Monday, June 15, 2009

For What It's Worth No. 5

There seems to be a pervasive request for freebies lately; it's almost like the buzzword for the 21st Century is Free. Whether it's Google trying to get illustrators to create work for Chrome for nothing or the free downloads that seem to be invading cyberspace. There's nothing wrong with bartering in tough times, it's a historical fact that artists have bartered their art for food and shelter but the idea that a multi-billion dollar corporation can't pay an artist's fee for usage is downright despicable. But it's not unusual.

Unfortunately illustration lacks the respect of the vast majority of art directors, art buyers, editors and the like. They view illustration as second-rate, only to be used when they can't afford photography or just to fill a space. They don't view what an illustrator does as anything special, nor worthy of a high fee.

And the worst thing of all is that too many of us are willing to work for free or very close to it. And everyone knows it. You wouldn't find a photographer taking the bait from Google and more importantly, Google wouldn't even bother to approach them because they know what the answer would be--NO.

It's like the difference between cats and dogs. Illustrators can be like pups who sit there wanting to be loved, waiting for someone to throw them a bone. Cats on the other hand are aloof, sure they can be affectionate but they're not there begging for attention. When they approach you it's on their own terms. Cats know their value and they play to their strengths. If illustrators were more like cats they wouldn't do assignments for free or for a ridiculously low fee. The illustrators who turned down Google are like cats, the ones who took the bait are like dogs. We all need to be cats.


  1. unfortunately for new illustrators wanting exposure the choice might not be so easy... turn the job down and there will be 10 others willing to do it. for them it's like a free advert. i agree in principle though.

  2. Very true. And that's what has put our industry in the stalemate we find ourselves in. Fees haven't gone up in ages for a reason, we are all too eager to take the job even when we know the fee isn't fair. But if enough of us turn down the jobs, then we can make some changes. Illustrators should have two sources of income so they're not relying so much for paying jobs. Do pro-bono work that might get you into a show, that's where art directors really look for new talent. Yes, it's probably for free but it's not for a multi-million or billion dollar company who can well afford to pay for illustration.

  3. I saw the Google Chrome art article posted on a number of art forums, and I was shocked at how many people - many artists - used the argument of, "well Google gives us a free search engine, email, and browser so the least we can do is give them free art."

    This isn't a system of doing favors. This isn't mowing the lawn of your neighbor for free because he fixed your leaky sink. This is a big corporation who should be supporting artists, not trying the "we'll pay you in exposure" trick many small companies try to use to get free or cheap art.

  4. Exactly Brenda, exactly. You might want to also weigh in on my Facebook page with these comments.