When: May 16, 2018 — July 11, 2018
What: A finished digital painting for $100
This artist usually gets a positive reputation from her fans and community, so this might seem like a shock. No artist is perfect, and surely no artist is bulletproof. I hope any fans of hers will see reason, and not an intent to do harm.
This is my story.
About a week ago from writing this (July 1) AshleyZombie canceled my commission because of con booth prep and "personal issues." I asked her to not do this, that I was willing to wait until con season was over and she was ready. But she did not want to hear any of it. She then kept half of the money I gave her for the commission and sent me a terribly done rough draft of the image, which is not what I was paying her for nor do I think it's worth half of the amount she charges for a fully rendered painting with cleaned lines and refined color work [see example here]. I expressly told her I don't agree to these new terms for a half payment, and that because she is the one canceling our project, that she is breaking our contract. She then slapped me with a bunch of horrible terms from her ToS page, which we never discussed beforehand.
I initially contacted her on Tumblr after seeing a post about her being open for commissions — which was back in May, so over a month ago — and we hashed out the beginnings of what I thought would be an amazing commission project. Not once did she mention her ToS, and furthermore that because she was the one breaking our contract that she has no right to enforce her ToS onto me. It's already bad enough that to be on her commission list you have to pay 100% upfront. But now that she's able to cancel any commission she chooses, and is able to keep half the money for doing very little work, is a VERY BAD business practice. If all you are going to do is open for commissions, then cancel the commissions you just took while barely working on them just to keep half of the payment, then maybe you shouldn't be doing commissions in the first place if you do not plan to complete them.
I understand bad things happen in life. I am completely forthcoming about personal issues, and I am willing to bend over backwards to help you out if I can. But this is something I feel she is doing to take advantage of clients, who will mostly remain silent and let these things go. I did not feel this was fair for her to do, and I was more than happy to negotiate a new settlement for the work she has done. However based on separate terms unrelated to the canceled commission. If you start a commission for a digital painting, and the end result is a rough doodle, then I am willing to pay you for a rough doodle.
Just to put prices into perspective here, she was offering commissions for half-body and full-body paintings, at $100 and $180 respectively. I am glad I only purchased the $100 slot, because if she considers what she gave me to be worth half of $180 I would legitimately lose it. Either way, the practice of canceling someone's commission and charging them half for very little work is most unbecoming of her reputation.
I haven't even mentioned the communication timeframe, usually taking weeks before getting a response. For the most part I was quite unassuming. After the first day of making payment, on May 16, she told me she would be able to send periodic WIPs. About 8 days later, on May 24, she sends me a rough sketch of my character which I absolutely adored, and told her to continue on after making some small fixes on the character. Again, another 8 days of waiting for a response, and on June 1 she informs me that there are no updates and to check her commissions queue. That didn't help clarify what was her situation was, but I reassured her that if she needs time to just let me know what's going on and keep me in the loop.
At this point I ask her to let me know when she thinks she will be able to resume or get back to me about my commission, but no response. Twelve days later, on June 12 she finally responds with an update asking me to confirm the color palette and eye color. I comply, and I confirm the things that are correct and things that aren't correct. However I expressed slight dismay at the fact that we never discussed the changes to the preliminary sketch that was first drafted almost four weeks ago, and that the changes needed were not reflected in the update. I even clearly stated the issues unaddressed at the end of the email, verbatim.
She then reassures me that the corrections will be reflected in the final painting, but I was already having doubts — my trust in her to do what she says was really all I had left to rely on. I tried to press on a conversation about the initial changes to the first draft, however that was shut out with another 4 days of silence, and finally on June 17 I received a response comparing the first draft to the second with color. At this point I was somewhat troubled by the lack of progress on the commission. An entire month has gone by, we haven't discussed the details or how we should go about fixing said details, I am receiving updates arbitrarily which only address the artist's concerns and not mine, and I personally found myself frustrated and contemplative about the appearance of the initial draft. So I withdrew my responses for a time, as it seemed the artist was not interested in having a conversation about my commission. I had the intention of responding later, or looking forward to AZ keeping her word that she will make the changes I am asking for in the next update.
That was not to be so, because a week later on June 23, she sends me an email.
"Hi, i hate to be doing this but im send out refunds to clients that's waited over a month or so due to the fact that i have con prep to worry and i've been slowly burned out with work. I've got a lot going on irl too and I've been stressed about it
I don't think im doing this character much justice and im not following the guild lines too well with whats shown on the page.
This character's been sketched and colored already so i'll be giving you a partial refund.
I Just need your paypal email and i'll send you the full image when i send the money back !"
Basically she's decided to scrap the project for her own reasons, but also — by the way — she'll be keeping "part" of my funds as tribute for her efforts thus far.
Under different conditions, as I stated before, I'd have been happy to compensate her for her efforts. But the way this was imposed upon me, with disregard for her own incompetence by not completing her end of the deal, seemed to have disingenuous intentions. I sit on this email for about a day, contemplating alternatives and then I arrive at a solution.
I ask AshleyZombie to reconsider putting the project on hold until she is able to collect herself and is ready to continue, preferably after "con" season. I was open to a new timeframe, and expressed that I'd be happy to wait. She refused, twice, and it was basically a one-sided conversation. Actually, come to think of it, the entire conversation since day one was very one-sided. I'm not very aware of many one-sided business conversings, but they usually don't end well for the receiving party.
A few more emails, and it seems she's actively pushing for me to just accept what she's saying. From her tone, I can tell she's frustrated with my noncompliance and pleading. And to be fair, I am just about as equally as frustrated with her unresponsiveness and authoritative diction.
I grind our pleasantries to a halt and let her know my thoughts on what she is trying to do. Specifically that I do not agree at all with her new terms for a partial refund for an item I do not want in its current state, at a price of her choosing. I lay out the barebones of our contract and how she did not complete her end of the deal. As a result, I asked that she consider completing the piece at full price — or that I demand a full refund and that she keep her incomplete efforts. Perhaps to count it as practice work or something to stuff into a sketchbook. I tried my best to be reasonable and logical, also taking effort to acknowledge her "apparent" hardship. But even this was met with incompetence, as she accused me of trying to bully her into not paying. I told her I would consider paying, but under arguably different circumstances. Nonetheless, seeing as how negotiating with her has gone so far, I wasn't optimistic that she would agree to anything else.
Then she slaps me with her ToS. Which states that if the client should ask for a refund, and if she is halfway finished with the piece, that her terms would apply as such and a partial refund of "half" of the original commission price. And that would make sense, if I were the one requesting the refund. I even told her if I initiated the refund, I would be okay with paying half. But that isn't the case by far, and the complete opposite is true. She has termination terms, but she's exempt from terminating herself? And because she's broken contract, I don't understand how her terms can still be enforced.
That got cherry picked to mean what she wanted it to, and as such she says it doesn't matter who initiated the refund. That if the work itself is halfway done then she is entitled to half of the payment. No negotiations. Had she simply imposed a cancellation fee, she wouldn't be able to enforce it. Our situation wasn't any different.
That out of the way, this argument continued for one additional response from her, basically telling me that I'm bullying her, that her ToS are to protect her, etc, and that she will be enforcing her terms regardless of how wrong she was for breaking our deal.
So far, I am taking this up an echelon with PayPal. Hopefully they will be able to resolve this issue where I cannot. And if they can go no further, I'll take it to civil court if I have to. It's the principle that's going to cause more harm in the long run, in my opinion. And not just from AshleyZombie, but from other similar-minded people as well.
Still, the issue isn't about worth. It's that the original deal was not honored. We agreed on $100 for a finished digital painting. But instead of that, a new deal was shoehorned into this one, involuntarily, for a partially completed work for half the cost of the original price. Which I never agreed to. However it will be difficult for her prove what constitutes as a "half work," and what justifies "half payment" based on her ToS. Had this been a normal cancellation fee, I'd gladly pay it but... wouldn't you know it, I didn't cancel?
Please beware of this artist, and others like her!
PayPal case is ongoing!
UPDATE (July 11)
PayPal has ruled in my favor. The case is now closed!
Proof of decision (July 10)
I also discovered that AshleyZombie reopened commissions not even a few days after canceling my commission! This means she lied about her reasons for needing to cancel, in stating that she needed time to de-stress, etc, yet just hours later she reopens extra fresh on Twitter. In other words, AshleyZombie is accepting commission slots, only to later cancel any commissions she doesn't want to do while keeping half of the money given to her by clients. Do take note she leaves that part out, as if a full refund was offered.
This is beyond reprehensible.
Please be VERY aware of this before commissioning her. I'd offer to help revise her refund policy, but for someone to scam their clients like this I cannot bring myself to want to help. My perspectives on AshleyZombie have definitely changed after this discovery, and not for the better.