Angry Artist Alley: Unsatisfied Customers


Crafekster: How is the tolerance? As in, if you do a bad picture, mess something up, have something someone finds provocative or straight up the costumer does not like that you did for them they paid for you to do. Do they accept, or come out lashing?

This concerns me way more in professional illustration than it does for alley. In illustration, if someone finds out that one slip of crappy art, it feels like a knife to the throat. And the only way to fix it is a few months of intense artwork to brighten up your reputation to the point people pay attention to that piece anymore.

But sitting behind Artist Alley? HA. No, don’t worry too much (okay maybe a little). If the customer thought it through, they’d figure out some reasons why the artwork didn’t look as cool as whatever they see on your deviantart. But they don’t. They pay you, they expect it to be so incredible that wings grow off their back and fly. BUT…first I’m going to let you know this stuff before I get back to the topic:

Here are some excuses to why it sucked. It’s not just you. It’s because–

1) You brought your tools, but not ALL of them. Not your desk, your drafting board, comfy chair, etc.

2) IT’S SO MUTHERF*CKIN LOUD. Well, the noise can range from a light cafe to having yourself pull towards the customer as we scream at each other’s ears. The quiet noise can build such anxiety though, since either no one is having customers, or no one is talking about anyone’s work.

3) Your back feels like shit on those chairs. If you bend forward and don’t draw on a tilt, it can make pictures look slightly off.

4) If you’re doing this outdoors, pray it’ll be a cloudy day with no wind. Sun burns and wind flies. It bothers you while you work.

5) Sitting behind someone who is taking all the business, even if they were a friend, you’d want to knock them unconscious, and drag their body to the nearby trash can. And this one pisses me off a lot, because one thing I will note is that you don’t have artistic talent to take in customers. Anyhow, people will compare your commission work to what they see at local tables.

This list can go on, but you kind of get it, right? It’s not your perfect environment, and so if you can’t deal with it, your art probably won’t look as great. Customers don’t always understand this, so don’t take it too harshly if they’re not satisfied. Just blame it on everything else happening to you. Just use this list as an excuse for yourself before you feel down because the customer was unsatisfied. Just don’t tell the customer. They probably won’t care.

Back to topic: What if they’re not satisfied?
I’m sure it’s bound to happen. But don’t ever get taken advantage of because of this. As a wise man once said to me “a lot of times, customers will say they’re not satisfied or pretend like it wasn’t to their expectation so that you will discount them or give them a bonus. ” Not always true, but it happens. If they’re not happy, you can ask them why. If you can fix it, you can. But if they want you to re-draw it, that’s quite impolite, and you should say something like ‘I’m sorry, I spent a lot of time and effort on that thing, and [insert whatever you want here’
One thing to prepare is that if the person asking for the commission is a mother with kids, then of course you need to tone it down. If they obviously look religious, you may want to think of what NOT to draw.Concerning everyone else, you need to use your judgement.
One way to understand what they want BEFORE you draw it is to make casual talk with them, hinting ideas while they think it’s a topic to respond. Also, it’s pretty impolite to not talk about it and just say ‘okay’ before you draw anyways. Try saying things like:
  1. ‘Oh? I think I heard of that series’ <–they will usually describe genre, series, and what they liked about it
  2. ‘OH YEA! THAT CHARACTER!’ <–they will tell you what they liked about them (as in if they were badass, or cute, etc. Helps with showing the emotion in the commission)
  3. ‘Dude, she had big boobs in that series [casual laugh]’ <–you know what to emphasize when you hear the answer to this
  4. ‘Wait, was that the sexy chick or the cutesy one? I forgot’ <–you need to take your chances on this. If you don’t know the series and don’t want to mention that, then your best bet is to pretend you watched it and forgot what it was about.
  5. ‘Man, that character was kinda freaky’ <–if they deny that, then don’t make them look angry and scary.

In the instance that they backlash at you when they see your work, you have to tell them something first: “You didn’t tell me not to do it, so I just did what I thought would make the picture more interesting. If I knew better, I would have not done this at all” (or something on that matter). If they say it’s not an excuse, ask them what they demand. This has never happened to me, nor have I seen it done in the first place, but if they demand a refund for the image, you should refuse to. They probably took out their wallet because they trusted you as an artist in the first place. You did the work, you get paid. I think if anyone would fall on either side, they would back up your side as an artist. It’s like getting your hair cut by a barber, and telling them you’re not going to pay them because your haircut sucked-you’d probably side with the barber who spent an hour on the hair.

extra note: I WILL tell you that some artists have amusing demands. Many guys who ask for commissions will sneak in a ‘hey can you make their boobs a little bigger though?’ And sometimes, people will ask ‘can you draw Yaoi?’ My tip? Read ‘Air Gear’ by OH! GREAT. And practice drawing scenes with more than one person interacting with each other.

Cost vs. Sanity?

First off, commissions at conventions are underpaid. ESPECIALLY at anime conventions. Just think about it–how much is minimum wage where you live? In San Francisco, it’s about 10 dollars. That is PER HOUR MINIMUM. Now imagine how long you’re spending to do the drawing–roughly 30-45 minutes, yes? What about a colored image? How much are you charging exactly, to sit there and draw a request? They’re not charging you by how long it takes to draw either. And if you walk around the table, here is the average price you’ll see at a convention as big as Fanime:

per character/drawing:

pencil: $1-$10  (ridiculous, but true, and i wish it wasn’t)

pen: $8-$20

color: $10-$35

I know comic conventions are slightly more reasonable and expensive, but at an anime convention, this is most common. Oh, what? you’re doing this for EXPERIENCE? PRACTICING TO GET BETTER AT DRAWING?  You idiot, if you were going to do that then get out of the convention and ask for free requests online. Let people who are actually trying to get their name out and get pocket cash to pay back for their convention ticket to sit there for an actual reason.

Extra: Anyone who charges less than ten dollars for a commission is not even worth buying, in my opinion. The artist that charges less than that are thinking too low of themselves. Support artists by paying a reasonable amount, not a lower amount! 

So, let’s think of this experience as a positive thing: You got the cash, you did the drawing. They didn’t like it even though you spent time drawing it for them. AND you did it for probably less than twenty five bucks.

As an artist, a customer must trust the person drawing to do what they can. If the customer doesn’t understand this concept, you should be wondering why they asked you to draw a pic in the first place. And if you KNEW the drawing was half assed and you did it, then it’s not the customer who is to blame though. You should get slapped in the face.

 How can you tell they loved the work and isn’t pretending to?

Let’s leave this for another blog entry ;)


As some artists, we sit behind artist alley to get pocket cash, exposure, you know the stuff. From budgets, to transportation/living, horrible customers, and well…if you never sat behind artist alley, you have no idea. And if you have…ever feel frustrated?

You’ve got stories? Concerns? Questions? Ask away!

I know there have been people who have sat behind cons before me, but I’ve started around 2004, and I walked in with absolutely no guidance (aka. i screwed up a LOT). So I learned through my mistakes, acquired more than just a handful of stories, and I’ve seen my peers and table mates go through it all too. I don’t mean a convention a year, I mean an average about six a year.