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  1. #1
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    Has anyone sold illustration through a stock house?

    I just got a marketing email from Corbis and it got me thinking...has anyone here sold illustration directly through stock agencies? Corbis makes it pretty easy to sign up as a contributor, I just wondered it if was worth banging out some business/editorial-type illustrations.

    Anybody? Feedback? Other stock houses?

    I've got a new computer to pay for
    I was once on the receiving end of a critique so savagely nasty, I marched straight out of class to the office and changed my major (sketchbook).


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  3. #2
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    Stockhouses have pretty much killed editorial and corporate illustration. They flooded the market and drove fees down to bargain basement levels. If you want to churn out generic "conceptual" illustrations to add to the pile in return for the possibility of a few two-digit checks a year I can't stop you, but it's not a business model I'd recommend, that's for sure.

    Tristan Elwell
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  5. #3
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    Ugh. Thanks. I feared as much.

    I'm struggling way down in the t-shirt-and-coffee-mug end of the market at the moment, so I'm not too proud. But it sounds like the effort-to-remuneration ratio is not good.
    I was once on the receiving end of a critique so savagely nasty, I marched straight out of class to the office and changed my major (sketchbook).

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    Yeah, don't be silly. You can't buy a house with peanuts.

  7. #5
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    That doesn't quite compute. I mean, stock houses couldn't kill off a market unless they had access to tons of competent artwork, so SOMEbody thinks it's a paying proposition.

    Trawling through the Corbis database, though -- it's heavy on historic (out of copyright) images, illustrations "from the estate of..." and extremely simple drawings you could knock off in bulk. So, squeezing the last drops out of legacy art.
    I was once on the receiving end of a critique so savagely nasty, I marched straight out of class to the office and changed my major (sketchbook).

  8. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stoat View Post
    That doesn't quite compute. I mean, stock houses couldn't kill off a market unless they had access to tons of competent artwork, so SOMEbody thinks it's a paying proposition.

    Trawling through the Corbis database, though -- it's heavy on historic (out of copyright) images, illustrations "from the estate of..." and extremely simple drawings you could knock off in bulk. So, squeezing the last drops out of legacy art.
    I was going to write a long response, but actually you can learn more about the long, ugly history of the stock illustration industry here.

    Tristan Elwell
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  10. #7
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    Hm. Well. At your link, under the Licensing section, it mentions that the IPA has worked with ProFile Stock to develop a stock site with a more equitable deal for artists.

    That's the sort of info I was looking for. Thanks.
    I was once on the receiving end of a critique so savagely nasty, I marched straight out of class to the office and changed my major (sketchbook).

  11. #8
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    I worked at an advertising agency that had a small room devoted entirely to pre-digital stock art, which it had been receiving on a monthly subscription basis for years and years apparantly. All of it was junk, and a scissors had been taken to about 10 percent of it... meaning, over the years, thousand upon thousands of these pieces of illustration turd had been used in "professional" ad work. Never underestimate how little business people care or know about illustration.

    The same thing has been happing with incidental music cues, logo creation, and website design. Fonts were killed by Bitstream early on.

    Someday video games will be built up from stock assets... stock figures, stock armor, stock rooms... or is that already starting to happen?

    Book covers will all be photos mixed with stock cgi renders... except in rare cases, storyboards will all be built from stock elements...

    Humphrey Bogart, Marilyn Monroe and Orson Welles will begin appearing in new movies soon... a stock theater company from beyond.

    When we all control the means of production, Marx forgot to mention, only the means of distribution will be valuable.
    At least Icarus tried!


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  12. #9
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    Don't let the bastards steal your fire...they havn't earned it, they're dead and their ends serve only death.

    The only people who should be profiting from creative fire are the people who are privy to it and to those they love and care about. So let them pay with the right amount of money, from whatever works they are able to earn from.
    ---- -
    sehertu mannu narāṭu ina pānāt šagapīru ningishzidda
    abrahadabra

  13. #10
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    Heh. If they'll do the marketing, invoicing and fulfillment for me, the bastards are welcome to a share of my fire.
    I was once on the receiving end of a critique so savagely nasty, I marched straight out of class to the office and changed my major (sketchbook).

  14. #11
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    Well as long as you're getting paid right.
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  15. #12
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    Yeah they'll do all that for you. But if your work is used as stock in 4-5 ad campaigns in a year, you'll be looking at an annaul takehome of about $120. If those ad agencies were to approach you to do it, and they were big campaigns, you'd be looking at $5000 plus for each piece, on the low end.

    It isn't a share of your fire. They put out the fire of profitability, rake the embers, and keep what's left. Understand that stock agencies are a volume business. They make their money by selling high volumes of work for small amounts of cash. They make money because they have 20 million images. You don't have 20 million images, you're not going to make any money.

    This is a process called commodification. It happens when a product which previously had a high economic value becomes so commonplace and ubiquitous that consumers no longer place any value on the differing characteristics of the product and see all examples as being of identical value. Flour is a commodity. High end patisserie products are not.

    Clip art is a commodity, bespoke illustration is not. But when tools are stupid enough to put middlemen into the value chain whose operation relies on turning a high end product into a commodity, it soon will be.

    I see you're excited about the idea that you might actually get paid for your work. Perhaps the reason you're excited about this is because you dream of being a pro artist one day. Stock houses increase the share of the market paying at commodity rates and decrease the share paying at bespoke rates. This will affect you personally in the future. You don't have to throw your career and your colleagues' careers in the bin just to get your invoicing and fulfillment done . You can outsource those to a turnkey solution. for pennies.

    Or if all that is too much , try this:

    Hey all you wheat farmers! We know that you currently make $100 a ton for your product. But we're a new company who is going to revolutionise the industry. You give us all your wheat, and we'll sell it for you. We'll drop the price to a low, low $0.10. That'll sell a lot of wheat huh? You'll get $0.005 per ton. And we'll handle your client facing operations too! You can't say fairer than that, right? Don't worry that this doesn't even come close to covering your costs of production, cause we've already got your wheat and if you go out of business, well there's a million wannabe wheat farmers out there. It's like shooting fish in a barrel.

    Here fishy, fishy, fishy.

    A principle of all good business is that you leave enough money on the table so that your suppliers get paid and can continue to operate profitably. Otherwise you 'll soon have no suppliers. Stockhouses know that their suppliers can't operate profitably at the prices they demand. They burn through them without regard because they know there are a million suckers and they always buy perpetual rights to the work. These guys aren't businesspeople they are sharks.

    Here fishy, fishy.

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  17. #13
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    My business illustration teacher back in art college recommended that we manage our own stock archives (after years and years of illustrating and accumulating work)

    She has done tons of illustration over the years and continues to license old illustrations to new clients. This happens because clients buy the usage of the image and often will only purchase a one-time limited use of the image. After that time has expired the rights of the image return to you for you to license to others as you please. (unless of course you impulsively sign a bad contract that lets a client keep the image forever without paying you very much)

    Under her guidance I was able to do this myself twice with a dance illustration I made. I sold usage of the image the first time for its first time rights limited to a specific event ... and then a couple years later to a different client for use on their website.

  18. #14
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    Reading threads like this reinforces my bleak and inevitable outlook that one day I'm going to be scraping the bottom of the art barrel just to eat when all potential clients are using art created in a sweatshop in Shanghai.

    This is depressing. I hadn't ever heard of this kind of issue happening with art. Sugar cane, bananas and to my friends who run farms yes, but not art.


    Jordan Beeston
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  20. #15
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    If you're talking to me, Atreides, I have been a professional illustrator for well over thirty years. I started as a freelancer and hated every minute of it with a tooth-grinding violence. I do not market, I do not invoice, I do not negotiate. There is not an entrepreneurial bone in my body. I like making pictures; I effing hate doing business.

    So after a few lean, miserable years, I signed on with the in-house art department of a research and engineering company. They paid me a fair salary and told me what to draw. Also -- excellent company canteen. I stayed with them for twenty five happy and mutually beneficial years.

    I have now quit, married and moved to a foreign country. I need to make enough money drawing pictures to justify keeping a really top-notch computer and a Photoshop upgrade every couple of years.

    If selling to the average stock house is insufficiently profitable, good to know. It's why I asked the question. But you can take your Economics 101 and your condescension and stuff it.
    I was once on the receiving end of a critique so savagely nasty, I marched straight out of class to the office and changed my major (sketchbook).

  21. #16
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    Fair enough, that's me told.

    If your art is really the biz, and you don't want to handle the paperwork, get yourself an agent/rep. That's what they're for.

  22. #17
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    A good artist is also a good innovator.

    If your art isnt strong enough to stand out against the flood of cheap tricks then you need to double check the relevance and power of what you are creating.

    The artists who make fat stacks are the ones who lead the pack. Art is defenitely not a career for complacency.

  23. #18
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    Thanks, Yoda. I'll keep that in mind.
    I was once on the receiving end of a critique so savagely nasty, I marched straight out of class to the office and changed my major (sketchbook).

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