Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Call for Conference Art

Ever wanted to get your work seen by a whole room full of palaeontologists? Well ART Evolved's old friend Scott Persons might just have an offer for you.

Scott will be doing a presentation at the 2011 Hadrosaur Symposium at the Royal Tyrrell Museum this September, and he is looking for some art to help liven up his talk.

We can't go into too much detail on Scott's research before his talk, but we can say it involves comparing Hadrosaurs' running abilities to Tyrannosaurs'. You'll no doubt be able to figure out Scott's conclusions none the less from his art requests (but you'll have to wait for the details later).

To add some interest and humour to his talk, Scott wishes to have an illustrated race between a duckbill and Tyrannosaur (genera and species are up to you). If you wish to anthropomorphize the Dinosaurs and the race, feel free to do so, as Scott has requested accessories like running shoes, leg warmers, and running gear.

For his talk he wishes to have the following three pictures:

1. A hadrosaur and a tyrannosaur at the starting line of the race with human referee to officiate.

2. The human referee firing the starting pistol to begin the race, and the tyrannosaurs leaving the hadrosaur in the dust.

3. A picture of the race after it has gone on for a while, with the hadrosaur triumphantly busting through the finish line and an exhausted tyrannosaur plodding up behind.

He has requested the finals be in colour, but beyond that you are free to experiment with style and format.

Now for the business details of this request. Scott can not offer payment for this artwork, and as of such artist's are warned right away this is non-negotiable. You'll be required to give Scott permission to, obviously, use these pieces in his talk, but he also hopes for future use in press releases if they should materialize about this research. We leave the exact details of these permissions to be between submitting artists and Scott. If your work is selected by Scott it will be seen by many of the world's top scientists at the biggest Dinosaur specific conference of this year, and possibly many more if and when they are used in a press release.

If you are interested, submit a single completed piece from the three requested, and Scott will choose from these his final artist (who will then complete the two other needed cartoons). As the conference is in just under two months, the submission deadline will be September. 1st, and Scott will need all three completed pieces by September. 20th.

Send submissions to Scott at

Let the race begin, and good luck to all applicants!


davidmaas said...

On your mark...
Get set..

COol stuff!

Jack Pollock said...

I don't mean to rain on any parades and I understand the nature of this site but I just wanted to make a few points about crowdsourcing and doing hard, skilled work for free. I'm speaking only to those out there who hope to someday earn a living at this.

A lot of budding artists seem to think that doing free work will get their art seen by people which will then lead to paying work down the line. I'm sure there are those who think that this "Paying one's dues" like internship or apprenticeship.

The sad fact is there is a statistically low probability that doing free work will lead to anything down the line. Free work usually always leads to more requests for free work. The person requesting donated work will certainly benefit but the person doing the hard, creative work is not likely to.

It used to be that if someone couldn't afford to buy art for their publication or presentation they had to suck it up and not have illustrations. those days are over. They have every right to request it but if you are a serious artist I would think twice about such art calls.

I would be interested to see how many highly paid, successful artists, especially ones doing paleo or scientific illustration got where they are by doing art this way. Maybe I'm wrong. It'd be interesting and educational to hear from people on this. How many artists are still doing this as a labour of love versus how many started this way and can now sustain themselves on such work?

I understand if you absolutely don't need the money for and are content to supply art for free there's nothing to be said. It's a bit like scab labor. There are a number of jobs we could all do for free and undercut those who've really studied long and hard to become skilled, and consistently reliable professionals.

Again, I understand what this site is about and am open to being educated as to where I'm wrong but just wanted to put that out there.

Thank you.

Glendon Mellow said...

All excellent comments Jack, and with the AE admin crew, we discussed these very issues before we decided to go ahead and publish the contest information anyways.

There can some times be benefits to working for free for artists starting out. There I said it. I don't like it but its true. My first professional gig for an online client was high-profile and a poor student and I did the work for free and it led to more work. I still don't make enough to pay all my bills though even though I now generally charge Guild prices. That's reality: scientists do not usually have a lot of funds, and even funds earmarked for promotion of the research seldom go into artwork - something I hope high-profile sites like Art Evolved and here and >here. You may also wish to consult the Should I Work For Free infographic. No I'm not kidding, it's smarter than its sarcasm looks.

This is not to say that it is right to do free work in this instance for Mr. Persons. And here is where I should emphasize that though I'm opn the ART Evolved admin team, >these are my own opinions and I likely don't speak for everyone.

I don't want to lose people in research like Scott Persons as an ally. Science-artists of all kinds -scientific illustrators, animators, fine artists, cartoonists, graphic designers, infographic artists, amateurs- need scientists to be engaged with our work. We also have a duty to educate people who may hire us on best practices. Often when approached by a client, I give them a full break-down of my process, and typical fees and whether I am deviating up or down from anything typical. I keep them in the loop throughout the process with sketches and so on.

When Craig first let the other admins (Peter, Mo and myself) know about Scott's request, I was bluntly, unhappy with it. The last thing in the world I want ART Evolved to become is a clearinghouse for free art for the science community. I want our talented members to get paid.

But I didn't want to alienate a request like Scott's, though it was naive (understandably so if he has not worked with illustrators before - this is not a slight against Scott).

Ultimately, each artist affiliated with or who reads this site can make up their own mind on whether they should do this type of work for free. I hope each of them thinks it through, and decides whether its right for them.And I hope through comments like yours Jack, Scott and other researchers learn useful information for future projects.

Glendon Mellow said...

I've re-posted my comments on my own blog since the readership overlaps only partially and I think free art for researchers is a topic not discussed enough.

This is in the hopes of gathering more varying opinions and experiences for the discussion.

Traumador said...


To emphasis Glendon's point this request for free art was the most heavily discussed and argued issue by the administrators in ART Evolved's history (speaking as another member of the admins). We ended up exchanging nearly 40 emails in total before this post came into being, and the proposal changed in shape a lot along the way.

In Scott's defense he is a PHD student, and not a paid nor employed palaeontologist. He is in much the same place in the science world as the starting out artists he is appealing too here. I think there is a fair parallel to be made between academic research and art. You have to do a bunch for free to get good enough to get a proper job doing it. Of course the question with art (more so than science... not always mind you) is when do you cross over to the professional end of it?

I don't have a proper answer to that. In all honesty I tailored my professional training and life around having a "day job" as it were, as I don't trust my own talents enough to feed myself by art alone. So I don't know how much my opinion matters in this discussion as a result.

As for this particular request for art being like "scab labour", I do have to forcibly disagree. The orignal proposal we recieved was admittedly referred to as "sweatshop" art at one point in admins discussions, but it bares little resemblence to the current post. We worked in conjunction with Scott to ask for this free art in as friendly a format to professional artists as we could. An open invitation/advertisement that right away admits it is a non paying gig, and that the promotion is the only compensation is hardly being dishonest like scab workers.

Had we included something like "price to be negotiated between Scott and the artist", or similar false claim of monetary compensation than accusations of "scab labour" would apply as there would be delibrate uncutting going on. As it is we're just a public venue for him to ask for art. In this case for free. Scott may learn you may well get what you pay for... That is between him and consenting artists.

However I see no problem with us simply hosting this request, as Scott could have easily approached individuals about it too. In this case Scott is being honest publicly, and as a result will get a honest turnout/result for his effort in the limelight. I have to admit that is both comendable and brave. Had we heard about him looking for free art in secret I think we could be more angry...

The fact he has no budget to promote, some frankly, cool research that the public would be very interested in from his teaching institution I think is more the thing that should be attacked, rather than poor Scott! Science funding (or more to the point lack there of) is a far bigger evil and concern than the actions of underpaid/funded scientists. I suspect if they were being paid what they should be, we'd be seeing more calls for properly paid for science art.

Traumador said...

Possibly undermining my position further, I will be submitting something to Scott. I state this just so there is some insight on one possible motivation for contributing free art for just promotion (that my own talks at palaeo-conferences and sites such as AE have already given me plenty of). In this case Scott has asked for exactly the right Dinosaurs in his art. I already have the two built in 3D from another project. Being a CG artist I'm in a unique position of weighing my major time investment into the initial creation of the subject models. Due to this I can throw together pieces using these models in only few hours. Had he been asking for Dinosaurs I didn't have and would need to build, at about 30-100 hours per Dinosaur, I would not have been inclined to partipate.

So this particular call for free art is only going to cost me 2-6 hours (while watching TV), due to lucky coincidence. Had it needed my full creative process I would have opted out (a warning for future art seekers). I'm curious to see who anyone else deems it worth their time, and what they will produce for the time investment they're willing to make.

As again Scott might get what he is paying for (and in the case he likes my art, he should consider it like winning the lottery. Had he asked for nearly any other Dinosaur I won't have been in)

davidmaas said...

Don't let yourself be exploited. That is indeed difficult to disagree with. But who the **** is being exploited!? Step back and take a slightly differentiated view:
On the one side we have a community consisting of both aspiring professionals and content amateurs. On the other we have a published paleontologist with the praise-worthy intent of communicating his science in a fun way. Without looking up his credentials you can assume he's studied long years to learn enough to be in a position to have a say in his community, and even longer to have enough say to have someone listen to him. All in a pitifully underappreciated realm of the underappreciated sciences, whether you measure appreciation as money or understanding or whatnot. As an artist interested in making viable palaeoart, I feel an affinity with anyone so idealistic and passionate as to do in his profession what I'm hoping to do in mine: make money doing it - against all the odds. A "we" vs "them" attitude doesn't really seem warranted here.
Don't let yourself be exploited - and that means knowing when you're in danger of such. Hint: watch out with the publishers, the producers and in part the institutions.

If you're a content amateur and the contest looks fun, do it. Have fun.

If you're an aspiring pro then think about this:
It's become common knowledge in the vfx industry that you can expect to put in 10,000 hours before achieving the level of professionalism required on the market. That's 5 years of 8 hour days, generally unpaid or pitifully. How many hours have you put in? How many chances have you had to get feedback from and contact to the scientists that make up the core of your intended job?
Let's relax, do some scribbles and make a community session out of it.

Traumador said...

David- I totally agree with your points on helping out with science communication (another big motivator for me to give away a few hours to this project). Again I think the big evil here is the attitude towards science in the west right now, not the actions of "us" and "them" (well put).

I also agree on the lack exploitation here. Artists enter fully aware of what they are getting into here.

I think one of Jack's relevant points that your reply David (and mine) don't take into account is the greater impact calls for free art like this could have on the palaeo-art "market" as whole.

If we were getting swamped with these requests than accusations of exploitation and scab labour would be warranted. I have spent the last year networking with many professional palaeo-artists, and there are some concerns of under cutting and devaluation of their work due to the actions of "amateurs" like us (this was in light of the Gregory Paul emails, and their agreeing with that small portion of his rants).

Sadly though I this is a reality of today's art market, supply is at an all time high due to digital medium and thus demand doesn't have to pay as much. Especially if that demand is coming from underfunded palaeontotologists.

That having been said I suspect if suddenly every palaeontologist were to swamp this site with pleads for free art they'd find our supply would dry up incredibly quickly. We all only have so much spare time to do these things for free, and as of such we'd each take a pet project or two from the pile and leave the majority unarted. Good for a few lucky scientists, but overall not a reliable strategy to get artwork for your publicity.

Or alternatively if we had a few individual artists continually requested they would see a greater amount of demand for their work (see where I'm going here), and than be in a position to only take on the art requests that paid them enough for their efforts.

While this last idea is probably a stretch, I do think ART Evolved as a mass out sourcing venue for free art is a very limited option.

One offs for our friends like Scott (who did kindly donate us HIS time for that terrific article he wrote about his research last year) are perfectly acceptable in my opinion.

I don't even think we'd need to panic all that much if suddenly 20 other scientists made the requests like this (as we'd ensure they were fairly worded at the beginning so that artist beware). I personally suspect the turn out would be appropriate for the amount of payback they were offering.

davidmaas said...

"I think one of Jack's relevant points that your reply David (and mine) don't take into account is the greater impact calls for free art like this could have on the palaeo-art "market" as whole."

Worthy of debate in this regard would be the competitions spanning ThemeParks (Europosaurus), publications (Prehistoric Art) or competitions. Though I'd personally participate in those as well (and not question their intentions), they all call for non-reimbursed art to be used within a financial concept more or less based on profit for the organizer. As such, they warrant more scrutiny. As no one has questioned their validity, it seems uncalled for to question Scott's invite.

jack pollock said...

It's really heartening to see a reasoned and thoughtful discussion of the issue and it's nice to know so much thought and consultation went into the decision to publish Scott Person's art call (Person has himself been very generous with his post on theropod tail anatomy).

It doesn't cease to amaze me that there is as much demand for artists to produce original content and yet fewer and fewer people are willing to pay for it. I'd understand it more if there was less of a demand but there just isn't.

Anyway, thanks. And great site by the way.

Traumador said...

David- Good point about our brief stint promoting Prehistoric Times (which I think you meant by "Prehistoric Art") and Europosaurus.

I can not comment specifically on the Europosaurus post, as I was not involved or made aware of it till it hit the main blog. We did initially promote Prehistoric Times in hopes that that publication might return the favour and promote us (there was briefly email contact between the two parties trying to negotiate this). However when after a year it did not happen we decieded to stop (as ultimately Prehistoric Times was not specifically asking us to do so).

No one on ART Evolved is calling for a banning or boycotting of these sorts of requests. We never have and never will. That having been said debates and expressions on points of view have always been and always be welcome too, on all our posts!

ART Evolved's mandate is to be an impartial virtual meeting grounds of all interested parties in Palaeo-art. As of such we'll post anything about the topic.

However as this site is dedicated to the creation of palaeo-art, we do reserve the right to make our stances on topics pro-artist, as without artists there'd be no palaeo-art.

In this case it simply meant getting some of the "business" components of Scott's request emphasised in a manner we were happy with (not that Scott wanted them hidden. He was very honest and up front about it all! We just rearranged their priority for these pro-artist reasons)

Traumador said...

Jack- First off thank you very much for the compliments on our site! We appreciate them very much!

We also wish to thank you for raising these issues publicly. We had already discussed them (in a more condensed version) with Scott privately before posting his request. Your comments just emphasised what we were all worrying and debating about. So thank you for forming the starting point for a great discussion (which may very well not be over...).

We do hope you continue to visit ART Evolved, and you trigger some more insightful dialouge among us!

Traumador said...


This current debate (in also being productive and informative) has prompted me to start writing up our offical code of conduct on art requests, so that we have a specific guideline to direct clients to when they approach us for art.

In case you are wondering, Scott's request falls well within these envisioned guidelines, and these guidelines are not directly due to his request. Rather I want to address the overall concerns raised in this discussion thread (which I consider somewhat removed from Scott's request... the request simply being the sparking point of this more philosophic discussion)

I also wanted to say about this overall discussion we've been having about free art vs. paid art, I am very happy with how everyone has kept the conversation very civil and polite. Being a complex topic with several valid, and at times conflicting points of view, it isn't much of a stretch to seeing comments getting personal or nasty. Thank you all for keeping this an engaging and thought provoking thread that everyone can feel comfortable participating in!

Funny enough there was talk among the admins of planning on asking for articles on the current state of attitudes towards art and artists efforts, and this currently emerging discussion on that very topic has cemented our committment to this plan. So if you'd like to get your view on this very complex and crucial topic out there to the ART Evolved readership, start writing it up. We'll be launching the series in the fall (as most people are probably going to be distracted by summer).

davidmaas said...

I'm in....
Hope to do the other two at this scribble - level. Will keep you up to date.

Anyone else?

Trish said...

I sent in my submissions a few minutes ago. It was fun to do and I need the exposure (yeah, yeah, you can't eat exposure I know, but still). I'll post them here if nobody minds.