Tip Your Makers! Why to pay more for art to improve commissioning and spread the love.

by Patch O'Furr

Missing, flaky commissions suck. it’s a chronic problem that’s only modestly addressed by small watchdogs like the Artist Beware community.

Things should be smoother.  But there’s a reason why commissioning is unpredictable. Things are dragged down by underbidding among artists. Nobody becomes an artist to get rich, and many don’t charge enough for the service they’re doing.

Why ask a customer to fix problems of a business?  I get it… if someone promises something, they should deliver without expecting more than they earn.  But give me a minute… if this is a passion-driven fandom and not a cut-throat market, maybe there’s a little room for common problem-solving and partnership.

Assume good faith.  Give credit to artists for being full of love for what they do.  But it’s awfully hard to get good and be competitive.  That’s how so many of them plan to get things done on a thin margin and tight schedules.  It’s easy for plans to go off the rails, people get sick, there’s unexpected mistakes or accidents, and burnout is common. Then commissioners are left waiting for extra weeks, months… or nearly forever.

It has to do with art being treated as a hobby.  It is a hobby for many, and that’s one of the most loveable things about fandom.  But getting good and doing good work means that’s just a start. It helps to understand where they’re coming from. Look at this level of fandom as just the beginning of a development process.

As artists develop, difficulties can grow – if the seriousness with which fans take fandom isn’t matched with how much they care for artists at work. Are artists fans too? Or professionals? Maybe both? Call them Profans.

Skilled fandom art is already a massive bargain. You couldn’t hire other pros to do things as good as many furry artists do. And nobody NEEDS an Angel Dragon suit, or cute-ass badge or a drawing of their fursona playing videogames in underpants. There’s no reason for entitlement about cheap art. Think of it as more like luxury, leisure, entertainment and expression, than crucial food and shelter for yourself.

Caring for artists can help your own interest. If loose deadlines are common enough to be taken for granted, it can make a gap where scammers run rampant.  Having low expectations can let that gap get taken advantage of, and everyone gets hurt. Having high expectations and paying to support artists can help a fandom define itself apart from outside influence.  Paying more can give power to commissioners. It’s an everyone solution.

Adding incentive can raise the bar.  Tell an artist that after the commission is delivered, you’ll pay some percent more if it’s on time.  And you’ll pay even more if it’s done perfectly.

Now you’re an active part of the art process.  Imagine that being a regular thing. Every time an artist sits down to make a schedule and estimate delivery times, you’re boosting their commitment to everyone.

Compare restaurant tipping.  15-20% on top is common for that.  But I suspect indie artists put in far more time than for other employment that would pay the same paycheck.  Think of paying a few hundred extra for a fursuit that costs a few grand. (Deduct it from what you earn while waiting for a year, if you’re a working professional with disposable income for a suit.)  That’s a great amount of support to help an artist continue working.  And since it isn’t inside employer-set hours, they might have to rush 20% less to cram other jobs in the schedule.

800px-drawinginsketchbookTipping is optional.  Whether you agree with the idea or not, there’s little way to force you to pay extra for informal person-to-person business.  It’s not likely to become an expectation or something you can’t skip.  It’s just nice.

So I hope not to hear complaints about not being able to afford paying more.  You don’t have to do this.  I’m just suggesting it’s a good thing to WANT to do.

This is a separate topic from bidding-wars.  If you don’t like seeing popular artists get paid a lot for lazy YCH commissions, seek out the countless ones who are underrated for exceptional skill.

It pays goodwill forward.  Tipping is an expectation for things like going to a sit-down restaurant in North America, but not for art.  Artists would be surprised if you throw more on top instead of expecting cheapest labor.  If you don’t even offer, but send a gift, that would be even more surprising.  And then even if you don’t do it, you can benefit if the person before you does it. You’re much more likely to get their heart in the work and their very best creativity.  I’d love to see this kind of goodwill increase in this already-awesome fandom.

Furries are already known for being fiercely devoted patrons. It’s true!  See: The Secret Furry Patrons Keeping Indie Artists Afloat.  Unfortunately, it’s still tough to make a living from art. So consider tipping your creators.  They will love it.  That’s the long and short of it.  And it can feed a subculture with even more power to rule itself in times of ever-worsening struggles for creative people – but that’s another topic.

#TipYourMakers.  This is a PSA in the spirit of common good, like this unrelated but cool practice to stop cyclists from getting “doored.” (I just wanted to throw that in because it became a custom for no reason other than improvement for everyone.)