Given that artists deal with what’s perceived to be significant fan entitlement,1 we decided to further assess some of the major issues faced by artists who regularly interact with fans—typically through commissioned work. The idea was to assess some of the problems that commonly arise in the course of commissioned work and to raise awareness among other artists (and the fandom as a whole) of some of the broader issues faced by artists.
Across multiple focus groups, artists summarized some of the biggest concerns they had:2
— Worry about a “mob mentality” on websites that aim to publicly shame or discredit artists. Many artists expressed fear that one bad review on these sites could destroy their reputation in the fandom.
— Felt pressure to draw copyrighted characters (legal concerns about copyright infringement) and pressure from commissioners to draw things on the artist’s “will not draw” list.
— Worry that having a more cartoonish style, or using a digital medium, will result in their work being valued less or requiring less skill than more realistic art or using traditional media.
— Taking on too much work, being unable to organize their workload, and ultimately being unable to deliver a quality, finished product on time.
They also summarized some of the more common issues that arose during commissions:34
— Commissioners underestimating the time needed to complete a commission or having unrealistic expectations of the final product.
— Commissioners undervaluing a piece of work, arguing about prices, or expecting free art
— Lack of clarity about what commissioners want, including a lack of reference pictures or a lack of clear ideas/expectations, leading to multiple revisions and commissioner disappointment.
— Failure of commissioner to read the artist’s terms of service, or lack of clarity/visibility of terms of service, and requesting content the artist is unwilling or unable to produce.
— Failure of commissioners to pay for work or difficulty communication with commissioner (e.g., no response via e-mail).
— Commissioners behaving in an unprofessional manner.
In a final set of questions, artists were asked to indicate the extent to which they worried about specific issues. Artists worried most about being too busy to fulfill their obligations, followed closely by concerns about ensuring that they had enough work and concern about their reputation in the fandom.5