Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Good Clients Make For Good Art

-By Dan dos Santos

'Spectra Ward', By Ryan Lee, © Wizards of the Coast

There have always been those companies whom Artists actively seek out as clients. Maybe it's because they have the rights to an intellectual property the Artist loves, or maybe the pay is really good, or maybe the Artists they commission are simply the best out there and we want to be a part of that.

Whatever the reason, there are always those select clients out there who consistently manage to get the very best work out of the artists they commission. Wizards of the Coast is one such client. Every new wave of art they release blows me away, and outshines the last. This most recent set of art is proving to be no different.

More than a decade ago, I aggressively pursued WOTC, trying to coerce them to hire me. Why? For ALL the reasons stated above. I grew up on Magic: The Gathering and wanted to contribute to a brand that I loved. In fact, a lot of Artists feel that way.

Whether you want to work on Magic: The Gathering, or Dungeons & Dragons, or a Dragonlance novel... Wizards of the Coast has earned a reputation for being one of the best places for an aspiring illustrator to get their start.

That is worth repeating...

Wizards of the Coast has earned a reputation for being one of the best places for an aspiring Fantasy Illustrator to get their start. 

That's laudable feat, and a surprisingly rare one. In an era were companies are consistently merging into huge conglomerates, and constantly cutting wages in order to remain competitive,  how does a company manage such fierce loyalty amongst their employees?

You do it like this...

Senior Art Director for The Wizards of the Coast, Jeremy Jarvis, recently sent an email to all of his artists letting them know that, in addition to all the perks they already provide for their artists, WOTC will now be doing the following:
  • They are raising their already competitive pay rates by 20%
  • They have changed the amount of WOTC owned artwork you can use in your own art book from 25% to 75%
  • They've increased the number of artists proofs you receive by 55%. 
And they did all this without any demand or rallying from the artists!

It's this kind of generosity, and a willingness to go to bat for the Artists that work for them, that has earned WOTC the well-desrved reputation of being a great employer. And in exchange, they consistently get some of the best work the industry has to offer. It's a win/win situation.

When asked what instigated such a change, Art Director Jeremy Jarvis has this to say:

A huge part of Magic: the Gathering, both as part of the game and as a hallmark of the brand as a whole, is the incredible quality of the artwork. We realize what an enormous contribution the artwork makes. We also realize that we are dependent on a healthy, happy group of professional illustrators to create this amazing work. I literally can not do my job with out the strong drawing arms of men and women more talented than myself bracing me up. Magic strives to be a great client for these artists, and it is very exciting to be able to add a dollar value to that sentiment.

'Wind Dancer', By Cynthia Sheppard, © Wizards of the Coast

Maybe it's WOTC's willingness to hire a young artist when no one else will. Or maybe it's because the AD may throw a few extra cards your way because he knows you really need it. Or perhaps it's because they'll fly you to Prague so you can sign some cards and hit the museums with bunch of other amazing artists. Whatever reason, I know literally dozens of Illustrators who owe their careers to WOTC.

In my opinion, Wizards of the Coast has gone from being a great client to work for, to an even better client to work for... and I felt that was worth noting.

21 comments:

  1. So great to see a company succeeding and sharing the success with their artists. Cheers WOTC

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  2. This is awesome. So good to hear!

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  3. This is great to hear. I also feel there should be additional compensation and rewards based on artist performance. This way it is a win win. If an artist performs well and meets deadlines, etc...than pay should increase along with bonuses, especially if the artist creating art that responds well to the community.

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  4. Umm...hello. Another organization was instrumental in getting this to happen. Let's not forget them.

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    1. Jim, I'd be very curious to know if it was a direct conversation with Jeremy that helped move this change along? Either way, I'm happy to be a part of PACT and can only hope that this will be an example to follow for other companies out there whose rates are still questionable.

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  5. Great post Dan! I second all this. :)

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  6. I'm so glad to hear this. I'm gonna join the ranks one day.

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  7. A big thanks should go to PACT for the part they played in this excellent development! https://www.facebook.com/Pactartist/posts/704030532965544

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    1. Firstly, I love PACT. But aside from helping announce the rate change, I've yet to see how they are actually involved.

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    2. Well, if nothing else, I know for a fact the creation of the organization has helped facilitate honest conversations between a number of AD's and the "money people" at various publishers. It provided a means for them to quantify their place in the industry in the language that they love the best. Namely, numbers.

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    3. I don't doubt that one bit! In fact, I suspect PACT's biggest contributions in the future will be unseen ones. Knowing that people are watching has a way of keeping people honest.

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    4. Good for WoTC for stepping up.

      I'm with Dan on this, I'm not seeing how AP made this happen. If there were conversations between AP and Jeremey/WoTC that we aren't seeing, let people see those conversations. It can only show the value of standing together.

      WoTC only has 13 reviews, with an average rating of 3.9. I just don't think 13 reviews is enough to make a company make these kind of changes. More so when the aspect that gets the lowest review isn't pay, but the work for hire contract.

      And there's no mention of that aspect going away.

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    5. WotC has always treated artists well and has always had a positive and supportive relationship with the creative community: I think that's reflected by their continued success in the market and the depth (and retention) of their talent pool. That WotC has increased fees and improved terms as a way of sharing their success (which is, in itself, good business) is further proof of those facts. Good post, Dan!

      http://www.icv2.com/articles/news/27842.html

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  8. I'm going to let this one alone out of respect to Jeremy, WotC, and Dan. Let's all just be happy that there was a pay increase, and better contract terms.

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  9. Awesome! Thank you Jeremey/WoTC, PACT and/or whoever was involved in this change. I very much hope to get a chance one day to work for WoTC as well.

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  10. Great idea! Few can afford to out the bad clients in public so, specific experiences aside, shouting about the good ones is a great way to go.

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  11. From what I understand, AP had some right to release this announcement before anyone else (considering this took place a number of weeks ago), why? Was that some sort of silent agreement among other artists personally invested in AP to make it appear as though AP had more to do with this whole thing than they really did? I'd like to know what kind of influence AP had on the AD's at WotC as well outside of just being around and applying pressure on the industry. Why is it such a secret? I'm not saying AP DIDN'T have anything to do with this, I would just like to see more transparency and not political mind games to support what could possibly turn out to be a non-functional and non-influential organization. I want to know what else I, and for other artists, can expect from AP in the future.

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    1. All of the artists that actually work for WOTC were notified directly via email about the changes literally weeks before Pact announced it. Pact simply worked with WOTC to help draft a public announcement, thats it. I waited until they made it public as I'm not in the habit of publicizing other people's financial affairs. Further more, I was uncertain if WOTC would take offense to me publishing information that was included in their private emails (Like most major corporations, all of their internal emails are accompanied by a non-disclosure clause).

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