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I'm in a really tight spot here ladies and gentlemen, and I have come to you for help. I don't want to name names right now because although I'm disappointed and upset I understand the artist probably feels the same way and I don't want to make it worse on them.

A little background-- on September 15 2011 I commissioned a talented new artist for a fully rendered digital painting. I was asking for a very complicated piece of art (character, props, background) with the intention to hang it up in my living room but I was pleasantly surprised to learn the artist agreed to do all the extra details at no extra cost. Probably relevant to know that I gave no deadline and the artist asked to be paid only upon completion, despite being offered to be paid in advance. Also might be relevant that they expressed distress on finishing commissions (not always specifically mine, in general) a few times throughout the ordeal and I repeated that I am patient, no deadline. There was no TOS given at the time, just a verbal agreement through FA notes.

Fast forward many months later and I receive an FA note in my inbox telling me that although the character is about half done (but no color on the most recent WIP I was shown) and the background was speedpainted, they are giving up because they've spent too much time on it already and they can't do it any more, for lack of skill with digital painting (their words, not mine!). I am then asked to pay the full amount, or failing that "whatever I feel its worth".

I am at a loss for words. I understand that I should pay an artist for their time, I understand they were undercharging themselves (pretty much the reason I hired them in the first place, it was a good deal) but I have absolutely no use or desire for half a painting. I can't finish this myself! I'm not going to hang this on my wall and enjoy looking at it, he doesn't even have all his limbs or a tail. I feel as if I should offer some form of compensation to keep my name clean/be nice, but I'm getting nothing useful out of this transaction and anything I offer would be such a pittance for the amount of work they've put in it anyway (not to mention paying for this sort of service really rubs me the wrong way). Let it be known they do say there is a possibility of them continuing when they feel they are ready but... I am not interested in that option, considering what's happened so far (and related to that, does this mean that if I say I'm not interested, -I- become the one who cancels, therefore changing the whole flavor of this dispute?).

This would be very black and white if I cancelled on them, as that would be my fault for losing my patience. In my own fursuit TOS I make it clear that if I as the artist cancels I'm responsible for not making this my client's problem.

I have a whole pile of FA notes and WIP screenshots, if you want to look at that sort of thing. I am probably missing bits and pieces from their journals as I didn't grab any of those because up until this morning I didn't know it wasn't going to work out :(

Thank you all for your help! This is such a valuable community :)
I've made a decision and contacted the artist about my choice.

By popular demand, here it is. Please, no names if you know who this is! I've already declined to buy it and both of us are rather upset about the situation, I'd prefer to let it be.

Artist's beware has moved!
Do NOT repost your old bewares. They are being archived.


( 54 comments — Leave a comment )
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Aug. 16th, 2012 09:47 pm (UTC)
All I can honestly say is you really should have made an actual firm deadline. It really can help artists finish whats on their plate if they have a solid timeframe to do it in.

This sounds like they bit off more then they could chew, and was afraid to tell you out of guilt. I would cancel this commission and pay for the work they DID do, and start a new with someone else.
Aug. 16th, 2012 11:22 pm (UTC)
For the record (just replying to you because a few people are suggesting the same and I don't want to get all repetitive), I am not concerned about the deadline at all (in fact, this artist makes it very clear they will not accept work it there's a time limit). The artist can take 5 years to finish it, and as long as its done eventually I'm as happy as a clam.

You do have a point about requesting a deadline to make sure they "take it seriously", but I feel that in this specific case it might have been a red flag for me-- they didn't want to be paid in advance and I feel very dishonest pressuring someone to work faster if I haven't even paid them yet.

(no subject) - neolucky - Aug. 17th, 2012 02:39 am (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
Aug. 16th, 2012 11:51 pm (UTC)
The artist did suggest that, but the problem with paying half and having someone else complete it is that I was trying to buy this image because it fits in my budget-- I can afford to buy the image in its current state/the original agreed amount, but I don't think I'll ever be able to find another person who's skilled enough to finish it at a price I can afford to pay them (I'm not a very rich person right now). I'm reluctant to spend my earmarked commission money if I'm not actually going to get anything useful in return :(
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - thistle_chaser - Aug. 17th, 2012 03:43 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - zaulankris - Aug. 16th, 2012 11:56 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - neolucky - Aug. 17th, 2012 02:42 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - zaulankris - Aug. 17th, 2012 03:06 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - neolucky - Aug. 17th, 2012 03:21 am (UTC) - Expand
Aug. 16th, 2012 09:54 pm (UTC)
Wow, as an artist, I wouldn't have charged you. The artist canceled, not you. I know that they should be compensated for their time, of course, but it's just good business not to do this to a client. Especially since it's nearly a year later.

I guess if I were in your shoes, I'd pay half or partial, but not go back to that person again. It's a very sour thing to do to someone.
Aug. 16th, 2012 11:39 pm (UTC)
I feel the exact same as this. Same as you, OP, I have a clause in my ToS that states if I cancel on the commissioner, the commissioner doesn't have to pay me, even if I've started work.

I think I would probably still give her something, though, and like splatterhouse said, maybe she if she'll sign over the rights so you can try to find another artist to complete it, depending on how finished it is. Maybe not have someone else paint a whole background or whatever, but at least finish the character so it's not just a random WIP.
Aug. 16th, 2012 10:08 pm (UTC)
First off, saying you're not interested in continuing the commission "somewhere down the line" doesn't make you the one cancelling, and it doesn't change a thing. I agree that since the artist cancelled on you through no fault of your own, you're not really obligated to pay, well, anything at all. It's also not your fault that they undercharged themselves and took on more work than they were able to handle. Their issues have nothing to do with you.

That said, I do feel that, if out of nothing more than niceness, they should receive something for the work they've done. Look at the image, gauge how complete it is, and give them that percentage of the price, maybe? If it's a ridiculously small amount, fine. I feel bad for the artist for spending so much time on something and undercharging themselves, but, well, that's not your problem, and this is a business transaction.
Aug. 16th, 2012 10:09 pm (UTC)
Bleh yeah.. If I had been the artist, and I decided to cancel? I wouldn't obligate you to pay if I decided to cancel the commission. If YOU had cancelled it, and they had a TOS you agreed to that stated you had to pay for what had been already finished - then you would be obligated. At this point, it doesn't seem like you're obligated at all to pay anything unless you wanted to be nice and pay them a little bit for the time they did spend doing it.
Aug. 16th, 2012 10:17 pm (UTC)
I am pretty sure I know precisely who this artist is. I think I would have to see the note in order to decide the tone she was saying " pay what you think it's worth" with. I definitely think she got in over her head on commission stuff, and while she is very much a pleaser, I think she is also easily distracted and inspiration-driven. (That being said, I think her 'inspiration' is fleeting, if not nearly nonexistent. I think her job might also be a stressor on her. ) I saw many of her distressing journals regarding her frustration or lack of interest in working on commissions. Totally understand.

"I gave no deadline and the artist asked to be paid only upon completion, despite being offered to be paid in advance." --
There is no completion, and so, the image does not need to be paid for.

If I were in her shoes, I would just give what she has finished to you as a gift. If you want to be nice, maybe you could doodle a little something for her- just to stay on nice terms. But I certainly don't think it's fair for her to ask for payment when she didn't make something you want/can use.

I would honestly explain it to her, and see what she thinks is fair. Say " Hey, I commissioned this for a reason, and while I really love what you started, it is not a finished product. I would have not commissioned this had I known it was going to be turned over as an unfinished product that I was still expected to pay for. "

:/ This is an awkward situation, especially if you want to remain friendly toward this artist (who is very sensitive) and not cause any hard feelings. I am hoping she just had not considered it to be somewhat awkward to be asked to pay for such a rough and unfinished image. ( I generally get the feeling that, in my conversations with her, we are never running the same mental scripts and that we have a hard time understanding one another 100%) Good luck!
Aug. 17th, 2012 02:20 am (UTC)
"I gave no deadline and the artist asked to be paid only upon completion, despite being offered to be paid in advance." --
There is no completion, and so, the image does not need to be paid for.

That's a great point. It's not completed, no money is due.

What I would say is look at what she has. Is there any way you want to use the image as is? (e.g. as a portrait, icon, etc.) If so, discuss that with the artist and discuss what you think is a fair price. Otherwise, tell her you're sorry, but that there's nothing you can do with the image and so you're not paying for it and she's welcome to use/reuse it as she sees fit (after altering characters or whatever).

It sucks to be the artist, but she's the one dropping the ball. That comes with consequences.

You wouldn't pay a chef anything for a half-cooked dinner. You can't eat it or finish cooking it. This is potentially just as useless.

Edited at 2012-08-17 02:26 am (UTC)
Aug. 16th, 2012 10:41 pm (UTC)
I would absolutely give a deadline for this kind of thing in the future.

I think it would be fair to offer some compensation for the work, but the artist did not complete the contract and isn't entitled to the original agreed upon amount. It's unfortunate, but hopefully a good learning experience. Maybe this artist would work better in in a model of stages completed for payment.

Maybe you can make some kind of agreement for 'if artist returns to piece and finishes, they get X amount additional.' But for now I would call what they have done and be over with it.
Aug. 16th, 2012 11:55 pm (UTC)
I would feel bad about it but I wouldn't pay the artist anything. What are you supposed to do with a picture without limbs? It's not your fault the artist decided she was giving up. I don't know any service type business who would get away with doing only part of their workorder and saying they still need to be paid for work completed. It just would not fly.

I also never give deadlines for anything except gifts, especially when I'm getting a deal so I understand your position there.
Aug. 17th, 2012 01:44 am (UTC)
I kind of have to agree with this. If it was like, a full sketch, yea, I could see paying a percentage. But if it doesn't even have limbs? Well. There isn't really much you can use it for :/
(no subject) - mekania - Aug. 17th, 2012 04:18 am (UTC) - Expand
Aug. 17th, 2012 12:40 am (UTC)
"I gave no deadline and the artist asked to be paid only upon completion'
The art was never completed, so technically you're not obligated to pay. I understand feeling bad about it, but it's the artist who has chosen to cancel the commission.

"I am then asked to pay the full amount"
The fact that the artist asked you this just outright appalls me. That's not cool, at all. You don't ask for the full price for something you never finished or have any intention to finish.

To be perfectly honest, it's a little fishy to me. :S
Aug. 17th, 2012 01:31 am (UTC)
If it were me in your position, I would consider paying maybe 1/4th to 1/3rd of the cost just for her time. You by no means have to, and I think you'd be in the right if you were to simply thank her for her time and withhold payment, but it sounds like she's otherwise a pretty honest person and you guys are on good terms. The artist certainly shouldn't have asked for full payment, I wouldn't even consider that in this circumstance.

Definitely get the hi-res of what she has at the moment, and maybe you'll be lucky in the future and get a good price for someone else to finish it up for you. Best of luck in any case, what a rough situation.
Aug. 17th, 2012 02:02 am (UTC)
I'm going to agree pretty much with everyone else here, except to note that she does have copyright on what she's produced, so if you decide you'd like all the rights and, say, the SAI file for someone else to finish at some future time, the full original cost would probably be a good balance between the actual work done and the ownership of the rights and files for someone else to progress.

If you don't want that, then yes, I don't think you're obligated, but giving her something would be a generous gesture which will help in the future; other artists will remember that you're a commissioner who goes the extra mile and isn't 'a greedy, grasping, covetous old sinner' (thank you, Dickens)
Aug. 17th, 2012 02:25 am (UTC)
If you don't want that, then yes, I don't think you're obligated, but giving her something would be a generous gesture which will help in the future; other artists will remember that you're a commissioner who goes the extra mile and isn't 'a greedy, grasping, covetous old sinner' (thank you, Dickens)

I strongly disagree with this statement. There is nothing miserly about not paying for a piece the artist cancelled and you can't use or finish. It's like paying for a half cooked chicken breast at a restaurant: you can't eat it, you can't cook it yourself, why on earth should you pay anything for the work the chef did? It's completely reasonable and not unprofessional to refuse to pay for something that isn't what you ordered and you can't use.

And really? You have to pay for something you can't use and the artist dropped the ball on to not be 'a greedy, grasping, covetous old sinner'? That's pretty extreme.

Edited at 2012-08-17 02:27 am (UTC)
(no subject) - zaulankris - Aug. 17th, 2012 02:38 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - copper_curls - Aug. 17th, 2012 02:42 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - celarania - Aug. 17th, 2012 03:49 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - osprey_cat - Aug. 17th, 2012 05:05 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - zaulankris - Aug. 17th, 2012 05:34 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - osprey_cat - Aug. 17th, 2012 02:55 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - copper_curls - Aug. 17th, 2012 02:50 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - celarania - Aug. 17th, 2012 03:33 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - neolucky - Aug. 17th, 2012 03:43 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - celarania - Aug. 17th, 2012 04:01 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - zaulankris - Aug. 17th, 2012 04:17 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - copper_curls - Aug. 17th, 2012 05:27 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - otherscape - Aug. 17th, 2012 02:37 am (UTC) - Expand
Aug. 17th, 2012 02:16 am (UTC)
I absolutely wouldn't pay them a red cent.
I'd never expect a commissioner to pay me for something that didn't live up to the agreed upon final result because /I/ chose to cancel (and I'm not talking nit-picking OH MY MARKING IS OFF) I'm talking this is not even a HALF FINISHED piece. It's useless.
But, that's just my opinion.
Aug. 17th, 2012 02:42 am (UTC)
For one thing, it wasn't a good idea to commission her without a TOS. That said, yea, don't pay the artist. You two agreed for a pay on completion and she's going back on her word.

I get the feeling the artist just has no idea how the commission world works and isn't aware that it's in bad taste to change the terms. Try explaining this to her.
Aug. 17th, 2012 02:50 am (UTC)
You don't owe her any payment for uncompleted work. Period. You are free to tell her no, though it would be a nice thing to do to throw her a small amount, it doesn't at all mean you've done anything wrong not to.

That said, I haven't seen this suggested, but what I would actually do would be to offer her money for her to finish the sketch and skip the colouring, as the colouring is apparently what she is having problems with. It won't be what you originally purchased, but a finished sketch would still be nice, yes? And that way, she gets paid for her time in doing the sketch, and you get something too.

Edited at 2012-08-17 02:51 am (UTC)
Aug. 17th, 2012 03:33 am (UTC)
Uh, you don't owe them anything. You're not the one backing out, and you're not getting what you ordered. And what you're getting is nowhere near finished. I would understand if it was something like the character was completely done but the background was missing, but it sounds like what they have for you, you cannot do anything at all with.

I do however feel like you should leave the option of the piece eventually being finished open - as long as the original agreement for payment at completion stands. It doesn't sound like it was particularly expensive do it's not like it could potentially become a huge unexpected expense if the artist does ever finish it. That would avoid the entire pricing discussion on the WiP completely, no?
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