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A short outline program for improving paleoart
Moving the paleoart discussion along, the next thing to consider is the
positive steps that can improve the situation.
A -- if not the -- core aim of a paleoartist website/society needs to be to
promote the ability of the artists to make a good living from the craft,
and to ensure that all involved from the artists’ and contractors’ sides
follow ethical practices that do not take advantage of the artists while
delivering the highest quality art.
To recap real quick the reasons why there is a problem. Some contractors
probably just don’t know of the difficulties and merely need some education.
The lack of communication, information, and some cooperation between
paleoartists allows some exhibit and documentary project managers to pursue a
of divide and conquer between the creative talent that their projects could
not exist without that they then exploit to keep their costs down. A
combination of shaming, and coordination between paleoartists, can correct this
at least some extent.
The valiant and partially successful attempt a while back by Tess to do
something about all this did not work as fully as hoped in part because it was
largely by one person - had any other individual made the same effort the
results would have been similarly limited. What is needed is a more prominent
and collective effort that contractors etc cannot wave away as the opinion
of just one.
Some of the paleoart/site/society items needed are as follows –
A statement of the standards that contractors and project managers need to
follow as along the lines of the preliminary draft I earlier posted. Core
themes include their not underpaying artists, and their accepting only
original art. The combination of education and shaming of contractors, the
this will give sympathetic managers, and the ability of artists to use this
as their professional negotiating standard, is likely to make this more
effective than many may think. (Here is one of the cool things about this.
Assume that – as described on the list – an artist is presented an insulting
offer that some friendly discussion does not change. Then politely refer the
manager to the statement. Even if it does not get them to improve their offer
at least they will have a better idea of what kind of person they are and
you will hopefully feel a little better.)
A detailed set of minimum pricing for a variety of projects that provides
the generous compensation needed to live in these United States. There are of
course details to be worked out, including possible adjustments for
differing living expenses depending on location etc (I suppose outside the US
have to adjust accordingly). Contractors would be strongly discouraged
from demanding lower prices from any artist, and the latter would all be
strongly discouraged from accepting lower rates (not that it would be illegal).
This actually benefits new artists as well as those who have been around
awhile because it will be harder for contractors to exploit the formers’
It will be stressed that these are minimums and contractors would be
encouraged to offer higher fees and any artists who wish to and can encouraged
negotiate for them. How will contractors know about this? Literally send it
to all of them when it is ready, and get publicity through the press.
A location where paleoartists can praise and complain about contractors.
This could be highly effective. That possibility that paleoartists could post
positive thoughts about working with someone should further encourage
project managers to do the right thing – people like being praised. The fear of
being called out might cause others to better behave themselves – up until now
operating in the dark has allowed contractors to get away too much. There
would have to be rules about criticism not being over the top and sticking to
A statement of the standards that paleoartists need to follow. I was going
to write up a draft, but basically it is just to not underbid, to produce
original work, to not over promise results including not taking on too many
projects at once, and to strive to fulfill contractual requirements.
A discussion on donating art might be a good idea. Including about the very
best way for art to be donated is for people with money to buy it and then
donate it to a good cause rather than always asking those artists who are
struggling to do so (not that there is anything wrong with any artist donating
their work for a cause).
A helpful guide to paleontologists on working with paleoartists. This would
include a section informing the former on how to provide the latter with
the information needed to restore extinct beasts. For example bracketing side
views of skeletons. Also how technical papers can be better structured (for
example larger scale bars in figures of bones, and making sure the scale
bars actually match the measurment tables). Also discussed will be the need to
try to include funding for art in grant proposals, including for picking up
previously produced images. And an explanation on how to approach
paleoartists to use their images.
Sections giving other helpful advice on marketing and techniques to
artists. These can be posted by paleoartists.
A paleoart gallery within which we can place their original art for sale.
If there is any way of developing a market for this stuff this may be the
only means. This might be a stand alone site.
In parallel, SVP needs to do something about pressuring documentary
companies to do a better job of presenting the science of VP. Getting them to
the right thing in terms of program content requires getting them to treat
artists fairly and getting them to do the last requires getting them to do the
first. They need taming all around.
This is just a brief outline, I am not going to come close to trying to
describe the many details that have to be collectively worked out in the
Unless someone can come up with better ideas the alternative is to let the
situation continue as is or more likely get worse. If you don’t like the
above please do not merely criticize (and let’s not repeat the arguments
already made), present new and most importantly plausible alternatives.
ideas are especially useful.
If this does not work over time a more formal union might be tried.
The real question is why have we taken so long to do something along these
lines? Paleoartists of the World Unite, or whatever.