This is a public service warning. Since 2007, I've worked with 8 artists on dozens of commissions that amounted to thousands of dollars. I've had a falling out with an artist, and I've had slow turn-around, but I've never had an artist fail to complete a paid commission or stop responding to emails...until now. Many of you are authors seeking book covers or even illustrations. You've heard me recommend artists before. Now I'm un-recommending one.
His name is Robert Quill. Here's what happened: I was at Balticon for the first time in 2011 and loved it! As a memento, I purchased a $119 commission of myself as a pirate from a man who turned out to be...in retrospect...a pirate. :( Rober was an official artist at the convention as far as I could tell. He had a booth outside the dealer’s area. I was planning to use the image as a playful portrait in the "About Me/ Contact" section of the Cowry Catcher's website.
Mr. Quill took all the money up front at the convention via credit card, engaged in a few halfhearted emails back and forth, never finished the commission, and then stopped responding to my requests for update.
Here’s a timeline:
5/31/11 – I paid $119 via credit card at Balticon for an ink illustration of myself as pirate.
6/13/11 – I emailed for status update (and to make sure he had not lost my email address).
6/15/11 – He sent me an email with a link to this sketch http://www.robertquill.com/transfer/AbigailHilton.jpg, asking whether I wanted to make any corrections before he finished the piece.
6/26/11 – I responded verifying that the sketch was a go.
10/9/11 – I wrote to ask for an update; he said he had misplaced the commission and would look into it.
10/18/11 – I wrote asking whether he’d found the missing commission and expressing concerns about his intention to finish it. He never responded.
I would be surprised if I’m the only person he’s done this to. People commissioning artwork at a convention have no way of checking the credentials of artists or comparing reviews from other clients. We take it on faith that an artist with a booth has been at least marginally vetted by the convention organizers. I’m sure they didn’t know he was a thief.
However, as an author who commissions a lot of artwork, I'm trying to make sure that people know. Don't commission this guy. I’m sure I’ll never see my $119 again or the artwork, but I would at least like to make sure he doesn’t get to keep taking advantage of my peers.
If further developments occur (like a refund or the artwork), I'll add an update. Maybe Mr. Quill was struck by lightning and cannot answer his emails. Maybe, but I doubt it.
Update 11/20/11: Right after making the previous post, I emailed the Balticon organizers. There's no reporting system for artists, and I don't want this artist to do the same thing to some other sucker at the convention next year. I have lots of friends who attend that convention. The Balticon organizers were very nice and actually got in touch with the artist's agent. This resulted in the artist offering me a refund. To date, the refund has not arrived (he said that he could not refund my credit card and didn't want to use Paypal). However, we seem to be making progress. I am impressed with the Balticon organizers for their handling of this situation. They care about their attendees.
Update 12/8/11 - Robert refunded my money today via Paypal after I got the Balticon organizers involved. The con organizers truly seemed to care about my predicament, and I am greatful for their help.
If you ever feel the need to comission this guy (or anyone, really), I advise paying half the money up front and half on completion. This is a common practice, and if an artist will not agree to it...find someone else. I don't think Robert intended to rob me when he took my credit card at the convention. However, I do think he needs money on the table as motivation to complete a comission.