A solemn moment and a quiet gift

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I get asked a few times a month for my current commission rates, for folks interested in having me do cover work, or maybe an ink or acrylic piece. Sometimes they hire, sometimes they don’t, that’s just business.

But there’s an underlying element often of folks who don’t want to pay anything. Ever. They just want free art, because they feel they are entitled.

Originally published by Apex Book Company, August 2012

Folks, “entitled” is what we in the business call a “bullshit word”.

There is no such thing as entitlement. I don’t owe you a piece of art just because you want one. I owe the bank a truckload of money for my mortgage. I owe a fat lot of money on a car we purchased a year before I was laid off for sixteen months. At no point do I owe you a free piece of art.

Now that I’ve said that, there are some circumstances where I might be convinced to give away a piece of art. Sometimes for some other gain, but not always.

The first example has to do with a Kickstarter that I was the beneficiary of. Author S.P. Miskowski really wanted to use my art for the covers of her next three books. However, neither she nor the publisher had any kind of budget for cover art. So, they decided to try Kickstarter.

I thought it was a unique way for an author or publisher to be able to hire the artist they wanted to use. The folks who send in money get books out of it, I get some money to put food on the table for my children, and the author gets to have my art on the cover, as they wished.

Considering that it was three covers, and that adds up decently for me, I decided to sweeten the pot for someone willing to donate a bit more. I added in that I would also give an original, small ink work of mine, framed, if someone put in a fairly high bid/donation.

Is it giving away art? Sure. While I am getting paid for the illustration projects, the original ink wasn’t part of it. I was willing to give that piece away, and my return on investment is a good commission for three full covers. It was a situation that made sense to give art away for, from a marketing standpoint and from a business front.

There is one other type of event where giving away a piece of art can help.

Sometimes, something happens that is so heinous, so terrible a situation, that you really want to help in any way you can. Hurricanes, tornadoes, accidents, they are varied but still have an enormous impact on our lives.

A few weeks back, such a thing happened, and I’m sure most of you have heard about it. It was the theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado, during the opening of the film The Dark Knight Rises. Just an hour south of my home here.

These people were simply out to enjoy their lives, until a madman came along. It was truly a horrific event, and many people will be affected by it for a long time. Especially those who were injured, and who may need further help to move on with their lives.

Now, it’s true of many large, terrible events, that people want to help. There have been a number of events, natural or otherwise, that I’ve wanted to help. Monetarily, having been through sixteen months of unemployment, two of those with no payments at all, I just can’t do it.

Which makes me feel sad that I can’t help out, that I don’t have the resources to give what I’d like. Even though I now have two part time jobs, my financial situation (and life in general) isn’t going to be settled down for a long time to come.

I decided that perhaps I could use my talents (slim as they are) to create new art for sale, to benefit the victims. In fact, this may have worked well, as the Aurora Rise Benefit Event was happy to accept donations of both my original ink art (my Mouth of Sauron ink) and a signed, remarqued copy of a book I did a cover for.

I don’t know if either of my items will make any money, or enough to even help a little. With my current selling ability, they might be better off hacking them up to help start a fire this winter to keep warm.

But when I think about it, I cross my fingers and hope it will help. These folks didn’t deserve what happened, to have their lives changed, and the lives of those around them lost. I cross my fingers and hope that, if anything, maybe a little good can go some ways towards helping.

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