The law of unintended consequences
Posted by Martin on July 16, 2010
It’s funny how one thing leads to another – especially when it’s something you hadn’t even considered as a remote possibility.
You’ll probably recall that I wrote a short posting a while ago about the addition of the “Contact me” form to BfK (clue: it’s to the right of what you’re reading now). At the time, I simply viewed this as a way for people to get in touch and perhaps ask me questions that didn’t fit neatly into the ongoing comment threads attached to any of my postings. To begin with, that’s pretty much what happened and I’d like to take this opportunity to thank those of you who did that and apologise to some of you for not responding yet. I will get there, it’s just that, as John Lennon said, life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.
But recently I received a question that gave me considerable pause for thought. Somebody asked me if I took on painting commissions. Hmmm. That really made me stop what I was doing and think hard. Why? Well, it’s a topic that had never come up before and, when I started to chew it over, I realised that it was complex and threw up all sorts of emotions and questions:
- Firstly, I was flattered – somebody out there actually thinks the standard of my figure painting is something they’re prepared to pay for with their hard-earned cash. In fact, the individual concerned said a number of flattering things about how he likes my style of painting. To avoid our mutual embarrassment, I’m not going to quote from the correspondence here but suffice to say I was chuffed.
- After that first flush of excitement, a nervous reality check cut in. Hang on, I thought, what kind of expectations does this chap have? I’m a notoriously slow painter and I have enough trouble getting figures painted for my own collection. How much of an impact on my own work would a commission have? What if we’re looking at a really big job? And what kind of figures? There are plenty of nationalities I don’t know enough about and there are a fair few manufacturers who’s figures I hate painting. Ummm… I don’t want to disappoint anybody so maybe it’s time for a bit of expectation management, I thought.
- Finally, I got to the stage of being more practical and we entered into a correspondence where I explained my predicament and what kind of a commission I was prepared to take on. Happily, everything worked out and we’ve agreed to try it out and see how we get on.
I hope you get the sense my turmoil over this because it was a difficult decision for me – and that’s without lowering the tone by mentioning the question of renumeration. But the die is cast now and I’m looking forward to this as a new life experience. If it goes well, I’ll consider doing more and it might have the side effect of energising work on my own collection.
So why am I telling you all this? You don’t want to hear about the angst-ridden decisions of a sensitive artiste like moi, do you? No, nor do I. The reason for posting this is twofold. Firstly, I’m finding it therapeutic to write down all this – somehow, it’s helping me confirm that the decisions I’ve made about taking commissions make sense. Secondly, if anybody else asks me about painting some figures for them, I’ll be able to refer them to this and save the effort of to-ing and fro-ing to explain why will and won’t do certain things. So, for anybody who wants to know, here’s the basis on which I will consider taking on a figure painting commission:
- This isn’t what I do for a living, it’s my hobby. That means I’ll only take on work that appeals to me and fits into my schedule. I reserve the right to be utterly selfish and inconsistent about when I say “yes” and when I say “no”.
- I’ll only take on small commissions. That means individual figures or small sets of up to five figures. The sorts of things that are likely to appeal to me are command figures, drummers, standard bearers, casualties, skirmisher groups and other small or unusual vignettes.
- I have a narrow focus of interest and expertise. I only do Napoleonics, I only do 28mm and I only do Calpe Miniatures figures. That might change in future but for now I make no apologies for only doing figures I like and know.
- I only paint to one standard and you can see what that is by looking at the photos I post on this blog. I’m not going to get involved in painting to any lower standards to get things done faster or cheaper.
- I’ll paint figures in my usual way – acrylic paints, at least one layer of tough gloss varnish for protection and one or more layers of matt varnish for a realistic appearance.
- I am prepared to accommodate certain specific requests – for example, if you want the figures painted to represent a particular unit, if you want the figures based a particular way, if you want things like blanket rolls or shako covers to be a particular colour, if you do or don’t want my usual muddy weathered campaign look. If you’re not sure, just ask – the worst that can happen is that I’ll say “no” – I don’t bite.
- You’ll need to be patient – I’m very slow.
- You’ll have to purchase the figures and send them to me. I’ll confirm receipt and keep you informed of progress. I may even e-mail you work-in-progress photos!
- I reserve the right to put photos of the figures (either work-in-progress or finished) on BfK or write about the commission on BfK (but I will preserve your anonymity if you wish).
- When it comes to getting the finished figures back to you, I prefer one of two methods – either via a postal method with insurance that requires a signature on delivery or, if it turns out we’ll both be at the same wargames show, then I like the idea of handing over the figures in person.
- Payment: I expect 50% of the fee up front and the remainder on delivery. Contact me offline if you want a quote. The rate per figure I’ve settled on is based on what I know other painters charge for Napoleonics, the standard of my painting, how long it takes me to paint a figure and how much I think my time is worth (remember, I don’t have to do this for a living; my day job in IT pays very nicely; and my time is my single most valuable asset).
Now I can see how that might look like a restrictive list and, if I were doing this on a commercial basis, I’d agree that it wouldn’t win me much custom. But I’m not doing it as a business so I can afford to be choosy. Right, anybody want to sign me up for the next series of Grumpy Old Men?