The Ghost Artist Experience
Today I want to share with you my experience as a Ghost Artist.
So, what is a Ghost Artist you ask? Basically, you are a ghost artist when some other artist pays you for some work, but the final product will not include your name on the credits, but his/her instead. The “big artist”, will look for your services as a freelancer, usually to compensate work overload, so they delegate some of this work to “smaller artists” with enough skill to emulate the style needed for the job (could be coloring, drawing, inking, etc). After the work is finished, you get paid (if you are lucky, right after you send the high resolution files), the “big artist” will fulfill his/her duty with the publisher, and everyone wins...but there's a catch: only the “big artist” name will appear on the credits. This situation could sound ungrateful for many, but you have to know this is a common practice on the industry of comics and illustration. Personally, I don't agree on it, but exists. It is up to you if you will accept these terms in the first place. Sometimes, as a freelancer, you will do work with no real value for your portfolio, so working as a ghost artist now and then shouldn't be a problem. However, if the work has value for your career, maybe you shouldn't accept this kind of agreement, if you have the option of course, because I understand there's a rent to pay.
But what happens when you are told your name will not appear on the credits at the middle of a project? That is the experience I had, and it wasn't nice. Sometimes, things could start from "promising" and turn into "really uncomfortable". I started working as a freelancer in 2010, and of course, I wanted to be credited for every work I could finish. I was contacted by a “big artist”, who offered to pay me so I could cover him as the pencil artist for these books:
At the beggining, I was naive and could eat a lot of “nice words” and “promises” from these “big artists”, so I was kinda excited to work with him. From my previous works as a freelancer, I thought it was set in stone you were going to credited for the job... how mistaken I was. I askeda several times to the “big artist” if my name would appear as a collaborator, but never had a clear answer.
Of course, the initial terms of the job were very unclear, and it ended pretty bad. The agreement was to make three of these books, with a total amount to be paid, and well...I was never told when I was going to be paid (totally my fault). To my surprise, I was paid a third of the total after the first book, so I assumed we could keep working like this. However, after I finished the second one, we didn't know when the publisher was going to ask for the third one. We had no script, no guidelines or deadlines, nothing. Five months I had to wait for a sign from this publisher (of course, all this information was provided by the big artist), and I had already entered a full time job to pay the rent, so my situation changed. Between those months, I worked on a bonus book for this “big artist” after this daytime job, and I realized my health was at risk with such workload and lack of sleep. After this book was finished, I told him I could no longer work on this third book since I didn't know when the publisher was going to ask for it. I even offered this bonus book to be free of charge as a formal apology. After this event, the guy went into a total skype and e-mail rampage, going from manipulative, to rude and even insulting. Little I knew this guy had similar bad experiences with many other chilean artists due to his desperate attitude, and probably he didn't draw most of the books that have his name on it. Of course, if this third book was even going to be requested, it wasn't only because he didn't have the time, but the skill to do it, and he needed me to finish it. His reputation was at risk, not mine. In the end, his violent attitude was the big let down and what made me leave the project for good. Really, I received several e-mails with insults, taunts, self-righteous speeches, and overall unprofessional bullshit, even three months after I took my decision. It was crazy.
So my advice for any young artist starting on this business, is to be careful with the working terms when you accept a paid gig from any client. Some examples:
- How much is this work going to pay?
- What is the payment method? When is it going to be paid?
- What rights do I keep of the work?
- Do I have permission to upload my work after is published?
- Is my name going to appear on the credits of the final product?
- What kind of communication are we going to use (phone, e-mail, skype) for feedback?
- Is the client professional or uses a lot nice words and manipulative practices to get you in?
And so on...
I hope my experience can be useful for many freelance artistS starting on this business. Not everything is going to be nice, but those experiences will make us stronger and a little wiser everyday. In the end, all the bad experiences will fall short in comparison with all the beauty and joy we will create with our hands, so don't stop, and enjoy the journey.
Remember, you have the power of choice, always.
Tumblr: Novanim Archives
In other news, I have created a Tumblr where I will share some tutorials, step by steps, sketches, useful information from other artist, and other less formal art stuff I hope will be useful for many. You can also ask me anything there. Here's the link novanim-art.tumblr.com/
Hugs and kisses for everyone!