(Edited for clarification since my original post was confusing, badly written and implied things I did not intend)
Thanks guys. Don't worry I will continue to honor the agreement and not post the portraits, as I have all these years. It was something I had always just wondered about and wanted to talk about with people with a fresh perspective. I think I wrote my original post in an unclear way - from the start, I personally thought it would be unethical to add them to my portfolio. I did think it was a little unfair, but if something is agreed upon you stick to it whether it is fair or not. Since the agreement was made on such informal terms, I had been told by different people that it wouldn't be unethical, but it didn't feel quite right to me so I wanted to check with more people. Now I know for sure that it is unethical, as I first thought.
I respect the commissioner's wishes but was I originally wanted to know if the time that had passed and the older ages of the portrait subjects made it ethical to now post the images (I think I didn't make this clear at all in my OP), since the children are older now I imagine the safety issue wouldn't be a concern anymore (I'd imagine not showing them when they were still young was for safety reasons. I should have instead titled this, "Is it still unethical to post the images," and I know now that the time passed and ages do not matter and it would still be unethical because I wasn't clear with the terms (and also as Vineris said the children still have a right to their image even if they're older, and would need model release forms. This I did not know. I am still inexperienced). Even it was a hazy agreement, everyone is right that it is too long ago for it to be even worth it to do someone that may be against the commissioner's wishes. Even if I was too young to know at the time, it was still up to me to define them since I was the artist, and it was my mistake and an experience I learned from.
Second, my complaints (like when I said "I don't think it's unfair to include just one portrait in my portfolio" as Mute quotes below) had more to do with the "unfairness," not the ethics. I was complaining that the situation felt unfair to me, but that didn't mean I was going to compromise my ethics and go ahead and include the portrait just because it felt unfair. I feel so guilty if people thought that's what I meant. I didn't mean that at all. I was complaining just to express my frustration, I should not have done so. As I wrote above, I was only wondering if people here thought it would no longer be unethical due to the time that has passed and the older ages of the portrait subjects, which I now know makes no difference). I chose my words poorly. I was verbalizing my frustrations from remembering this event which I hadn't thought about in a long time, and I shouldn't have let the memory upset me. I didn't mean for the tone of my posts to imply that I didn't respect this commissioner and was going to add the images to the portfolio anyway. And even if I thought it was unfair, I only felt this toward the situation, not to the commissioner or portrait subjects, I truly wish nothing but the best for them. I was as polite and nice as I could be to the commissioner in person, even if I was nervous.
And though it is arguably "unfair" that I cannot post them anywhere (from my perspective, a third party might not see it as unfair to me at all, since it was ultimately my mistake and my responsibility as the artist to set the terms), not posting them is the ethical thing to do so whatever feelings I have about fairness do not matter, and why I have been honoring the agreement. I will not and have never posted them anywhere, just to be clear if it wasn't from my original post. Which was written when I was a little delirious from sleep deprivation and work stress and where the colorful/hyperactive language came from, I am sorry.
I responded to everyone in a reply that will be posted soon.
Thanks again, I appreciate the time you all gave to share your thoughts.
I'll get back to drawing now.
Last edited by zmfx1; March 22nd, 2012 at 10:23 PM. Reason: typo in the title, shortened & clarified the post, shortened since question is resolved
Is it Unethical?
yes, its unethical. Your breaking a promise you made to an old lady. Shame on you.
Will you get into trouble?
No, you would be in no danger of the cops coming to your house and arresting you. Nobody will care but you and this old lady.
Is it worth it?
That's up to you. You have to decide if its more important to keep your word or to include an 8 year old piece in your current portfolio.
My 2 cents:
Firstly, your portfolio shouldn't have work in it that is 8 years old. That is such a long time that it no longer reflects your current skill level, no matter how well it may have turned out. If you want a portrait in your portfolio, set aside 2-3 days and bang one out at your current skill level. If you've been keeping up with your drawing these past 8 years it will turn out better than either of those old pieces.
Second, if you are burned out on portraits and hate dong them. Don't put them in your portfolio. That way you don't run the risk of someone asking you to do one.
...my humble and uneducated opinion.
Check these out too:
Rotor - GoGoJoJo
"Limited drawing skills are OK if they are offset by a fearless commitment to putting images on paper."
"I mean, What is a chair? It's an anti-gravity device." Glen Keane
"The difficult part is continuously realizing when you've stopped enjoying the process, and re-aligning yourself. It's kind of like meditation/being an art ninja..." ceddo
I was only going to put the portrait up if others here thought it wouldn't be unethical. I thought perhaps I was giving too much adherence to something that was not even in a contract and looking back that lady must have known she took advantage of my naivete. (Edit: I understand now that my original thinking, that I've had all these years, is that it is indeed unethical despite what friends at the time may have suggested, who said I owned the work and could show it in my portfolio, which I have never done and never posted anywhere. So I will continue to not post it anywhere. And, the commissioner was probably not intentionally taking advantage of my inexperience.)
Thank you for your advice, you give good points I will consider.
Last edited by zmfx1; March 22nd, 2012 at 08:49 PM. Reason: shortened since my question has been answered
Gotta agree with Mute. And yeah, if you haven't done a single portrait after that, you don't want to show work in your portfolio that you don't do anymore or can't re-produce (which is what I did once, putting a very different style of image in mine that was just one-shot test that accidentally looked pretty good and then was asked to do several illustrations in that style that I couldn't do as well deliberately at that point and had to later quit the job).
Also, I have to say that I don't think you were deliberately taken advantage of. Most people don't have much knowledge of fair pricing when it comes to art, and little old ladies possibly even less. She doubled the price without you asking and you probably had no more knowledge about pricing back then either, so I wouldn't bear too much of a grudge about this. You were 16, you learned a lesson, life goes on.looking back I was very taken advantage of.
Last edited by TinyBird; March 22nd, 2012 at 02:54 AM.
Again, you were young, both parties ignorant and I'm sure you now know better, but I have to say I don't really care for the tone in your post (even more before you edited half of it away) since you manage to make it sound like you are still bitter against the customer about things you should have known/done yourself but didn't due inexperience.
This is a quote from Jon Schindehette, AD from Wizards of the Coast: ((Link to Article)
I coach a limited number of artists on an annual basis. I spend my time on folks that are serious. And by serious, Iím talking about folks that produce paintings. If Iím not seeing at least one new finished piece a month, I start to question their commitment. Thereís a reason I typically assign 3-4 weeks to ArtOrder challenges. If you canít produce at least 12 portfolio quality pieces a year, then think about how long it will take you to turn over your portfolio at least twice?
I mention turning your portfolio over twice for a reason. Through the years, I have found that artists that I get the opportunity to see year over year, typically turn over their entire portfolio at least twice before they go from the ďaspiringĒ stage to the ďhiringĒ stage. Now before you take that to mean Ė ďIíve just got to produce 20 paintings and Jon says Iíll be able to get work!Ē That isnít what Iím saying. Iím saying that these folks have improved their skills to the point that they have swapped out every image in the portfolio at least twice. That is a minimum of 20 advancements in skill, not a minimum of 20 paintings. Do you get the difference?
On the subject of the original question, I would feel uncomfortable handing out copies of photos of some woman's grandchildren if she didn't want me to. If you did some great portraits 8 years ago, you should be able to do the same or better now with new material that you have the full rights to. Hire a model or get some friends or their kids to pose from you and take the opportunity to out-do your 16-year-old self.
A portfolio is only meant to have your best pieces in it.
You are trying to tell an employer why they should
hire you over the hundreds of other applicants they get
a day. Believe me, they don't care about your personal
growth at all. A weak piece will weaken the whole
Last edited by Star Eater; March 22nd, 2012 at 04:57 AM.
Because there was no contract, you own the copyright to that painting. But you probably need model release forms from the kids to be able to use their images. Given that it's not entirely clear cut, and the painting is 8 years old, I'd just forget the whole thing ever happened.
Thanks for your responses guys. I really appreciate your thought and input. Don't worry I'll continue not posting the portraits anywhere and honoring the agreement.
You are all right. When I found out I couldn't use the portraits, instead of getting mopey about it I should have had the "Can't use them? Okay then, I'll make two NEW and BETTER portraits!" attitude. Thank you dierat, that's the attitude I should have and there's nothing stopping me from outdoing my 16 year old self like you mention. I am too sentimental about those portraits. Doing new ones that blow them out of the water is the course of action I should take.
I should not have let one negative experience affect my attitude about portraits. I had almost forgotten I even used to do portraits until I came across them while rummaging through my hard drive last night, which is what prompted the original post. I don't hold anything against the lady and sincerely wish the very best for her and her family, it was just a less-than-ideal experience due to us both being ignorant at the time, and yes as the artist the responsibility was more on me than on her to define the terms.
@Tinybird: Thanks. I am sorry about the tone. It was so long ago that it I don't have strong feelings about it now, but thinking back about it still made me feel a little bitter about the situation, you know? I hadn't thought about it at all until last night. But you're right I shouldn't let it affect me even that small amount.
@gnarl: Thanks for the info. It is very helpful. It is more the medium that was important, for some places they wanted only traditional work which I don't have very many recent examples of, and this would have been a very fast way to show some additional examples. I am going to take your advice and do new work.
@dierat & Star Eater: Yes, you're both right. My portfolio is not tailored toward anything specific because it is not very relevant for what I need it for (I'm not in the concept/commercial art industry) - I needed a quick link to show that I can draw with traditional media and have a steady hand, the content wasn't important just the technique. I will do new work to show this, and it'll be stronger for it.
Thanks a lot guys. You're the best.
Now time to stop whining and start those drawings.