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The Ghost Artist Experience

Hello everyone

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

Hugs and kisses for everyone!

  • Mood: Optimism
  • Listening to: Spangle Call Lilli Line, Anamanguchi, iamamiwhoami
  • Reading: The Universe in a Nutshell
  • Playing: Child of Light, Darksiders 2, Hearthstone
Add a Comment:
Fesbraa Featured By Owner Nov 4, 2014  Professional Digital Artist
Yo una vez trabajé para Claudio Bergamín en un par de cuestiones y el wn era bastante piola. Pagaba al final y todo bien, pero creo que el wn esperaba más de mi y no cachaba bien como iba a ser el resultado de trabajar con otro wn que tenia lejos menos level y un proceso diferente al de él. Al final de dos pegas dejamos de trabajar y se acabo la wifa. Igual encuentro que es charcha el contratar ilustradores chicos pa participar en tus weas, es como... cómo eri tan penca pa aceptar pega que no te podi por ser un malo de mierda. Simple. Pero creo que tu experiencia es asquerosa y traumática.
Yo sé que soy un wn bastante deslenguado y a mi no me vienen con weas, pero ese wn merece que le reporteen el culo con el nombre completo y página pa no acercarse nunca más a nadie. Ese wn en mi opinión no merece ser colega nuestro.
Asi que exijo nombre. No le veo nada de malo ni poco profesional. De hecho sirve como pa que los wnes más jovenes no se pillen con ese wn. Aparte que te apuesto a que te amenazó de mil maneras wn. La verdad yo también he recibido amenazas por reports y wn... a donde van con esas weas. Como si me fueran a matar en la esquina. Monigotes.

Saludos y espero que la experiencias ahora sean lejos más afables y alegres. De lo cual estoy seguro que son.
Un abrazo.
Novanim Featured By Owner Nov 16, 2014  Professional Digital Artist
Gracias por compartir tu experiencia Felipe. Siempre es bueno que comuniquemos lo bueno y lo malo de este negocio. Sobre el nombre del sujeto, puedes verlo en el link que proporcioné, "illustrations by:"
vrlovecats Featured By Owner May 14, 2014  Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
wow... speechless al leer esto, que lata y que penoso como termina porque uno siempre espera que los proyectos terminen bien y con los contactos para después seguir trabajando con esas personas o tenerlas de contacto para futuros proyectos pero con gente así quien quiere trabajar!.
Por otro lado que entrete que tengas tumbler, te voy a follow altiro. 
Novanim Featured By Owner May 14, 2014  Professional Digital Artist
Gracias por tus palabras. La verdad fue bueno vivirlo, me hizo un poquito menos pollo, y sentía que debía compartirlo.
JadeGL Featured By Owner May 13, 2014
chuuuuu..que penca la experiencia compadre.
Igual yo creo que casi, si no todos, hemos pasado por experiencias similares (ya sea más o menos desagradables), que lata que haya gente tan penca/barsa en el medio. Lo más terrible es que le puede pasar a cualquiera, es típico que a los que recien empiezan, pero a los que tienen un poco más de experiencia igual les pueden meter un gol.
Gracias por compartir, encontré excelente tu post y ojala no te vuelva a ocurrir nunca más.
Novanim Featured By Owner May 14, 2014  Professional Digital Artist
Gracias Jade. Esperemos que no ocurra denuevo, y ojalá mi historia pueda advertir a varios :)
Liralicia Featured By Owner May 13, 2014  Professional Digital Artist
Auch, está bueno saberlo. A mí me han jugado feo un par de veces pero nunca a este nivel.
Sr-Panda Featured By Owner May 13, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
vaya historia ÓAÓ...
gaspineitor Featured By Owner May 12, 2014
Me acordé de Bill Finger ahora leyendo tu historia
ElGota Featured By Owner May 12, 2014
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May 12, 2014


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