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Advice from artists on commission criticism/complaint/feedback?

ADF

Member
I haven't had the best experiences when providing negative feedback to artists. I'm not talking about "X is wrong, please fix like this" but when something totally goes wrong and I have to be honest about it.

There was this one artist one time who went and did a commission, start to finish, without checking back to me once. No sketches for feedback, no previews. They just showed up with the completed commission one day. As a result things that could have been easily changed at the sketching stages were compounded through every stage, making them irreversible. After some self conflict as to whether to point out I wasn't happy with it, I eventually decided I would be in the right and the artist needed to be informed... it devastated them. They said they felt like crying, they were really proud of their work, started a journal about being deeply depressed (which the timing essentially told me I had caused it) and to this day; they complain about people wanting preview sketches and charge extra for the time spent...

So you can understand I am reluctant to offer negative feedback to an artist.

But now I'm finding myself tempted to do it again. This time not for a specific commission but the service I am getting from the artist.

I've been commissioning this artist for at least two years, so I like to think we have a good customer/artist relationship. I tip when I feel they under charge for their work and I'm very relaxed on the time it takes to complete a commission. I don't know why, but as of late their commission return rate has changed from weeks to months, with it seemingly getting increasingly worse over time. Everything takes what feels like a needless amount of time now, it's been weeks since I asked them to change the hair colour on a "flat colour" image; because they didn't follow the reference correctly. They declared a commission finished when they gave me the 2nd of a two part commission, when they hadn't corrected the first one or allowed me to provide feedback on the second. They don't seem to be taking my feedback into account any more, repeating mistakes in character designs that I corrected them over with previous images. I find myself sometimes overlooking mistakes I had previously corrected them on, because I realise it would be a lengthy hassle to have them correct it.

After two years of mostly good commission work, I am now thinking of not getting any more commissions from them; because the service has become so bad. It's been ten days since I asked for some 'very minor' corrections to my last commission with them, I could do it myself with no artistic ability if it wasn't for a few factors. So I'm not sure whether to confront them with this problem and let them know it is hurting their customer relations, or just let this last one finish and just quietly walk away, just not hire them again. I've inquired why there are so many delays several times but I haven't been able to get a proper answer out of them.

So, artists, what do you think? Should I just walk away and forget about a previously good two year artist/customer relationship, or risk causing insult/drama by confronting them with these problems?
 
A

Ansitru

Guest
I would consider telling them in a straightforward and honest manner.
This doesn't mean that you have to be blunt, mind you, but honestly it's better to communicate your issues with them than to keep them to yourself.
I mean, judging from personal experience: I'd rather people tell me what needs fixing than that they make me believe the drawing is superb and then talk to others about what the flaws are, you know?

However, finishing this commission and then quietly walking away also sounds like a good option, if you don't know how the artist will react to it.
How do they generally tend to accept criticism? If you know that, for instance, they don't take it well, it might just be best to keep it silent and consider it a loss of a good relationship, sad as it may be.
 

ADF

Member
How do they generally tend to accept criticism? If you know that, for instance, they don't take it well, it might just be best to keep it silent and consider it a loss of a good relationship, sad as it may be.

It's hard to say really, I've never really had to criticise their practices to such an extent. I think English is their second language, the way they type is very much to the point and doesn't get their feelings across.
 

Thaily

Member
I don't understand doing a commission without a preview sketch to be honest.
If it takes them extra time to offer changes then yes, they should definitely charge extra, but it can prevent so much trouble and make a customer so much happier. I can't imagine doing a commission from start to finish without consulting the customer at least once. And while I can sympathize if they felt hurt, making it public like that? That's pretty unprofessional. Sounds like they're just not used to getting critique/constructive feedback, which is unfortunate. Both for you and for them, because it'll hold them back in the long run.

With the second person, have things recently changed for them? They might not be comfortable disclosing the information to a customer, and you don't really have a right to demand personal information, but you can ask if there's a reason why they're taking longer and refusing to do simple (changing a flat colour in Photoshop?) changes that would make you that much happier with the work. Maybe they're under a lot of stress for some reason, or maybe they're just taking you for granted. If their answer is unsatisfactory, you should consider not giving them your business anymore.

As an artist, I'd prefer people tell me if they'd want me to change something, within reason, rather than have them silently slink off unsatisfied and miss out on their return business.
And if she just refuses to make reasonable changes without citing a good reason, well, you know enough :/
 

Arshes Nei

Masticates in Public
While I do think artists are underpaid, if one chooses to do commissions you better have the attitude for it. No one has forced anyone to do commissions. You choose to get paid for your art, or you do it for other reasons. Can you imagine going to a food joint and because you told the cashier the burger was terrible - he/she bursts into tears and let's the who establishment know how you hurt his/her feelings? If you were putting that person down specifically and berating them, ok I can understand but not every artist makes a good worker. So if they cannot handle it, they shouldn't be doing commissions. Personally I feel too many people get into commissions and really should be enjoying artwork first.

As far as the second one, even though it may be nice to let them know why - If you feel you must move on, then move on. Relationships change, that includes ones with customers and clients.
 

ADF

Member
With the second person, have things recently changed for them? They might not be comfortable disclosing the information to a customer, and you don't really have a right to demand personal information, but you can ask if there's a reason why they're taking longer and refusing to do simple (changing a flat colour in Photoshop?) changes that would make you that much happier with the work. Maybe they're under a lot of stress for some reason, or maybe they're just taking you for granted. If their answer is unsatisfactory, you should consider not giving them your business anymore.

Yep, it's just a flat colour. A flood fill could fix it in a second. But they've got a sort of textured grainy layer on top of the flat colour, so I cannot do it myself, need the original file.

I don't think they are taking me for granted. Something is going on that has lasted many months, but like you say I have no right to demand personal information. I'm just deciding how to handle things once this commission is completed.

If you were putting that person down specifically and berating them, ok I can understand but not every artist makes a good worker.

I was very careful to try to not offend them, took a while to type a simple message, fussing over the potential meaning. Didn't help though.

I just didn't use that artist after that.
 

Johed

Member
I've always said if the buyer is very specific with what you want the commission can get perfect
But if you dont sure what do you do want and it's all experimentation, then you should consider the fact that you have to pay for the changes, because is extra work
But I've always said.. The communication is very important
and you as a customer these within your rights to say you do like or do not like me and require the exercise as you want because you are paying for it

 
Z

Zoetrope

Guest
Feedback is incredibly important to me as an artist. If a commissioner was unhappy with a picture I had done I would rather them tell me so I can at least attempt to fix it. It does sound as though this artist is either going through a rough time, or as Thaily suggested, taking you for granted. If they are in a fragile state they may be difficult to approach with criticisms. Some people don't have an open mind to criticism at all, and get immediately defensive, I can only hope that isn't the case with this person. Just be honest, tell them how you feel.
 
D

drpickelle

Guest
Feed back and communication is incredibly important between an artist and their client. Communication, WIPs, and details protect both the client and the artist. I myself, always give two WIPs. One for a sketch, and another when I do the clean lines. That gives the commissioner ample time to spot mistakes I may have made, or change something they don't like the look of. I usually do the color in one fell swoop, but even then-- corrections can always be made. Most artists I know keep the PSD files of their work for awhile after they finish something. Assuming the artist didn't merge everything when they finished your piece, fixing something as simple as a flat color could have been remedied immediately.

Who knows what's going on in their personal lives. They could be going through a stressful time, but still-- that's no excuse for lack luster work. Commissions are a paid service, and should be treated like a business. If an artist isn't in a state of mind for working on something, then they shouldn't be putting themselves out there for hire.

Two years of good service and relationship building is a lot to walk away from. That said, after that long of working with you, they should appreciate you and your business more, not take you for granted, like you're a constant.
 

v-deus

Dance, Magic Cat.
I hope this sheds some light on the situation, for those who cannot understand the idea of a commission without a progress sketch:

Chris Goodwin once made a journal justifying how much time spent in commercial art is worth. Since I graduated college, bought hardware/software with MY money, am relatively fast, and am experienced at what I do, I deserve a decent chunk of change on the hour. This varies anywhere from 75USD to 20USD per hour. When I accept a commission, the client knows they are paying a good amount, they know I have a good record, and they also know that I'm busy. I cannot then justify sending a sketch that took an hour, waiting for a response email, and then doing crit exchanges back and forth before finishing the image. In most of my commission series' it's established that I'll do a good job, and the client can request small changes at the end (because I don't always think of everything). This is why I accept all payment up-front and dedicate to a strong finish.


I know I don't even represent the majority on artists. Just giving you guys some food for thought. :>
 

ADF

Member

Sorry but I'd have to disagree. Time spent waiting for them to provide feedback can be spent doing other things, it's not wasting time. It is easily worth it when compared to the possibility of making a major but easily fixable mistake in the sketch stage; then compounding it by inking, colouring and shading the whole thing with that mistake in place.

Sorry to use you as an example Ranft; if you see this, but I think you'd agree it's a good one.

This silly little image was commissioned a while back when I had too much free time and argued in gaming forums, its meaning isn't relevant. I explained the image and provided examples of anthropomorphic gaming systems to give an idea of what I was looking for. The linked image was exactly what I asked for.

However the first image Ranft presented was this. Can you imagine having to tell them this was wrong and could they have another go? For a image of inferior detail as well. All the effort, inking and colouring of this piece could have been completely avoided if I was just presented with a initial sketch. I'd be concerned going into a commission agreement with someone who was going to do a piece start to finish without showing me anything, the slightest misinterpretation and it would create the anxious debate with myself whether it is worth bringing the mistakes up. With a sketch, it's easily sorted.
 
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Arshes Nei

Masticates in Public
What is funny is when communicating with your client people forget that you can spend a good day on research and making sure you understand your client.

http://amzn.com/1584505338

There's also the Painter version and a previous Photoshop version.

The first part of the book actually talks about character design and scenarios that actually kind of cover this in a way. Someone tells you to draw a monster you better go through as many questions as you can to get the right kind of monster for your client. If a person is looking for a specific pose, you may want to make sure that's covered too.

So...if you feel that a sketch is a waste of your time...better make sure you get everything down in communication.
 

Thaily

Member
I cannot then justify sending a sketch that took an hour, waiting for a response email, and then doing crit exchanges back and forth before finishing the image.

1. Charge for the time you use, even if you spend it waiting.
2. Take more than one job at a time, you can work on the others while waiting for sketch approval on one.
 

Calypte

gryphon extrodinaire
I think some people have a problem with taking criticism personally. What OP described sounds very immature for someone who is doing commissioned work. I believe if you're paying money for a service and you are unhappy with the result, you are absolutely entitled to ask for corrections (within reason of course).

If I were in this position, I wouldn't be a returning customer to that artist if they're going to throw a tantrum over something that should be handled professionally. Also, if you choose to confront the artist, do so privately and don't make a spectacle out of it. Do your part to keep the drama to a minimum. Best of luck. :)
 

FireFeathers

Mr. Red Flag
Generally how I get around the waiting time for confirmation on a sketch is to do something else. The smaller commissions I have fill in the time nicely, but more often then not, i'm preparing the sketch for the next commission while i'm in the middle of the previous one, if I need a little break from painting, whichever. That way, there's a day or two while I'm working for them to let me know any changes, then I'm able to start their next one seemlessly. I also post updates every day to my sketchblog, that they can contact me and have me change whatever. Just as long as it's not like "Instead of a pterodactyl, make it a blender" then I don't mind.
 

Bojog

Hobbyist Couple
Haha- yeah... there's nothing worse than being finished with a request or commission and having the client say they want it to look completely different. That's why I wait for feedback between steps, and I think most artists do the same (or should). The problem is most likely an artist takes any kind of changes or criticisms personally, so they try to rush through until it's too late to make any changes, and effectively throw the finished product at the client from a distance and run away with their fingers in their ears. It's just a maturity/confidence issue. Sometimes an artist may simply not care whether a piece is right or not- but they won't get repeat customers.
 

ADF

Member
After a 17 day wait, I prompted them again regarding the edits and I've just received them now. They've finally corrected the hair colour, but none of the other things I talked about weeks ago. Again, very simple things to fix. I'm not going to wait another two weeks plus in the hope they make tweaks I asked for ages ago, so I'm just sticking with the way they look now and letting this commission end. I'll just have to note why the character looks a bit different.

I doubt I'll be commissioning them again in the future if this is what I can expect, they've been iffy the last couple of months; but this is the worse I've seen from them. Not just in the time taken and apparent inability to implement feedback, but the images are messy looking. Small black blots that a quick go over with the eraser or brush could easily fix when working with frames. This is crude work compared to what I've received from them in the past.

I suppose it's that time to decide whether to be frank with them or just walk away... Going to have a go talking to them, as difficult as that feels right now.
 
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ADF

Member
Phew... you expect the worst but it went pretty well. They were understanding and recognised there was a problem.

Whether things will improve or not I cannot say, but at least there is dialogue now.
 

Aaros

Member
Here are my thoughts on the OP


There was this one artist one time who went and did a commission, start to finish, without checking back to me once. No sketches for feedback, no previews. They just showed up with the completed commission one day. As a result things that could have been easily changed at the sketching stages were compounded through every stage, making them irreversible. After some self conflict as to whether to point out I wasn't happy with it, I eventually decided I would be in the right and the artist needed to be informed... it devastated them. They said they felt like crying, they were really proud of their work, started a journal about being deeply depressed (which the timing essentially told me I had caused it) and to this day; they complain about people wanting preview sketches and charge extra for the time spent...


It's all-important to know an artist's policies and procedure for commissions. I know some artists send WIPs at commissioners constantly, and some barely show anything dependent on what they feel comfortable with, and you can find out from artists how they operate commissions and decide as a commissioner whether it fits what you want from an artist. Unless you asked them to send you updates often, do NOT assume the artist will treat you a certain way and send you the same kind of information as another artist.
I'm not sure what you were critiquing them on too - was it character design? Because my view is that commissioners shouldn't send general critique to an artist, like anatomy critique, lighting critique, or whatever critique on how the artwork is drawn, without an invitation from the artist themselves.


That said, it sounds like the artist reacted terribly to this. If you're an artist and you can't take critique or criticism or realize you've made a mistake, sometimes major ones, you have a very long way to go and might as well learn the hard way to hear that. Going to that length comes dangerously close to guilting the commissioner too.


As for that whole dilemma, if an artist isn't listening to your feedback, yeah, tell ten you feel snubbed and communicate with them. But it sounds like you've got that somewhat sorted anyhow.


Feedback is incredibly important to me as an artist. If a commissioner was unhappy with a picture I had done I would rather them tell me so I can at least attempt to fix it. It does sound as though this artist is either going through a rough time, or as Thaily suggested, taking you for granted. If they are in a fragile state they may be difficult to approach with criticisms. Some people don't have an open mind to criticism at all, and get immediately defensive, I can only hope that isn't the case with this person. Just be honest, tell them how you feel.
Just saying here that there's a difference between not having an open mind at all to criticism, and not taking critique from certain people like commissioners. Just wanting to make this difference clear; some people look for critique from certain people and places, or at least, feel it's out of place for commissioners to give some kind of artistic critique of the art they're buying, outside of guiding the artist on character design (I'm one of them). So I just want to make sure it isn't being implied that if an artist doesn't feel comfortable getting critique from a commissioner or the general public, they're just closed-minded about their art


Personally, I think it's out of place for a commissioner to critique the art of an artist. It's somewhat unfair to the artist to do so in my opinion, if the client is giving criticism without it being asked for - though I'd apply that to everyone, that critique shouldn't be given to the artist unless they indicate they want to hear it from you, since it's impolite to assume they do
 

oMari

Pink Pony of Doom
Glad to see you got in contact with them and there is some dialogue now. In terms of giving people you commission criticism, DO IT! I send regular wips to my clients so that I can get just that. Things they want changed, do they like example A over example B, etc. I've had trouble with clients in the past who would not tell me when something was wrong. Artists are people too, we can't always spot our mistakes. In the end the client didn't tell me about the mistake (which he revealed after I recontacted him that he had noticed and just didn't say anything) and I when I posted it several people pointed it out. Thus I recontacted the client and fixed it. As much as my commissions are for my clients they're a form of advertising for me so having bad mistakes like that just don't work. Oh and if he doesn't send wips or charges more for it I suggest you do business somewhere else. Communication is key and if you're being charged extra for it they aren't worth your time.
 
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