Thursday, June 18, 2009

Ninja Mountain Episode #21 - From Boom to Bust and Back

Has the economy affected the illustration business, and how? What are the Ninjas doing about it? And could the current downturn possibly put an end to a new Golden Age of Illustration that we didn't even realize we were in? Socar, Jon, Patrick and Jeremy talk it over. Also - more of your calls and questions! Join us, aren't you?

Subscribe for free on iTunes, or Socar will beat up a pimp!

Show Notes

Chandra Free

Graphic Artists Guild Handbook: Pricing & Ethical Guidelines

The (UK) Association of Illustrators Pricing Survey

Don't forget to call in with your thoughts, questions, comments and unbridled praise! Just call Jon.Hodgson on Skype and let us know what you're thinking.


Anonymous said...

Well, to be fair, I will beat up a pimp, anyway. I hate those motherforkers. Hmm, pimpin' ain't easy.

Jan said...

Who read my mind?! I wanted to ask that question about economy and the crisis, but I forgot.


That's some srs bzns. Yes.

Ninja Mountain said...

Oh, that's right Jan. We forgot to mention that we've now acquired the ability to read the minds of all our listeners. And frankly, we're DISGUSTED, though also strangely intrigued and aroused. Is that wrong of us?

Jan said...

I knew it!
Please, pretty please, don't read my mind now!

Socar is a gamer?! Wicked! Socar, if you ever wanted to play a nice fun platformer, try Cave Story. It's completely free and also translated into english. You can shoot stuff, jump around nicely balanced levels, there are a few RPG elements, the art is old school and it's great if you have a break and want to play something quickly. (It's downloadable for PC and I think there's also a version for Mac)

"Maybe the way you said it sucked, but the point was there..."
- oh, Patrick! You slick master of flattery! :D

I have heard of Painting with Fire! I own it and it's great. ;)

It's interesting that Patrick experiences no color change between Painter and PS. With Painter X (and even in RGB) I've always had them come out a bit dull, greyish. I'm told Painter 11 supposedly fixed that.

A nice episode. Pity it's still a bit short, I guess I'm spoiled by the previous monster episodes.

I have some more questions concerning the economy/starting out during a recession etc., but I have to think about it for a while longer so I can formulate them somewhat coherently and clearly.

Nicole Cardiff said...

Pat - the thousand fans idea is discussed extensively on Scalzi's blog at , if you're interested.

Cacodaemonia said...

Just listened to this week's show. I can sympathize with Socar - I'm also very slow with most projects, so I'm considering looking for some kind of other part-time work. Do the Ninjas have any advice on trying to speed up?

Thanks for another great show! :)

MuYoung Kim said...

Definitely a very apt choice of topic considering the current global situation, so, a great many thanks as always to the Ninja's!

If at all possible, this is definitely a subject that I wouldn't mind hearing more about in future 'casts, that is, unless the economy goes back to rainbows and unicorns again...ah, the late 90's boom...

Nick Egberts said...

Yes more rainbows and unicorn please, maybe even a gelfling or two...

What would like to hear you guys harpe about is sex and gore and nudity.
Seriously. For Example, do you think their is a different level of tolerance in the UK and the US (and asia)? What about the different publishers? and what about your own tastes/level of tolerance? You talked about it a bit before, but i think it could deserve some more ... loving.



Patrick said...

Jan - I should mention one more thing about the Painter/Photoshop conversion.

Aside from saving in RGB, I have my Photoshop set to ASK before converting colors when I open a file. And coming out of Painter you MUST select "Discard Embedded Profile (Don't color manage)". That's very important and I forgot to mention it!

Patrick said...

Thanks Nicole for that great link. It's interesting that there's so much thought going around on the subject, and always very cool to read people debating new ideas like that. :)

I think it seems more like an abstract ideal than a practical theory at this point, though if someone (not me!) ever figures out a REPEATABLE way to put it into practice, it's got some promise as a model for artists/writers/etc.

Patrick said...

Hi Mu Young! I sincerely hope we can revisit the subject when we're all flying around in our diamond-covered space-yachts someday soon. :) Oh that will be nice...!

Patrick said...

You know, Caco - speed is mostly just what you're comfortable with. A lot of it is just the experience to know how long things will take and fit them into your schedule. But perhaps an overall subject about tricks and tips for speeding up (without losing quality?) would be a great topic one of these days.

Patrick said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Patrick said...

Hi Nick! Some discussion on slaughtering Unicorns you say? Sounds good! Actually yes, a fine topic to put into the mix, thanks!

HydeSite_Is_2020 said...

Great show. In fact, great shows consistently. Thanks guys.

Socar adds a lot with her "no BS" perspective which is what the show needs, since Patrick for some reason, is perpetuating the nonsense about 1000 True Fans. I would go into an ill-advised, long angry rant about why this idea is tantamount to 7 Minute Abs, but the article that listener, Nicole Cardiff, posted covers the insane guilability one would need to believe such dribble. I'm going to assume or pretend that Patrick was being impish in bringing it up and not catering to the 1000 TF artist hopefuls that listen to Ninja Mountain like it's their golden key to the illustration industry (if you can call it an "industry" anymore).

On the subject of the "Pricing and Ethical Guidelines" book-so good that it got a mention, but why not an added dash of the reality of the business? For instance, that rates have gone down over the years instead of up. Or that one reason that RPG companies pay less money to artists is because there are 10,000 pseudo-artists clogging the attempts of the 10,000 talented artists. Actually, Socar touched on that briefly, but in context to the RPG market, fandom trying to draw for 10.00 a job is a real problem and a drain on legitimate business.

Another caveat of the "Pricing and Ethical Guidelines" book is that it is (or used to be) published by GAG (Graphic Artists Guild) and GAG has shown themselves to not be looking out for the best interests of illustrators. If you ever go into the Orphan Works debacle, IPA and GAG, etc., I have direct proof of what a prominent person in GAG thinks of illustrators. If you think (as I once did) that the line of division between graphic artists and illustrators is a funny, made-up line, then think again, some graphic artists (including GAG organizers) see Orphan Works as a way to reinvent graphic designers as a one-stop solution, able to grab "orphaned"
illustration alongside of their design work and sell it as theirs.

Another great topic for Ninja Mountain might be the settlement that Google has crammed down our throats or up our a**es more like. It would seem that they [because they are Google afterall] are forcing their Juggernaut punch through all of the lawsuits and goign ahead with their insideous digital world library. But isn't a digital world library inevitable and decent for all you ask? Not for the millions of copyright holders that Google is plowing through to be able to SELL viewings of books they did not buy the rights for nor created themselves. Not to mention, the blasmephy about illustrators and Google "Chrome." Google is not a friend to illustrators at all.

So much of this stuff needs to reach illustrators. But I realize your show has its own life away from some of the nightmare politics interceding in what could be such an easy going, simple life's work. I think the reason the show somtimes hits my anger button is because you all seem to be far removed from the problems in the business, whereas, I find myself, client by client, stuck in the front lines of the stupid war on intellectual property. I wish I was as blissful as the Ninja Mountain Crew.

Anonymous said...

HydeSite_Is_2020 - Hi! These are some really great points, and I think you'd be surprised at how much we Ninjas (at least some of us, for sure--can't speak for everyone) actually do share your struggles and frustrations, trying to deal with intellectual property theft, plunging pricepoints, the many ways in which the Internet has affected our business (besides the positive ones).

We do try to keep the overall tone positive--the goal, I think, is to balance a fun, entertaining take on our experiences with the business and practice of illustration, with pointers and tips for beginners. So, having a "Dear God, this industry has gone to shite!" vibe might not work out so well.

I might be kind of overstepping my place, commenting on the purpose on NM, though. I'm pretty new on the podcast, compared to some of the others. I'm sure Patrick or Jon could address you with much more authority.

I like the idea of bringing the Google Chrome and digital world library issues to light on NM, though. Maybe if that's something the others are interested in discussing, it'll show up in one of the next episodes. I hope you'll make any topic suggestions you'd like to see us tackle--we're very open to that. :-)

HydeSite_Is_2020 said...

Thanks Socar,

I didn't like the idea that I was the one nemesis of NM. But then again, actors say it's way more fun to play villains.

Here are some topics that could be touched on IMHO:

1) "Irony" or "The Grass is always Greener Syndrome" of illustrators. I found it funny that the ninjas are drooling looking at the rates for other markets while their listeners (or, I'm speaking of me) are mostly in those markets but are drooling looking at the fun, immaginative stuff that you guys do (actually I do about 40% fantasy a year, but I keep one toe in another decent market). Maybe artists are never happy unless they are simply doing the work they feel compelled to do if they were their own boss. Perhaps the only true successful path is to go broke following your own ideas for books and games.

2) "Contests and Directories, and Contests to get into directories" Maybe it's time to talk about the phenomena of "the artist is vain" and the world is catching on. These contest collection books are basically selling ourselves to...ourselves. I made it into one-a prestigious one and all I got was the feeling that I wasted about 150.00 in entry fees for 3 years trying to get in. Also, advertising in paper directories is pretty much dead. It's over. And those bastards are still trying to sell spreads for 2k a pop. Talk to ADs they will admit that they are not looking at paper directories anymore. Warn the world! Lastly, and this would be very, very risque. I DARE you to talk about this one: Jon Schindehette's Blog! It's awesome and compelling, it fair to take a mesmerized crowd, consisting of noobs and some very accomplished pros, shake them up and run them through freebie obstacle courses like art gym class, expecting dynamite work for no money almost every week? I can hear the outcry already for saying this. And I like the guy too. He's teaching and helping with tips and insight. I just think he should only run competitive posts when there is a real prize, like a paying commission or the like, otherwise it can seem demoralizing to see the fantastic illustrators I admire jumping through excercise hoops, hoping to get in good with Jon for future work. Before you react with indignation, ask yourself what other highly skilled job positions would tolerate some of these new "fun" and humiliating ways we have available to market ourselves? I just can't imagine Larry Elmore or Jeff Easley cutting their teeth this way.I think compensation should be a line in the sand for artists (period)

3) "Rates and Wages, etc." If this business is actually a constant "boom or bust" either on a monthly or yearly or decade by decade basis, and rates are too low during bust times to sustain above poverty lines, then what is the future? Before Orphan Works crept in, IPA was actually witing letters (or at least suggesting that we do) to big companies begging them to sympathize and bring our rates up. Appealing to the "soul" of a corp hasn't got us anything but lower pay. I submit that the only course of action is to maintain a side job and unite with other disgruntled artists and writers on our own books, games, shows whatever. The editorial process can be hired as freelance as well! Quality can be maintained and surpassed. The time is coming for big successful products to be produced by 3 angry artists, a writer and an editor.

4) What does Gorblimey mean? If it has to do with giant rats, then do tell. I'm not being sarcastic for once. Are you into real giant rats too? Like Josephoartigasia monesi (giant 9-foot rat, 3 million years ago) or Castorocauda lutrasimilis (the giant Jurassic beaver)? How far does your obsession with giant beavers go? (couldn't resist, I am a villain afterall)

Ninja Mountain said...

Hey Hydesite,

You raise some good topics of discussion and I don't doubt that they will be touched upon in some form or another over the course of our show.

I may have a link or two to share on the topic of orphan works shortly.

I would say that Patrick's raising of the topic of 1000 True fans was merely the discussion of a theory that he recently came across. I have heard the topic raised on Webcomics Weekly Podcast on occasion in the past.
It is not so new a concept nor does it seem that alien in practice.

To me it seems as nothing more than developing a brand around your work and seeking return customers for that work. Any business seeks to develop a loyal customer base regardless of size. There are probably as many theories as to how to do that and how many loyal customers one needs as there are business models.

A worthy topic of discussion I think. The 1000 True Fans notion is just a decent springboard.

I wouldn't mind hearing your thoughts on why that particular model appears broken. Grist for the mill.

I don't assume gullibility however on the broaching of the topic. It did spark your interest to discuss it, no?

As for our "sunnyside" mentality---I would wager that landscapers enjoy their work and don't always feel the need to complain about the weather. It is a fact of life. Put on a raincoat. Protect yourself from the elements and carry on with your trade and try to remain upbeat.
Besides, we work beside our audience as fellow freelancers.
The person I'm working beside does not need me to tell them it's raining.

I always tell folks ( both on and off the show) that diversity is a key to success as a freelance illustrator.
I have also pointed out that many of my illustration friends who do not work in genre illustration have stated their desire to do what I do.
I tell them that the snag in that plan is that they want my job, but they also want a paycheck. The two goals sometimes don't mesh depending on where you go with your genre work.

I have also worked outside the gaming industry ( though not nearly as extensively) and have found it shares many of the same woes in terms of pricing , rights grabs, late-payers, non-payers, etc.

As for GAG, I don't follow their politics. I am aware of their numerous faults, but I do not feel qualified to speak to them, nor is it really in the scope of the show to call them to the carpet. Reprographic rights ring a bell? ;^)
However, I do feel the core beliefs of the group are worthy of observing divorced from the other moral pitfalls of the administration of the guild.
The GAG handbook is a valuable resource, but like any book, it is not a one-size-fits-all proposition and I will wager our listeners will make their personal distinctions on their own. After all, we have earlier discussed how to go about setting one's own prices.

For the record, I side with the IPA's take on orphan works and always take the time to participate in email campaigns and have even repeatedly called the offices of my state representatives to express my concerns and how they will affect my future voting.

I'm a card-carrying democrat and even I am displeased on my party's pursuance of this particular piece of illogical legislation.

As for Google, I'd be happy to learn more about the issue. :)


HydeSite_Is_2020 said...

Here is a link about "Chrome:"

But, this is just a slap in the face, the real crime is taking millions of books they do not own, and not paying for them.

Meredith said...

My brother made a iphone game called Mouse House but the game engine was designed for mac and PC first. I don't think it took much time to port to iphone.

I think I've had the wrong timing on everything and missed most of these booms.

Meredith said...

Big name illustrators that many more people know would probably be Thomas Kinkaide (bleck), maybe Mary Engelbreit.