Cheating. Rip offs. Deceptions.
Call them what you want, the meaning always remains the same.
The scourge of scam is manifesting itself all over the world without restrant to the detriment of poor people whose only fault has been to rely on the wrong people. In recent years, especially with the increase in the reach and power of the internet, computer fraud has greatly expanded and only last year, with the pandemic underway; they have reached a frightening rise. The "prey" are mostly elderly, but anyone can become an unwitting victim.
Unfortunately, not even art, it’s spared from this crime and in freelance art world it affects working artists and clients both.
Commissions never paid, drawings never delivered, bogus disputes… these are just a few examples of the reasons behind the countless scams that take place every day on art platforms. It makes a lot of anger when you spend your time or money on something that will never arrive.
It don't always manage to get justice and it hurts me to admit it… but that doesn't mean there's no hope to get it. Fortunately, the community itself is always willing to help victims, providing advice and tips on a legal basis. And there are also those who, thanks to a lot of patience and dedication; works hard to alert us to the presence of these criminals, like the guys from the “Artists Beware” site.
I learned about "Artists Beware" thanks to the intervention of a user: he warned me and another artist circa a job request from what seemed to be a normal client, reporting the profile on the aforementioned site. Reading the list of crimes and the testimonies of some victims, I considered myself very lucky.
If this site didn't exist, probably me or someone else would be working for nothing by now.
This site is a lifesaver for many people! The idea and the work behind are so phenomenal, thanks to the collaboration between the staff that maages it and the registered users. Exactly for this reason I decided to interview the guys to know more about who and what is behind this site.
1) first question, the most important: who are you guys and what it is "Artist Beware"? how you come up with this idea?
Artist Beware originated as a group on LiveJournal. Due to the unique nature of individual commissions and no central place to give reviews of services at the time, the LiveJournal group was created as a way to hold artists and clients accountable for their actions and make others aware of bad business practices so that they don't get strung around or scammed. The team that Artist Beware started with on LiveJournal is not the one it currently has, so who we are has changed a lot over the years.
We currently run as an archive for bad transactions and as a place to seek advice and information in the art world.
As we aren’t the original iteration of the staff, the creation of Artists Beware wasn’t our idea. We’re simply continuing on the work that others started.
2): Was it difficult to bring this site to life? or did you immediately find a lot of support?
Celestina: The only real hurdle we had in moving from Livejournal to our own website was a technological one. Thanks to support from FurryLife.Online’s (FLO) owner, we had help in getting started up. The rest has been us learning as we go and seeking help when we need it. Artists Beware has been lucky to have a good readership base, and folks always step up to help us with technological advice when we need it.
3): The team that makes this place active: did you already know each other or did you meet at different times? Do you work well together?
To re-iterate, the Livejournal Group has been around since 2003 and in that time we've had significant moderator team changes with only a few of the old staff left. Currently, much of the team has known each other from just regular comment activity on both the original Artist Beware LiveJournal group and the current website so while we may not have personally known each other, we were often aware of one another at least in passing.
Seeing how they have conducted themselves with the community gives the rest of the mod team insight on whether they'd be a good fit. Occasionally we get a new mod that are new to the community and it requires us to research and vet those new people through different means but this is not as common.
Those that do not work well with the core team, are not kept around. Due to the sensitive nature of this, it is crucial that we are all able to work together and be on the same page. This doesn't mean that we always agree with one another but what it does mean is that we're able to work with and acknowledge those disagreements as a team.
Celestina: One of the most important values Xai and I wish to instill from our staff is the ability to handle disagreement gracefully. While we may not see everything eye-to-eye any disrespectful behavior will not be tolerated. This is how we keep the team running smoothly.
4): Has it ever happened that someone (perhaps one of the "criminals" mentioned on the site) has tried to shut you down or discredit you?
Sure. There will always be people who disagree with us for a variety of reasons. Either they disagree with us on principle, or their favorite artist ended up posted here, or simply because they don’t know every post is vetted by staff. Regardless of the reason we’ve seen many attempts to hurt the site. Whether it be legal threats or attacking staff at their online art businesses.
Usually most of these threats are without merit. Artists Beware understands our legal standing, and we do everything in our power to protect ourselves and ensure that we are legally clear.
Xai: We deal in mainly furry and in furry it's a lot of idealism and friendship. Good artists with bad practices and popular clients with shady backgrounds take advantage of that a lot. We've been referred to as a "drama group" for as long as I've been staff. And the usual suspects... generally have the most under their tag.
This is why we work hard to make sure the proof is there in every case and if we feel it's fishy; it's tossed. Can't call us drama when it's a screenshot of your own words.
5) what this site rappresent to you?
Celestina: Good practices in the art world, and helping those who are out of options.
Alex: AB represents a place where clients and artists can both check a prospective creative partner, to make sure that they have a good practices. Essentially, it acts as a check against those who would attempt to scam, though I realize its not perfect (name changes exist.)
Rikki: What does it represent to me... Hmm. It's a place of growth and insight, and I learned a lot from it over the years on how to better conduct myself with the art community. You get so many different perspectives when you're in a position of either being the subject of a post or having to draft up your own.
6) what impact has your site had on the art community? do you think it has helped so many people?
Celestina: Judging by some of the responses we get from readers, I think it’s helped. I’ve had people thank us in passing before.
7) have you had any cases of people being redeemed?
“Redeemed” as in turn their business around? Yes. In fact artists who own up to their mistakes and make efforts to resolve them are seen favorably by our readers. We have seen some artists make stunning comebacks. It’s what we like to see.
8) in general, what are the tips you can give to people to avoid running into these cheating clients / artists?
Answering this one can get pretty long, so I think it would be best to be brief. Watch an artist to ensure they’re actually producing work at the same pace they’re taking new work on. Keep an eye out for unfair clauses in their Terms of Service, like “no refunds ever” or “you must wait six months before you can ask me for a refund”. Or paying in a way that removes buyer protection, like asking for “Friends and Family.
For artists it is best to avoid clients who insist on haggling, or who want to see the work before payment has been sent. Never start without receiving some kind of payment, or don’t send unwatermarked work.
I thank the moderators for giving me some of their time for the interview, but above all for the work they do every day for the community.
Remember to visit their site! https://artistsbeware.info/