“Keep them in the dark” — what some very bad publishers are really thinking

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foulfellow Keep them in the dark    what some very bad publishers are really thinking
Late last night, Twitter flared with anger – led by artist Sonia Leong — over a post entitled How to hire an artist by a designer of Flash-based computer games. Although we usually don’t quote things so extensively, it seems that running enough of an excerpt to get the whole story is important here (plus it may be taken down). This is what the author, Christopher Gregorio, has to say about selecting an artist for a game project:

How to find an artist:
I recommend looking through art sites such as Deviantart for an artist which suits your taste, or any other site that has a decent art community such as Newgrounds. There’s a few reasons you want to find an artist this way. First of all, they’re cheaper. These guys aren’t used to making a lot of money for their work so they will be more appreciative of the chance even if they are being payed slightly less than what professionals are payed. Second of all, they’re better. The quality of art you can find through this method is pretty amazing, and the vast amount of artists guarantee you will find something that suits your tastes and needs. Unless you have a specific price you want to pay in mind, ask THEM what they are willing to charge for the project. This usually causes people to give offers that are lower than what you normally pay, and will make them happy.

How NOT to find an artist:
Do not look for either professional artists, or an artist that has done a lot of game design work in the past. The problem with artists who do this as their full time job is that they’re usually expensive. Compared to what you can find through art sites, these guys tend to cost an arm and a leg. Artists who have done a lot of game design work are also bad for a similar reason, they know how much flash games can earn so they expect a decent percentage of the profit. It’s ridiculous to pay something 50% of a sponsorship when you can find someone else who would accept $500 for the same job. When your game sells for $10,000, the difference in cost is a multitude of 10.


Elsewhere in the post, Gregorio advises keeping artists “in the dark” because “If an artist knows how much their artwork will increase the value of the game they will then feel they deserve that amount of money.”

It would be nice to dismiss this as a joke (it’s not) or the rantings of someone who’s completely unprofessional (they are) but the reality for any artists reading this is that…this is how some people really think.

After the post began to get wider play, Gregorio came back to defend himself in an update…but it’s less of a defense than defensiveness:

penguinmassacre Keep them in the dark    what some very bad publishers are really thinking

Alright, now about the part the majority of you are most upset about, my “Keep them in the dark” comment. My wording on this was poorly thought out. Many people claim about this being unethical, but in reality it’s how all businesses work. When a company makes a profit, does it take that profit and evenly split it up among all of it’s employee’s? No. The most it ever does is sometimes gives bonuses which I also do when a game performs very well. As I’ve said before, I pay artists based on what they believe their work is worth rather than the estimated value it increases a game by. I’m sorry for anyone that finds capitalism to be the devil.

The takeaway?

HE’S RIGHT.

We’d like to say that all publishers want to help all their freelancers get paid a lot of money for a satisfying job — and many do — but there are also “capitalists” out there who are consciously taking advantage of the naiveté and inexperience of beginning artists. And unless beginning artists understand this, they will continue to be preyed upon by assholes.

And who is this Christopher Gregorio? According to a bio page:

My name is Christopher Gregorio, I’m from the United States (North Carolina), and I develop online flash games. I’ve been in the industry for a little over two years and have released several large titles, here’s a few that may ring a bell… Medieval Rampage 1 & 2, Cell Warfare, and Penguin Massacre. Last year I earned over $45,000 from developing these games through several different forms of monetization.


Wow, $45,000 — we are talking a real money spout here.

We’re not familiar enough with the world of Flash games to know where Gregorio stands in the hierarchy of success — $45K is chump change when console video game franchises routinely break the $1 billion barrier, but everyone’s gotta gnaw the bone of success somehow.

What we do know is that unless you value yourself and your work, no one else will either. Gregorio may be a particularly smug and clueless asswipe, but he’s just thinking what lots of people are saying. And entire companies have been based on his premise.

UPDATE: Colleen Doran comments, as only she can.

[Photo above from starberryshyne’s Flickr page.

Comments

  1. It’s difficult to emphasize how common this guy’s attitude is…unfortunately.

  2. I’ve found that people pay the least usually get what they pay for (i.e. amateurish junk), and the ones who accept those jobs usually need the money and, eventually, learn to avoid low-ballers like Gregorio.

    It’s been happening since the dawn of time and will probably continue until the end of it.

  3. pulphope says:

    This is why God invented Lawyers. It is unwise to move into multimedia without a professional pitbull on your side. It’d be like going into a firefight without a flak jacket.

  4. Kevin Hynes says:

    Not shocked by the practice, stupidified that he’d post it.

  5. Kevin Hynes says:

    and who are the struggling artists out there that can afford lawyers?

  6. Dave Aikins says:

    This guy is an example of a bad “client”, just as many “artists” are examples of bad freelance artists. It goes both ways, and I would think always has. As a client, you have to be careful who you hire. As a freelancer, be careful who you work for.
    Not really anything new…

  7. pulphope says:

    Kevin–lawyers work for an hourly fee or on percentage– if you ever contacted one seriously, you might have discovered that.

  8. brett weldele says:

    I can’t figure which is an odder thing to brag about…claiming in public that he took advantage of artists or that he made so little doing it.

    Despite his crass tactics, I’m not sure i see the point of this though. Indy companies rarely pay what the big guys do, so comparing rates is apples and oranges. If I did the same job for a well known indy compared to a Marvel/DC, there’s about a 500-700% difference in pay.

  9. This is really depressing. This is a big part of why I’ve spent the better part of this year looking for other avenues of paying work. I’ve been doing freelance animation and design for Flash games for 10 years now, and I can’t seem to find work anymore. I guess I’m one of those artists he mentions with too much experience and expect too much pay… I don’t expect too much, I just expect to be paid enough to be able to pay my bills. But the few jobs that I do get offered lately either don’t return my calls when I give them a price quote, or are so low paying that I’d do better being a barista at Starbucks… and none of this is going to keep my bills paid. And that means I have even less time and energy to devote to making my comics and art. This is a depressing look at the cynical and exploitive side of the system that is drowning me. Good morning Monday… ugh.

  10. Joseph says:

    I must be missing something because I don’t understand what is so offensive about his post. If he asks an artist what price he/she is demanding for a job, and pays that price, how exactly is he taking advantage of the artist?

  11. Over at Colleen’s site, she says:

    “I’m dazzled that these brain trusts don’t understand the difference between unskilled manual labor and a skilled professional who has spent many years in training.”

    I’d go further. It’s not that he’s equating manual labor with commercial art, it’s that he’s equating a favor from a friend with commercial art. Sure, your friends may help you out with moving your apartment or computer debugging — but that’s because _they’re_your_friends_. They do you a favor, you do them a favor, it’s part of friendship.

    Hiring some guy over the internet to do commercial art for you is not getting a favor from a friend. The guy doesn’t know you, doesn’t have reason to be doing you a favor — you’re hiring him to do a job, not asking him to do a favor.

    And with friends, favors go both ways — if the artist you’re hiring asked you to do some game writing for him for miserable pay, would you do it because it’s like a friend asking you to help paint his garage after he helped you move to a new apartment? Somehow, I expect the comparison to friends doing favors would suddenly evaporate at that point.

    But then, it already has — you don’t make it part of your plan to get friends to help you to move by deliberately keeping them in the dark as to what professional movers make. They know “pizza and beer” isn’t a functional professional rate, and you’re not trying to fool them into thinking it is. Nor are you offering them a chance to get exposure for their furniture-moving skills.

    Friends do it because they’re friends. Not because you’re tricking them into lowballing their value to you.

  12. The Beat says:

    Joseph — you see NOTHING underhanded about the comment “If an artist knows how much their artwork will increase the value of the game they will then feel they deserve that amount of money.”?? Like maybe they FUCKING DO DESERVE THAT AMOUNT OF MONEY????????????????

    Tom — you didn’t post your last name, but seeing that this is the great Tom Neely author of THE BLOT and HENRY AND GLENN and basically an indie comics GENIUS is even more depressing.

  13. Looks like business as usual, other than the odd fact that the guy didn’t keep his exploitive hiring practices a secret.

  14. Joseph says:

    But if an artist has chosen that as his profession isn’t it his responsibility to realize how much his work is worth to the value of the game? Who gets into the business of designing games without knowing what his services are worth? I know what my experience and talents are worth in the industry I am in; if I didn’t how could I blame an employer for paying me less than what I am worth?

  15. Christian says:

    What a bunch of pricks.

  16. Joseph says:

    It would be different if he was outright lying or misrepresenting how the artist’s work was going to be used, but I didn’t get the impression that was the case. Doesn’t the artist have some responsibility in this situation?

  17. The Beat says:

    Joseph — these people aren’t even IN the business of games yet. They are being specifically chosen because they don’t know how much they are worth and then being kept in the dark about their value.

    Granted, this is SOP in every field and every business. It is “capitalism.” Which is why artists and tradespeople need to share information and resources as much as possible.

    Now, I agree, anyone who gets into business and signs a contract without hitting Google first is an idiot and will pay the price. Over and over. But that doesn’t make deliberate deceit right either.

  18. Joseph says:

    I agree deliberate deceit is sleazy, but I didn’t get the impression that is what Gregorio is doing. Taking advantage of someone’s ignorance is not the same as deceit. It is not Gregorio’s job to enlighten these artists (who I assume are all adults) who can’t be bothered to find out what their own services are actually worth, especially when as you pointed out it’s frequently as simple as doing a Google search. Their services are worth exactly whatever they are willing to accept as payment.

  19. Joseph says:

    I, on the other hand, am obviously getting paid FAR more than what I am worth as I have spent the past 30 minutes of work time reading The Beat.

  20. It’s unethical, however, in the end the guy is hiring amateurs with likely no experience, who if they went to a place which treated their freelancers more ethically, likely wouldn’t be making much more. Basically, while it sucks that he rips people off, I doubt he’s ripping people off that much. He just isn’t able to tell the difference between amateur artwork and professional artwork. Not to mention if you’re going a Flash game, it helps for the artist to know the tool and create not just static images but animation for the game.

    Still in the multimedia industry, as with other industries, there’s plenty of students or people just out of school working as interns or co-ops making little money, while the company then charges a lot more for their services to clients.

    Hopefully after getting more work under their belt those looking for a career in the industry will realize how much their time and work is worth and charge more.

  21. “Which is why artists and tradespeople need to share information and resources as much as possible.”

    I think most responsible artists already do….or try to, at least. There’s no amount of information/resource sharing that is going to protect the willfully ignorant or lazy artists. If they don’t value their own skills and career enough to educate themselves, they’ve nobody to blame but themselves when they get taken in by hucksters like Gregario.

    That’s what drives me (as a professional artist) so crazy: It’s like some of us don’t ever want to break away from the “artist as perpetual corporate slave and/or dupe” narrative…despite the amazing amount of self-empowering information and resources available to us. It’s not the information/resources that are lacking…it’s the will and wherewithal to find them and use them for all they’re worth.

    Unless “need to share information and resources” is code-language for “unionize” (which I suspect it is).

  22. Since I don’t think I made it clear in my post, I didn’t make it clear that I do think it sucks. However, it’s unfortunately business as usual when it comes to anyone beginning in an industry.

  23. Al™ says:

    One of the reasons that artists DO get taken advantage of is that there is no real posted rate for doing work.

    I know that in the days when I was shopping my commercial art portfolio around, I was always asked my rate, but no employer ever volunteered an opinion on what it “should” be. And other illustrators were not telling.

    Maybe this stuff gets around in the industry by word of mouth, but as far as I know there is no website to go to, where my potential income as a Flash illustrator is given a dollar value.

    This is unlike some other industries, where it is very easy to find the market value of a skilled occupation.

    Or am I wrong, and things are different now?

  24. Joseph says:

    I did a Google search for “pay rates for Flash animators” and came up with 341,000 results. I am sure 99% of these are useless but there were 6 or 7 on the first page of results alone that looked like they would provide some form of beginning guidance, at least.

  25. “If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur.”
    -Red Adair

  26. Al or for anyone in the multimedia industry in a major city, there’s tons of meetings focusing on different tools and different platforms. If you’re into Flash, look up the local Flash user group, if you’re into video, there might be an AfterEffects or Final Cut Studio meeting, mobile developer, there’s iPhone and Android meetings and so on and so on. Basically people get together often with some sort of presentations and then to network and talk about the industry. Anyone new to the multimedia industry should check these out as there’s a lot to learn from people who have been around for a while with lots of different perspectives.

    However, if you live in the middle of no where, there’s still tons of mailing lists, websites and forums. There’s a number of surveys by job sites or recruiters that post salaries and/or hour rates that people charge for different type of work, plus plenty of discussion on this type of topics on websites and forums.

    So anyone new, don’t get taken advantage of, go educate yourself as there’s a vast amount of information out there.

  27. Synsidar says:

    Do a search on computer animation and freelance. People who have degrees in computer animation should be equipped with basic negotiation skills, especially if they plan on doing freelance work. Gregorio apparently wanted to take advantage of artists rather than hire animators.

    SRS

  28. Joseph says:

    I wonder how many people would be outraged if an artist posted an essay outlining how an animator can inflate their quotes to take advantage of dumb-ass, ignorant designers looking to create Flash games….

  29. Matthew Jeske says:

    On the subject of rates, there is a book called “Graphic Artist’s Guild Handbook of Pricing and Ethical Guidelines” that can be helpful with this. It comes out with a new edition every couple of years. Handbook of Pricing and Ethical Guidelines on Amazon

  30. The artist does have responsibility in this, but we don’t have the upper hand! The other part of that is that those of us who do know the Professional rates aren’t getting those professional rates because we are competing with artists who are willing to do it for much much less. What’s a professional artist who wants to survive supposed to do in this situation? It forces even those of us who do know what we are worth, to settle for less and try to scrape by. But even then there’s always someone who will do a lesser job for less pay, and a capitalist will always take advantage of that. SO I have to choose between doing a huge job for a shitty price (like $500 for a job worth $5K- yes i’ve done that) in hopes that that will get me through the week, or giving them a fair price quote that I know will cause them to look elsewhere for someone cheaper… So, we’re fucked. I’ve been through this scenario at least once a month in the last couple of years… I’ve been scraping by, but I’m exhausted and burnt out. I’ve been looking for other work, but there’s no work out there. Barista job doesn’t sound that bad at this point.

    p.s. thanks for the “genius” compliment. unfortunately nobody pays for genius anymore.

  31. Jake Forbes says:

    Specific to the game industry, Game Developer magazine does a broad industry survey each year and posts some of their findings in a free career guide. Artist/animator info found here: http://gamedeveloper.texterity.com/gamedeveloper/2010cg#pg21

    I’m not an artist, but have contracted with several small game developers as a writer/designer, and I find it good leverage to calculate the hourly rate for a salaried employee with your experience. Whether it’s out of ignorance or miserliness, I’ve found that with these small game companies, they won’t bat an eye at standard industry salary, but put it in terms of an hourly rate and they balk.

  32. “On the subject of rates, there is a book called “Graphic Artist’s Guild Handbook of Pricing and Ethical Guidelines” that can be helpful with this. It comes out with a new edition every couple of years”

    I’ve had those books and find them largely useless. Every time I’ve used it as a guide for giving a price quote for a job I either get laughed at, or they client runs away and finds someone cheaper. Every time. Even when working for giant corporations.

  33. Trying to obscure the relative value of labor from those one is attempting to hire is, by definition, “misrepresentation,” “misdirection,” and “deceitful.”

  34. This isn’t why lawyers were invented.

    This is why unions (and professional guilds and associations) were invented!

  35. Tom — wow you are depressing me even more. It’s true that in a depressed (repressed?) economic landscape creative efforts are becoming less and less valuable from a monetary standpoint. Every day I look at the ascent of the content farms and realize that what I do is becoming more and more worthless.

  36. BTW if anyone has a tall drink and a masochistic streak., check out the comments thread at the original post.

  37. Sorry to depress. Despite my negativity here, I’m actually looking towards the bright side. I’ve been burnt out on animation for a while, and even though nothing has panned out so far, looking for other avenues has made me more optimistic.

  38. Anyway, here’s what I don’t get: if you want a job done and you don’t want to pay to get the job done, what makes you think that the person will be able to complete the work? Say you make me an offer and I stupidly agree to work for you for a hundred dollars. Now my rent is closer to a thousand. And I get hungry from time to time. So, in order to pay the landlord and feed myself, I take on a REAL job that pays grown-up-people-money and don’t have a whole lot of time for YOUR “job.” Let’s say.

    So let’s pretend that you’re sitting there wondering why I haven’t done your measley chump change job by now and then it hits you: Dang, that dude probably has the same 24 hours in a day that I do. And that dude probably has to pay his rent like I do. And that dude probably is working for someone ELSE in those 24 hours, making the money that he needs to survive!

    Step your game up, or get out of the game, “employers.”

  39. Heidi, as a comics editor at Disney Adventures and Vertigo, how were page rates and other compensation set?

    Was it uniform, or could you sweeten the offer to land someone like Jeff Smith?

  40. Larry Hama says:

    What Gregorio does is common practice, but isn’t universal. I was an editor for a long time, and everybody who came into my office got full disclosure. I told them outright that the work-for-hire contract was a bad deal. The bragging about “keeping them in the dark” is the truly offensive part.

  41. Kevin Hynes says:

    Sorry I added an idiotic comment to a thread, really my only knowledge of lawyers is limited, probably only limited to A Few Good Men and The Client. I’ll slink away now.

    Great discussion though.

  42. IIRC, I had limited powers to set rates at DC — there were set ranges, but I could suggest a raise when it was deserved or after a set period of time.

    At Disney we had budgets and so on that I had to stay within but it was flexible enough that I could set the bar where it needed to be for individual projects.

    At FOX we had a pretty flexible checkbook and were definitely able to pay the going rate.

    BTW, I have never worked with ANYONE on staff of any note at any company who was eager to lowball people. There may have been budget constraints that compelled a snip here or there but the hallmark of TRUE creative professionals is people who want to pay talented people enough to make a living doing what they are good at — so as not to suddenly one day find Tom Neely serving up my frappuccino.

  43. Charles Knight says:

    “Joseph — you see NOTHING underhanded about the comment “If an artist knows how much their artwork will increase the value of the game they will then feel they deserve that amount of money.”?? Like maybe they FUCKING DO DESERVE THAT AMOUNT OF MONEY????????????????”

    What you ‘deserve’ is what you can get the other guy to pay, that’s the basis of capitalism.

  44. Al™ says:

    Thanks for the links to the pay scale pages.

    Sometimes I wonder why “the arts” is such a competitive industry. That’s the only explanation I can come up with as to how employers can underpay artists, and yet:
    A. Have artists lined up to work for them, and B. Still be in business.

    Much as it irritates me, you hear the old cliche: “The artist should just ask for what they think they’re worth”. Sure, bud. And have someone else get the work who will do it for less.

    That one just isn’t realistic. If you’re starting out, trying to get work published and piecing together a portfolio of “real” work,(ie: not student work or sample pieces), I guess taking a few crappy pay jobs might be worth the investment.

    It’s the second rung that is tougher: pricing your work competitively, but still making sales and paying your rent.

  45. Alistair Robb says:

    I haven’t written a comment on this because I was so gobsmacked by the original post and then Colleen’s post on her blog and then here.

    This guy is a total tosser. What a fucking wanker. I dearly hope his business goes down the pan. Alas, I feel that this won’t happen as he’ll hide behind company names and such and dupe eager amateurs into working for him at less than scale.

  46. No Charles.

    That’s not how the world works at all. I don’t meant to personally attack, but that’s a really simplistic and unresearched perspective into how “capitalism works.”

    And if you really want to talk the talk of the mercenary perspective:

    You get what you deserve when you try to play lowball. If you wish to remain competative in the commercial art world, you’re going to need to do your best to accomodate the people you would have working for you. If not, you’ll either find inferior talent or otherwise talented artists who don’t see it to be their best interest to work their hardest for you.

    Sure, nobody wants to turn out bad work, but it can’t be helped if your artist has to rush YOUR job so that s/he can also rush out three OTHER jobs because none of you are willing to retain his/her services for a respectable, LIVABLE amount.

    Be realistic. The artist has rent/mortgage, bills, expenses and more to pay, JUST LIKE YOU. And THAT’S your pithy “basis for capitalism” for you.

  47. Charles Knight says:

    “No Charles.

    That’s not how the world works at all. I don’t meant to personally attack, but that’s a really simplistic and unresearched perspective into how “capitalism works.”

    It’s how it works in my world, I’ve been self-employed for over a decade and if I worked on the basis of “what I deserve” and “what’s fair”, I’d have gone bust long ago.

    As for simplistic and unresearched, they liked my PhD so I must have done something right! :-) (ok so the economics bit was only a minor part but hey… ;-))

    “Be realistic. The artist has rent/mortgage, bills, expenses and more to pay, JUST LIKE YOU. And THAT’S your pithy “basis for capitalism” for you.”

    That’s my point, absolutely nobody I work for cares about any of that, it never enters their head, so I made sure it’s covered on my end by getting the deal I need. People will rip you off left right and centre if you let them.

    I think you are talking about how the world should be and I’m talking about (from my experience) how it is.

  48. I’ve worked in the entertainment business in various capacities for exactly 100% of my decade-long working life, and I can honestly say that no matter what the circumstances, every person I’ve ever worked for has actually been a human being.

    The guy who wrote the original post is not.

    Granted, I had a few classes in school and heard hundreds of freelance horror stories when I was younger, so I knew what to expect and how to protect myself. While I’ve taken many a job that paid less than I believed I was worth, I never took a job that was too low-paid to be worth it.

    I’m glad that this discussion is all over the internet today. These kinds of practices are fairly common and aspiring artists need to know about them.

    Frankly, I find anyone who throws up their hands and says “It happens, deal with it” to be more despicable than those who actually pull these kinds of screwjobs. Know why? Because you’re too scared or lazy to do something to change it. We should have had a commercial artists’ union since the 40’s.

  49. Alexa says:

    Also, as a PSA for any artists who need legal help, there are pro bono groups out there who will work with qualified artists for free. In Boston we have the Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts. I’m sure there are more in other cities.

  50. “Know why? Because you’re too scared or lazy to do something to change it. We should have had a commercial artists’ union since the 40’s.”

    I’ll rise and fall on my own talent, thank you very much. I don’t need third party group-think to decide what I’m worth and who I’ll work for.

  51. Charles Knight says:

    “Frankly, I find anyone who throws up their hands and says “It happens, deal with it” to be more despicable than those who actually pull these kinds of screwjobs. Know why? Because you’re too scared or lazy to do something to change it. We should have had a commercial artists’ union since the 40’s.”

    It might work with the corporates but it would have no impact in the context discussed here. This guy (from reading his original post) is on about trawling Deviant arts and other places for talent, so it’s unlikely they’d be members to start with. Moreover, some kid is going to thrilled with the $50 bucks (or two free copies of the comic if it’s bluewater – BTW did the Beat cover that story?) as he will rationalise it as his first ‘professional’ sale regardless of the fact that it took him four weeks to do the single image and the pay-rate works out at $.25 an hour. Also as there are no barriers to entry, there are thousands of kids after that $50 bucks.

    Without root and branch reform of our economic system (which nobody is interested in and there is no politic will for), I can’t see how you stop this form of exploitation. Indeed, as internet access spreads further afield, I would think that things are going to get progressively worse.

  52. Charles Knight says:

    Just in case the Beat didn’t cover that bluewater story and anyone is interested:

    http://www.bleedingcool.com/2010/08/06/the-price-of-your-copyright-two-copies/

  53. Anonymous says:

    How is it exploitation when there are “thousands” after that job, and happy to have it? AND he is paying them what they think they are worth? If a potential employer asks me how much I want to be paid, and I give them a number that they agree to, how am I being exploited exactly? We are not talking about indentured servants or third world factory workers here.

    It’s basic supply-and-demand. These people are sophisticated and intelligent enough to create games, they shouldn’t need to have their hands held during salary negotiations. And if they do, they will either quickly learn how to survive in the field or be left behind in favor of those that do learn it.

    I’m not saying I would necessarily want to work with this guy, but he is hardly an example of all that is wrong with capitalism/America/business etc today. The amount of outrage his post has generated is, at best, disingenuous.

  54. Joseph says:

    Whoops that was me above

  55. I saw this article last night because Ben Templesmith linked it. It was crazy to read. I’m not shocked that anyone would use these hiring tactics, what I am shocked about is someone being so completely honest and open about it, along with encouraging others.

  56. Christian says:

    People like that guy are the reason why day jobs are invented.

    Work at what you believe in, work with people you trust. Do your research, know your own product and never be afraid to walk away from a project. Be it for creative differences or pay rate.

    “I’ll rise and fall on my own talent, thank you very much. I don’t need third party group-think to decide what I’m worth and who I’ll work for.”

    You know, I always find this funny. This kinda “fuck you, we’re on our own” attitude. Yet, how many stories do we hear years later when these artists end up getting cancer or ending up homeless and there’s some day-late and a dollar short bassakwards charity put together to help them. Fact of the matter is, this is one of the only creative outlets left without any sort of unionized representation and quite frankly, it’s articles like this that show for it.

    But to anyone who was dismayed by this article, let me just say – hang in there. The life of an artist is very rarely an easy one monetarily but if you can hang in there and believe in your own work and maintain a level of self-respect, that’s all that matters in the end.

  57. On the rare job, amateurs like me could at least keep the market fair and use guild rates. Also, layfolk can’t tell what’s good. The $45K he boasted about probably could have been $450K with decent art direction. Pros know how to make images well, but can also sell ideas and visual strategy, not to mention, they save valuable time for all involved. http://www.graphicartistsguild.org/

  58. Annon says:

    If you want fresh clean oats you must pay a fair price. Oats that have been through the horse once are cheaper.

  59. What I am shocked about is someone being so completely honest and open about it, along with encouraging others.

    Why are you shocked about it, Jon? We have reached a moment in history, where there are no real consequences for this type of behaviour.

    Sure, there is a flare of outrage in certain artistic communities, but that one is shortlived, it will pass, and a couple of weeks or months later, it will all be back to “normal”.

    It’s not just Blue Water, e.g., it’s people like Pat Lee, and how they are still treated like “professionals”, even by the “press”.

    And in the movie world, it’s people like Sylvester Stallone, who apparently “forgot” to pay up two million dollars to the Brazilian sub-contracting production company for “The Expendables, something that nobody in the US seemed to care about, either.

    http://thomasrhart.blogspot.com/2010/08/guardian-shows-how-reporting-is-done-on.html

  60. Christ what an asshole this guy is. That 45k is about plummet fast.

  61. Nate Horn says:

    Capitalism is a bad deal for the unexperienced without connections. In other breaking news, water is still wet.

    There’s nothing new with what this guy is doing. Hell, wait until comic companies figure out they can send all the work off-shore and you’re competing with people who make pennies per hour. It’s already happened to engineers, it’s happening to lawyers right now, and it will happen to artists soon, too.

  62. …and after that, our rock stars will be outsourced.

  63. Kevin Colden says:

    @Charles

    Your rationale is that it would be too hard to reform so you’ll compromise your ethics instead?

    Actually, a union would ostensibly give even newer artists a ready reference point for ethical pricing. Knowledge is power, as cliche as that sounds.

  64. michael says:

    not reading the full article, it seems there’s nothing new or interesting here. Maybe for nieve, new people to the world, but really, like it’s said, this is how a lot of business is done in the world.

    Some may profit from this, others not so much. The world moves on, que sera sera…

  65. It’s depressing, not just because of what this guy has bragged about, but how some people claim this is “how capitalism works”; if any and all kinds of exploitation – from child labor to 10-hours-a-day-work – had gone on as the unchecked principle of our social and economic organization, then capitalism would have gone down in toilet right around 18th century. Deception and “keeping them in dark”or “that’s how it works for me” don’t represent what capitalism is and does. It has been pretty receptive to reform and amelioration, though not without pressures, threats, and bad prospects.

  66. Dave Aikins says:

    One of the things that art schools offer is a chance to meet peers- Other students/seasoned pros that might visit or be teachers. It’s up to the students to engage these people- to be able to have a group of artists, mentors, peers, etc, that can offer a young, out of school newbie advice, words of wisdom, etc.

    Unfortunately, even this is lost on many students who would rather blow of classes, keep to themselves, or declare any professional who doesn’t fit their niche as being without importance as a source of wisdom…
    So, how do you, as a young artist, avoid clients like this?
    MAKE FRIENDS THAT ARE PROFESSIONAL ARTISTS. Ask them questions. Get their advice. Take that advice and verify it. See for yourself, and then say “yep, they were right”.
    It’s not that hard. Most of us don’t bite…

  67. Brian Spence says:

    God, I just got into an argument with my cousin, who also makes games, and is into offering “design contests” for people to design his iPhone games. I don’t know how much he makes, but the ‘winner’ gets a whopping $300 and the losers get zilch. It devalues the market for designers. He defends himself by saying that everyone in the contest agrees to the terms, and he’s right. But it’s bad for his business when he gets crappy designers who have even submitted material copyrighted elsewhere. I really hope it bites his company on the ass. This seems to be a trend with games on the iPhone and android phones, but that’s a new market and I think these shady adenoids will eventually be overcome by actual professionals.

  68. Brian Spence says:

    Yes, thank you spellcheck, I really meant to say ‘shady adenoids’. Ugh, i meant shady assholes!

  69. Brian Spence says:

    What makes me more depressed is that the Internet has allowed talented people in poor economies to compete with us over here. My brother’s girlfriend does webdesign for American companies while in Bulgaria. They pay her crap, but for her, it’s good money. Even MORE depressing? I graduate with a degree in design from the Savannah College of Art and Design next quarter, spending something like $60k in the process, and I don’t think I’ll even change my job when I’m done. I wanted to in the beginning, but I think my well paying day job with some freelance on the side is all I can manage. Beginning designers starve, it seems.

  70. Well, Brian… remember when they all told us that “it’s only the manual labour” that would get outsourced, don’t worry, “education is the key, you are well-educated, a specialist, your job future is secure”?

    Artists are content-farmed in the Philipines, they began to outsource journalists to content farms, then to content farms in other countries, I saw magazines being filled with “articles” by content farms almost exclusively filled by interns here in Germany, but the mainstream does not care. Nor will they ever care until it hits them.

    Especially in the “creative” arts, the argument put forward is always, was always and will always be “but you would do it anyway, it’s, like, a hobby, you think I get paid for grooming my garden?”

    Writing. Designing. Creating. It has all become something that has been devalued immensely, and part of it, no, most of it is people in offices who cannot do any of these things yet delude themselves that they “own” the creation, after all, doesn’t the one with the money automatically “own” anything and everything?

    Aren’t you lucky they even talked to you?

    *sarcasm off*

  71. if any and all kinds of exploitation – from child labor to 10-hours-a-day-work – had gone on as the unchecked principle of our social and economic organization, then capitalism would have gone down in toilet right around 18th century.

    That is a lovely thought, and it comes with little or no knowledge about the current global situation.

    Please ask the children in Bangladesh, who are sowing together t-shirts and pants for KIK, a major German clothing retailer while they are literally starving and the owner of KIK is on his way of owning more than 200 million Euro, while he not only exploits children and women in the 3rd world but also his retail staff in Germany, openly stating that he pays only 3.50 Euro per hour and telling his staff to go to welfare and have the German state pick up the tab.

    Ask the Chinese, who for the most part (and yes, I know they have a “growing” middle class) still work in factory camps, where they put them into little rooms that are filled with 8 people each, no running water, no privacy, no nothing and have them slave for 1 Euro per day to put out consumerist shit.

    As the people who worked in the factory that build that iPhone (and a lot of other cell phone stuff, this is not only Apple), who were treated so well that numerous of them committed suicide.

    Welcome to Manchester Capitalism 2.0

    This time it has gone global.

    There were certain things they couldn’t do before 1989. Why? Because – and I know it was a crap system, I was on the other side of the Iron Curtain numerous times – there was a competing system there.

    But when that system broke down, there was much rejoicing, for now they golbal corporations had unlimited access to piss poor but highly skilled workers, artists, doctors, engineers.

    And before somebody tells me, hey, isn’t that racists, no, I am not blaming the people who were and still are desperate for a better life, I am blaming the ones who abuse them, play us against each other, with more than a little help by our politicians world-wide.

    And all over sudden – just like with the bible – only the choice passages of Adam Smith were repeated over and over again. If you don’t believe it, read the entire “On Wealth of Nations”.

    You’d be surprised what the “creator” of modern capitalism has to say on exploitation.

    The imbalance is there by design. We are not being sold “capitalism”, we are being sold “corporate communism”.

    And no, I don’t have any solution either, at least none that wouldn’t involve pitchforks and a couple of gallows.

  72. Charles Knight says:

    “Your rationale is that it would be too hard to reform so you’ll compromise your ethics instead?”

    No that I can’t get enough people interested in reform and that I can’t eat my ethics.

  73. Al™ says:

    Seems to me that the Big 2 comic companies already tried the outsourcing thing, back in the ’70’s.
    Philippinos like Alfredo Alcala, Rudy Nebres, were working for less than scale, apparently. It was even rumoured that their “agent”, another comic artist living in US, was deducting a healthy commission from their pay.

  74. All of this depressed me at first but then “shady adenoids” cheered me right up. Thanks, Brian!

  75. “Artists are content-farmed in the Philipines” Could you cite specifically which artists are being “content farmed” from the Philippines? It seems to me that the Filipino artists from the seventies have been incorrectly stereotyped as merely outsourced “lowest common denominator”(what content farming is used for) talent when in fact they were just as victimized as the talent that the above article refers to. Some like Nino, Alcala, Nebres and Redondo could run circles with pen and brush with anyone. Without the internet and other limitations, they had no avenue to get any current info about rates here in the states.
    As far as today’s Filipino comic artists are concerned, I don’t see them as content farmed talents at all. I doubt Marvel is paying the likes of Leinil Yu and his peers below standard rates.
    We need to distinguish between what is good and what is work done in massive quantities for cheap (content farming), just because these artists are coming from the Philippines and perhaps you do not know them personally- it’s sounds like an easy throwaway buzz term that sounds good around the pub.

  76. Brian Spence says:

    I sympathize Rafael, but I don’t think he was intentionally demeaning to Phillipinos. I think most people here are frustrated that an artist from a struggling economy is being hired over an American purely on the issue of cost. It’s just a sad truth that you can’t make a living at certain types of jobs in this country anymore because you can’t compete with the cheaper labor markets elsewhere. It’s not a knock against their art, it’s that American living expenses are so much higher and there’s no way an artist can compete against foreign talent and survive.

    By the way Rafael, your artwork on Conan was so AMAAAZING back in the day. Just seeing you comment here makes me want to dig up my back issues again (I bought every issue you drew).

  77. Deviantart DOES have a lot of talented artists who could work for cheap. This original post doesn’t make me feel threatened; as always, it makes me motivated to make my art and my name irreplacable. If I lose out to people who are better and will do it for less, well then, they deserve it more than I do.

    One thing you can’t tell from Deviantart is whether someone is actually responsible. And if time proves that they typically aren’t…well then, the inside scoop will be about seeking weathered professionals instead.

    Not that working for this guy is an amazing opportunity. But I’m thinking here about when I worked for Tokyopop and every few months people would go off on how terrible it was for business. But it was a great opportunity for newbies and for anything that I gave up (BTW they actually paid very competitively), I got much, much more out of it.

    If we professionals really AREN’T worth the money, then let new blood in. If I win at an arm wrestle, I want to win fair.

    (Not that I’m complaining about this massive reaction. I hope it gets to those who work for peanuts when they don’t have to. And I do wish pay weren’t so secret…a couple years ago DC added a non-disclosure agreement which is a disappointment. But I see all these as natural obstacles for jobs that everyone wishes they had.)

  78. Thanks for the comments on my work Brian.

    Although I agree that content farming occurs in many industries and perhaps from many countries (including the Philippines), I don’t believe that many Filipino artists are being paid *less* than American artists by Marvel or the larger companies at all. That’s why I’m asking for a specific case where this holds true in the comics industry.

    So yes, it probably happens elsewhere but it’s better if we get the actual facts correct before we assume what is happening or has happened in the Philippines is happening now.

  79. I love all the outrage, but the only thing this guy did wrong was post what he does.

    He shouldn’t have to disclose anything to the artist. If the artist wants the money, he’ll teke it. If not, he’ll find someone who does. He is taking all the risk.

    And yes, artists should not get all their money until AFTER the fact. I wish Marvel and DC would do this and maybe the lateness of books will stop and artists will finish their contracted work instead of making extra money doing sketches at cons.

    If this Gregorio guy wants to save money and not hire professionals, that’s his choice. And if the people he hires take the job, it’s probably because they need the paycheck and are trying to break into the industry.

    It’s like hiring a busboy and him wanting to know how much your restaurant will be worth to guage his salary.

  80. I’m an artist based in the Philippines and though rates are not something I discuss publicly, my inking rate is on the upper end of what maybe considered standard for Marvel and DC in the US. I know because I communicate with many other inkers from all the big companies on a regular basis.

    I got my job because I’m GOOD at what I do. Not because I’m cheap.

    Just offering out a fact lest erroneous ideas about artists coming from where I am gets bandied carelessly about.

  81. This thread of comments makes me even angrier than the original post.

  82. Billy Bob Bubbles says:

    Wow, hope you guys never end up working in sales at an office or electronics supplier, or we’re going to be facing the scenario of either a/ my own workplace goes broke, because it’s only by acting like the object of your derision that we keep our heads above water, b/ you go broke because no-one buys from you. Simple as.

    Much as you wish to howl with dismay about it, the dynamics of the market economy are unavoidable, and unless an aspiring game designer such as him – and by extension, the game artists who supply him with the visuals for his works (alongside the core play code, audio, etc) – learn to roll with it in such a way, they’ll likely end up broke and working at mcdonalds to get by, no longer making the games or supplying art for them. There’s only so much cash to go round, and if I remember my exchange rates properly it sounds like he’s made little more from a year of vaguely-creative slog than I have working a junior office job. Paying much more would put him on the breadline.

    Sure, you have to suffer for your art, and super high quality is worth paying for. I get that, I dig. I’ll happily spend over the odds for the album of a smalltime band I appreciate, realising that as they’re not on a major label it actually costs them far more per disk to produce their material (the driving force behind a migration to itunes and digital 4-tracks in bedroom studios, surely). But realise we’re not exactly talking classy, niche boutique games here, for which you can charge $50 a throw. They’re necessarily cheap, flash-based browser games, which the end user may not pay for *at all* and are hosted on some mass megagame site entirely paid for by ad revenues, which itself doesn’t – and can’t – throw a great deal of money at the people who supply its faire. It’s discount supermarket gaming. Yes, the quality does tend to suck … but then, you haven’t paid for it…

    Wake up and smell the coffee guys. And look at great artists through history… the phenomenon of one who is hugely famous and financially successful in their own time is a very recent, and still pretty rare phenomenon. That we can remember the names of a majority of the notably wealthy ones should show how few of them there are amongst millions of aspiring, and largely quite talented/skillful hopefuls.

    You can put food on your table with a succession of small jobs like that, or hold out for higher pay and likely starve most of the time like a number of old masters tended to.

    And I know *this* is going to be massive flame- and snark-bait amongst a lot of people on here, much as it’s a necessary thing to try and drive home (god knows I hate all the Ayn Rand hardcore capitalist crap, but there are some realities to observe), so naturally, this is not my real name or any of my normal handles.

    Cheers.
    BBB

  83. have a look at the book im a mongoose and so can you , prime example of crapy practicies , where it is suggested to not pay for art if u can get away with it , troll art schools hopeing to find some one hungry and dumb enough to do it for free or next to nothing .not only did that guy write about it but made a book and charged for it . and though the compnay still exsists oits of the worst sort quality wise .
    but in the end i dnno every ones trying to make their buck ,if your tryign to make yours just remember theres preditors out there .

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