Friday, December 10, 2010

Dirty Laundry (Debts Made Public)

"Yesterday's $ is Today's Sense" (2006)

As a new course of action in collection matters and processing grievances, this open post is to serve as a permanent Black List for the arts community.  Artists have an up-hill battle every step of the way from expensive supplies to framing to application and display fees to shipping and transporting their work.  Nothing is free in this game.  I feel obligated to share the lessons I've learned the hard way and give a heads up so that other artists (both aspiring and professional) may have an easier road to follow.  Keep in mind, this isn't a forum to burn bridges but rather an attempt to harness some good from the rubble that's left from those which have already been set ablaze.

Northwest Arkansas Songwriters Association

Earlier this year, I took a logo design commission for this group.  Being a referral of one of my wife's friends, I was eager to please and had no reservations about the project.  In my daytime Marketing Manager's position, a referral is the best lead you can get!  I did a preliminary sketch and approved the design with said client before getting the logo blown out in full color.  I sent a small web-sized version of the logo for final approval before making all the files and text options for the image.  A verbal agreement was set forth that upon full payment, they would receive the original illustration with three logos, all in print, web, and vector format.   I notified the client of the completion of the project.  "The money's in the mail."  (You'll hear this a lot, I'm finding.)  I never got a dime.  Nine months later, I had to mail out my first cease and desist letter to him for using that web-sized proof I sent him on his website and social networking sites as well as show fliers.

LESSON:  Take a down payment on commercial projects after an initial sketch approval AND watermark any proofs you send.  

Comic City Conventions

This year, I wanted to give a shot at the Comic, Fantasy, and Horror Con scene.  I figure my work fits in and the suggestion had been presented to me several times by both friends and patrons at art festivals over the past few years.  Well, you gotta start local and spread out, right?  So I booked myself at events in Nashville, Knoxville, and Louisville with this classy outfit.  At ALL three shows, the promoter got my name wrong.  In Louisville, I began setting up at another artist's space he directed me to (Brandon something or another) before being led to my correct space, "DRG studio."  This is despite exchanging a dozen emails, taking three separate payments from me, and being corrected personally face-to-face at the first two cons.  All of these shows were poorly promoted, in horrible locations, and all exhibiting artists I spoke with lost money on the venture.  You have to have foot traffic at these events or you're bust.  An artist has the overhead of travel expenses (hotel, meals, gas) on top of a fee to set up before you can start making money.  There are many successful events out there that draw thousands of people- anything organized by this guy is not one.

LESSON:  Research or attend particular events before paying a setup fee.  It is unfortunate that some promoters are only worried about getting paid through vendor fees and not getting people through the door to create a successful atmosphere so the artist can make some kind of profit.    

Maker's Mark Bourbon House and Lounge

I was contacted by a manager at this establishment in Louisville to display artwork at their venue earlier this year through social networking.  I was informed that the General Manager had purchased my artwork after the exhibit.  "The money's in the mail."  Seven months later, I'm still trying to get the money or the artwork back.  Endless stories and claims that the money and now, the artwork have already been shipped and lost in the mail.  This guys must have the worst luck ever with the postal system.  At this point, I just want the art back.

LESSON:  Some people are just going to try and rip you off.  I'll get back with you on this one.  I'm mailing two letters (one to his home and one to his work) giving a 30 day notice about taking him to court (which is reeeeeal easy to do in Kentucky.)

Thumbprint Gallery

I began a relationship with this San Diego gallery a couple of years ago based on a Call for Entries they sent me through a social networking site.  I was very intrigued by their group show themes and wanted to participate in a few.  I created some great work based on their creative prompts and had very friendly contact with the curator.  The only problem here is that five pieces were returned to me damaged over the course of a year.  Every item I shipped out was returned in the original box but with a small fraction of the packaging.  I informed the gallery of their error in care of my work each time and it just kept happening.  You can't continue to plead ignorance when you've been informed.  How can you tell me after every exhibit how great the work was and how much conversation it created and how it's on-point but then not respect it enough to package it securely for cross-country shipping?

LESSON:  Framing is the MOST expensive part of what I do.  Five busted frames... shame on me for not stopping at the Second after informing him of the First.

ARTISTS:  Feel free to share your stories by commenting below... hopefully as this post expands, it will provide useful information to help all of us have a smooooother ride up this mountain to success.


  1. Excellent post. Despite the pains experiences like this cause, you don't learn anything without them.

    I think the lessons you share through your blog will definitely help those working to similar ends.

  2. Thanks brother... definitely trying to make lemons into lemonade and not get discouraged.

    Fool me once, shame on me, fool me twice... wuh-wuh-won't get fooled again.


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