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Re: Actually Doing Something About the Great Paleoart Ripoff

This, Sir, sounds like a very good idea - and would make it very easy
in the future to distinguish between what is art (or
restoration-for-pay), and what is own scientific work published as
Heinrich Mallison

On Fri, Mar 11, 2011 at 4:33 PM,  <GSP1954@aol.com> wrote:
> Having groused about the paleoart problem from a personal perspective it is
> time to move on to how the community can do things to improve the overall
> situation. Perhaps dramatically.
> And it is not just the paleo community. The discussion has spread to other
> freelance science illustrators who work in exhibits etc.
> One item coming in from some non list feedback is that it is apparently
> becoming an increasing problem is that more and more (but not all) 
> institutions
> are becoming more ruthless in pitching artists against one another in
> bidding wars. Some – including large scale exhibits producers – are being 
> driven
> out of business by this sort of thing, as well as chronic demands to lower
> prices until the work is no longer profitable. This reflects a general
> American management trend to practice libertarian social Darwinism towards the
> people who actually have talent in order to maximize their product at minimal
> cost. The question is what to do about it.
> Some sort of formal union may not be workable, but some form of
> in-their-faces publicity and organization is required.
> A while back Tess K did the nice booklet on pricing and ethical practices
> that unfortunately was not as effective as hoped (this can be posted as a pdf
> BTW with an historical explanation of its nature in order to give an idea
> of what can be done). In hindsight the problem was that only those who got it
> in hand saw it – i. e. it was too individual to have impact, in particular
> most management people didn’t see it (and probably none currently working
> knows about it) -- plus it being a print version meant it became outdated and
> so forth.
> The best thing to do is set up a website on the issue. Maybe it can be
> paleoartistry alone, or be joined with those who do science illustrations in
> general, or they can be done in parallel. That can be worked out.
> Among the items the site would include would be a politely but firmly
> worded statement of the ethics and practices expected and required by artists 
> of
> all project managers who hire their work. These would state that it is the
> ethical responsibility of anyone managing an institution or project to be
> careful to ensure that the compensation they provide is sufficient to support
> the artist in a proper lifestyle including health care, retirement, SS
> payments, yadda yadda. There can be an explanation of why this is fair and
> necessary in case any of them are dolts which many but by no means all are.
> Emphasize the unusual research and reconstruction expertise, effort and time
> required by paleoartists. Managers must therefore design and budget their 
> projects
> so that they are not overly ambitious that the creative talent will have to
> drop their pricing to the point they are working for substandard wages that
> make it impossible for them to earn a decent if not lucrative lifestyle.
> Competitive bidding – especially below the minimums noted below – are a
> no-no. I am working on a preliminary draft and will soon post it.
> Another item on the website will then provide an extensive listing of
> minimal pricing for various projects. These minimal prices would be set to
> provide the full compensation deserved and required by skilled talent. 
> Generous
> but not outrageous. Anyone would be free to ask for more. As time goes on the
> minimums can be gradually upped both for inflation, and perhaps to raise the
> bar a little. Tess might be a person to put together an initial version,
> which can be sent to a set of people who can suggest adjustments until the
> final version is arrived at.
> Here’s how this works. Say you the artist is contacted by someone doing a
> project who asks for an estimate or a bid. Tell them, hey, no problem. You
> set my fees relative to the those posted on the website. Plus, you only work
> with those who follow the posted ethical practices. You see, this way you
> don’t have to make it personal which is always awkward and is usually left
> unsaid, now it’s just the industry standard posted right there on the web for
> all to read. If asked for a competitive bid by all means decline. If they
> start whining and begging poverty and noting that certainly you would 
> understand
> their problem simply point out to them that you of course cannot undercut
> the standard rates, and if they cannot raise their payments then they need to
> scale back their project as per the statement.
> For example, say doing 10 dinosaur restorations for a science center
> exhibit or a cable documentary is worth 10 monetary units on the list, so 
> that is
> what you ask for. This way you do not have to feel awkward by requesting a
> good solid reward for your efforts that will help you take that well deserved
> vacation and put the tykes through college. Say the project manager says
> gosh golly, we have only 5 monetary units budgeted, and it is just ever so
> hard for science centers to raise money in these tough times, or that the
> profit margin for their documentary won’t allow them to pay more than 5 
> monetary
> units. Couldn’t you help us out this time around? Note that by merely making
> this request they have gone nonprofessional by pressuring you to accept
> payment below standard professional levels. In turn, for you to accept 
> payments
> that do not meet professional needs would be unprofessional on your part.
> So reply that gosh golly you are just so sorry (not), if you all you have is
> just 5 monetary units then you get 5 dinosaur restorations in return. After
> all, that is the minimum industry standard, now isn’t it? You the
> professional artist are not asking for anything out of the ordinary. Feel 
> free to
> restress how you have to pay for your own health care, entire SS etc if you
> like. In other words, it ain’t your problem that they don’t have enough money
> to pay would you should get, it’s entirely their’s. There is a fair chance
> they will cough up the funds. Or they will scale pay and you will get what
> you should for the work you do, freeing you to go for those hikes instead of
> staying in doors on nice days to get under paid for a lot of work, or do
> another job. If they do not hire you you will not be exploited.
> What if a manager approaches someone new to the bizz and says that since
> they lack a body of work they should undercut those that do have one. He or
> she needs to say it makes no difference, the minimum rates apply. This will
> benefit everyone.
> This scheme will work best if every sticks to their guns. Hopefully over
> time the management folks will be tamed and disciplined into the compliant
> employers they should be.
> A potential problem is that the minimum fees could also turn into maximums,
> making it hard to go higher. At this point the situation is so bad that it
> may not be relevant. In any case one does not have to utilize the list, and
> can go ahead and ask for more and see what happens. It may work on occasion.
> Here’s another great idea. When the website is ready send a friendly notice
> to every single museum, science center, science magazine, and documentary
> company in the US, Canada, Australia and England cheerfully telling them
> about it, and how we are sure that all will understand and cooperate. Include
> with that the statement on expected project manager standards. That way they
> will all have a heads up on the new situation. Some may well realize for the
> first time the problem, alert others in their institutions as to the new
> thinking about the situation, and make sincere efforts to accommodate the
> requirements in future projects. Some sympathetic managers – they are not all
> evil – will be relieved to have something they can wave in front of their
> higher ups. Maybe next time when we artists are contacted a project manager 
> will
> on occasion actually up front offer to meet the requirements alleviating
> those pesky negotiations in the dark. Others might be shamed into complying.
> Shame is always good. Then, send out the notice every few years as a “friendly
> reminder,” especially for new managers as they turn over.
> But wait, there’s more! An additional possibility would be for artists,
> when they receive fair or better payment, to send the info in to the site 
> where
> it can be posted. This would help set further precedent and guidance about
> pricing.
> Now here is an idea I came up while writing this that even I admit is cool.
> Have a location where artists can complain about mistreatment by project
> managers. The complaints could only be formal, just the facts statements of
> fact with any basic charges of any unethical behavior if they occurred, no
> over the top rants and accusations. The potential beauty of this is that
> hopefully it will not need to be used. Mere publicized existence of the site
> should have a tame and shame impact on employers. And if there is reason to 
> think
> that someone is chronically underbidding they and those hiring them can be
> pointed out. Again, just a statement of what is known.
> To top it all off, when the site is up and running send out a press release
> to science journalists that lets the world know we are not going to take it
> anymore. Contact the journalists personally to make sure they don’t let it
> slip by. Might get into the science sections of the NYT, Wash Post, Wall St.
> J. Really put the museums, documentary producers and their practices in the
> spotlight at long last.
> The reason paleo and other science artists have been getting screwed is
> because until now dealing with the people who have the money has been a 
> private
> affair in which everyone working in the dark has been at a severe
> disadvantage. The web is a mixed bag, but we should be exploiting its 
> potential to
> force the money people to operate out in the open where they cannot get away
> with it. Keeping it private leaves them in control, shining light on the
> situation can but us in the drivers seat.
> As the site is outlined above a nice thing is that if it works it does not
> require a formal union. If it does not work that can be reconsidered down
> the line.
> On the site there can also be other items, such as ethical principles for
> paleoartists. Advice sections. Etc. It can start simple and expand with time.
> Anyone can contribute articles.
> Now, before people who have not necessarily thought this through yet
> (especially nonartists who one wonders why they are intervening in the first
> place) hit the keyboards to nay say his, please do us all a favor. Criticize 
> what
> I actually say, not what you think I said because you did not read this
> carefully enough. Then make sure any criticisms are really well founded –
> solidly thought out views can be valuable. And criticizing is easy. What is
> really useful rather than just complaining is proposing useful solutions. So 
> if
> you do not have a viable alternative perhaps it is best to not just be
> critical. And please understand that the current situation is really bad,
> something needs to be done. I was about to say the situation cannot get 
> worse, but
> it will get worse unless we get organized at some level.
> On related topics, the idea of a collective web based paleoart bazaar is a
> good idea. Anyone could use it, anyone who does would be free to do their
> own sales via any alternative means they desire. And a tiny part of the
> revenues could be used to run the above website.
> By the way, it is no longer necessary to print up a bunch of prints, store
> them, and hope they sell (no way I am going to have a bunch of prints around
> and pack them up for shipping). They can be printed and shipped to order
> via web services.
> While writing this up it occurred to me that that when you think about it
> these things should have been done awhile back. And late is better than never
> (unless pulling a rip cord of course).
> G Paul</HTML>