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Artist Advice

This is a question to other artists as well as people who commission artwork.

Time and time again, I receive reference sheets that are difficult to read in some way or another. They're either screencaptures from SecondLife, shaded with unclear swatches, or just plain inconsistent. I tend to spend a lot more time on pieces like these, when I have to spend an unusually long time reading a reference sheet.

The question is, would it be fair of me to implement a "difficult reference sheet" charge to make up for the additional time spent on the piece? Clients, would this deter you from commissioning an artist, if they had that kind of fee?

I know there's fees out there for complicated characters, but this is slightly different. I've had characters that ended up being relatively simple, but still spend forever interpreting the reference sheet before seeing their simplicity.

Thanks to any thoughts regarding this topic!

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( 31 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 20th, 2014 06:15 pm (UTC)
I think it'd be fine and fair to include in your TOS that at your discretion, 'an additional fee may be levied if your reference is poor or difficult to interpret.'

Honestly I have that problem all the time as well. I don't want to extrapolate. I want to see what's there and then reinterpret it. People who have poor refs need to get it sorted out!
Jun. 20th, 2014 06:18 pm (UTC)
My only concern with that would be that some people might feel that they've been given the charge unfairly.

Example "So-and-so's references were way more complex than mine, and you didn't charge THEM!"

It's down to matter of opinion most of the time, but beyond that I see no problem with that and think that it's about the same as charging extra for more complicated characters!
Jun. 20th, 2014 06:24 pm (UTC)
I personally put in my ToS that references need to be clear and concise. This leads to my edit allowance and editing fees when it comes to having to do edits for something that was not clear or not explained prior to the start of the commission. Charging a fee for edits that are made due to a confusing reference/references is fine.

However if you are having problems with references before you start do you talk to your clients about it for clairity?
Jun. 20th, 2014 06:29 pm (UTC)
However if you are having problems with references before you start do you talk to your clients about it for clarity?

Pretty much what I was going to say.
Look at the reference when you get the commission offer. If you know there will be areas of confusion there, ask! They might even have additional references or flat colored images that you can use.

Edited at 2014-06-20 06:29 pm (UTC)
Jun. 20th, 2014 06:37 pm (UTC)
That's fair.

It's mostly issues with pieces that I take slots for and finish up quickly. They're meant to be really quick, and I have them fill out a form on googledocs to give me the information. I try to finish the sketches within a couple of hours, and it's inconvenient to ask for clarification and wait for a response when they're meant to be quick pieces.
Jun. 20th, 2014 06:42 pm (UTC)
But then the problem lies with you not wanting to wait for clarification and not so much the client. In this case charging a fee would be really unfair to the client as they havent had a chance to clarify their references.
Jun. 20th, 2014 06:53 pm (UTC)
But if I request a clear reference in the first place, and don't receive one, is that really my fault?

I've had to work from references that had 10 different fur colors, that was shaded. The swatches were also shaded, and I couldn't tell what color went where. I'm pretty sure the client also had no idea what colors went where either.

I don't see how that should be on me, especially if they're also unable to clarify what colors go where. Then it was a lot of time wasted for nothing.
Jun. 20th, 2014 07:09 pm (UTC)
Well, I can only speak for myself when I say that if i dont understand or am confused by a reference or references I always like to clarify. In the long run it might save you time having to do edits.
Jun. 20th, 2014 08:23 pm (UTC)
Unfortunately, there are some people that don't see when their own references aren't clear or don't have access to a clear one.

Have you ever considered maybe previewing reference sheets before adding them to your queue, so that you can say up front 'hey I really can't get this done in the appropriate amount of time for this commission tier because this isn't very clear to me' so that they're not in your fast queue to begin with.
Jun. 20th, 2014 08:26 pm (UTC)
I have considered that, but I don't get a whole lot of iffy reference sheets. This maybe happens once every few weeks, so it wouldn't be very efficient to preview every single reference sheet.

That is a good point though. If this starts to happen more often, I may have to do that.
Jun. 20th, 2014 08:28 pm (UTC)
yeah I figure even if you don't get it a lot, being able to see the ref at the same time as getting the commission inquiry IMO is just nice because I know exactly what I need to draw before I even get it to the queue.
Jun. 20th, 2014 08:54 pm (UTC)
Tuck it into your TOS that the queue might get rejiggered while you wait for reference sheet clarification... You send out a query on Reference Sheet X, and Commission Y's ref sheet is flat and simple, letting you not be in a holding pattern while waiting for Commissioner X to reply.

Basically, X would be in front of Y, but you had to get clarification from X, so it got pushed to immediately after Y, or Z, or whoever you can work on while you're waiting to hear back from X.

If that makes sense.

Jun. 20th, 2014 09:03 pm (UTC)
I've always found it weird when people have shaded ref sheets. It complicates things. Flat color is so much better in that case.
Jun. 20th, 2014 06:50 pm (UTC)
If these particular commissions are meant to be quick; consider having them be in the 'Wing-It' format. You're going to go off their reference and the commission comes AS-IS. No WIPS, no edits unless it was a large mistake on your part.

And it can't be a mistake on YOUR part, if the reference was dubious or generally unclear in the first place. So it goes without saying, if you do this you'll want to warn clients that their refs best be in line; otherwise, its not your fault.

You could also simply disallow SL screenshots unless they are a front/back/3/4 view on a solid background with decent lighting of some sort (none of those 'nightclub' views that I see folks use for their SL refs so often).
Jun. 20th, 2014 06:55 pm (UTC)
They are a semi-Wing-It style, so I think that would fit pretty well.

I'll have to leave a new note on my form advising that I need a clear reference to work from.

Yeah, I have decided to not allow SL screenshots at all. Even with decent lighting, they can be really difficult to work with.
Jun. 20th, 2014 06:28 pm (UTC)
I think there may be a problem with how you define 'hard to understand' ref sheets, it would be easy for someone to view that as a way to scam extra money with it. Usually it's best to budget extra time for stuff like emailing/communicating with client, file handling, time spent going over brief etc within your prices to cover all the stuff you need to do outside of the artwork itself.
Jun. 20th, 2014 06:32 pm (UTC)
I think the problem is that while you would certainly have the right to charge for extra time taken due to poor references, such an unheard of/unusual charge, despite making sense and being ethical, would freak people out just because it's different. I would definitely expect a loss of business.

I think going in the direction of filing it under charging for edits (because of the refsheet) as someone here mentioned would be wiser.

So.. yes, this is a thing you could do and it would make sense to me and I wouldn't complain if I were charged because I had a crappy ref sheet. But many would. And they would be offended by the mere idea, and leave. So it isn't about right or wrong so much as if you want to deal with that fallout.
Jun. 20th, 2014 06:44 pm (UTC)
i'd just add 'refsheets in difficult to read formats may incur a $$ fee' and then leave some examples like "ie, second life screenshots" or something
Jun. 20th, 2014 06:50 pm (UTC)
You have all left a lot of helpful advice. Thank you!

I think it serves to clarify that my main problem is with quick pieces that I don't offer edits or WIP shots on. I take multiple slots at a time, and have them fill out a form. I finish each sketch within 2 hours or so, so it would be disruptive of my creative process to have to stop and wait for clarification from the client.

I think what I'll be doing is flat out not accepting SL references at all, and then requesting to not have shaded reference sheets, and hope for the best.
Jun. 20th, 2014 08:27 pm (UTC)
Something that also might help in the future, is writing up an article/journal of what a 'clear reference' is to you, and tips that can help your commissioners know the best images to give you, so that you can just quickly link to it if any questions come up.

(I've actually seen some very good SL ref sheets, but that was only because they took photos in very clear lighting and did a full turn around shot against a solid background. Basically, you have to know what you're doing to make it clear.)

Edited at 2014-06-20 08:30 pm (UTC)
Jun. 20th, 2014 08:54 pm (UTC)
A LOT of people don't accept SL refs, so I don't think that would surprise many commissioners.
Jun. 21st, 2014 01:39 am (UTC)
I didn't know this. I've gotten so many SL refs that I've turned away commissioners for (and hella complicated characters like whoa) and I'm glad to know I'm not alone in the thought that SL refs aren't the best...
Jun. 24th, 2014 07:16 am (UTC)
Oh yeah, tons of people have it in their ToS and will post it in their info when they advertise their commissions and such.
Jun. 20th, 2014 08:38 pm (UTC)
I think instead of charging a fee for the reference being unclear, just use the same amount of time you would on any other picture, and instead put the fee against any edits needed due to their unclear references.

"Any edits needed that are not the fault of the artist (i.e. because of an unclear reference, etc.) will have a fee charged."
Jun. 20th, 2014 08:53 pm (UTC)
Some people are unable to do a less than perfect job, even if it's not their fault the ref is hard to read. I personally would rather spend the extra time with the ref than have to do edits at the end and I'd rather take one payment than possibly have to invoice someone for $3-5. It would be way more convenient to charge up front.
Jun. 20th, 2014 08:45 pm (UTC)
I would recommend putting out there that if someone wishes to use SL screen caps for their reference that they take it nude at all angles and provide a separate area with a flat color palette.

This is what I use occasionally for my own refs for body shape purposes. My colors are always flat and too the side as I feel that is unfair on an artist to have to click around on a shaded 3d image to get the right color.
Jun. 20th, 2014 08:51 pm (UTC)
I don't think that would be unfair. I've been trying to encourage people with shaded refs to ask their reference artist for an unshaded version. I'm hopeful that it would be as easy as hiding a layer and it would make everything so much more read-able. Painted references are an issue, too. :/

I definitely don't blame you for not wanting to attempt to decipher a ref.
Jun. 21st, 2014 06:02 am (UTC)
I'm not an artist but I'd personally not accept screenshots if they are not properly laid out with front/back/side views of the character (which you can easily do in SL) with clean and clear color scheme box(es) somewhere away from main details on the character. I'd also ask about any tattoos, markings/scars, or anything remotely "different" about the character that they don't want missed.

As far as a fee, I agree with an edit fee but at the same time I agree with looking at the references beforehand too. If they're submitting a form through your googledocs make them submit the reference too and only accept those whose reference makes sense and is easy to follow for you so you can dish these out relatively fast. If they wonder why they weren't chosen or contacted back for payment explain to them (as well as on the initial journal) that these commissions are fast pace and complex or unclear references are not welcome but they are more than welcome to commission you for something else where your time is more spread out per piece.
Jun. 30th, 2014 01:59 am (UTC)
You might not be needing more advice, but thought I'd add something

I know of at least 9 people that will use shaded ref sheets, ones with unclear (or no) swatches, or SL avs as their ref sheets because they want the artist to take liberty with the piece instead of trying really hard to match it. You might want to ask the commissioner what they prefer, and maybe add in "fee will be charged if the ref sheet is unclear and needs too much clarification" or something, just to make sure that commissioners are more clear up front?
Jun. 30th, 2014 04:23 pm (UTC)
Augh I always have this problem too. I tend to get difficult to interpret refs and then it turns out the commissioner is picky and likes to change things. Things that could be avoided if they had a clear ref :/
Jul. 6th, 2014 01:57 am (UTC)
I use a commission application for my queue, that way I can screen the commission before accepting it.
( 31 comments — Leave a comment )


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