o What happened to the MtG playmats?
I made my remaining stock into a giant wetsuit for my pet elephant. So we can scuba dive together.
Because Wizards of the Coast contacted me and clarified that although as part of my contractual compensation, I am licensed to use the artwork for commercial purposes, playmats are not something that they consider part of that license. I know. It bums me out too.
There are still a wealth of pretty playmats available, just not anything from Wizards of the Coast. (Magic, D&D, Star Wars.)
o I saw a custom marker playmat of Liliana and Chandra online somewhere, why can't I find it on your site, or any more info about it?
Ah yes. Chandra and Liliana. This piece will forever dwell in darkness of underground-fan-art infamy. I debated even adding this to the FAQ, as Wizards of the Coast would much prefer that it had never happened in the first place. But at the moment, it's the single most asked question I get. So here goes:
Once upon a time a whole ton of blank playmats followed me home from Gen Con, with bright eyes and dreams of what they'd become. Each of which had a name, a request, and a wad of cash attached to it. I had a standard price for playmat sketches, with the caveat that I'd be doing them when I got back to the studio. I had thought this would be a good compromise, as it's hard to take the time to do these things at events. Months worth of them stowed away in my luggage. Literally hundreds of playmats, most of who's owners had gone whole-hog on commissioning a full mat.
One particularly enthusiastic fellow paid a whole lot extra, and left a note saying "I don't want to tell you what to do, so I'll be happy with whatever you come up with. But I'd love to see both Chandra and Liliana on my mat. And it'd be great if they were interacting. Even better if they weren't fighting, like you'd expect to see. I'd love to see them flirting or something. And seriously you can take this as far as you're comfortable. Go nuts."
I sent him a sketch of what I had in mind. Which he loved, and promptly asked to put more cash into it for more detail and refinement. When I sent him a scan of the final, he wanted to upgrade again to full color.
When it was all said and done, I thought it was a lovely little piece, and turned out particularly nice for something drawn on a playmat. I figured folks would like to see it, so I posted it on my deviantart page, and my Tumblr. A few hours later, I got a call from Wizards, and they were less than thrilled about it. I took it down, but I think that actually made it grow legs it wouldn't have had otherwise. Forums started up threads about censorship, and speculating on Wizard's position on LBGT, all that sort of thing. Which means the image made the rounds and then some.
They are Wizard's copyrighted characters, so they can call the shots. (Despite popular belief, fan-art is not protected speech, and is subject to copyright law. But that's a topic for another discussion.) And they'd much rather the mat never existed. So unfortunately, it's not available in any form. Sorry guys. It bums me out too.
o What projects are you working on right now, and can I get a sneak peek?
Many awesome things. But if I gave you a sneak peek, I would no longer get to work on awesome things. My corporate masters hoard their secrets as Lucifer’s children would hoard candy made of human souls.
o I don't want to spend money. Will you draw my character/illustrate my book/design a logo for my website/send me stuff for free?
*sigh* While the answer should be obvious, I get this more than you’d think.
The ironically prophetic 80’s rock balladeers “Ratt” have taught us: Nobody rides for free. Sorry. I gotta make a living too.
o Even if my idea is really, really cool?
Even if your idea is really, really cool. But if it’s really, really, REALLY cool, let’s talk. :P
o Seriously, as soon as everyone's free work gets this thing off the ground, I'll be rich. I'll pay you then. ;)
Aw… That’s precious. No seriously: go to the mirror, ask again. I'll wait. See what that looks like?
I'm sure your novel/RPG/children's book/comic script/whatever is great. Really, I do. But there is just not really overwhelming temptation to succumb to the siren call: “Work for me for free, and someday, maybe, if I'm rich enough, I'll throw you a scrap or something. If I can remember through the thick haze of success and celebrity.”
o You'll regret this when I'm the most powerful being in the world! Curse you Steve!
I know. I regret turning down Betsy Ross when she told me if I designed the American flag, I'd get %10 royalties and could put “steveargyle.com = liberty” on it. And I regret not taking up Helen of Troy on her offer to sit for a portrait.
o But now that I've told you my idea, how do I know you won't steal it?
Um… I promise? I have a maddening flood of my own ideas, and they sex and multiply in my head like Viagra test rabbits addicted to fertility pills. It's all I can do to try and get some of them out before fur explodes out my ears. If your idea is so good I can not contain my creative lust, I will be in touch.
o I want to print your artwork up to put on my wall, and Kinko's will do it for $3 less than what you sell them for on your site. Will you send me the full resolution files?
No joke. This is a frequently asked question. And it astounds me that folks would not see that this question is thoroughly saturated in dickishness.
o You're cool with me using your artwork on my new novel/game/t-shirts/whatever, right?
Most of the work on the site is copyrighted to the various publishers and companies I work with. So not only can I not give permission, but those publishers will sic their sue hounds after you in a heartbeat.
o Oh, but it's just for some little thing me and my friends are doing. We're not really going to make a lot of money or anything. If we did, we'd probably share.
Yeah... Doesn't really matter if it's for personal use, a local charity event, or to fulfill a dying child's last wish. The stuff is still owned by somebody else, and the law is absolutely clear that you can't use it, at all, without their express permission.
o Ah... I get it. So I need to just do that thing where I change it by 20% or something, or just smudge out the copyright information, and signature, then post it online somewhere. Then it's mine, right?
Two more baffling modern copyright myths.
The first, the myth of the "derivitave work." Which is that you can swipe photos, artwork, sound clips, stories, whatever, just so long as you change it. (Everyone seems to think there's a percentage formula.) Nope. If you use any part of a copyrighted work, you're exposed to getting the knickers sued off you.
And second, the misconception that if you found it online without a watermark, it's free game. Of course it isn't. Any dumbass can post an image of Darth Vader with the copyright cropped out. Does that suddenly make Star Wars public domain? Many a folk get their hard fashioned startup business crushed into dust over this little lie.
And this isn't me whining about people using my art. I love seeing people excited about my work and showing it to each other. But you've got to be careful. If you use it for much else, the publishers will defend their copyright. They are legally obligated to do so, or their property WILL become public. So even though you think they shouldn't care about you making up 50 shirts with your band name and a Magic card illustration on it, they care. They care because if they let it slide, they lose their cash cow.
o I'm a fledgeling artist, and I'm not sure how to price my work. I don't want to scare people away! How do I determine what to charge?
Pricing can be hard for us arty-types. We just want to be able to do it for a living, right?
It doesn't need to be hard. The basic template is this: Start out with what you feel your time is worth. Whether that's $100 an hour or $10. (This should be more than your day job, unless you're a neurosurgeon or something.) Then estimate how much time it will take you in hours, and viola. It's far easier to think of it in terms of what your /time/ is worth, rather than what your /art/ is worth.
Don't undersell. I know the temptation is "I just want to make art, and I don't want to scare this guy away; I'll do it cheap, and call it portfolio fodder." DON'T DO IT. If your price is reasonable, and they scoff and balk at it - you do NOT want to work for them in the first place. Trust me here. If they're not willing to pay, then they don't value you, your work, or your time. And/or they're clueless as to what's involved in creating the work. You'll spend quadruple overtime in revision hell with some drippy wang who's taking advantage of you.
Likewise, beware if you hear "This will be huge! You'll be famous when this comes out. And isn't that worth more than a quick buck? You'll instantly have a name for yourself, because you'll be attached to my incredible, awesome thing that will make me rich!" If they're so confident in their project, they shouldn't be worrying about assuming some of the cost to complete it. If they're unwilling/unable, then guess what the chances are that the project is /actually/ going anywhere?
Never take on the risk for someone else's project.
Let me share another secret with you about money in art. It's worse to underbid than to overbid. If you quote a price that is too low, you won't get good clients. Ever. Just think about what it looks like from the client side. If you're not charging enough then you don't know what you're doing. You're not experienced. You're a risk. And they're done talking to you. Unfortunately, the message a lot of artists take away is "I asked for $50, and then they just disappeared! I guess that's too much..."
Charge appropriately. It's professional. It will keep you working with the right people. Yeah, you'll lose a few. But believe me, they're the people you never want to work with in the first place.
As your schedule starts filling up, you can raise your prices to corral your client list. If you get too busy too often, you might not be charging enough. And that's an easy way to get stuck doing way too much work. If you're schedule is overflowing, let your clients know that your rates have changed. You may drop one, but you'll be making the same amount, now with breathing room. And the work itself is always better when you have enough time for it.
o I emailed you, and you didn't reply. Are you a huge jerk?
Well, I am a huge jerk. But that's not why I didn't reply. I'm not always quick about it, but I always reply to every email I get. With two exceptions.
First, is the email I don't actually get. Some stuff gets caught in the spam filter, some stuff just doesn't seem to actually make it to me. To keep from getting stuff bounced, don't attach giant files, and make sure both my and your email is correct. Animal sacrifice is unnecessary, despite what voodoo shamans who sell goats would have you believe. To keep out of the spam box, just avoid writing like spam. That means spelling correctly, using whole words, not using spammy keywords, and no punctuation bombing. For example, this will never get through a spam filter: "how r u mr??? I luv ur art!!!! can I have FREE stuff plz? I liv in nigeria as prince, and I need your artwork to help bring non-prescription Viagra and penis enlargement to my oppressed people!! btw click on this link for hot horny singles now!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
Second, is obviously innane messages, like fishermen and trolls. If you're reading this, you don't even need to worry about being on that list. If a message starts "Dear Artist," I'm usually done reading. Totally done if the following is "I need volunteer (unpaid) artists to do my work for me..." Likewise if it's a question that's not only impersonal, but five seconds of internet searching can find. Like "Where do I get pencils to draw with?"
Half of the time, I also ignore overly basic and broad questions like "Can you tell me how to do art?" And half the time, like a chump, I crack open that can of hornets, almost always regretting it. (That's not to say I don't respond to questions about art. Just be specific.)