Sunday, September 27, 2020

Contractual Obligations

Something that I find naturally evolves alongside my artistic development, is my contract writing. It's an integral part of freelance practice, and something I think is easy to overlook in creative training. When I was still in school, contracts were discussed and examples shown, but only very briefly, a lot of what I know now is the result of independent research, trial and error.

Why use contracts? You can definitely just use verbal or text message agreements, and I've done projects like that. But these sorts of arrangements are really only feasible for small projects among people you are close with. For big projects, and especially projects with strangers and corporate entities, a contract is an indispensable piece of insurance to protect your creative rights and paycheck. Projects with larger companies will often see a contract delivered unto you, so that's another reason to have a thorough understanding of what you might want in a contract.

So, in your best interest, brush up on contracts. Or make friends with people who break kneecaps.

It's actually very easy to write contracts. There are plenty of templates and examples out there online, free and paid. You can simply grab one of those, copy and paste in whatever names, entities, and outcomes are relevant to your project, and voilĂ , send it off to the client.

But! It's good to know how to draft up your own contracts, or to extensively modify a template to suit the particular needs of a project. Unless you're very consistently delivering the same sort of product to the same client, the details of projects will vary wildly, and you need to adjust accordingly.

What should be in a good contract? In general, most of my contracts contain, at minimum, the following items:

1. Establish the involved parties, when the became involved, and what's being worked on.

2. Deliverables: What are you going to produce, how many, what format shall they take?

3. Fees: breakdown the cost, have an addendum that revisions (later) can incur additional costs.

4.Confidentiality. Who knows what dark secrets will come to light during the project. For seriously confidential projects, expect to sign a Nondisclosure Agreement (NDA for short). For now, this just establishes you basically won't leak any business information to competitors.

5. Client Approval: Obviously, you have to make them happy. This lets them know they have discretion in this project, but also reaffirms that additional work costs can be negotiated at your discretion.

6. Termination: Sometimes it doesn't work out, someone will ask something the other can't give. It happens, but need to cover your bases. If you've already invested a lot of time, effort, and materials, you should be appropriately compensated.

7. Parties sign and date, to finalize the pact between artist and patron. If you want to spice things up, consider the addition of wax seals.

A Note on Negotiation:

Remember when writing a contract, or being given one, that traffic goes both ways on this street. A client has the right to ask for revisions on a contract. They may want to amend budget, format of deliverables, or who has final rights to the work. And conversely, you have every right to propose amendments as well. Don't accept things you don't like, see what can be compromised on.


Okay, but how enforceable are these contracts? Luckily, creative copyrights default to you. Now, if a client breaks contract, fails to pay, or some other transgression... well, then you're going to have to hound them. Essentially, if they don't give into you reminding them of their signed obligation, then you may have to take them to small claims court. This is easier if you are also a lawyer or a lawyer nearby owes you a life debt. This is a good juncture to highlight that I am, in fact, NEITHER a lawyer or accredited source of legal advice, I'm just passing on what I think I know. Recall a comment about kneecapping.

Anyhow, I hope this is helpful, and as an example I've attached a template of my usual contract. It started life as a free template I found online, and over the past year has been modified and tweaked as I do and learn new things. It's not wholly original, but it's flexible and functional.

- NW

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

The Decentralized Sketchbook

I have a collection of sketchbooks. I have a fair few journals. I actually just ordered another sketchbook. A large portion of my sketchbooks are not full, some not even halfway so. I often struggled with the idea that I must fill a sketchbook before I can move on to the next one.

But that of course isn't true. A sketchbook is like a suit or a dress, we have one for every occasion. 

However, despite the multitude and variety of sketchbooks in my possession, I find it noteworthy that a fair amount of preliminary, formative work is done outside of the sketchbook.

Scraps of paper, margins, sticky notes, the backs of receipts and envelopes. Loose drawings and notes that build a conceptual shorthand. A lot of these are whipped up during idle time in between tasks, lulls in work.

There is something incredibly versatile in working with small pieces, and the medium offers a unique immediacy that the sketchbook cannot.

The scraps start out with a low base value. Easily obtainable and disposed of, they don't intimidate with their blankness the way more refined and expensive paper or canvas. They accrue value when layers of marks, useful marks, are deposited. Having ideas made into physical, malleable pieces, allows a tactile means of organizing, comparing, and recompiling data.

I can stack and shuffle things. I can put them up on the wall. They are fluid.

There does arise a problem, though. The scraps build up. Rapidly. And once inscribed, their perceived value rises, and they can become overly precious, lingering too long. It's important to stay on top, these scraps are intermediaries that require refinement and transposing, after which they may be disposed of.

This method of working is not mine alone. But recognizing and validating it as a part of the larger creative process helps remind us that mindless scribbles are just as important as "traditional" sketchbook work. It's not a waste of time, and it does not delegitimize us as artists to work outside of perceived typical spaces.

- NW

P.S. I'm aware that the mobile display for this blog is still having issues, this has my attention and will be corrected at some point.