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
situation. Perhaps dramatically.
And it is not just the paleo community. The discussion has spread
freelance science illustrators who work in exhibits etc.
One item coming in from some non list feedback is that it is
becoming an increasing problem is that more and more (but not all)
are becoming more ruthless in pitching artists against one another in
bidding wars. Some – including large scale exhibits producers – are
out of business by this sort of thing, as well as chronic demands
prices until the work is no longer profitable. This reflects a general
American management trend to practice libertarian social Darwinism
people who actually have talent in order to maximize their product
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
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
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
most management people didn’t see it (and probably none currently
knows about it) -- plus it being a print version meant it became
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
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
ethical responsibility of anyone managing an institution or project
careful to ensure that the compensation they provide is sufficient
the artist in a proper lifestyle including health care, retirement, SS
payments, yadda yadda. There can be an explanation of why this is
necessary in case any of them are dolts which many but by no means
Emphasize the unusual research and reconstruction expertise, effort
required by paleoartists. Managers must therefore design and budget
so that they are not overly ambitious that the creative talent will
drop their pricing to the point they are working for substandard
make it impossible for them to earn a decent if not lucrative
Competitive bidding – especially below the minimums noted below –
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
provide the full compensation deserved and required by skilled
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
bar a little. Tess might be a person to put together an initial
which can be sent to a set of people who can suggest adjustments
final version is arrived at.
Here’s how this works. Say you the artist is contacted by someone
project who asks for an estimate or a bid. Tell them, hey, no
set my fees relative to the those posted on the website. Plus, you
with those who follow the posted ethical practices. You see, this
don’t have to make it personal which is always awkward and is
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.
start whining and begging poverty and noting that certainly you
their problem simply point out to them that you of course cannot
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
good solid reward for your efforts that will help you take that
vacation and put the tykes through college. Say the project manager
gosh golly, we have only 5 monetary units budgeted, and it is just
hard for science centers to raise money in these tough times, or
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
this request they have gone nonprofessional by pressuring you to
payment below standard professional levels. In turn, for you to
that do not meet professional needs would be unprofessional on your
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
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
to pay would you should get, it’s entirely their’s. There is a fair
they will cough up the funds. Or they will scale pay and you will
you should for the work you do, freeing you to go for those hikes
staying in doors on nice days to get under paid for a lot of work,
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
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 scheme will work best if every sticks to their guns. Hopefully
time the management folks will be tamed and disciplined into the
employers they should be.
A potential problem is that the minimum fees could also turn into
making it hard to go higher. At this point the situation is so bad
may not be relevant. In any case one does not have to utilize the
can go ahead and ask for more and see what happens. It may work on
Here’s another great idea. When the website is ready send a
to every single museum, science center, science magazine, and
company in the US, Canada, Australia and England cheerfully telling
about it, and how we are sure that all will understand and
with that the statement on expected project manager standards. That
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
thinking about the situation, and make sincere efforts to
requirements in future projects. Some sympathetic managers – they
are not all
evil – will be relieved to have something they can wave in front of
higher ups. Maybe next time when we artists are contacted a project
on occasion actually up front offer to meet the requirements
those pesky negotiations in the dark. Others might be shamed into
Shame is always good. Then, send out the notice every few years as
reminder,” especially for new managers as they turn over.
But wait, there’s more! An additional possibility would be for
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
Now here is an idea I came up while writing this that even I admit
Have a location where artists can complain about mistreatment by
managers. The complaints could only be formal, just the facts
fact with any basic charges of any unethical behavior if they
over the top rants and accusations. The potential beauty of this is
hopefully it will not need to be used. Mere publicized existence of
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
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
to science journalists that lets the world know we are not going to
anymore. Contact the journalists personally to make sure they don’t
slip by. Might get into the science sections of the NYT, Wash Post,
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
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
with it. Keeping it private leaves them in control, shining light
situation can but us in the drivers seat.
As the site is outlined above a nice thing is that if it works it
require a formal union. If it does not work that can be
On the site there can also be other items, such as ethical
paleoartists. Advice sections. Etc. It can start simple and expand
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
place) hit the keyboards to nay say his, please do us all a favor.
I actually say, not what you think I said because you did not read
carefully enough. Then make sure any criticisms are really well
solidly thought out views can be valuable. And criticizing is easy.
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
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
own sales via any alternative means they desire. And a tiny part of
revenues could be used to run the above website.
By the way, it is no longer necessary to print up a bunch of
them, and hope they sell (no way I am going to have a bunch of
and pack them up for shipping). They can be printed and shipped to
via web services.
While writing this up it occurred to me that that when you think
these things should have been done awhile back. And late is better
(unless pulling a rip cord of course).