Jiminy Christmas! | Adam Hughes Sketch Fiasco

Adam Hughes was at Boston Comicon this past weekend.  I arrived at his table around 10:05 AM on the first day to find his sketch list well over ten names, which I knew meant he wouldn’t get to me even if I was added to the list.

I’ve actually seen Adam Hughes four times at different conventions but never was able to get a sketch.  Way back at his first Toronto appearance I was on the list and even gave a deposit but I didn’t get a sketch.  His next Toronto appearance he had an injured thumb and couldn’t draw.  I next saw him in Chicago but couldn’t make the list; fellow writer Chris Owen did make the list and received a wonderful Princess Leia piece.  Anyway, he’s a great artist that commands a premium for sketches in the art market.

He completed three sketches over the weekend and was upset that one of them was on eBay: I saw it yesterday around $2600 but the auction was ended, probably because the buyer has been shamed on the internet.  The full rant is available at Hughes fans Yahoo Group or via Bleeding Cool.  Bottom line is Hughes will be using eBay to sell his sketches for about the same price they’re going for currently online; no more $200-$400 con sketches.  For me that’s still a large chunk of money and while they may go for significantly more online then I can’t afford one.

Alison Sohn, Hughes partner, made the posts mentioned above.  As well she said Hughes ” has to kill himself drawing” to get the convention sketches done.  If he’s charging $400 per sketch and it takes him all day to draw one he made $400 on top of his appearance fee for the show.  I realize artists come out to comic conventions for the fans but he had a table covered with sketchbooks and prints to offset his trip.  In the end he’s a business.  Every time I walked by his table at the Toronto show where he injured his thumb there were no fans; Hughes sat alone.

This certainly raises an interesting point: should artists sketch at conventions at all?  The problems with convention sketches are two-fold: you may not get one at all if the artist doesn’t finish his list and the quality can vary greatly based on time constraints.  Hughes seems to consistently produce quality sketches but very few per show so demand outstrips supply and there’s a healthy third-party market.

The best solution is to prepare a portfolio of sketches before a comic convention and offer them for sale at the show: this allows people to see what they’re buying and the artist doesn’t have to worry about getting a list of sketches completed.  Yes this doesn’t allow for sketches of obscure characters but most people want what the artist is currently drawing anyway, plus they know those character’s designs and will create a piece at the top of their game.

At the Boston show Stan Sakai had twenty or so Usagi sketches in different poses: I thumbed through and picked the one I liked best.  These finished pieces were $130 and his quick sketches were $50 but I knew I was getting an exceptional piece up front.  I’ve never seen a convention sketch compare to a sketch completed in the artist’s studio.  The same thing happened at Dave Johnson’s table: $100 sketches but he had two nice full figure pieces completed for $150 each.  Darwyn Cooke does this most shows and seems to sell everything he has.

A nice meet in the middle solution is for artists to take sketch requests before the show; they can even get paid beforehand and deliver the completed item at the show.  I saw this work successfully at Toronto Comicon this year with Bob McLeod, Chris Sprouse and Micheal Cho.

Scott VanderPloeg Written by:

Editor-In-Chief. Scott works in I.T. but lives to eat and read. His other ramblings can be found at eBabble. Art collection at Comic Art Fans. Joe Shuster Awards Harry Kremer coordinator.

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18 Comments

  1. May 4, 2011

    Next week I’ll discuss “flipping” artwork and dealers versus collectors.

  2. Chris
    May 4, 2011

    I’m not at all surprised by this. It was a long time in the making. Even years ago he would get ticked at people selling his art on ebay for multiple times his asking price. Sad for the fans that can’t afford the selling prices that ebay fetches. Looking forward to your next article about “flipping” artwork.

  3. Charlie
    May 4, 2011

    I can understand Adam’s disappointed but I think Alison’s rant is an over reaction. A big part of the comics market has always been about speculation and that’s just the reality. It’s not something you can regulate and in someways I think it’s healthy. At the end of the day, art and comics is commerce. If the money does not flow, it will stagnate and eventually collapse.
     
    If I was Adam, I would take the higher road and view it as a compliment. That his sketches can command such a premium is a huge nod to his talent and his popularity. He can always price his sketches based on what his time is worth so that he’s covered but to not do sketches would be a big loss to his fans and a missed PR opportunity.
     
    I have to say, that Wonder Woman sketch is one of the nicest Adam Hughes sketches ever. Personally, I would have framed it and enjoyed it, …at least for a while. To flip it so quickly is crass but we can’t assume that we all share the same values.

  4. I, Warren
    May 4, 2011

    I wouldn’t see it as a nod. I’d see it as a huge headbutt to the teeth.  “you only charge $200, but you could have made $3000.  Sucker!”
    I don’t think her comments are that bad.  It sounds like this flipper spun a whole slew of lies and engaged in constant pestering to get a sketch under the false pretense it was something they really wanted on a personal (not monetary) level.
    I don’t know how he decided on his prices, but he knows he’s popular, he knows there are plenty of people who want his work and he knows it can go for a lot more than he was charging.
     

  5. Chris
    May 4, 2011

    I completely agree. Adam is a great guy who has seen his artwork sold on Ebay for years at multiple times his selling price. I’ve had the occaision of talking to him a few times about it and he never wanted to raise his prices because he tried to keep his fans happy. Sadly I think this is the best move for him. Is it a complement that his art sells for big bucks? Yes. Should he continue to be taken advantage of when he can reap the rewards of his skills? No. I think it’s great that he is doing this.

  6. Charlie
    May 4, 2011

    If Mr. Hughes charges $200 and someone flips his sketch for $3000, I don’t see him as being a “sucker”. As Chris mentioned, Adam has been aware of what his works are worth for years so he made a choice:
     
    • He priced his work
    • He sold it to a buyer who paid him
     
    It’s a done deal. To have expectations outside of this simple transaction is unrealistic unless there are terms to that effect.
     
    Also, Warren, keep in mind you’re only hearing one side of the story… and we all know it’s human nature to exaggerate for effect. Even if Alison’s account was dead on accurate, it’s moot and it makes Mr. Hughes appear like a “sour puss” which I’m sure he is not.
     
    If the situation were reversed and the sketch only sold for $10 bucks, would you feel that the buyer was a “sucker”. Of course not, because he knowingly paid what was being charged and the fact he tried to flip it would not be an issue, although the principle is hasn’t changed (this is the hippocratic nature of man).
     
    My point is, there is no surprise here. Ebay has been around since 1994. Once something is sold, it’s out your hands and why would human nature and the desire for profit be any different in this situation.
     
    Adam Hughes is no newbie… He knows the market, he know’s about eBay and he know’s his worth. He made a conscious decision to sell at a certain price point, knowing full well that soon or later, many of his sketches would be resold.
     
    The heart of the issue here is “taste” and part of the problem is that it’s difficult to assign a dollar value when it comes to art. But, let’s not be fooled into thinking that Adam Hughes doesn’t know what his works could potentially bring in. I agree it was ill-mannered for the seller to turn around and flip the sketch but for Adam to punish the rest of his fans by restricting access to his great art doesn’t right a wrong, nor change human behaviour.

  7. May 4, 2011

    Maybe we should just start branding the flippers next with cattle brands. This is a continuing problem and one that will never get resolved until (a) the flipping stops (it won’t), (b) creators get thicker skins and try not to let it bother them as much (they won’t), or (c) the companies put an end to the practice or get involved in the process (highly unlikely they will). Personalization is the smart move on the creative side, but we’ve seen flippers will just invest in some liquid paper to blot it out.
    I buy finished art myself – preferably published art but sometimes pre-done pieces the artist puts out for sale. It’s an artist/customer relationship where being a fan doesn’t play as much of a part as it does in these special request pieces.  If I buy a piece of priced art off a table or from a binder, it’s mine to do with as I please. The flippers that line up for hours and play the part of the fanboy as this fellow did – begging to get a piece (and a great piece at that) to flip is both nauseating and reprehensible.
     

  8. Charlie
    May 4, 2011

    OH COME ON KEVIN. I don’t want to get personal in an open forum… but get real!

  9. I, Warren
    May 4, 2011

    you nailed the point I failed to make, Kevin: “the flippers that line up for hours and play the part of the fanboy as this fellow did – begging to get a piece (and a great piece at that) to flip is both nauseating and reprehensible.”
     

  10. I, Warren
    May 4, 2011

    Charlie, the “sucker” comment was an attempt to paraphrase the emotional effect the flipping may’ve had on Mr Hughes.  I never called him a sucker, merely tried to point out how me may’ve felt afterwards.
     

  11. May 4, 2011

    Seriously Charlie, why make it personal? Creators are upset over a zillion different things that fans and collectors do with the things that they get from them… whether it’s autographs, sketches, etc. The problem at the heart this situation is the “fan” element that is played out between creators and customers. They think they are doing this for fans, not people buying to flip art – and they are reacting as they are to those that do and punishing the others who took their art home and cherish it. If Adam Hughes can get $3000 for a sketch on eBay, why even DO shows? He thinks that by going to a show and offering a sketch for $400 to a fan (remember dealers and exhibitors cannot get these sketches as they are banned from lining up) who has paid to attend the event he is giving them a fair deal. I’d love to brand the weasels that lurk about shows trying to get these kinds of deals so they can earn the difference between a show price and the prices that they can realize on eBay.

  12. May 4, 2011

    You see them all of the time at shows. At local events some of the regular artists know who they are when they see them. Some creators don’t care. Some creators raise their prices to deal with it. The situation only creates a level of antagonism, distrust and resentment between some creators and some fans.

  13. May 4, 2011

    Actually, the “heart” of this particular issue for both sides is TRUST and GREED.

  14. Charlie
    May 4, 2011

    Kevin, I’m trying not to make it personal but considering you are a CGC witness… I find it difficult to accept what you are saying? How is this any different then the all the signed books you’ve got listed on eBay?
     
    As an art lover myself, I totally understand Adams frustration. Adam feels slighted because he was led to believe that this person was a fan. It’s a blow to the ego to find out that he probably wasn’t… and on top of that he stands to profit from Adams efforts. That’s all this is about… nothing more. So my advice to Adam is to… “suck it up big boy”. It’s happened before and it’s going to happen again. His action is retaliatory and does little to change things. Meanwhile, his real fans are the ones who will be losing out.
     
    From what little I know about Adam Hughes, he seems like a nice guy… obviously a talented force to be reckoned with… but is he a better person then any of us? Are we better than the guy who tried to sell Adams work on eBay? Sorry, but I just don’t buy that premise.

  15. Charlie
    May 4, 2011

    Warren, yes… I get your point and I understand it’s difficult not to get emotional but emotion often clouds truth and judgement. For example, if you found out that the sellers mother was dying so he needed the money, would this change his action? No, but it will change your perception as you start to feel compassion and sympathy. I’m pretty sure the seller was motivated by money but I would prefer to take a more analytical and objective view. Especially when information is so limited.
     
    It’s like when you watch a wildlife documentary:
     
    • If the show is about lions, you cheer on the lion to get the gazelle so he can eat.
    • If the show is about gazelles, you hope that the gazelle escapes the to live another day.
     
    It’s only your perception of the same event that changes.
     
    Everyone naturally jumps on the popular band wagon. This is a comic forum so I get that most people here will side with Alison’s rant. But, aside from being fanboys, I trust that we are intelligent enough to see the simple truth. There are no sides here… objectively speaking, the whole situation is nothing more then the law of the jungle playing itself out. The lion is not any more or less evil than the gazelle.
     
    We love Adam Hughes because we love comics… Separate the man from his work and Alison’s rant comes off as if Adam is a sore loser because he got the lesser of a deal. But, I’m sure Adam does very well… he can crank out drawings all day and sell them on eBay himself. And there are no rules here saying you can’t sell/give/destroy/frame or toss what you’ve purchased.
     
    So Kevin, I disagree. Perhaps you can argue that the buyer misrepresented himself but who hasn’t twisted a dealers arm now and then to try and get a better deal. Greed is a human trait and it’s in us all. The seller simply exercised bad judgement by try to sell the art so quickly which suggests that he never really valued Mr. Hughes art. Clearly this is not politically correct… but the jungle remains indifferent.

  16. May 4, 2011

    Re: Signature Series. It was definitely becoming an issue that creators were not happy that people were encapsulating their autographs.  A few of us did (and continue to do) some outreach to creators. I don’t do much Signature Series anymore, but I do try to make the creator aware what they are signing the book for, what my costs are to get the book encapsulated and sent back to me as well as  compensate them for their autograph.

  17. Charlie
    May 4, 2011

    Honestly Kevin, I don’t think any of this is a big deal, which is why I refrain from criticizing the Adam Hughes flipper too harshly. After all, a big part collecting is also the fun and joy of flipping. Otherwise why would OverStreet continue to crank out their ill relevant book every year, even though their numbers are completely fabricated and make no sense.

    The creators themselves know the game so for Adam Hughes to get all snarky and pooh pooh over eBay is a big joke. Have a listen to JRJr. I’m not a fan but he tells it like it is.

    As fans we may see our fav creators as superstars but it’s all just factory work. It’s the same thing in my line of work. We have design stars like David Carson (Ray Gun Magazine), and legends like Paul Rand (IBM logo), and no matter how many industry awards I may win… It doesn’t pay for my daughters piano lessons.

    It’s a commercial industry and there is a balance between the creators, publishers, the fans and promoters like yourself. Everyone is out to make money from each other. As much as I love Adam Hughes, he’s just another canon among many who help make up the fabric of the comic biz, so he should really take a chill pill.

    Creators charge what they feel they can get away with in the same way you guys charge $40 at the door. You can charge less but why when you can charge more!! Likewise, Stan will sign anything and everything under the sun as long as fans continue to fork over the $80 bucks, and they will as long as signed books continue to command a premium. Neal Adams charging $10 bucks per signing in Boston is the choice he’s made knowing that all those GL#76s will be going straight to the CGC booth, then back on eBay again in anticipation of the movie, which studios have calculated to bring in at least $100K opening weekend knowing that every fanboy will be renting a seat for $12 for 2 hours only to have the cycle repeat itself in July with Captain America. At Christmas we’ll be seeing GL DVD’s and power rings at Toys r Us. Everyone has a part to play and that’s just economics.

    Adam Hughes knows this better than any of us. He’s decided to charge what he charges for a sketch so he’s covered… and no one can be held accountable for that but him. So, good luck to us all for the choices we make in our own lives and before Mr. Hughes chooses to limit access to his sketches just because some guy who doesn’t matter tried to make a few bucks from his drawing… I just hope he reflects and reminds himself that without comics and fans like us, he’d probably be just another illustrator pedalling his art to agencies and hoping that Nike Marketing will like his rendition of their latest line of shoes to commission him for production sketches to be used in manufacturing.

    Either way, commercial art is all factory work and any value in Adams work has been placed there by us, the fans.

Make It Good.