Art Tests and Opportunists

It’s taking great force of will for me not to name the company which just attempted to subject me to a seven-day long art test in order to work for them in a 100% unpaid capacity.

Great, great force of will.

I’m no proponent of accepting unpaid work. You should always be paid for your work. Arguments can be made regarding taking profit-sharing promises or what have you in lieu of actual pay, but I’m not going to comment on that just now.

I do enjoy being a part of creative collaborations and projects, however, so I frequently reach out to bootstrapped teams to see if there’s any way I can participate. Usually it’s all very positive and friendly and encouraging and fun. But not today.

The individual who responded to me today had some very nice things to say about my art, then proceeded to outline for me the art test which I need to do in order to be considered for their unpaid position. A SEVEN. DAY. Art test.

Specifically, the art test consisted of the following:

  • 3 days completing a redesign of the project’s main character.
  • 3 days creating an original environment asset according to an existing style guide.
  • 1 day for… and this is for reals… refinement and revisions.

A full WEEK of serious work creating assets that could be directly incorporated into their final product, before even being CONSIDERED for the “position.”

I cannot begin to tell you how incensed I am.

Art tests are free work. They are unjustifiable and insulting mechanisms to take advantage of new artists. Worse yet, this studio is a brand new independent and also the kind which presents itself as LLC at the end of emails and throws around titles like Founder and Director among a very small team.

Certain studios may command such strong desire to work for them that artists will understandably subject themselves to art tests (although I don’t think this should ever be the case). This was not one of those studios or one of those projects.

Conceptual artwork, visual development, graphic and logo design, environment design, matte painting… I don’t know where or when we crossed some line andstarted thinking that because the people who do this work well enjoy it that it’s not work.

Professionals get PAID for their work. No client asks an architect to design part of a building before being considered to design the rest. Marketing firms and consultants don’t work on spec. Professionals everywhere let their work and experience speak for themselves—and potential clients accept that. Why should professional commercial art be any different?

Artists work. They work to be paid and they work to eat and they work to get better.

Enough of this.  If you don’t think your portfolio is up to snuff to earn you paid work, then get it up to snuff. Do not work for free just for experience. People WILL take advantage of you and then they will take advantage of others.

Have you run into a bad art test or a particularly insulting project manager?

Share the love.


Other great stuff on the subject:

NO!SPEC campaign against speculative work in design

New York Film Academy’s warning about Illustration Competitions

“Spec Work , Working for Exposure and Competitions” by Lauren Panepinto

“Paying the price for unpaid work” by Rains Birchard

“Spec Work and why you shouldn’t work for free” by David Praznik

“Can it pay to work for free?” by Alice Patillo

“Minimum Wage Artists” by Noah Bradley

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