Fighting fire with fire

Taking action With the successful funding of PACT, we decided to find out what they are trying to achieve for artists — and why

In the aftermath of a panel discussion at IlluXCon, Jim Pavelec, Aaron Miller, Todd Lockwood, Randy Gallegos and Mike Sass have created PACT, the Professional Artist/Client Toolkit. It’s a new website designed specifically to encourage transparent working relationships between artists and clients. This is in direct response to some of the shadier aspects of making a viable living as a professional artist.

«The first thing on the PACT list is to get a cheap membership programme solidified and help build a firewall against eroding standards says Randy Gallegos. «The most important thing we need to do is stop the degradation, and that will take a group effort before we can begin to advance things.» The website is going to serve as an information centre to make sure that artists and clients are all on the same page; explanations of contracts, company ratings based on artists expectations, and much more.

We often hear stories that suggest even the most prolific global entertainment companies don’t address the need to increase artist wages in line with modern living costs, with many pay rates staying at the same figure for well beyond a decade.

«I’m new to the industry but my broad experience leads me to believe that there have been few changes to accommodate modern living expenses,» says Aaron Miller. «I’ve seen invoices for illustrations from the early 1900s that are more or less the same as today. NC Wyeth was paid about $60 for one of his early covers. You can see plenty of ads for the same fees today over 100 years later.»

There are many companies out there that pride themselves on the high standard of artwork created for their signature products, yet simultaneously fail to offer a satisfactory payment in return for the realistic work involved.

In some ways, the rise of digital technology has lulled clients into a false sense of time and ease, as Mike Sass explains. «If anything, rates have decreased while expectations of quality and flexibility have increased. This is especially difficult for traditional artists who now have to match the fidelity of computer-generated art on deadlines and demands driven by a digital workflow.»

Another consequence of lower wages is the complicated kinds of contract many clients require. While it’s easy to assume it’s simply a case of clients calling the shots, the reality at the other end of the spectrum is that budgets are shrinking. Fast. As Todd Lockwood points out, «Not all clients are evil schemers; the real world has simply become tougher. But artists seem to be last in line to get paid when the money runs out.»

Part of the problem is the standardisation of the work-for-hire model. Todd is concerned that although established artists feel the burn of creating art for someone else’s sake, it’s the younger artists who are at most risk. «Work-for-hire contracts prevent young artists from building a catalogue of images they can profit from throughout their careers. Add inflation, plus higher tuition for art students, and the truth for aspiring illustrators is daunting.»

The team are getting PACT ready for business as we type this, so keep checking out for more.

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