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This is something I've been considering on and off for a long while while lurking the community and I finally decided to come out and post about it.

A good couple years back I ordered a commission from a well-known and respected local artist at a then-small college convention near me - two traditional pieces of original characters my ex and I designed for a visual novel we were working on. I believe we each paid $20-25 for them at the time. I also gave them the original design sketches I had of the two characters. The artist is open about them dealing with chronic illness - fibro and lupus, notably, and how some days they're physically unable to draw, so I didn't expect to have the art immediately, but I did hope I'd get it within a few months.

A few months later I emailed them to inquire about my commissions, I needed the design sketches back to reference from as well. They told me they were still getting through the commissions from the convention and that mine was next on the list. Awesome!

I never got the commissions or the original sketches. I feel like maybe I should have been more forceful but as I'm also an artist who struggles with chronic conditions that make keeping a consistent schedule difficult (albeit mine are nowhere near as debilitating) I feel like it might've been in bad form to nag about it. There's also the fact that this person is very well liked and respected among the local geek community, including several friends of mine, and I didn't want to be alienated or be accused of starting drama.

So this is still what I'm struggling with - do I create a beware and let people know that there's a potential caveat emptor attached to commissioning this artist (who does accept online commissions, so this isn't just a local thing)? Or do I let it go, and accept that shit happens?

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Comments

( 17 comments — Leave a comment )
zackfig
May. 14th, 2016 02:41 pm (UTC)
When was the last time you reached out to the artist?
intothewolves
May. 17th, 2016 06:06 am (UTC)
March 2013. Again, the time lapse is part of the issue. I'm honestly kind of embarassed about posting about it this late, and I feel like I should have asked more, but I'm kind of terrible at directly pressuring artists, again, being a disabled artist myself who sometimes has trouble with comms...
dfstarfield
May. 14th, 2016 04:40 pm (UTC)
In the end it's your call and I don't know how long it's been. Usually though I would suggest trying to wait a bit longer before taking action here. AB should be a sort of last resort in my opinion.

Keep trying to reach out to them and understand what they are going through by asking about their situation. If need be, just try to get the original sketches back while letting them pay you back over time.
tylociraptor
May. 14th, 2016 05:27 pm (UTC)
Speaking as an artist who freelances full time, and deals with chronic illness... it's not an excuse. It's NEVER an excuse. Things happen, sure, but needing to take a day or two off shouldn't prevent them from getting the work done. If they are that bad off due to their illness that they can't complete your work in YEARS, then they should not be taking work. It's unfair to the client!

I would contact the artist again, let them know that you want the work, or a refund. Personally I'd specifically ask for a refund, because if they haven't finished the work in this long, they aren't going to finish it.
kayla_la
May. 14th, 2016 06:06 pm (UTC)
Ultimately, it is the artist's responsibility to know their limits, and to react accordingly if things go south. This doesn't change because of illness.

While being open about illness does warn a commissioner that it will take more time than it would for a healthy artist, it still reaches a point where they are using it as an excuse instead of an explanation. If it's been literally years, you have long reached that point, and have full rights to treat it like any other commission where the artist is being negligent.

Ask for a refund. Be polite but firm. Feel free to post a beware here if you can't get things sorted.
cidal_fun
May. 14th, 2016 11:12 pm (UTC)
They stole both your money and your original designs. If they weren't prepared to warn you of any delays to their commissioning schedule caused by their illness (instead just saying "I'll do it next!" and leaving you hanging), you shouldn't be prepared to just accept that theft. Contact them again, ask for a refund or your artwork, and then take it from there.

Edited at 2016-05-14 11:13 pm (UTC)
intothewolves
May. 17th, 2016 06:18 am (UTC)
They did have a friend at their table on the Sunday (the day after I paid for the commission and gave her the designs) who was there in their place because they had too much pain/fatigue to come that day, so there was that. When I sent the email a month later I was told they had been swamped with commissions but that ours was up next, and that she'd provide a shipping number and send digital files to us when it was finished. I sent an email back thanking her for the update and then never heard from her about it again.

I'll definitely contact them, but I'm worried that they've thrown out my original designs - I mean, they were on paper, and I'm not a terribly good artist now (and was much worse 3 years ago,) so I think if they forgot about my commission, they may have figured my designs weren't worth keeping? Maybe I'm thinking in the worse case scenario and they're in a file somewhere. Fingers crossed.
allcometoruin
May. 14th, 2016 11:19 pm (UTC)
I'm a disabled artist and because of the circumstances surrounding my health, I either don't accept payment in full or until I've had a sketch approved + keep the commissioner updated/in the loop.

If you are uncomfortable with the lack of communication and progress on your commission, I encourage you to contact them and ask for a refund. It sucks, but you shouldn't be left in the dark. You gave them your money and trust - and they owe it to you to keep that trust by completing the work and keeping you in the loop, even if it's just a little "hey there! I'm aiming to have your commission lined by this weekend, here's a progress pic of what I have so far" or "I'm sorry for the delay, I have been unable to work on art due to health issues - I can offer you a refund if you are uncomfortable with waiting".

Point is, it's okay to reach out to the artist, and I hope they're alright, but yeah it's totally fine to ask for progress or a refund if you don't feel like this is working out for you.
intothewolves
May. 17th, 2016 06:10 am (UTC)
I actually do the same thing with my commissions - I take half payment once I finish the linework (I do pixel art so that's usually the fastest part) then take the rest once they ok the colors. It's worked out really well for keeping my mental clusterfuck from getting in the way of my commissions.

I assume the artist is more than alright aside from the usual chronic health issues they have - I've seen them at this local con every year (since this was in 2013... that's three years,) again, taking commissions and selling prints plus jewelry and accessories the past 2 or so cons.

Checking back on the email they sent me the month after, they said they were going to send me my original designs, the art, and the 300dpi files but had nothing to show for it at the time, which looking back on it, was a red flag, probably... I'm going to talk to my ex and see if he can vouch for me re: the money spent and then email he back.
allcometoruin
May. 17th, 2016 05:17 pm (UTC)
It feels fair to do things like that tbh, I like half/half payment systems with art commissions. :U

If they're still taking commissions and doing con stuff, they should have the time to communicate with you/do what you paid them to do. :/ That's rough, I'm sorry you're having to deal with that!

Maybe your ex can help the situation, and hopefully something good will come of this.
bearprince
May. 15th, 2016 02:24 am (UTC)
Echoing what's been said above, as much as you can sympathize with someone who has a condition that makes it difficult to work, the onus is on the artist to honor your business agreement on whatever terms the customer has agreed to. a wait is acceptable, and I'm sure you were more than willing to help accommodate for the artist's condition, which is all you could be asked to do in this situation.

chronic illness is a struggle, and it is an explanation, but as with all personal issues regarding artists owing work -- it isn't an excuse. in the end, the artist is the one responsible for their health and their ability to perform their job, not you, and you shouldn't have to pay for it.
dinogrrl
May. 15th, 2016 02:52 am (UTC)
I agree with the others: if you know you have a chronic condition, it is up to YOU to manage it. Not your customers. Illness is NEVER an excuse, and if you find yourself using it as one, you need to stop taking commissions, and/or refund the ones you're already struggling with, or whatever else you need to do, until you get things under control again.

Regardless of how 'well-known' or 'respected' or 'liked' they may be, as of right now they've stolen your money and you have nothing to show for it. And if I were to hazard a guess, you probably aren't the first person they've done this to. I bet there are other people out there who, like you, are afraid to say something that contradicts the 'well-known, respected, likable geek' persona because of possible backlash.

I'd probably ask for either the art or a refund by a specific date - I think that is more than generous, given they've had beyond ample time to finish the commission. If they refuse to do either, then yes, beware time.

Just because a commission was agreed to years ago, and was a relatively small amount of money, doesn't mean it isn't still a valid business contract that needs to be honored.
pocket_entropy
May. 15th, 2016 05:47 am (UTC)
Chiming in as a lupus patient. I agree with all that's been said. Over the years I've learned to limit the amount of work I take on to one commission at a time (and also only accepting payment for one piece at a time), simply because the disease is so crippling and unpredictable. And there have been times I've had to suspend commissions altogether and offer refunds. I feel it's especially important to be upfront with customers and keep them updated regularly.

It sounds like this artist has had your money AND your original sketches for a couple years, so I'd say go ahead and write up the beware, you are completely justified.
Hunty Belmnt
May. 15th, 2016 12:02 pm (UTC)
Keep trying to reach out to the artist and then post a beware if things still aren't working out. I had an artist friend who at one point ended up with cancer, beat it and still did his work. It's the artists' responsibility to know their limit when they're dealing with chronic conditions at the end of the day.
spartanwerewolf
May. 15th, 2016 06:11 pm (UTC)
Echoing everyone else. Disability sucks, and, while it's fine to take a day or two off without rushing to your commissioners, if you're taking more than that, you need to keep them in the loop.

It's on us to know our limits. I'm fairly slow, bc I'm still gaining skill and have not only mentla health issues, but also a chronic nerve issue that affects my hands. It's not anyone else's responsibility to tell me my limits; I have to know them.

Keep trying to reach out to the artist, abd if they can't produce within a timely manner, they need to refund you and send you your sketches. You're not a jerk for not letting them take your money and not deliver a product.
galagya
May. 22nd, 2016 01:12 pm (UTC)
Like others who replied, I have a chronic, serious disability(not the same as the person from the post, but still).

Basically, I see one of two things being the problem, here.

Either (1) they are simply ripping you off... or...
(2) they aren't handling their commissions well because of this illness, & their priorities are out of whack. They have not found the balance they need, put the special limitations they will surely need on themselves into place, etc.. Does this make sense...? I'm trying to basically communicate that this IS due to their illness, but more so, how they handle commissions knowing it.

To elaborate on (2), like with me - my condition makes me unavailable for weeks on end sometimes. I used to try to be like other commissioners, but I'd let people know that I "wasn't the quickest" to compensate. That was my problem. Realistically, I should have done then/from the start what I do now - say, straight up, that it might take weeks, or even months, period. I think in the back of my head, I wasn't sure if people would understand or just think I was being lazy or something, but... it doesn't matter. I needed to *change my business to compensate accordingly*. They may have done this, like I did, but again like me, they may very well have not done it /well/. & that can make all the difference. Next thing you know, as a result of this, they may battle a backlog, or be anxious about contacting you at this point/after so long, or... anything, I dunno. None are "okay", but all are human. So that /could/ be what is going on.

I think it'd be better if it was the latter, rather than the former, of course. Neither is good, I mean, they would both result in the situation you now have... but the latter would mean there was no malicious intent, & that you may well still walk away with something!

As for not wanting to start drama, I think there is a very easy way to keep from doing that. You already are doing it right. You did not post names, or make a big public fuss. Now, contact this person directly and discreetly, one-on-one. If you made a fuss in front of people, it would be dramatic. But contacting them after years for something owed is more than enough.

Honestly, they likely forgot about it completely by now. Especially if they have a stressful life and are plagued by illness, I'm sure that this isn't high on their priorities compared to the stresses of living.

Now, I am NOT saying that's how it SHOULD be. But I'm saying that's how it is. Just like if say, your mother died, you might walk away from not only commissions but things you love or hell, people you love, because you can't cope or you're having a LOT of trouble with it. It's not what SHOULD be done, but again, people are only human, & we're all flawed. It wouldn't be ideal, but understandable? I certainly believe so.

Still, they should strive to make things right if they aren't a blatant thief. So now, it's up to you to give them the opportunity.

You need to contact them.

Be polite. Be understanding. ...but also make your POV very clear, and be honest & to the point. You want to get along, but man, you want what's owed to you! Don't say things like, "you've had the time" at this point. Say, "I'd really like to get that".

Basically, be respectful. No drama, right?

If, after this, there is nothing... THEN be forceful. Of course, I believe in being respectful regardless, but you can be respectful & pretty brutally honest at the same time, haha. For instance, that's when things like, "you've had the time" would be legit, imo.

If nothing happens still, then that's that. Post a beware, let others in the community know, or... whatever. I'm not an expert on what to do when it gets to that point(I honestly am a super patient person so who knows lmao, never hit the "fuck it, I'm done" wall, myself). But yeah, do what you think is right.

If they ARE just... well, (2)... then I'm positive it will not get to that point!

But whatever you do, do SOMETHING! Speaking as an artist and someone with a disability, I want my commissioners to be satisfied and, dare I say, happy. End of story! If they are an artist, they'll likely feel at least somewhat similar. If they are a /con/-artist, well... not so much.

Best of luck to you!
galagya
May. 22nd, 2016 01:12 pm (UTC)
omfg such a long post I'm so sorry ahhh
( 17 comments — Leave a comment )

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