Interviews for “Art and Money”

I think that, for the article “Art and Money”, the interview responses might prove just as enlightening, so I’ve posted them here in full, except in the case of the anonymous artist.

The Questions

First of all, who are you and what do you do, in your own words?

  1. How do you come up with your pricing scheme for commissions or sales?
  2. How does that figure into your target audience?
  3. Do you feel that there is much competition within your price range or area of expertise?
  4. How do you react to the “wish I could afford it” posts?
  5. Have you ever had any strife about your pricing?
  6. How do you feel about pricing goods/services in the fandom in general?
  7. What’s the most difficult part about working with furries?  The most pleasant?

The Answers

Ten Husky – http://www.furaffinity.net/user/ten

I’m Ten Husky (real name is sekrit don’tcha know) and I’m a freelance anthropomorphic illustrator/artist. In basic words, a furry artist.

1. I come up with my pricing scheme based off of how long it roughly takes me to complete different types of work and how much work has to go into them. I base it off of a general $/hour scheme and go from there with some flexibility. My prices may be a bit higher than some, but that’s because this is my job and I do it to sustain myself with food and rent money.

2. My target audience isn’t really a target beyond “whoever enjoys my art”. I understand that not everyone who enjoy’s my art can afford the prices I set, but like I said, I gotta eat and pay rent, so I’m super appreciative to the fans that are able to help me keep food on the table!

3. In my opinion, when it comes to the furry fandom there really isn’t much ‘competition’ in the commission market. Furries are going to commission the artists they like and the artists they can afford. if you have fans that want your work, you’ll have clients. As an artist it’s simply our job to continue to produce quality work for them to enjoy.

4. “Wish I could afford it” posts kind of hit on two fronts. On one hand I feel somewhat disheartened and wish I could cater to their price level, but then everyone would expect alterations for them and it’d throw off my whole point of having specific price points. I’m just glad they have their priorities and don’t buy art instead of food. haha.

5. I’ve never really had any strife about my pricing till I posted my most recent price guide. It kinda took me off guard cause the pricing wasn’t really all that different from what it had been previously, I just made a new guide since I had photoshop and I needed to update it with new pictures and make some slight pricing alterations. Suddenly I’m being told that I’m too expensive and being told I should lower my price. Well, before I could really tell them that I do this as a living and my prices are set and that I was sorry they felt that way I had plenty of people say the same thing more or less. Just goes to show you can’t please everyone I spose!

6. The fandom in general really undercharges for it’s hard work. I’ve been to far too many artists page’s, even talked to friends of mine who do outstanding work, and they’re all “Is fifty bucks too much? that sounds like too much” and it turns out they think fifty bucks is too much for a fully colored custom work. I understand that not everyone will charge huge amounts, nor should they, charging large amounts in a fandom like this isn’t really fair to everyone, but the artists in the fandom cut themselves short just because the fandom has plenty of people who expect a whole lot of something for nothing in return. Though I’ve had good fortune to have plenty of clients who are remarkably kind and super generous, some even paying beyond what I ask just because they’re pleased with the work. Really though, an artist chooses the value of his own work in the end. Some artists are paid not monetarily, but with kindess or just the joy of doing the work for their clients.

7. The most difficult part of working with furries… I’d likely have to say something along the lines of sometimes you can get unrealistic expectations. wanting too much in too little of a canvas can be a hastle to work with and I’ve experienced it before. Some are also extremely picky and can never be satisfied. However, these are few and far between because the best part about working with furries would have to be how absolutely and completely understanding a grand majority of the fandom is when it comes to commissions! I’ve had so many pleasant experiences with customers, so many are so understanding, even when you’re at fault for something. Really they’re great folk!

Additional Question: When discussing this with other friends, I was linked to an article about hand-made goods and the reaction to pricing on that. The article – http://whatthecraft.com/overpriced-cant-afford-handmade-pricing/ which boils down to “there is really quite a lot that goes into producing something by hand, especially on a commission basis” – is written mostly from the perspective on someone working on clothing and textiles for sale to a broad audience. However, much of furry art that is commissioned from an artist is commissioned of the patron’s character. It’s sort of a visual depiction of an aspect of oneself, as compared to a good that one buys and wears. Do you think that this individual aspect plays a role in defining a “furry artist” above and beyond and artist or artisan, or enters into the value (monetary or not) placed on the work?

It definitely has a factor in the whole scheme of things. When it comes to an anime artist or what have you, usually (I understand there are anime fans who have custom characters) you have templates you’re familiar with and that you have seen and possibly even drawn many times before. When it comes to custom work like in the furry fandom (which in my opinion is a much grander scale than other fandoms) Every piece your commissioned you’re having to learn a new character. Sometimes the patron is very loose with the definition of their character and leaves it up to the artists interpretation. Other times there are very specific elements that you have to be aware of otherwise it might as well not be their character at all, and the whole while you have to keep all this in mind while still maintaining your own style of your work. On top of that these characters have their own personalities and quirks, and you have to be able to express that through one single moment in this character’s life. When I start to think about it it’s really quite harrowing and seems really intense, but honestly there’s nothing I enjoy more.

Sigil – http://www.furaffinity.net/user/sigil

My name in the fandom is Sigil, and I’ve been a full time freelance artist for about 4 years now. I’m also a student off and on, going for a fine arts degree. I have had my art called stylistic, graphic and usually falls under the realm of “weird stuff” or “postfurry”.

1. I started by underpricing myself, which is what just about every artist does. Now, however, I check my prices against those of my peers, and also factor in just how many hours it takes me to do a picture. My prices at conventions are slightly higher due to the art-on-demand aspect of being at a convention. I still technically undercharge for my time, but it’s always a work in progress! I check my prices once a year, in January.

2. When I first started out, I knew I wanted to have a wide variety of price options for people, so that everyone could afford my art. I try to have a few options that are under 20$ for this reason. I haven’t been able to really put a finger on my target audience, other than people who also like weird stuff!

3. Competition is an interesting concept. With art, for the most part, you are paying for someone’s style! I haven’t seen many artists that draw like me, so I feel like if someone wants a Sigil picture, they will come to me. If they want something from someone else, I can’t replicate that for them. I haven’t had a lot of issues with people saying “draw in this style”, but I’ve tried to make it very clear that I draw what I draw, and not what anyone else does.

4. I delete them or ignore them. Everyone can afford a 20$ piece of art. If not, save up! Don’t buy 2-3 meals at a fast food place and bam, there you go.

5. Since all of my income is based on my art, I have a hard time spending it. I sometimes think that -I- wouldn’t pay as much as I charge, but I’m also a really penny pinching person, so I am not my general audience! However, when I do buy art from my friends, I really enjoy it. I like being able to give back to the community that’s given so much to me!

6. Everything is SO cheap! The buyer in me loves that, and I do look out for sales, but the sympathetic businesswoman in me can get pretty upset about it. I try to look over my friends prices and help them get to a more fair point. Lizardbeth, another artist, was the first person to show me that you can sell one picture for 100$, or 10 pictures for 10…which would be more rewarding?

7. The most unpleasant thing I’ve found is lack of communication. If I could say one thing to all furries looking for art, get an ACCURATE character reference! It’s incredibly frustrating to have several changes, or things that aren’t listed that then the customer asks to be fixed after the fact.
The most pleasant thing is how inventive, creative and fun everyone is! I get some amazing ideas and character interactions from my customers, and I honestly and truly enjoy my job. I get to meet amazing people and artists, I get to actually connect with my customers and I’m my own boss. That’s pretty cool c:

When discussing this with other friends, I was linked to an article about hand-made goods and the reaction to pricing on that. The article – http://whatthecraft.com/overpriced-cant-afford-handmade-pricing/ which boils down to “there is really quite a lot that goes into producing something by hand, especially on a commission basis” – is written mostly from the perspective on someone working on clothing and textiles for sale to a broad audience. However, much of furry art that is commissioned from an artist is commissioned of the patron’s character. It’s sort of a visual depiction of an aspect of oneself, as compared to a good that one buys and wears. Do you think that this individual aspect plays a role in defining a “furry artist” above and beyond and artist or artisan, or enters into the value (monetary or not) placed on the work?

To break this question down into its parts as I understand it:

1. Is commissioned art different because it’s furry, and hence, usually more personal/self identifying for the client?

2. Should furry art be handled differently financially due to its niche status?

To both of these, I would say no. The biggest difference I see in furry vs. more mainstream art is the specifics of subject and the low pricing. These things can also be said about the anime/fan art community, but I’ll keep it furry for the sake of this niche!

Fine artists have work commissioned from them A LOT. That is how they make a lot of their sales. Just like furry art, some clients will be more specific, some will be more loose. Jackson Pollock was given dimensions of walls and just told to paint. The few dozen artists commissioned by Amanda Palmer for her new album’s art book and gallery tour were simply given her new music to inspire them. Now, fine artists typically make much much more than furry artists, but they also have significantly more overhead. They have to fund their studio. Many have an agent. If they show in a gallery, they may have to pay a fee to even hang their art, in addition to the commission taken from the gallery if they sell (which is usually around 20%). Many also have assistants to field calls, set up appointments, and do all the other day to day tasks that would keep the artist from working.

To me personally, art is all a very interesting sliding scale. Everyone has their pros and cons! I personally read and watch as many interviews and documentaries about artists that I can. A very influential book to me was The Artists Guide by Jackie Battenfield. It really broke down everything for me in a very real way. Yes, furry and online sales are much different than working in a studio, but the same basic principles are there. Also, I have not yet read this book, but it’s on my to do list, Graphic Artists Guild’s Handbook of Pricing and Ethical Guidelines by Graphic Arts Guild has been recommended by professionals more times than I can count.

The niche market of furry is no reason to undervalue, undercharge or hide your work if you’re an artist. You are no more legitimate than any other artist, even if you do draw some of the weirder stuff. Take a good look at anything by H. R. Geiger. I dare you to NOT find a phallus!

Rhazafax – http://www.furaffinity.net/user/rhazafax

I’m Rhazafax! And I do commission art within the furry fandom.

1. Generally, I try to take a look at other artists whose skill level I’m sort of close to, see what they’re charging, and adjust my own prices accordingly.

2. I tend to shoot for a lower extreme when it comes to prices; it’s been my experience that folks in the fandom do enjoy getting art, but budgets prevent them from being able to get more complete works when the prices are too high.

3. Probably. I’ve seen people whose skill levels are above and under mine who charge less/more. I chose my prices based on what I felt my time and effort was worth, as well as being affordable.

4. Having thought this particular thing to myself on a number of occasions, I generally keep it to myself. Personally, I wish more people would keep that thought to themselves as well. It’s a nice sentiment, but when I see a new comment on a commission journal and I get excited because I might have some new work coming in and it turns out that it’s only the ‘wish’ comment, it’s a real downer. :(

5. Only from people telling me my prices are low. If it were possible to raise them without losing a chunk of clients, I won’t lie, my pocket book could sure use it. But realistically, it’s just not in the cards right now.

6. I think, for the most part, that artists/crafters in general have a fairly good grasp on what is fair price-wise, both to themselves and the fandom. There are always outliers where some people charge more than I think their particular work/wares warrant, but they likely have their reasoning for it.

7. The most difficult part about working with furries, in my experience, has been with a lack of clarity on what is wanted in art. I recently adjusted my terms of service to address this issue, and since then it’s been a bit less problematic. It’s difficult for some people to properly explain or describe what it is they’re really wanting when it comes to a piece. We all make mental pictures, and if someone’s rendering of our vision isn’t what we were hoping for, it can be disappointing. I’ve even run into this myself, and it proved to be a lack of detailing on my part.

The best thing about working with furries is seeing how they band together when someone’s in need. I’ve seen some of the most generous people I’ve ever met come out of the fandom to help out folks who’re in dire straights.

Floe – http://www.furaffinity.net/user/floe

I’m Floe, or Floebean. I do illustration and sometimes design for primarily the furry fandom, but I’m also branching out to other realms. Furry gave me great practice before getting into the real world, and let me also say: Furry is far more forgiving, lenient, and kind than normal customers!

1. I compared myself to people I gauged to be on a similar level, also asked a lot of close friends..then took myself down a few notches xD For a long time I felt like I was overcharging, even though my peers were charging a lot more. Only recently have I started upping the price.

2. My target audience is repeat customers. I tend to get better every time I draw them, so I like to keep my prices low so that they can come back to me over and over again with their ideas. I don’t like to be a one-time artist people save up for.

3. Absolutely. There’s lots of far better artists out there who are far cheaper. That’s why I try to build relationships with my clients when I can.

4. I sympathize! I’ve made a few of them myself. But I also don’t like when people try to guilt the artist: Nobody can tell an artist how much her work is worth. If they take longer than some, so be it, they deserve more cash for their patience and hard work, I say.

5. Not at all. People tend to tell me to raise it. But I like to keep it low, not only for relationships, but because I know I can be slow sometimes, I make mistakes, I forget stuff easily, haha.

6. Analyze yourself and what your tactics are. Keep your prices low if you want repeat customers, remember their characters, even research the characters and their backstory to make sure the client gets what they want. Remember, you’re bringing people their fantasy. And even if you don’t agree with certain content, don’t complain about it too much or make people seem inferior. You’re drawing cartoon animal people, remember!

7. I already said the pleasant: Definitely working with repeat customers, making friends, and having more lenient and understanding clients. Furries tip really nicely too. However, they also underestimate how much an artist makes in the Real World. The most unpleasant part I have ever experienced would have to be the sexual advances you get in the fandom: Even if an artist is drawing fetish content, try not to rope them into your world unless you are positive they are comfortable about it. I personally have had to stop drawing an image and deal with my emotions because someone was making me -really- uncomfortable when I did it.


Some additional resources on the matter

In the course of research for this article, I came across a few links that were mentioned more than once.

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