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Draft statement on contractors' responsibilities in illustration projects
Here is a very preliminary shot at a statement from paleoartists as to what
they expect and require from contractors for a potential paleoart website.
This is intended to get people thinking and debating about what can be done
and whether it is worthwhile.
Projects that incorporate scientifically accurate images of prehistoric
vertebrates and other organisms are marvelous collaborations that require the
joint effort of project managers and artists that treat both sides with
equivalent fairness and full equality. In order to meet these requirements a
number of standards need to be met by contractors.
Over the years there has been growing concern among paleoartists that
contractors have been pressing the creative talent to produce art at minimal
cost to the extent that they cannot earn a normal income, one in harmony
with their high levels of skill and knowledge. This process has been
facilitated by many contractors encouraging financial competition between
in a manner that minimizes compensation levels. In some cases this has been
via intense competitive bidding. Also common is pressure upon potential
contractees to lower their fees until they are essentially working at cost on a
series of projects. These actions making it very difficult if not
impossible to make a profit or living from free lance paleoart, and are driving
of the most original and skilled artists out of the business in favor of
more derivative workers with lesser knowledge levels. This is turn is harming
projects by lowering their overall quality. This pattern is so prevalent that
there have been concerns expressed in the paleontological community.
It is the responsibility of project management to ensure that the
payments they are providing are sufficient for paleoartists to earn a generousl
living from their efforts, and that is done without violating the rights of
The production of highly accurate and realistic scientific
illustrations is a specialized field that demands a very high level of skill
wledge on the part of any artist who is qualified to generate original,
restorations, and who must in turn expend great effort to produce high
quality restoration of animals that have often been long extinct and are
radically different in form from contemporary organisms. For these reasons
paleoartists need to be treated with the highest consideration as critical
members of the team without whom the project would not be possible. But the
situation goes further than that.
Illustrating living organisms -- say a lion, a redwood, a cricket or a
great white -- is relatively straightforward in that the true form is fully
available and in most cases substantially or abundantly documented.
Preliminary work is typically minimal. Nor do fantasy organisms and scenes
extended preliminaries because there is no actual form and they are invented.
In most cases the form of extinct animals is poorly known, and even in
the case when complete skeletons are available requires extensive,
preliminary reconstructive work that in turn requires considerable proficiency.
Generating a multi-view skeletal restoration with body cross-sections that
ensures the highest level of scientific fidelity can require a week or even
especially when a juvenile is restored along with the adult form. The
skeleton may be based on disarticulated remains from individuals of different
that require considerable mathematical cross-scaling to arrive at a properly
proportioned restoration. Over that must be applied the muscles, and over
If a large number of organisms is required for the project then the
work load involved can be very considerable. The latter rise still further if
the creatures are to be a part of an long last landscape that cannot be based
on photographs, but itself demands further reconstruction. In other words,
a mural of a dinosaur habitat for example requires considerably more effort
on the part of an artist than a mural of similar dimensions and complexity
of the Serengeti.
It is here presumed that the contractor and artist are operating under
a standard contractual clause that requires that both sides ensure that the
art is original in origin and nature and is not derivative of other’s
copyrighted work. This is another matter of concern because it appears that
clauses have been treated in a pro forma matter in a number of cases. It is
the responsibility of a contractor to take prudent steps to ensure that the
images they are acquiring do not violate another party’s copyrights.
At the same time, freelance paleoartists need to earn a good living
with all that entails. That includes self-paying for health care which is very
expensive even if no prior conditions are present, retirement including
social security which is at about a sixth of income because no co-pay is
involved, normal leisure time, and so forth. Jobs can also be erratic.
It is therefore incumbent upon project managers to ensure that they
design and budget their projects so that the funds available are fully
sufficient to compensate the artists at a well-deserved professional level. A
minimal professional pricing schedule for a set of different projects and
is provided here(link). These minimum rates also apply to novice professional
illustrators. Contractors and artists are free and urged to agree to higher
rates of compensation depending upon monies available and the
qualifications and skill level of the artists. This is especially applicable in
commercial projects that may involve large revenue streams over time, such as
theatrical films even if they are nonfiction documentaries. Other talent such
script writers are well compensated in such cases, and same should be true of
the equally talented paleoartists; in such cases consideration should be
given to distributing a percentage of the gross receipts.
For contractors to request or pressure artists to accept lower rates
than the minimum schedule is unprofessional and not fair. The same applies to
efforts to have contractees work for cost. If the contractor does not have
sufficient funds to meet the minimum rates for the work requested then the
contractor needs to scale back their needs to met the minimal payments.
In order for both sides to better understand and determine payment
requirements and levels, artists should never be required to sign permanent
confidentiality statements as to the payments they received. Temporary
confidentiality statements are justified only when it is necessary to keep an
project secret for critical commercial reasons, and the confidentiality
provision must end when the general project becomes publicly known.
To stress again this is a very preliminary swing at the problem. I have not
fully addressed certain items. Legitimate circumstances for donations for
technical papers and nonprofit or charitable programs may need attention.
Have not considered books and royalties. Nor is all of this set in stone. Some
things I would be firm about, others I am not entirely sure should be in
such a statement myself.
Because this is just a start suggestions for improvements from the
differing sides of the issue are not only encouraged but needed. If you have
criticisms please be sure they pertain to what is actually said above rather
what one might think is said. And of course keep criticisms in a positive
tone that contributes to the discussion rather than just lashes out. I am not
sure whether I will revise this in the near future or wait until something
more formal is under way when the comments will remain useful.
I am going to take a stab at a statement for the responsibilities of