Rant about Pro Bono Work

IMG_0352 This octopus watercolor (once I framed it) was donated to an auction at my church to support the scholarship fund for graduating high school students moving on to college.  I was happy to offer it up for a good cause when asked to do so.  What I don’t appreciate is the number of requests artists receive asking that we donate our time and talent, not to mention the cost of our art supplies.  When these requests are for a charity event, I get it.  I usually offer a small piece, maybe a study or a piece of mini-art, and in the case of the octopus, a larger piece for a particularly good cause.  But recently I was approached to illustrate an educational children’s picture book for free.  Now I have to draw the line.  As I worked through the text with the editor and brought her to understand that the book would require something like 14 illustrations (she originally thought 4 illustrations would do), it was clear she had never put such a project together before.  I also doubt she had any concept of what art supplies cost these days.  One tube of watercolor paint costs $30 or more!  And my time – each of the 14 illustrations could take at least 2 hours to execute after I spent another hour on concept and sketches.  And of course artists deserve something for their talent alone.  The editor was quick to point out that the author was going to write a grant to pay for the book, but hoped I would consider either donating my services or at least giving them a good discount. This project, even at a “non-profit rate” will probably cost the author about $2,000.  So if the author is writing a grant, and since art is the largest part of a picture book, wouldn’t you think the author would include the full cost of that art in the grant request?  Artists, stand up for yourselves and demand the respect (and payment) you deserve.  After all, who but an artist can illustrate the book?  (End of Rant)

2 thoughts on “Rant about Pro Bono Work

  1. My husband is a landscape architect and faces a similar hurdle in helping people understand what’s involved in the work he does and the value that he brings to a project. Initially people just think he ‘designs gardens’ or ‘does landscaping’ and it takes a lot of discussion before they realise the value he offers (he can actually save a client a lot of $ if he’s involved early in a project). I totally get your rant! He does some volunteer or ‘special rate’ work too but it has to be approached very, very carefully and there should be some form of payback in terms of recognition, publicity, new contacts and so on. Some potential recipients don’t seem to ‘get’ this!


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