Guys, this is a somewhat personal blog, and I’m a little angry right now so bear with me.
In late August 2013, Ben and I had a table at Intervention 4. (We’ll be back again next year and I swear to glob I better see some of you guys there, but I digress.). During slow periods I would occasionally shop around at Artists Alley. At one of the tables I spotted the devilishly charming pirate artist Robert Quill, selling books and prints of his works along with custom illustrations.
I’d seen him the year before at a Star Trek convention in Cherry Hill, NJ. After buying a handmade necklace from his booth, he tried several ways to Sunday to convince me to commission a drawing. Like a used car salesman, he threw out incentives to get me to purchase other products. He also offered a naughty discount if I would let him imagine me in certain levels of undress. (I did not.) He’s pretty dang talented, but also rather pricey … and convincing. Still, I somehow managed to make it out of the Trek con with my wallet intact.
At Intervention, though, I convinced myself that I needed a commission from him: I’d get a picture of my boyfriend Ben and me as Time Lords and use the characters to represent us on our Playing Doctor Podcast! Brilliant!
There was of course some paperwork to fill out, a small disclaimer saying something like “must pay in full, no guarantee of deadline, no lube shall be provided for the services you are about to receive, you may become a human centipede,” etc. (OK. I didn’t really read that way, but it should have.)
Sure, sure, whatever. I had hired artists before, and I wasn’t in much of a hurry, so no big deal. I’ll get the art whenever.
I received a first draft sketch in just over two weeks. I approved it almost immediately and got confirmation of my approval within 10 days. (We’re up to October 3 for those of you playing along at home.) This all basically matched my idea of a “busy artist” schedule, assuming his business is full-time freelance/commission.
So when he said I’m afraid it’s going to be some time until it gets to the top of the “completion queue,” I wondered what could possibly be the latest date. Maybe January? No problem. I figured the best thing to do was to forget about it and avoid impatience, because then it would be like no time had passed at all!
On February 5, I finally came to my senses and sent him a quick, courteous little email asking for a status update. Something was stirring in my gut, and it wasn’t the burrito I ate for lunch. I started suspecting that I needed to escalate the issue. I needed to find another way to contact him and get some more information on why it was taking so long. I was already his friend on Facebook, but he didn’t seem to be posting much. I checked Twitter.
Instead of an active Twitter account, I found this:
Author Donya Lynne: Authors Be Warned: Robert Quill – Con "Artist" http://t.co/K3tAvyrh4F
— Tom Antion (@ScamBrigade) January 13, 2014
Upon seeing this, I immediately ran a Google search on his name. As I scrolled through the results, I found dozens of people whose reports were similar to mine. Some had waited 12-18 months and may or may not have actually received the product they’d paid for.
Robert Quill himself has chimed to defend himself in the comments of a couple blogs and his Better Business Bureau page. In almost all cases – stretching back to the beginning of 2011 – I see a list of excuses about why he’s been so far behind schedule. Always the same thing: life is busy, unexpected turns, etcetera.
Life is tough man, truly. I feel your pain. I bet you also have kids and a full-time job and two or three podcasts, and the commissions are just so far behind all of your other obligations, and you have been slaving away at them whenever you have time, and …
Oh, what’s that? …This IS your full time job? You’ve found time to table at MORE conventions, where you undoubtedly took on MORE commissions to add below the list of the ones you’ve still haven’t completed? And what’s THAT? You are happy to charge extra for VIP status if your customers are unhappy with your schedule?
That seems absolutely NOTHING like a shakedown, does it?
He dressed like a pirate and talked me up like an expert snake-oil salesman. “Oh, that’s just an act,” I thought. “He’s just a cool guy and an expert salesman! Way to find a niche! I mean look at all these other people buying from him. He’s totally legit.”
I look at the facts now and think, “How could I have NOT known he was a con man? Man. I’m an idiot. ”
The truth is, most people don’t stop and research artists at conventions. There’s really no time and often the wi-fi/cell coverage is spotty to slow at best. You look at their portfolio and make a judgement. Some convention artists even work on your commissions overnight and will give them to you before you leave the show. That means, they bypass all of the fun post-convention party time to do their job.
I wrote a rather curt email to Mr. Quill earlier this month, basically saying “Hey bitch, where my art. Put out or get out.”
At any point in this process, it would have only taken one simple trick to not get my feathers ruffled: COMMUNICATION. At no point since October did I receive an email saying, “Sorry, it’s taking longer than expected. You’re #937 in the queue, and you’ll likely have your order sometime next year.” If I had received such an email, I would have been unhappy; but, at least, I would know whether I would ever get anything for my money other than a rough sketch. A little communication often goes a long way.
At this point, I’d kind of like to dispute the charges with my credit card and perhaps report it to Square, but ya know what? I still want my art. Does that make me a sucker?** Please see update below**
Artists have a bad reputation for being flakes. The LAST thing any PR team needs is a guy like this.
The worst, to me, is that this happened to me at Intervention, which has the coolest community of artists and creators on the planet. The people who table there range from beginner to advanced, from hobbyist to professional, and a little of every imaginable style is represented. My giving money to Mr. Quill indirectly took money away from so many talented individuals who would absolutely LOVE to do art for cash.
To take it up another notch, I personally know several character artists who could have used the money and actually would have delivered.
And THAT’S the final thought that made me turn this blog into something positive. Below I’ve posted links of artists that I either know personally or were vouched for by Facebook friends. Consider it a little bit of positive karma for making a bad decision.
Here’s the lesson:
Buy art from the good guys. Try to get a personal recommendation. Trust your gut. When all else fails, check Google first!
Shown Above: Robot Portraits by Ben Rollman (who has done at minimum 5 sketches for me over the years), Chris Flick (who also did the Mouthy Broadcast caricatures), J.K. Woodward, Drew Moss, Modern Folk – Amy Klein, Nick Pendleton
More Non Shady Artists!
I am a little late in doing this, but to be fair, my update on the eventual resolution was faster than his customer service.
After writing this blog, I filed a fraud claim with my credit card. I was extremely upset with the bank, who settled in his favor, deciding that a 3 month non-response from the merchant was not enough to prove he had horrible customer service and had not stolen my money. What!
So I filed with the Better Business Bureau. Shockingly I suddenly started getting emails from him. Now that it had been a year, I decided I certainly did NOT want his art any more, because it would mean I’d be posting it on Playing Doctor and helping to advertise a business that I could not support. I would have accepted the pencil sketch if necessary, which I would take to another artist for finalization.
However I’m happy to report that I was given a full refund. It’s frustrating that I had to wait over a year and make it official, but in the end I got my money back and didn’t have to go to small claims court.
You know it’s pretty bad when there’s a facebook group called Robert Quill owes me artwork.
Soapy Smith scammed yer great-grandpa