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Guide for New Artists, Please?

I've been following the community for a while now, and while I've been meaning to also get into my own commissions . . . I've been having some trouble with it, mostly the 'getting started' part. I'd like to see a similar guide for new artists getting into the fray.

My previous experience with any sort of work-for-hire can be summed up thus:
  1. Attempting to do an Art Auction on Gaia while questing. Long story short, I made in a "Panty Auction" around the same time frame (which to those not familiar with Gaia, is basically just personal charity/name-whoredom), and the Panty Auction made four times as much... which basically means I made jack.
  2. Similar attempts on Gaia saw me making 1-2,000 gold for headshots a year later. Opening up a petstore on Gaia helped fetch higher prices (around 4,000 for custom stages), but only a half-dozen actually sold.
At this point I wised up a little and realized messing around with such tiny amounts was a fool's game, and have been mostly working on a webcomic to help boost my reputation. This method, while it's improved my skills significantly, still feels very slow-going reputation wise. I've really had to bite my tongue to keep my disillusionment in check (since I know 'being whiny' is a turnoff), but I get the sense that there's something actually wrong with how I'm promoting things, because I know there has to be a way to beat the 'sit on DeviantArt for Five Years' method.

I have no clue what to charge for how much effort; my comic pages can range anywhere from 1-3 days of work (most take just 1 though), and my previous headshot efforts took only a few hours, though comparing the two is pointless. I think I want to try a FurBid auction first just to get my feet wet, but since my first attempts for even virtual money did so poorly, I'm still not certain I have the reputation needed for this price to be representative, let alone worthwhile.

(Examples of my work will be shown upon request; the icon is from a future page in the comic, although I admit it's not my most recent work. I'm hesitant to show the most recent unless it's somehow relevant. Besides, the 'guide' could benefit from being a little more generalized than specifically to my situation.)
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Comments

( 82 comments — Leave a comment )
spiffystuff
Jun. 18th, 2007 04:47 am (UTC)
Hrummm.
I'd say maybe try to drop in on a small furcon you can find nearby and set up in the Artist's Alley (usually free)

Spread your samples and prices on the table, but bring plenty of stuff to work on. Don't be disappointed if no one commissions you the whole con, though I kind of doubt that'd happen. The point is this is usually a fairly cheap way to start doing the commission thing, and strangely more effective than furbid and the like.

... but really I haven't done online commissions much, so I'm prolly not the best authority on that.

As for rep... eh. I wouldn't worry about it. Do your thing, and do it well; rep'll come or it won't.
thaily
Jun. 18th, 2007 05:47 am (UTC)
A good reputation, as opposed to a bad one, is hard work with slow results. I suggest you try not to obsess over it too much or you'll go nuts.

That said, there are definitely ways that will help you gain good reputation.
The comics is a good idea and you might get better results if you advertise it more and ask other comics for banner exchanges or exchange guest comics.
Furthermore, what is your target audience? Where do they gather? Go there and share your work there, join forums and discussions, be nice and helpful. Basically you can do anything to stick out in the crowd in a good way.

You're right that whining doesn't help and don't fall into the trap that some people have fallen into; any publicity is good publicity.
Some artists are trying to kickstart their career by being drama queens; they single out individuals more popular then them (for any reason) and are snide to them in public, the more witnesses the better. They rant about them in their journal in public posts, make public lists and generally vilify and obsess over people they don't even know.

They do it because they get a lot of attention that way, but it also ruins their reputation and chances of a serious career. If an art director googles your name and encounters journal posts where you're bragging you're going to kick someone ass if you see them at a con they'll rightly think you're unhinged and avoid you.

It takes a thousand good comments to build a reputation, it takes significantly fewer to ruin it. There are artists who do really good work but who's reputation for art has been overshadowed by their bad reputations for trolling and other negative things.

It's no coincidence that a lot of successful artists are also nice people; Dark Natasha, Gideon, Ursula Vernon etc.
lilenth
Jun. 18th, 2007 05:26 pm (UTC)

Some people probably won't approve of what I'm about to say. But don't get into commissions just yet.

Your work is flat, your anatomy is awkward to look at in places. You pillow shade.You have potential but I wouldn't buy your work because your skill level is so low. Ultimately you would have to work extremely hard for even a trickle of commissions to be coming in with the level you currently work at. Spend your time working on your quality rather than trying to sell your work, it'll pay off better in the long run.
lastres0rt
Jun. 18th, 2007 06:04 pm (UTC)
Madam, I was asking for a generalized guide for new artists looking to get commissions. You know... initial pricing, publicity, general starting procedure... things that aren't relevant to the process itself.

Your comment, while appreciated for the sheer fact that I was expecting a significantly better response from this topic, does nothing to help me 'correct' my apparent deficiencies. Furthermore, as I said, the works I have online are not my most recent because I currently have a sixteen-page backlog that's not been uploaded for public viewing, and it's at least as significant an evolution as I've demonstrated from the start of the comic. You're not looking at my current skill level and quite frankly, scaring me off from doing commissions based on admittedly 'old' works by comparison is just plain disheartening.

If I wanted to be told "Shut up and just draw", I would have stayed and continued to rot on DeviantArt. If there's one thing I'm fairly certain of, I need to sell as well as draw if I intend to get anywhere with this.
thaily
Jun. 18th, 2007 06:28 pm (UTC)
...

You know I had some more advice but I think I'll just keep it to myself if you're going to be so snide to someone who's genuinely offering advice which she believes will serve in your best interest.

I'm sure you won't mind though since the advice thus far hasn't been satisfactory. I'll save my time for someone more deserving >_o
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arshes
Jun. 18th, 2007 06:29 pm (UTC)
Truth hurts?

Look, the process is slow, I do have to agree not to get into commissions yet. There are other reasons too, because you do need to have a better attitude too. Just seeing this reply alone makes me not want to commission you either.

Your works online ARE your advertisement. There is no excuse to say I want to sell but you don't show your best representation as to WHY you want us to buy.

Just because it was disheartening to read that means you have to evaluate yourself.
lilenth
Jun. 18th, 2007 06:45 pm (UTC)

Madam? I don't think I'm old enough to merit that yet. A generalised guide wouldn't help you. New is an arbeitrary definition anyway. Anyone can be an artist who is "new" to doing commissions whether they are on par with the great masters of art or still think composition is something for the garden.

Initial pricing? is based on skill level and quality of the commissions and what the customers will pay. There's no hard and fast rule on that, it's called research and looking objectively at your work.

I'm telling you the truth about your work. If you want critique on those specific problems? Join a critique group. You can say you have better but until you show better you will be judged by what you display as your current level. Even if as you claim you have improved, unless it is a large and significant improvement it still would be better for you to work on your artwork some more before entertaining the idea of taking paid work.

No, you don't need to sell to get places. I know an artist who is a few steps above you in terms of skill, she sells, and she is going nowhere fast because she's too tangled up in selling to her drooling fan brigade rather than improving her artwork. She is going to be doing cheapo rpg cookie cutter art for the rest of her life. Every-time I see her she's yammering about how she wants to work for this and that company but because she's so busy drawing crappy cookie cutter commissions for her fan brigade that she's too busy to work on the depth needed in her work in order to work for the companies she wants to work for. She's hit a glass ceiling because she rushed into selling. She rushes her work in order to get it to the customer and all it's done is make her prone to lazy shortcuts, she fudges anatomy terribly instead of learning how to do it properly and then getting faster at it. Needless to say, no serious company will ever take her, she's going to be mediocre for the rest of her artistic career simply because she's too busy selling mediocre work to develope her skills.
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Re: Such an appropriate icon - lilenth - Jun. 18th, 2007 08:32 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Such an appropriate icon - atamakatjazz - Jun. 18th, 2007 08:36 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Such an appropriate icon - lilenth - Jun. 18th, 2007 08:42 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Such an appropriate icon - arshes - Jun. 18th, 2007 08:47 pm (UTC) - Expand
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roaring
Jun. 19th, 2007 01:22 am (UTC)
I know this is odd but...

I'm surprised no one tried to give me a critique of my art in my post about promotion a few posts above this one. I kind of wish someone would tell it to me straight like you did to lastres0rt.

Please? :D;
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akeyla
Jun. 18th, 2007 09:07 pm (UTC)
hmmm... you must know that every artists starts very low.
It is a bascially "get up if you fall and have a hard look at your work every day". Work.
Swallow failure. Swallow the fact that many many times you will not be good enough to be considered for buying.
Show what you have but dont show off with what you dont have.
I've learned that a humble approach and yet remaining at the "ball" helped me. I offered commissions, if they didnt sell I offered them again, changed prices, sold finished art to get an idea of my "range". AT the same time I always kep working on own pieces, not private pieces but more nonCommissions. Tried new medias, posted my works. Asked opinions, tried again. Looked for other places, checked conventions, other art galleries (onlines), tried to tame a homepage. Its like slingshooting a brontosaurus with peanuts... it takes a long time until he comes after you.
Basically it was when I started to work on my own projects that people "came after me". You fiddle something, you post it online and someone/people ask "can I buy that or can I order similar?"
Also, keep in mind, the market is your critic. Many people around you will praise as long as they dont have to buy. Sad but true. We depend on the market and the market is baaaahhhd (it was better).
And yet, even if you dont sell you should not go to low.
a basics that I kept for my priceing was:

1.material
2. time (what you would like to get for your time or what you could get with another job)
3. value (mostly how much you like your pieces or what they are worth for you, what do you think you are worth. this can also be a minus to 1 and 2)
4. Reality (what have your pieces sold for before and what do similar works sell for. Also this can be a minus to 1 and 2)

1 + 2 +- 3 +- 4 = your price


Bear in mind that your audience does not care about 1 + 2 really. Often it may happen that your most intricate time consuming pieces get less than your random doodle.

I know I must have repeated a dozen times what was said before me(please dont eat my brains) but I tried to say once more in my own view life experience and bad grammar what is my opinion.
mdetector5
Jun. 19th, 2007 12:29 am (UTC)
Well, doing all those things you listed helps to build up a good reputation. I myself have a decent reputation. I have some good art, and people like it.
nrr
Jun. 19th, 2007 06:04 pm (UTC)
 
wuff
Jun. 19th, 2007 06:05 pm (UTC)
laugh
mdetector5
Jun. 19th, 2007 06:09 pm (UTC)
Well, it does need work and a certain member of artists_beware (who will remain nameless) told me in a very harsh way.

And yes, my reputation might not be all the best, but at least it's not really really bad...

I might have exaggerated slightly...
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Exucse, me - arshes - Jun. 19th, 2007 06:31 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Exucse, me - dinogrrl - Jun. 19th, 2007 06:34 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Excuse, me - arshes - Jun. 19th, 2007 06:41 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Excuse, me - mdetector5 - Jun. 19th, 2007 06:56 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Excuse, me - arshes - Jun. 19th, 2007 08:33 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Exucse, me - thaily - Jun. 21st, 2007 06:54 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Exucse, me - mdetector5 - Jun. 19th, 2007 06:36 pm (UTC) - Expand
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anjel_kitty
Jun. 19th, 2007 12:55 am (UTC)
My advice: Join some exchange communites and work up a good rep among other artists. Do some trades yourself to not only improve your skill, but also make connections. Conbadges always sell well no matter what your ability, so I would highly recommend starting there.

analogue_soul
Jun. 19th, 2007 07:26 am (UTC)
to try to assist your actual question...
instead of getting into flames, try it out and see what works for you, jekkal.
see what other starting / established artists are charging and weigh where you value your art. depending on sales, bump it up or take it down. its much easier to sell things at cons than the net, too (if yer the convention-fairing type).

it'll be trial and error from there.
(and truly, every artist is constantly trying to get better. you said you already know some areas you need to work on. good. thats the first step...i mean hell! did you see vgcats when he first started? that guy has jumped leaps and bounds. Just test the commision 'waters', persay.)

best wishes.
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