** This is a catalogue of a few things I’ve encountered recently; all opinions are my own. I have had my fair share of amazing clients and some wonderful collaborations. This is just trying to finally formalize the hard-to-answer and awkward situations; your own experiences or feedback is welcome.
- “Well I’m doing YOU a favour. I’m submitting to a high-impact journal so I’m giving you exposure.”
The above statement is only partially true. I approach medical illustration (especially for journals and research) as more of a symbiotic relationship between art and science than some researchers would, per se. Without the science, we wouldn’t have the art, but without the art, there is a communication breakdown from author to reader. I am a specialist here to bridge that gap. Without me, your article in the ‘high-impact journal’ may not have as much ‘impact’ as you expect.
- “Further, having your artwork on the cover is something very prestigious and can be added to your portfolio.”
Furthermore, this is the one thing I have encountered the most that infuriates me. Don’t tell me what is and isn’t prestigious – especially that it’s something I can include in my portfolio*. What’s worse is that they assume that high-impact or prestige can buffer the illustrator’s payment. For instance, Scientific American/Nature/etc have a huge audience, naturally, their covers would pay much higher than some no-name journal published in-house. Can you guess which cover artist would cost more?
I don’t dictate how you should practice medicine, so please don’t assume you understand my field; what may be prestigious for you may not be as prestigious for me. Plot twist, unfortunately, a static image won’t have much bearing on my portfolio because the local biomedical studios are hiring based on our animation/interactive work.
I have encountered instances where some researchers look down on the illustrator - as if we only provide a service for their convenience and at their disposal. One client, so kindly compared me to just someone who comes in to tinker with what’s already there (i.e. a plumber). I gently reminded them that unless they knew how to fix a toilet themselves, that even the nicest house can be ruined by faulty plumbing.
Scoffing the chef because he serves you food? And you’re not an Michelin-starred chef yourself? smart.
*Under the contract I had signed, I own copyright of the image, so the matter of portfolio-inclusion was null.
Hint for clients: never use the word “exploit" in conversation to define how you perceive my biomedical work. LOL yes this has also happened.
- "Well according to the contract we signed […]"
ALL OR NOTHING. You cannot pick and choose which parts of the contract you want to quote. As an illustrator, I ensured that all my deadlines were kept. If you want to start quoting the contract, you shouldn’t have broken a few clauses on your end. Because I will quote them. And I will use them. A contract is meant to be kept on both ends.
- "How long does that take you to do this? Why is it so expensive?"
This is a profession. This is a specialized field. A certified medical illustrator graduating from an accredited program means we’ve suffered alongside our medschool peers to be competent in scientific knowledge. We also are extremely comfortable with a large variety of software.
Rendering a single, static 3D image can take up to days. It is paramount to explain workflow to clients because they aren’t familiar with this. Animations take a very long time to render, and so their budget for a 10min animation may not be feasible.
New illustrators: don’t undersell yourself.
- "I can just do this in Microsoft Paint."
No hate on Microsoft Paint, but hey if you can, then all power to you. What do you need me for?
- "So can you just copy it from <insert source here> and […] "
I drew a heart recently. To ensure my anatomical accuracy, I had about 8-10 images for reference - 6 textbooks, 3/4 online sources. FOR REFERENCE. Not as foundation for my illustration. This apparently is a controversial issue for some, but for me: an ethical workflow creates an honest portfolio.