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 :/