shirts printed was the day before, so they'd used another image.

I certainly can understand a teacher being busy, but we'd exchanged a few emails and he never mentioned how immediate the deadline was. He could have sent me a "thanks but we don't need it" message after he'd placed the order, too. I guess you could say I'm at fault for not asking, but here's where I'm struggling with this: I was doing them a favor, giving them what I do professionally for free, for "the kids". What should have been a fun little project turned into wasted time because, it seems to me, this teacher doesn't really respect what an illustrator/artist does or how much time and energy it takes to produce even the simplest image or the fact that I was doing his students a favor.

I'm sure they didn't get the actual, physical t-shirts for free, and they probably didn't expect to. I don't know why people expect to get art for free, but they do.

So this experience is, unfortunately, the final straw, and it saddens me, but I'm done doing art favors & doing free projects for people.  The work always gets tedious, the clients always take advantage of me, and in the end I've never gotten a decent portfolio piece out of it because either the client sucks all the coolness out of the image in proof passes or I drop the project because the client has become too hard to work with, or disappeared. I've even tried to set up rules, such as I'll only do two sets of corrections, but it still goes sour. So I'm done with it.

Well, there's one organization I will still draw for, and I'm happy to draw for them, because they respect what I do and see it's value, but I work pretty directly with them, on a personal level, and that makes all the difference.

No comments: