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Commission break down, advice for future?

I had a commission I was looking forward to fall apart recently, I was wondering if anyone could offer any advice on how I went wrong and possibly how to avoid it happening again in the future? Hope I'm submitting this correctly!

It was a $60 graphite drawing of one of my characters, a type of iguana/lizard fem. I liked the artist so when they opened up for these commissions I jumped at it, only providing a reference and giving the artist freedom on pose and background, as I was just happy to see the character in the artists style. Being essentially a pencil drawing I wasn't expecting it to take too long, but it was three months before the artist got back to me. They had lost the reference and details, asking for a refresh. Which was strange, because all the details were provided in the journal advertising the art and it was still there. After refreshing them on the commissions details they said they would get on it that night.

A month later I had received no updates, so I contacted the artist asking how it was going. There was a very different tone with the response, saying they're a slow artist and left plenty of references to that. They also mentioned they had people still waiting for work since April last year, but they would "put a rush" on mine... It felt like they were blaming me, as if saying I should have known better. I was shocked to learn they still had owed work from over a year ago and were still taking on more, their argument in journals was that they had bills to pay (so no one should criticise) and if anyone was fed up of waiting they could ask for a refund.

So my perception of an artist whose work I otherwise liked was deteriorating, but they said they would work on my drawing and sure enough four hours later I got a detailed WIP. The problem being, it wasn't of my character. It was an iguana fem like my character, but different enough that you could tell it wasn't her.

Here's my character (NSFW) http://www.furaffinity.net/view/5901668/

And here's the WIP (NSFW) http://i.imgur.com/U6X8Ii6.jpg

It is a good looking iguana fem character, they had put effort into the WIP, but it's not my character as there are significant anatomical differences. So I sent the following response, keeping in mind it had been four months at this point and to me it looked like they had just thrown away my reference in a rush to finish it.

"She looks to be varying quite a bit from the reference I'm afraid.

Your WIP has a much more humanoid waist and breasts, more typical anthro than my girls heavy lizard lean in her anatomy. The dorsal crest also goes all the way along her tail, were as with the reference it reduces and disappears shortly after the tail base. The claws look longer rather than stubby and I think the paws are different with a shorter foot length before the toes. Her pupils are round were my characters are slit.

The WIP looks like it would make a good character pic, but it's just not my character I'm afraid. Given you have the reference I'm not sure how that happened.

I'm getting the impression this is something you'd like to get out the way, something to just get sorted. The desire to get it done leading to the reference not being used and resulting in this very different character. If this commission has become a problem for you, would you prefer if it was cancelled?"

Which they did not take well... I got this response...

"Wow I'm pretty insulted by about 90% of this. I gave her slightly more realistic anatomy according to actual iguanas; I've kept them irl, I have my own iguana character, if she turned out more similar to her, I'm sorry, but I'm not "trying to get it out of the way", I was actually enjoying it quite a bit. You are flat-out wrong about my not following the reference; I was eyeballing it and other images I found of her quite heavily, and I actually completely disagree with her looking more human considering all the anatomical (iguana) inaccuracies in the original references. If you are this dissatisfied with my style, I'm not sure why you commissioned me in the first place. I'll be more than happy to refund you."

Shortly after I received a refund through paypal. I tried to write back to them explaining why I felt what I had said but they had blocked me. Bizarrely, right after this they started favouriting photos of iguanas with "angry" in the title, it's like they started doing searches for "angry iguana" :/

So I offended an artist whose work I liked and they've blocked me from ever talking to them again... Yet they said they had changed the character slightly on purpose to make her more realistic, they also said they used references other than the one I had given them. Some of those pictures I explicitly said in the description used the wrong anatomy for the character, so they were modifying the character beyond the reference I had sent. While I could have chosen my words better, they were essentially changing the character from what was asked for. Yes she's not totally accurate for an iguana, but that's why you give character specific references and not just say "Iguana girl"...

Could this have been handled better? I cannot personally see a way of keeping the peace beyond just accepting their version of the character and pretending I was happy with it. On reflection I probably shouldn't have added that last paragraph, but I was irritated at that point :/

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( 137 comments — Leave a comment )
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May. 11th, 2014 08:38 pm (UTC)
I think you would have been better off just straight off asking, "Hey, this looks great! But would you mind if we made a few changes to reflect her reference sheet more closely?"

Your response was fairly accusatory in nature, and I could see the artist reading it and immediately being on the defensive, regardless of if they were 'wrong' to make the changes they did (and I think they were, it wasn't their place to decide to change your character into what they think is 'better').

To be honest though, I think I would have asked for a refund the moment they mentioned they have a long backlog and treated me like I'm being unreasonable for wanting what I paid for in a timely manner.
May. 11th, 2014 08:41 pm (UTC)
I agree with this.

I was going to type up something, but then I noticed you said the exact same thing but with far less words.
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May. 11th, 2014 08:46 pm (UTC)
Since theres no color, its hard to judge but honestly, from my own perspective, I could see it as your character. The only totally off thing is the crest placement. Everything else (fingers, breast size, etc) I would chalk it up to style or not realizing how strict you wanted the anatomy of it to be.
May. 12th, 2014 04:04 pm (UTC)

I looked for quite a bit and I can't really see them as different. Artists have many different style, and when you commission someone you should be aware the character will be done in their style.

Obviously I can't see the artists gallery, but if they have all very humanoid bodies, it's to be expected to have a humanoid body drawn. Im not saying make a feral character human, but as an example, I don't draw shouts, and I've had people get angry at me because I didn't draw their character with one.
(no subject) - vivadawolf - May. 12th, 2014 11:46 pm (UTC) - Expand
May. 11th, 2014 08:54 pm (UTC)
i really can't speak to the rest of the stuff or the artist's reaction, but i personally have needed reference refreshers sometimes.

especially if a reference is left a non-standard place, like a journal! i can totally see how someone might be going through their notes or email looking for the reference, unable to find it, and never even think to check the comments of a 3-month-old journal.

so there's really nothing odd to me about asking for the reference link again. i've done it several times. way better (in my opinion as the artist) to ask for the link again than to try to draw from a hazy memory.
May. 12th, 2014 08:59 am (UTC)
Not to mention especially if there's been along time between getting the ref and starting/continuing work, lot of folks tend to change character details/ref like socks so it's always better to make sure the character still looks the same.
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May. 11th, 2014 08:58 pm (UTC)
(I don't know what you sent to the artist, if you only sent the image or text with it, so this may not apply)

It is extremely common for the little things you mentioned to be a style choice, even the body can be. For example, I often draw ears differently then another artist would, I won't be copying the style used (I can usually do so if asked but it'll still be done in my way).

I'd really recommend editing your reference to add a list of important notes, it's what usually people do with references. So you can write that her nails are stubby rather then long and everything else.
May. 12th, 2014 09:31 am (UTC)
Really have to agree with this. :<

Unfortunately when a character belongs to you, you have a clear vision of what they look like in your head. As an artist we only have the initial reference you give to us, and more than likely its our first time seeing the character. Without extremely specific details it can be hard to tell what features outside of actual markings are another artist's style/take on things. While differences like this stick out much more for you due to that personal vision and attachment, they're unfortunately just too easy to overlook without explicitly being told for the average person. Because of this even I honestly don't see much difference between the reference image and the WIP. It does just look like a different style and not a blatant disservice to her design. I feel its even harder to gauge the differences too since its not a complete sketch and had room for polite guidance to make it how you wanted. (Gonna skip the politeness issue since its been mentioned a lot already.)

Regardless though, the main point is I'd suggest making a much more formal reference sheet as soon as possible before getting other commissions of her. This seems like a case of too much anticipation (good and bad) and not enough communication from both sides, so once it got this tense I don't see anything but a refund being the most amicable action. Once its uncomfortable to work with someone its hard to get it back to how it was. If a new ref is made be sure to include a list of details that deviate from the normal iguana or anthro anatomy/other important features that could be confused as free to interpret.
May. 11th, 2014 09:05 pm (UTC)
To me it looks like your character, in someone else's style.

You need to remember that artists have individual styles, rendering the important aspects of your character in a style other than what is presented(Unless it's their own work) is something that's just going to happen.

If you want your character to be in the same style as the original ref, I suggest you seek out the original artist to do further work for it.
May. 11th, 2014 09:11 pm (UTC)
The thing about the artists style, part of the reason I wanted to commission them was because they were able to depict that highly lizardy anatomy. Not many artists can, often going for a more humanoid look. They had two characters they had done before using highly animalistic anatomy, so it was strange they made her look more humanoid when they knew and had done a more animal like style before.
May. 11th, 2014 10:34 pm (UTC)
I personally would have mentioned that when commissioning them, then. A link to the pieces in question, for example, along with an addendum along the lines of "I love how animal-like the style/anatomy was on these pieces, I'd like her drawn something like that!"
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May. 11th, 2014 09:33 pm (UTC)
I genuinely feel you could have been a bit more polite... I assume you're not an artist yourself, correct me if I'm wrong, but each and every artist has their own unique style.

By commissioning an artist, you are leaving your character in their hands to be portrayed in their style. Detailed references and written descriptions are a must, but it is still in the hands of the artist how they portray the character.

WIPs are just that, wip shots to see what you think, get your opinion... and in this case, you could have been more polite, pointed out what you like and didn't like... and then go from there.

Looking at the reference you linked here, and then the wip the artist sent... I definitely feel the artist was well on their way to creating a lovely piece of *your* character... in *their* style.

To sum it up... you can provide references, written descriptions, keywords, etc, but you can not dictate an artist's own individual style. I've commissioned countless pieces myself, and thoroughly enjoy seeing my characters portrayed in various styles.
May. 11th, 2014 09:52 pm (UTC)
I cannot link to the artists work without naming them.

All I can say in my defence is a lot of people are referring to their style of work as excusing the differences, the problem being they had already done work were the characters were less humanoid. Showing they were capable of depicting the character more towards the animal side and it isn't simply style why she looks humanoid here. That's why I wanted to commission them in the first place, because they could do that type of anatomy.

I suspect this (NSFW http://www.furaffinity.net/view/8341376/) is one of those 'other' references they looked up. Even though I explicitly stated in the description that it was not an accurate reference of her.

Yes I agree I could have worded my response to her better, looking back it was ruder than my initial impression of what I wrote. But I wasn't getting the best of vibes from them either, when they suggested I was lucky they were putting a "rush" on my commission after four months and I should be thankful I'm not one the ones still waiting a year later. Their own commission terms stated commissions can take up to two months, this only came out when there were problems.
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May. 11th, 2014 10:19 pm (UTC)
You could've been much nicer though ;-; If a customer were to accuse me of "not looking at the ref", "rushing/getting it out of the way" or anything like that, I wouldn't want to work with them. I'll have to agree with everyone else. The art is just a WIP, they wanted your opinion on what you liked and what you think might need changing, you were pretty rude to them. Plus the art style can determine what the final piece will look like.

However, you're in the right when it came to the wait-time, four months is a hell of a long time. But acting rudely wouldn't have gotten it done faster or any better. It does (and did) the opposite. Just my opinion as an artist.

May. 11th, 2014 10:43 pm (UTC)
It was rude to accuse them of not using the reference. That it happened to be true and she essentially admitted to it (while also denying) in the later response may have vindicated that impression; but I understand it didn't justify it and just added to the bad mood of communication.

I have to say though, looking at their terms they already sound like a bit of a moody artist. They have a fairly large terms in their commission information that places very rigid limits on commissioner behaviour, suggesting they've had some bad experiences in the past so want everything done on their terms. They very much have a "my way or go away" feel to them, with even basic communication being restricted.

To be fair I probably should have learned more about the artists character rather than just their work before commissioning them. It's not just about the art, they have to be easy to work with as well.
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May. 12th, 2014 04:05 am (UTC)
I think it looks perfectly like your character, but in a different style. Hers looks like she was referencing photos of an iguana to check their facial structure. The reference you gave doesn't look like an iguana to me. Perhaps that was the mix-up? That this artist thought you wanted a realistic iguana and that the reference was just for her markings?

If I had received the response you sent to the artist, I would have responded with a refund and a polite note indicating why.

I wouldn't have blocked your FA account, but I would be leery of doing business with you.

Best wishes!
May. 12th, 2014 03:24 pm (UTC)
Speaking as a commissioner, I actually really like seeing my characters drawn in different styles. I've seen quite a few posts here where people were complaining about the commission being wrong by cause their character's (sometimes ridiculously complex) markings didn't perfectly match their reference. In those cases I always have to wonder why the commissioner didn't just commission the same artist that drew their reference in the first place if it's that important for it to be *exactly right*. Different artists have different styles, and if you want to see your character in a particular artist's style then you shouldn't expect it to be an exact match to another artist's work.
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May. 12th, 2014 06:29 am (UTC)
Your response to a WIP was rather rude and abrasive. You could have politely requested the changes and any errors would have been fixed in the final product. Rough sketches are just that, rough sketches, they aren't meant to show the completely detailed and refined finished product.

I agree with comments above. If you can't respond politely, then you might wanna sleep on it before sending.
May. 12th, 2014 06:40 am (UTC)
I'd like to add from a different angle: Don't leave posing up to the artist completely. Artists need something to go by in order to please the customer. If the character had been drawn hang-gliding and she's absolutely afraid of heights, or she'd been drawn pole-dancing and you find that reprehensible, you would be unhappy. Don't be a Rainbow Dash (see Art of the Dress) where you just know you'll know what you want when you see it. It's extra and unnecessary work for the artist.
May. 12th, 2014 07:25 am (UTC)
I'd have to disagree. Most artists are totally cool with artistic freedom, it's more of a personal preference, it's only picky clients that should realize they need to set guidelines. But the OP did not mention any issue with the posing at all.
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May. 12th, 2014 08:39 am (UTC)
I'll echo the suggestions to point out on your ref the 'deal breaker details'- the things that need to be represented to feel the character is being accurately portrayed. It's not a list of ten or twenty things(because you have to be reasonable and acknowledge that an artist is going to have their own way of interpreting a character's features) so I've pared it down to just a handful(I try and aim for three) of the most important details that, for me, make or break a illustration of my character.
I mention those three details specifically when I provide the reference(s). Whether the tone of the communications are strictly business, or more relaxed, I still try and make sure I emphasise those details are important without seeming abrasive about them.
It does add a few more lines of conversation for the artist to read through, but I feel mentioning the important things conversationally along with your reference helps make sure things are clear.

Even saying something like: "I love the two pieces you did of X and Y! The way you were able make them anthro but still very reptile in build is exactly how I picture my character, Z's, body to be."

So you have 'more reptile-like body structure in body' and the details of that in visual and concise written form on your character sheet, but you also have it mentioned by you to the artist in a conversational way.

You want to try and let the artist know as clearly you want in your image as you can; but in ways that don't seem like you're barking orders, or trying to micro-manage their artistic process.

Next time be specific that she is an 'iguana inspired' herp character instead of purely iguana, perhaps? In this case I can see why they thought they were actually doing a good thing checking iguana references and using their own herp keeping experience to draw a more 'properly' iguana character.
Still I think they were rather snotty/condescending to you in their reply and how they explained what they were trying to achieve with the character's appearance.

You could have been nicer in requesting the changes- even if you were upset that you felt the refs were ignored, or disappointed that an artist you thought would really nail your character totally missed the mark. It's okay to be firm and specific, but trying to do so in a helpful way, not an abrassive way is something that taking a little time to calm down might have helped.
If you were confused that the character didn't seem to look like the ref it's okay to say just that, rather than sort of, kinda, hinting at that they didn't use the ref because they were trying to just get this commission over with.

I think even something like:
Well this is shaping up to be a lovely lizard lady- but I'm just curious about a couple things that don't match my reference for X. The things I'm most wondering about are the spines going so far down the tail, X's stop just after the end of the back. Maybe that wasn't clear in the ref image I gave you so I can explain that in more detail if you'd like me to.'

That would have give the artist a chance to explain that they were using a real iguana's spines as reference and etc. which would have hopefully let you guys talk it through to the point you both were happy with the changes to be made to the piece.

You could mention the style of the body in the same 'as non-confrontational as possible' way as well.

They could have been nicer in responding. Or they could have taken the professionalism simply sent you the refund with a short statement that they no longer felt they wished to work with you on this or any future projects.

I'm sure they knee jerk reacted in their reply, kind of like you did when you were so disappointed seeing the sketch that didn't live up to what you were clearly really looking forward to.

Communication was clearly the sticky wicket here from the start. From the fact you didn't see any kind of posted queue to let you know they had a backlog, to their alleged guilt tripping over your inquiries on the completion(hard to know what exactly they said with out this being a beware and all), all the way up to the WIP and severing of ties over that. I'm guessing that kind of had a pall of tension hanging over all the communications anyways.

May. 12th, 2014 08:39 am (UTC)

A couple things to remember going forward:

"Being essentially a pencil drawing I wasn't expecting it to take too long, but it was three months before the artist got back to me"
That statement mean you are coming into things with an idea of what you feel are reasonable communication times, and completion times. That's fair enough, but you'll want to be sure you and the artist are on the same page with that to avoid early problems, which happened here even before the WIP

If the wait time is going to bother you, ask the artist upfront about your place in line if you can't find a public queue. If you expect to be updated t personally on your place in line, or on progress between being shown WIPS, you may also want to ask how often you can expect to hear from the them. Hopefully that would be in their TOS and you wont have to ask- but if you like to be updated every ten days, but the artist only updates waiting commissioners monthly(or not individually at all) that'll cause friction right from the first few times you ask for updates.

"I liked the artist so when they opened up for these commissions I jumped at it, only providing a reference and giving the artist freedom on pose and background, as I was just happy to see the character in the artists style."

So decide what your character's 'make or break' details are. For example things like claws are often very tied into style, and one artist's idea of a long claw may be another's medium. If the length and shape of her claws are really important to you make sure you have clear description and reference for that.
Make sure all the 'make or break' details are very clear on your ref, and, if you have an appropriate chance, mention the most important of them in you initial character discussion .

If you do think the artist has taken too much artistic liberty, such as in this case with her turning out too generic iguana-like and not enough specific to your character, try and be tactful in your response to the WIP. Keep the dialogue open, try and find out where the confusion over the important details might have come from and see if you can fix it together.

If after this experience you realise that you are actually more picky on how the fine details of the character are drawn than you thought you were , that's fine, but know that wont be compatible with how every artist works and they may decline to work for you.
May. 12th, 2014 10:59 am (UTC)
For one I do feel this looks like your character, and further to this I do feel you were extremely rude and presumptious in your reply. I would also just be refunding you and putting an end to the transaction if you approached me in such an accusatory, hostile manner. Blocking you? A step too far imo, but you were definitely in the wrong here.

I would echo the others to add notations to your reference on the "make or break" details of your character. Because even looking at what you've said and at the sketch there, I'm still not seeing huge problems. I'd also make it clear to the artist from the outset that you are very specific about your character being right - at least prepare the artist for how things might go down.
May. 12th, 2014 11:43 am (UTC)
I'm getting the impression the artist has come across this discussion. They recently posted a large journal making reference to many of the things said here, so it would be odd if they hadn't seen this. I tried responding in a passive way, which said a few things without necessarily publicly directing it towards them, but they still have me on their block list.

If they are seeing this, here's two communications I have been unable to send.

Right after their last communication, when things still felt heated.


And what I was going to say on their journal.

"Whether or not I'm deterred from offering honest feedback to an artist depends on my impression of them. Being only text communication that is limited and there is room for misinterpretation, but you can get some impression and if you think they'll react negatively (correctly interpreted or not) then that can paint further communications.

If they already sound irritated with you for one reason or another, you don't want to add to that irritation by asking for big changes to a piece. I've been burned a few times in the past and even had an artist try to run off with the money once, as a paid up commissioner you don't have much leverage over the situation so can feel like you're on egg shells. Do you be honest and possibly contribute to the bad vibe of communications, further delay something that already feels like it's taken a while, or do you try to bring the commission to a close and get out of what feels like an unfriendly situation. Even if you end up with a piece you're not happy with?

All this can negatively flavour communications to the point that you say things you don't really mean, only later realising with fresh eyes that your wording was provocative or you made accusations that were fuelled with misinterpretations of the situation. Sometimes it just takes that negative impression of the conversation, and when you're taken out of that feeling things look differently and could have been handled better.

But you cannot go back and change things, so you can only try to learn from the experience for the future."

And to everyone else.

Yes I agree what I said in the heat of the moment was wrong, and many of you rightly have said you wouldn't work with someone who would say such a thing. I feel like I'm getting disproportionately criticised however, which may be unavoidable because I cannot get too much of the artists attitude across. I cannot show you how it felt in communications with them to have provoked such a response.

What was said was something I wouldn't normally say, I've been commissioning people for five years with very few problems and many artists have said I am a good person to work with. I've waited for commissions a lot longer than four months without complaint, it was over a year before I even contemplated posting a certain artist on here. So it would take a particularly non-standard negative vibe between commissioner and artist communication to provoke such a out of character comment, especially with such few words between us.

I admit I'm not professional about it. If I feel an artist is being negative towards me, imagined or not, that can work its way into my responses. Quite frankly looking at a comment in their journal post, I'm not the only one who has experienced this feeling.

What I'm taking away from this, is if the wording of someone's message has agitated me I should walk away and calm down before attempting to respond. If I still get that feeling, at the very least I can say I didn't contribute. I should also get a more in depth character reference made, which may be difficult because as said most artists draw in a humanoid style. I should also not assume because an artist can draw a particular away, and the reference is that way, that the resulting WIP won't necessary apply that style of anatomy.

Thank you for your honesty everyone, even if many of you sound offended with that message; which I do admit was wrong.
May. 12th, 2014 12:46 pm (UTC)
Also another recommendation I might suggest from this is to agree of a preliminary deadline with the artist. In my mind, three months is irritating, but not totally outrageous time to wait (depending on the artist and image commissioned), but if you generally feel you want results faster, it's always best to agree to/question it beforehand, like "around what time can I start expecting first WIPs" or "can you finish this commission in about month".
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(no subject) - kayla_la - May. 12th, 2014 07:39 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - vauvakolibri - May. 12th, 2014 06:55 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - nakoothetauren - May. 12th, 2014 07:16 pm (UTC) - Expand
May. 12th, 2014 12:46 pm (UTC)
Honestly. I agree with you.

There are a few small things though.
I've had friends who are commissioners of mine complain about other artists who go through there galleries to find more art of the character they are drawing and go off everything they find. Rather than the references provided.
I've told them, and will tell you, Make it known to the artist NOT to do that. Since if an artist is trained in popper reference practices they will go find as many images of something as they need to do the work.

I personally think the style argument everyone is trying to tout is 100% bullshit. People use it to make excuses for them selves. You have every right to call people out for mistakes they make. But you do need to be 'nice' about it. :/ It sucks to know someone shat out work for you and you cant call them on it.
May. 12th, 2014 04:29 pm (UTC)
Many people seem to be jumping to conclusions. They're assuming I'm a perfectionist and criticising on those grounds only, that the character needs to be exactly like the original and I'm misinterpreting differences in style for a different character.

The problem being I have other images of her done in different styles. This is a completely different style (http://www.furaffinity.net/view/12639170/) to the original but I can still see its her because the artist attempted to maintain the anatomy (feet except, because of reasons specified earlier).

It's not simply a style difference when a character goes from near feral to having a humanoid/feminine torso.
(no subject) - nakoothetauren - May. 12th, 2014 06:26 pm (UTC) - Expand
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