We’re going to talk about how crowdfunding is helping our members earn a living followed by introducing you to a couple of artists who dived in head first with this newfangled concept with stunning results. I say newfangled, but this way of generating revenue has been around for years now.
Before we start, we’ll clarify a couple of definitions. An illustrator is someone who communicates other people’s ideas in a visual format, normally via a brief, and gets paid for it by licensing them usage rights. An artist is someone who creates artwork by scratching their creative itch and then offering their work for sale in one way or another after the fact. Crowdfunding is just a way for an artist to pre-sell their artwork before it’s officially launched or finished. Lots of creatives slip between being an illustrator and an artist, but there is a clear distinction between the two when you relate them to the processes and aims that I’ve just mentioned. An artist’s or illustrator’s professional title isn’t dependent on what their work looks like or even the finished product; it’s the process that counts.
- (A) Illustrator: Client > Idea > Illustrator > Contract / License > Deposit > Illustration > Payment > Delivery
- (B) Artist: Artist > Idea > Artwork > Sale OR License > Client > Payment > Delivery
- (C) Crowdfunding: Illustrator / Artist > Idea > Crowdfunding Platform > Presentation / Proposal > Funding Round > Payment > Illustration / Artwork / Product > Overheads / Production > Distribution
As you may (or may not) know, we’re a community of illustrators, animators and artists. Each profession has their own ways of producing revenue streams to support their chosen career path and as a collective we try to support them in anyway we can. That does mean that finding people commissions and connecting them with new clients isn’t all we do. We offer professional advice on contracts, licensing and pricing, along with guidance on the best way for members to market or promote themselves whether they’re offering a product or service. With that in mind, in recent years preemptively generating funding for an artist’s project has become a necessity and this is where Crowdfunding comes in.
Kickstarter, in relation to the creative industry, focuses on an artist-created project seeking funding for publication or other endeavours to allow them to bring their vision to life in full. For example artist Ashly Lovett has just launched an impressive Kickstarter campaign which features an illustrated adaptation of Hans Christian Anderson’s The Little Mermaid – this is a perfect match for Ashly’s fondness of dark fantasy and romance, and a great opportunity to get her work directly into the hands of her supporters and fans without the backing of a publisher (although we believe Ashly wouldn’t have had any issues finding one if she had wanted to take that route instead).
Mermaids are truly wonderfully fun to draw, and I can’t get enough drawing of glorious long hair. It’s a simple thing, but I love it.Ashly Lovett – kickstarter.com/projects/ashlylovett/the-little-mermaid-book
It’s not always easy for an artist to get the word out there about a new project they’re working on and we always encourage our members to submit these items as news to us via their profiles. A lot don’t, as they see our space as somewhere to showcase their commercial and private commissions, but that is just not the case. We’re here to support all of our members and more and more are relying on Kickstarter and Patreon as a way to pay their bills. It’s not all about money though, some are artists who have toyed with the idea of being a commercial artist to fund their lifestyle and career rather than going all in as the traditional starving artist or taking on a part-time job. So when the opportunity arises where an artist can have the general public fund their own ideas or passion project rather than fulfilling a client’s needs like an illustrator would, they’re going to jump at the chance and take full advantage of the situation. For some, crowdfunding is the life blood they need and Patreon, like Kickstarter, is no exception.
A good example of Patreon being used to supplement a professional illustrator’s income while allowing them to share their own work with an appreciative audience without the pressures of a client brief is comic book artist Graeme Neil Reid’s supporter page. It’s taken time and he still has a long way to go to replace a full-time income, but he’s built up a loyal following of supporters who love what he does and want to own a piece of this talented creative’s work.
I’m looking for support to help me buy art supplies. Paper, pencils, paints, brushes, canvases, basic supplies can cost so much let alone that easel I really need. Art materials are expensive. Your support will buy me those much needed supplies.Graeme Neil Reid – patreon.com/GraemeNeilReid
Breaking it down, we’re only talking about crowdfunding for a creative’s own initiative rather than a client hiring an illustrator to realise their ideas for a crowdfunded project. That would be a regular commission, like (A), although you do get a good number of clients trying to hire illustrators for their crowdfunding projects, but only offering them payment dependant on the success of the fundraising. That’s not cool; clients need to pay illustrators for their talent and hard work and maybe offer them a bonus based on a successful round, but not tie the illustrator’s earning to the project’s success. That’s not an incentive, that is a plain demoralising way to work. The illustrator already knows that there’s likely to be more paid work if the crowdfunding is a success and reaches its goals, which is more than enough incentive for them. If you don’t have the money for an illustrator and you believe in your idea, get a loan, make other cuts, get a part-time job and put money aside, do the illustrations yourself, sell your car or borrow money from family. There’s an endless list of things you can do to create a budget for your creatives, just don’t ask a professional to work for free or on faith. As I said, that’s not cool and you wouldn’t expect it if the shoe was on the other foot. Partnerships are another thing altogether, but they don’t normally arise through a client approaching a professional and rely more upon a mutual acquaintance or the aligned interests of known parties.
To finish this article if you’re a fan of Ashly or Graeme‘s artwork I’m sure they’d be happy to discuss a commercial or private commission if you have one in mind and feel they’d be perfect for the job. Other than that, please support them via their respective Kickstarter or Patreon pages. It doesn’t take a lot and you’ll get an awesome book or pieces of artwork in return. My whole point is that we should support those whose work brings us joy! The world is always changing, we just need to keep spinning in the right direction, it’s as simple as that.