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How Do I Find an Artist for My Articles?
Ewan Tallentire, artist
I joined HubPages to write. Did you? Were you also a bit put off to find the ideal article should have at least 5 images? Writing 1200 words is no problem. Adding a map, well, sure, that’s useful for people like me who only know Verdun is somewhere west of Russia and east of the Atlantic. Adding a table – I can find fun ways to compare apples, oranges, or even parakeets. Adding a video works too. There are so many videos on YouTube I’ve found one somehow related to every odd subject whenever I’ve bothered to look (I think the Lego® pen plotter video deserves to go viral.)
So why in addition to all that, do I have to add images? Because HubPages says so. And HubPages pays me. Only a little bit, so far, but they do. In my alternate life as a technical writer, I’ve said I write manuals because I am willing to be bored, for money. So, for money, I will also stoop to using visual images, not just word pictures.
Finding images and following copyright laws
But HubPages wanting images has not turned me into a great artist. And though I write a lot about topics and times with images in the public domain, I cannot seem to find any pictures, except by accident, in the National Archives online. (What is wrong with the universe that the daughter of a librarian, who actually knows how to file stuff in a real card catalog, can’t figure out the National Archives?)
I really do care about copyright laws, and want to follow them, at least as far as I can understand them. I wrote an article reviewing a book about Imperial German flight insignia, and thought the author would probably be happy to let me scan in the images from his book, because an article online might be very good ongoing publicity for him. But I couldn’t get in touch with him to actually get his permission.
So, finding images was becoming a problem for me. Fortunately, I happened to know an artist, and know that artists have their own problems.
Artists selling themselves. Or not.
Lots of people do art. Some people do art really well. A few artists promote themselves very well. But the best promoters are not necessarily the best artists. There isn’t much overlap in personality between those who consider it an exciting game to convince people to buy their stuff, and those who will sit for hours to get the perfect color and shading on the canvas. I don’t personally know any artists who are starving, but I also don’t personally know any artists who are making their living at it.
What is art, anyway?
I think there is more competition in art than in writing. Most people agree on what’s generally good, and bad, in writing. (Being generally understood is good.) But when people see paintings sold for amazing prices that look (to me) like something the average three-year-old draws, most people without an art degree aren’t sure if they are allowed to have an opinion on what is good or bad. (Is being understood good? Then why does the art world think it's an insult?)
The value of many things is measured by whether anyone is actually willing to buy them. But in art, there are so many examples of famous artists who, at the time, sold a painting for a meal, yet now their art brings in millions of dollars. On the one hand, nobody wants to pay money for something they don’t like. On the other hand, nobody wants to be the one quoted two centuries from now as having said “[Insert name of artist who will be famous in 2212] doesn’t know anything about art.” The best way to avoid problems is to buy whatever everybody else is buying. That's really bad for unknown artists.
Mixed media of a Defiant aircraft
Getting artwork found online
So. Artists are horrible self-promoters, nobody knows what’s good or bad anyway, and Google already has a pretty much infinite number of images out there for the stealing. Yet an artist has to get people to notice his art enough to (a) like it, (b) distinguish it from others, (c) seek it out, and (d) pay for it. To get people to see the art, it’s helpful to get Google to see the art. Google at least is honest about caring nothing for artistic talent or taste, but only quality, and quantity, of associated links.
Selling artists using HubPages
I talked to the artist I know, Ewan Tallentire, and suggested that if he could do some sketches for my articles, I could give him the one commercial link to his site allowed per Hub. I’d like to think that’s one more quality link for him with every article that has his name in it, but I suspect Google counts anything coming from my articles as being all from the same site. Still, as my traffic increases, the value of the site link should increase too.
Selling artists using HubPages: advantages to the artist
I’ve told Ewan he is entitled to a fraction of my earnings, but at the moment, even a starving artist is not motivated much by 50 cents a month. But there are real benefits to him:
- Exposure to a new audience
- Experience at illustration (which he can easily demonstrate with a link to my articles!)
- A variety of subjects for his portfolio
Also, when I notify friends and family of a new article, I usually mention Ewan’s illustrations too, which amounts to a personal introduction of someone who could possibly do, oh, say, a child’s portrait in time for Christmas.
Selling artists using HubPages: advantages to the Hubber
I get unique pictures suited to my articles, without spending hours looking for free, uncopyrighted pictures or having to travel to take pictures of particular places and things. And, for now, the images really don’t cost me anything.
In the case of the Imperial German flight insignia, I just asked Ewan to make the photos into illustrations, which got around the copyright problem and also made the distinctives of the insignia show up better.
Flight of P-51s
Selling artists using HubPages: disadvantages to the Hubber
Until I can offer more money, I am in line behind any seriously paying job, so it depends on what time Ewan has. Often I am asking “can you give me best sketches you can do in one hour of Eliezer ben Yehuda and these four Hebrew words?” I usually handle the cropping and sizing myself so I am not spending his time on details like that; I just need the scanned-in sketch.
Also, not every article works with this arrangement. Since Ewan is most interested in historical and aviation art, he doesn't need, or want, links from articles like Finding Mr. Right: Waiting and Dating. So I am on my own for some topics. (Probably it wouldn’t be too hard to find some single female artist who would love to illustrate an article like that, in return for some Internet recognition. But in the meantime, I drew my own chalk art on the sidewalk.)
One more thing to consider is that artists have a reputation, in some cases deserved, as prima donnas. Ewan happens not to be one of those! But if you have links, and they want links, even prima donnas will probably work with you.
Find an artist
So how do you find an artist for your articles? In today’s economy, there is probably someone within your family or circle of friends who would like to be a full-time artist but isn’t. (Like maybe someone you know very personally who would like to be a full-time writer, but isn’t?) Well, now you have a way to promote that person.
But…what if you want to promote them, but can’t stand their version of art? Possibly you know someone else on HubPages you could introduce them to. If you sort of like their art, but the angst-ridden pictures of the world falling apart don’t fit your cheerful Hubs on making pumpkin pie, well, could they maybe set up an alternate website with pictures of butterflies and rainbows, and under an assumed name, lower themselves to actually selling some art?
As to how you know whether they are good at art, I will pass on a point I learned from Ewan: don’t trust an artist with a tattoo, but not for the reasons you might think. A good artist, like a good writer, is never quite satisfied with their work, always seeing little improvements that could be made. Therefore, anyone who is satisfied enough with a design to wear it their whole life, must not be an artist.