Artist Client Horror Story

  • I was just listening to the 3 Point Perspective podcast about contracts and it reminded me of something that happened earlier this year. It also happened to be the biggest lesson I've had as an artist.

    On the side I do charcoal portraits for friends, family and a few commissions. Two years ago a lady I had known in school approached me about doing one. She wanted it as a surprise late wedding gift for her friend who happened to be someone I also knew. She wanted a portrait of the bride and groom with the groom's brother who had passed away ten years before the wedding. So I mocked it up in Photoshop to show her what it could look like. She was happy with it.

    I completely finish the piece and send her a photo of it. She decides I've drawn the brother too young and that I should start again with a whole new concept. Huge warning bells go off and I say thank you but no thank you and walk away from the commission.

    I'm left in a bit of a strange position where I now have a drawing of someone I know and his deceased brother. If I hand it over to the groom he will know that the lady had commissioned it and I would in essence be giving it to her for free. It ends up in storage but I thought about taking it to him a lot.

    Two years pass and its the anniversary of the groom's brother's death. The groom is a friend of mine on Facebook so I see that he has shared some photos of his brother and a photo of the drawing that I had done. THIS LADY HAD SENT HIM THE PROOF AS THE GIFT

    After an hour or two of mulling it over I decided to frame up the drawing and take it to his house. He was really grateful, emotional and didn't know I was the artist. I chose not to tell him the full story.

    So lessons learned:

    1. Add watermarks to proofs
    2. Charge upfront (if only partially)
    3. Have some sort of contract/don't just assume everyone is on the same page.

    What would you guys have done in this situation and what other lessons should I take from this?

    Also I'd love to hear some of your own horror stories.


  • Pro

    @skillydan Yikes, what the hell! This was very deliberate to avoid paying you.

  • You need to send the customer a bill for the artwork. If she refuses to pay take her to small claims court in your town. She stole from you.

  • @NessIllustration Oh Hi Ness! I think we actually had a chat on Instagram the other day about the portfolio guide you had shared 🙂 It is coming in really useful!

    That may be the case. Knowing the person, I hadn't taken it to a be a malicious move on their part, rather an act of stupidity and ignorance.

    @jimsz Thats a good point. I hadn't considered billing her after the fact. I'm going to look into this. Thanks.

  • Pro

    @skillydan I'm glad to hear that! 🙂

    Are you sure about this lady? She told you she didn't like it and wanted you to re-do it, but she gave the proof to her friend so she clearly thought it was actually good enough to give... It sounds to me when she saw the proof she though "That's all I need right there!" and then lied about not liking it to avoid paying you. Of course, I could be wrong but I would really hope no one is truly that clueless... This sounds too stupid to believe it wasn't done on purpose.

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