Four years ago I commissioned Brian "Jace/Sharky" Harp for two pictures. One was for two characters, full color and ink, at $100, the other for one character, full color and ink, for $70. I sent him the money soon after he agreed to do the pictures, the full $170, in June 2003. I can produce a copy of the letter I sent and my bank records for the check, which was cashed soon after it arrived.
For four years, I did not receive any progress reports, I have not received any preliminary sketches, I have gotten nothing. I have been told that work had been done, but I haven't seen it. I had never met Mr. Harp until this past FC2007. Leading into it, I asked again since I would be out there on the West Coast, and he assured me a month or more in advance that he would have something to show me. There was nothing to show me at the con, and nothing was produced for me during the con.
Afterwards, he made it clear to me that he felt unable to produce the character(s) that I had initially asked for. I then asked him to switch the problematic character to another, and the second one in the other picture to a very good friend of mine. He said he'd have to ask the other friend, and I've heard since from the other friend that Mr. Harp was not very enthusiastic about it, the phrase went, "he doesn't feel good about it [the commissions]."
This past Friday, given the sum total of the above, I contacted Mr. Harp to release him from the obligation to do anything, since it has been pretty clear that I will not see my commissions. In the intervening four years, he has done several dozen pictures of similar effort and complexity, just not mine. I also know Mr. Harp is pretty much habitually broke or close to it, so I have released him from the obligation of paying me back. It is stress and tension neither of us need that will only produce bitter feelings.
It has been an expensive and frustrating lesson, one that I am passing on to this community, again, after several people encouraged me to do so. So here I am, sharing my experience with Mr. Harp with this wider audience. Mr. Harp is a very nice guy, I do consider him a friend, a talented artist, but it would appear that professionalism and business acumen are not his strong points. I know better now, and I hope this helps someone else from making the same expensive mistake I did.
Thanks for listening.