Golden Replies: Michael Golden Part IV

As promised, here's the reply that Michael Golden posted in the comic art mailing list. I said I'd run it, hence here it is. You make up your own mind. Personally I think a simple, "Sorry guy, you mis-read what I was going for," might have sufficed.

Things to bear in mind - Brian Sagar, one of the nicest guys out there, makes some damn pertinent points about getting an artist commission. Buyer beware is the main one. However I don't agree with the theory that once you pay the artist then can accept any number of other, published, work and leave your already paid work in limbo. Once you've paid you have an expectation of delivery within a reasonable time. If the artist comes across a heavy workload and can't deliver, then they should refund the money - pure and simple - or not ask for full payment until they're ready to sit down at the board and do the drawing.

I do have to ask this though - how many people think the image in question is of cover quality? If that's what passes for comic book cover art these days I think I'll stick to buying covers done pre 2000.

First, let me address the issue that Ms. Witterstaetter is somehow responsible for any of this nonsense. She's not. As my representative, she simply relays information. She is not accountable to my production abilities, she can only make the effort to express other's expectations and in return, my intentions to accommodate them.

As regards the signature on the Customs form, it is NOT hers. I put her name there because she is the named proprietor for the Postal Box for Little Eva Ink. I used the LEI address because, if there was any problem with delivery, I didn't want the returned work sitting somewhere unattended. Ms. Witterstaetter was totally unaware of the contents, that is, the nature of the work, or that I'd even mailed it until some time after it had already been sent. I have apologized to Ms. Witterstaetter for taking this liberty and those that are disposed to continue making an issue of this can feel free to report me to whatever Customs officials are appropriate so they can slap me soundly on the wrist for the indiscretion.

Mr. Turnbull's account of events regarding the art he received is, in-and-of-itself, reasonably accurate, as far as I'm aware. He does take some liberties with a few specifics, however. He requested an inked SKETCH of Dr. Strange on 11X17 art board, period. Finished, cover-quality commissions started, at the time, at 2K. The price agreed to was based on my then-current pencil sketch rate multiplied by his request to have it inked and tweaked a bit more than the usual fare I was obliged to generate at conventions. He (and several of his associates) then proceeded to publicly trash, insult, make slanderous insinuations, and even threaten legal action against me (via LEI) if I didn't basically drop what I was doing and deliver the work he (they) demanded. --This, despite the following acknowledgment by one of said associates posted on the John Byrne Forum regarding artwork commissions, ALL of which I agree with, by-the-way, but, (2nd) 6(a) being the salient point, at the moment:

Brian Sagar
Byrne Robotics Member

Joined: 06 May 2004
Location: Canada
Posts: 257
Posted: 08 December 2006 at 2:59pm

(5) Tell the artist EXACTLY what you want in terms of # of characters, medium, paper size, level of background detail.

(6) Negotiate a price with the artist. Keep in mind that commission pricing is all over the map. Some artists charge a lot for a single figure, pencil-only, with little or no background, while others will give you an inked, multi-character scene with full background for one package price.

Remember that asking for a price quote does not commit you to a commission. If the price is too high and you can't work out a deal that works in your budget, politely tell the artist/rep that you are no longer interested and then just walk away. There are lots of other fish in the sea.

(6) Pay for your commission. If you are unsure of the artist's track record, ask if you can pay 1/2 now and 1/2 upon completion. (Or some variation thereof).

Other important lessons from the 'commission game':
(a) Commissions come after an artist's 'real' deadline work, so don't be surprised if the time frame changes at some point along the way.

(b) If there is a certain costume or story element that you really want to see in a drawing, say so. (And provide reference materials. Artist X probably does not remember page 13, panel 3 from one of the twenty books they cranked out on a deadline back in 1972).

(c) Remember that at the end of the day, commissions are a crap shoot. You don't know exactly what you are going to get. Sometimes they work out, sometimes they can be a disappointment. Be realistic about what an artist is going to be able to deliver.
Edited by Brian Sagar on 08 December 2006 at 4:46pm

What Mr. Turnbull received is an inked sketch, just shy of a finished drawing. It is clearly and unquestionably the character, Dr. Strange. It is Mr. Turnbull's right to be dissatisfied with the work, but to base that dissatisfaction on the fact that I drew the character enveloped in his cape speaks to his agenda, not mine. Perhaps Mr. Turnbull should request characters that don't wear capes. That Mr. Turnbull takes exception to a portion of the character being in heavy, dramatic shadow may suggest that he is unaware that such rendering is intrinsic and maybe even necessary to depicting this particular character in the context of mood and impact. --At least in my mind. And really, there was no directive from Mr. Turnbull that I should address the drawing in any other manner...

Dr. Strange is not blowing Mr. Turnbull a raspberry. I'm guessing that he has a different definition of this particular action than I do, because I've never seen anyone raise their hand to their face to do it. If this were my intention, I would have made it quite obvious by drawing an extended, wiggling tongue and little sprays of spit. But I do confess that I felt compelled to do a slightly comical take on the usual Ditko hand-gesture by making it look as if Dr. Strange was blowing the smoke-like mystical effect from his hand as if it were a pipe. The '60's Pop-Nouveau lettering makes it all look rather psychedelic, I thought. That I took the opportunity to use that effect to make an editorial comment is any artist's prerogative and has been repeatedly validated in many courts of Law. Unlike Mr. Turnbull's comments toward me, it is not rude, slanderous, insulting, derogative, or has any negative insinuation whatsoever. --Nor was it meant to. It is simply a truism that I chose to make part of the work, given the history and context of its production. However, I admit that the misspelling does make it seem far sillier than intended. --I'm not in possession of a drawing board compatible Spell-Check, I'm afraid.

The drawing is done on 11X17 art board, as requested. There was never any directive or discussion that it should fill the entire piece of paper and I never felt compelled to do so, since the drawing is complete and effective at the size it is.

There will be no refund or further discussion. Mr. Turnbull has gotten what he asked for. Despite the spin he has chosen to put on it, there was never any guarantee of when he would receive the work or that he would like it when he did. Basically the same thinking and intentions are applicable to the work done for his compatriots. And, I trust I've made my point to anyone-else that is inclined to question my "professionalism".

For every utterance of righteous indignation that has been directed at me in this matter, I can say I've received an equal number of declarations of support. Frankly, I was initially confused by all of this, since it never occurred to me that an issue existed or that anyone would be so disposed to blow it into something of such magnitude that it would solicit such declarations. Many of these have voiced their surprise at how this has managed to take on a life its own. God bless the Internet.

On the chance that it's relevant to the Reader, I am slowly working through the requests I've had for drawings and commissions. Contrary to what some have suggested, I'm not doing these to make a living and so, am not particularly concerned by the shrill threats of boycott from the mob. In fact, it is very difficult, obviously, to squeeze these requests between my working deadlines, but I can assure everyone that I'm making the effort and there are plenty of satisfied
fans that have posted the work they've received on various websites. Those that actually want a piece of art from me continue to assure me that they are willing to wait for my schedule to accommodate their requests. Ultimately, as Mr. Sagar points out in the aforementioned forum posting, art purchases and commissions is an entirely subjective endeavor.

And, dare I say it, Patience is a Virtue.

Michael Golden.


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