Which artists deserve credit and which one's don't?
Trick question! All of them do.
So, I came across a job posting for an illustration gig the other day that had my higher brain functions in a bit of a fit. I won't go into the specifics, but it's one that interested me on several levels. I ended up not just skipping the application, but walked away with inspiration for one very annoyed, very specific blog post.
I'll start this off with a nice, easy fact: artists deserve credit for their work. At the risk of sounding blase, there would be no work without the artist.
This seems like a simple nugget of wisdom, yet, unfortunately, we live on the planet Earth. Here we have Twitter users reposting other people's work without credit (or giving credit in the second, less-viewed comment), shady online sellers making profit off of stolen designs and potential clients haggling down professionals. The job application I came across was more insidious, appearing perfectly professional on the surface with its highly specific rundown of the job and all that it would entail. That is, until it came to the pesky subject of due credit: this would be a work-for-hire position that would see all copyright going to the owner. As a working professional with over five years of experience, this is nothing new to me.
...Until I got to the following stipulation: the artist may get credit...as long as they are high-profile.
Ha ha. Yikes.
It gets worse. It proceeded to state that a high-profile artist would still have to provide a compelling reason why they should be credited, alongside the usual portfolio-and-resume fill-out. Even the popularity contest had an asterisk attached! I've never come across an illustration gig that required a certain level of nebulous prestige, then a subsequent debate for a line of credit. What gets me is just how vague 'high-profile' is. Does the artist need a certain amount of followers on Twitter? Do they need to rub elbows with mid-tier art celebrities at fantasy conventions? A minimum of ten book covers published or no dice?
Then it begs the biggest question of all...wouldn't a high-profile artist know better than to fall for a scam like this?
Let's not get it twisted, here. There's no hidden meaning to suss out. This is a garden variety power play, pure and simple. The mere existence of a job application means this business needs a professional to create a product, yet won't do the most basic courtesy of admitting it cannot do the thing. Artists, to this day, are not a respected class. Despite this, we remain highly sought after in a world swaying on its ever-towering pile of misery. Music, illustration, filmmaking, game design, literature...we make life worth living, and this cognitive dissonance manifests in crappy applications that tell you to jump, dance and backflip for your withered carrot.
There are a lot of jobs out there. If you see any variation of this bullshit? Make like a banana and split.
The only time you should accept a work-for-hire agreement is if you're getting paid out the damn nose. I'm talking triple what you would normally charge. Even then? You may still not find it worth it, and that's perfectly valid. A line of credit and piece in your portfolio can provide you more worth than a lump sum paycheck that gets torn to shreds sooner than you'd like. Work-for-hire doesn't interest me, because the ones asking don't provide the money needed to make up for the void that comes with surrendering a creative property in its entirety.
Let's reiterate the basics:
As a working professional, you're going to come across variations of 'jump for your withered carrot' a lot. These applications or emails will use different words, shift the goalposts around a little, but your answer will always lie in what you do or don't get at the end of the job. Will this work give you enough money to pay rent and your income tax? Will you able to showcase this work in your portfolio for similar work down the line? I won't sit here and pretend these answers are always easy -- not when capitalism is designed as a losing battle -- but you do have options.
To any and all working professionals: use your options. Sign up for Indeed's keyword alert to get notified of relevant jobs the minute they're posted. Keep your Twitter, Instagram and Facebook pages updated regularly. Directly pitch your portfolio to relevant publishers, studios and companies that will, at the very least, pay you and credit you. Get yourself the Graphic Artists Guild Handbook: Pricing & Ethical Guidelines so you're caught up on fair pricing in your skillset and niche. Seriously. It's my Bible.
To the businesses and individuals who pull stuff like this? Go to hell! Yeah, I have nothing profound for this part. You're just sleazeballs who make snake oil salesmen look dignified.
If you need a little more help to get your head on straight, check out my previous post where I shared my favorite (low cost or free!) business, copywriting and illustration resources. I also have a feature on Wordwonders exploring a wonderful commission I completed in 2019 that continues to raise the bar for my career.
Here I post WIPs, sketches, speedpaints, thumbnails and anything else thrown into the veritable stew of artistic process.