HOW TO BE CIVIL TO ARTISTS: by Roseanna Hanson

It’s not always easy for us artists; I’ve had a fair few annoyances and plain rudeness throughout the years over what you would think is pretty basic stuff. But if you are someone who uses artists for your own business, profession, or just personal work, please consider these few points:

• First of all, make sure you check out the artist’s work before contacting them about a commission. You’d think surely this is an obvious thing to point out, but you’d be surprised at the amount of times I’ve been asked to draw or photograph something in a completely different style to my work. If you can’t find an artist that does have the particular style you want, ask the artist you originally wanted if they would be capable, if not, ask if they know anyone that would. There has been a few times where I have gotten work through other people in this way, and I’d be happy to do the same for others rather than put myself through the hassle of doing something too challenging with mediocre results when I could be working on other things.

Make it clear what you want, when you want it, and what it is for. Being given a vague brief can be liberating in that you get to do what you think will work in your own style, but if the person asking then doesn’t like it and asks you to do something completely different it can be very frustrating, especially if it has taken a long time to do. I’ve had a couple of incidents where this has happened, and fortunately one time they had something else in mind completely but decided they preferred my style. In another case however, I’ve had to redo everything completely because when I discussed what they were after they were far too vague. Keeping in touch with the artist throughout the process is vital.

Be appreciative of artists and their time by crediting them, especially if they have worked for free. Asking someone to put a name underneath a photo on an article or on a website for example really isn’t much to ask, but it is polite and good practice, not only for the artist’s own reputation and profile but is also important for copyright reasons. Make sure you understand basic copyright laws if you’re going to use anyone else’s work.

• This one is mainly for photographers, but counts for other artists too – if you are going to edit an image, please ask permission of the artist first. The artist will have already done all the necessary editing, and will give you a final product that doesn’t need altering. If this is something you are going to be doing make it clear to the artist in your brief, because I personally find nothing more irritating than doing a photo shoot for someone, then to see my images have been completely destroyed with crazy Photoshop filters and then my name is plastered all over them. If someone other than the artist is going to edit the images, credit the editor separately to the original artist otherwise people will see the images as they are and assume that is the artists own style.

Don’t expect everything for free; even if its only something that seems small and quick to you, the time and effort that goes into all art should be appreciated, and that time can be eating away at other important things for the artist. It’s understandable that not everyone can afford to pay top rates for what they want, but the reason these things can cost so much is because their work is worth that amount of money, whether it’s with use of equipment, hiring out studios, models, stylists, transport, even the years of experience its taken to get to the point where they can knock something good out in ten minutes deserves rewarding. Of course if someone is busy with tons of commissions they aren’t going to consider your free labour over paid work. If you have a little cash to spare, even for a friend, it will be very much appreciated and it will be more likely the artist will want to do more for you in the future.

Don’t make promises you can’t keep. If you are uncertain whether you will be able to pay someone, or if you are even going to use a particular artist, let them know. Nothing is more disappointing than starting off doing a load of work for someone only for them to back out. One case I had of this was when I was commissioned in college to create a website for a local bakery, and they were offering me £1000 for the job. Obviously I wanted to get it just right, but every time I tried to get in contact with the company to discuss what they even wanted on the website they gradually just lost contact with me and ignored all my messages and phone calls. I had already done about 60% of the work, and demanded that they pay me for what I had done, but alas they never did no matter how much I pestered them. Don’t waste artists’ time, and don’t be annoyed if you are asked for money up front to avoid these situations.

• Finally, don’t ask someone to copy another artist’s work. Fair enough if you use other images as references, but that is all that they should be, reference. If you go up to an artist and say “can you make this for me, but add a little thing like this on here and here” you are leaving no room for the artist’s own creativity and style. It is important to know the difference between referencing and copying.

Roseanna ‘Dozy’ Hanson is a photographer, illustrator and musician based between Barnsley and Norwich.

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