First things first.
As a rule, one should avoid getting into arguments with strangers on the internet.
Having said that, a couple of weeks ago I got into an argument with a stranger on the internet. It did not go well.
I joined a Facebook group (I think someone invited me to join). I’m not going to name the group but it was a science fiction and fantasy oriented group. A member posted about buying science fiction art and he expressed his opinion that it was very difficult to buy good science fiction art. He went so far as to claim that science fiction art was a seller’s market.
Well, when someone says something so asinine I have to respond. I took the bait, disagreed, got into an argument, posted the link to my online art portfolio to prove my bona fides as a science fiction artist, immediately got criticized for doing so (and had the quality of my work insulted) and then got temporarily banned from posting by my opponent for trying to press home my point.
Yeah, that’s the other bit of advice I have for you. When you join a Facebook group, starting an argument with the group’s moderator is not to best way to introduce yourself. (In my defence, I didn’t know he was the guy who started the group.)
However, I still think that his assertion that art is a seller’s market is completely wrong.
True, the art market has big names. These are the illustration rock stars. I’m talking about huge talents like Boris Vallejo, Greg Hildebrandt and Joe Jusko. These are the rock stars of the art world and for them, it is a seller’s market. They have gotten to the point where they don’t have to sell if they don’t want to.
But then, every profession has their rock stars. Writing, Acting and… well… rock and roll. Look, the fact is that you can’t hire Lady Gaga to sing at your event unless you are very rich or you’ve just become President of the United States. And even then, Lady Gaga is in a position to say no.
You can’t hire the artist that everybody knows because everybody knows them.
But there are many artists between that level of recognition and the lowliest beginner. There are a LOT of artists of varying quality of various styles and many of them are hustling on a daily basis to get gigs. Very few of them are in a position to say no to a job. And artists are easier to find these days then they have ever been. Deviantart, Artstation, ConceptArt, are just a few of the websites where artists go to showcase their work. Hell, even Instagram has showcases of artists of varying skill levels that will be happy to produce art for you. If you want art for your video game, the cover of your book, pre-production for your indy film project, you can go to any of those sites and pick and choose which artist’s work match your project best. It has never been easier for a buyer to find art for their project.
Does that sound like a seller’s market to you?
I have been a professional illustrator since I was in my twenties. I have been an art director for several magazines and websites, culminating in a recent stint as guest art director for the upcoming issue of Amazing Stories Magazine. I have been both a seller and a buyer of science fiction and fantasy art in a professional capacity. And I state, categorically, that it is not a seller’s market. It is most certainly a buyer’s market, but with one important caveat, which I will get to in a minute.
So, really… I mean, really, really... The art market is a buyer’s market in the same way that writer’s markets are buyer’s markets. In today’s On-Demand economy everything is a buyer’s market.
Look, I am an artist and I know lots of other artists and I have heard a lot of them complaining that they can’t get gigs. Some of them even give away their art in exchange for *gasp* EXPOSURE! Very few artists can pick and choose the projects that they work on if they want to keep a roof over their heads. There is the old cliché about the “starving artist” and in many cases, it’s no cliché, it’s the truth!
But here comes that caveat that I warned you about.
It’s a buyer’s market if you have the money. Sure you can want great art to accompany your project and it is easier than ever to find and if you are lucky and slightly unscrupulous you can probably get something for free. But this is true of everything. As I said, you want to get Lady Gaga to sing the national anthem your initials had better be POTUS. But there’s no shortage of singers, even talented singers, to sing the anthem at your community arena before a game. But you have to be willing to pay. You could convince your sister’s cousin to do it because she sang in the choir a couple of years ago, but you’re going to get what you pay for.
The point is, everything is a buyer’s market if you have money. If you have the cash the world is your oyster. Dinner at the Ritz, a Broadway show, drinks at Bar 54. But even if you don’t you can still choose between the finest fast food outlets in your area, a movie on Netflix and beer from the fridge. Nothing is denied you.
Same with art. If you have the cash it is easy to find artists of relatively high skill levels to accommodate your needs. But you don’t even need a lot of cash, because there are plenty of artists who will fit the bill and not break the bank.
I’ll even help you out (and give a plug to my friends while I’m doing it).
Eric Lofgren is a Victoria based commercial illustrator. His specialties include cover art, collectible card art and interior book illustrations. He’s a stand-up guy, he delivers and his rates are reasonable.
You like cartoons and Caricatures? Erik Johnson is your guy. He’s done work for The Salvation Army and Nickelodeon Studios.
You like Star Wars? You like horses? Ingrid Hardy specializes in sketch cards.
There’s plenty more. I’ve picked less than a handful. Then there’s me. I’m not the best artists in the world but I am reliable, my rates are reasonable and I am a delight to work with.
Here endeth the lesson. Take that, stranger on the internet!