Now I don't write a lot, but this has been on the back of my mind and I felt the need to get it out. Vent based on a real story. tl;dr at the bottom if it's too long.
Here's a link to the before and after images: imgur.com/a/TLtHe
One day a guy approaches me with a proposition. I've known the guy for around four years since we attended the same art university, and we've hung out on several occasions every once in a blue moon. Let's call him N. He comes and offers me a position to help him on a painting project for an unopened restaurant under construction. I thought "hey, the first mural painting project we did for a food court wasn't too bad, why not?" and agreed to help him with the impression that it would be a fun chance to hangout and practice. While we were doing tests and sketches in the school art studio, N picked up a third member who could help for the first week. She shall be referred to as Mu.
Now there were three parts, or paintings, that were to be done with reference provided. A hawk and a dragon painting each around 30 ft. long, and an abstract painting somewhere in the corner significantly smaller, 10 ft. The deadline for this commission was approximately 15 days, concluding on Christmas Eve. Totally cool and manageable... or so I thought. Things went downhill on the instant we began working on the first painting--the Hawk. Given that we were three students of differing majors spread between illustration, fine arts, and painting, there were sure to be disagreements. This would be understandable if not for the fact that every problem arose from N. From the variety of compositions and materials that could've been used, N had the final say in all of it, and it was not pretty or manageable in the slightest.
The first biggest mistake that would lead to impact the rest of the painting experience was N's firm decision to use Acrylic Ink. Nothing wrong with that, except none of us have had any experience with it. Me and Mu felt it was an awful idea and voted for regular acrylics, but were trumped by N's call because he felt it was the right way to go. "This is what the people who did the SILK SCREEN prints in the reference images used, so that's why ink will work best on DRYWALL," says N. Needless to say, trying to blend watered down ink on a vertical face resulted in splatters, drips, uneven gradients, and a flustered N who's trying to salvage the material by adding in huge range of mediums to the mix. Retarder, glaze, spray paint medium or whatever it was called, etc. Damn son, teach me how to be as professional as you.
End first week, and Mu had left the party for December vacation. At this point the hawk painting was around 25% "done," me and Mu having done 20%. To put it in perspective, the painting had these monochromatic shrubs. 27 of them, to be exact. We painted 15 shrubs, two of the three hawks, and the branches of the tree. N painted two shrubs in that time. One whole week. Two little shrubs. And that's when me and Mu truly realized: The guy can't draw, paint, or cooperate.
Things got pretty quiet on my side from here on out. Usually me and Mu would chill on one side while N moaned and grumbled to himself on the other. Now that Mu was gone, it became a dreadful experience each day, having to arrive to before N did (because he was always late) to an under-construction restaurant plagued in dust to paint with crappy, frustrating ink. I haven't even mentioned the awful communication scenario going on between N and the manager party that hired him.
Unable to speak or understand Cantonese it was natural that I was left out of all of the conversations, except when I was fed manipulated translations from N. "We'll get paid tomorrow," "The next day he said, we'll get the money then" "We won't work until we get paid tomorrow, how's that?" N essentially told me. I couldn't get a straight answer out of him, nor could I speak directly with the manager. Irritated, but still trying to keep my cool, I thought that everything would work out in the end.
Christmas eve arrives and we were nowhere near finished. The hawk still needed plenty of effort, the abstract was a complete disaster, and the dragon, while starting off on an acceptable note, dropped like an atom bomb. I grew increasingly baffled at N's work ethic. He would either spend up to half an hour at a time staring at the canvases before carefully analyzing every single stroke, or criticize every stroke I made. I wouldn't call it overly careful or cautious, because shortly after he would become enveloped in a fit of fiery rage and frustration that could only be halted by splattering the dragon painting with reckless abandon. When he wasn't doing anything, he wasn't doing anything. When he did something, our progress went backwards full force.
Among the many ridiculous propositions that came up during the dragon painting, N believed was the right way to go was "stamping the scales on with laced fabric" to produce a natural appearance. Excuse me? You're telling me that you want this dragon to look natural using the most mechanical, industrial aesthetic I could possibly imagine? We took a break and bussed down the road to get food. I started a conversation by suggesting N to look at some references of fur or hair to get a better understanding when he's painting the beard for the dragon. He shook his head and denied it completely, something he did very often whenever I made a suggestion. This hit me the hardest, as if my ideas and efforts have no value. He then told me, condescendingly: "school is where the most knowledge is. You won't learn as much if you dropped out of school like you did."
I just wanted to get this gig over with. I already stayed 5 days over the agreed deadline because a part of me foolishly still valued his friendship to some degree. This is the definition of regret. End the last day of the year, and I knew there was absolutely no chance N could deliver by himself.
Three weeks pass by. It is now the 20th of January. Mu and I get a phone call from the manager's assistant, E, after not having heard from the painting project since we left. Apparently N still had not finished the painting that was supposedly due over 25 days ago, they were upset about the final result, and N reported that he supposedly fell off the three foot high scaffolding and broke his wrist. It was also mentioned that N had kept most of the money (over twice as much as me and Mu's payment combined), and took all the paints and brushes purchased with the additionally supplied budget he conned out of the managers. Distraught, E calls us into the restaurant and proposed that we fix the damages. We decide to check it out the next day.
Our form of communication prior was that they would stick a piece of green painters tape over certain spots where they felt needed improvement. When we walked into the restaurant, the dragon painting had been nailed onto the ceiling, and it looked like an upside down field of grass. Green tape everywhere. Needless to say, N had made some changes to it. The scratchy, rough background that I was once familiar with before I left was now solid black. A leg had been amputated by the knee in the process. There were now these weird, elementary school level swishes of gold coloring crudely painted around the remaining arms and legs and hovering over the dragon's face.
"It looked like you didn't give a fuck," kept playing in the back of my mind as I smiled. This was the translated sentence N said the manager told him back in December. Something about his ignorance being confronted by the truth felt redeeming, a "I told you man, I tried my best to move it forward but you didn't want to, so this is what you get" kind of justification. At the same time, the challenge of repainting the entire thing seemed daunting, maybe less so now that N was fired. It came down to the "I'll do it if you do it" agreement. We got some acrylic paint and a few brushes and prepared for the worst to come.
It wasn't too bad. Mu and I wrapped up the entire painting and fixed some of the hawk in just over a week. The wonders that can come about when there isn't someone running over every one of your ideas with theirs. The atmosphere was a complete 180 compared to before (even the dragon painting, which we had to work on upside down). Feedback and suggestions were abundant and more than welcomed, the acrylic paint worked nicely, the dust was gone, and the managers seemed much, much happier about the paintings. High five!
The difference in a positive environment is night and day, and it shows in your work. Good people will encourage and share in the suffering. Bad people will ridicule, patronize, and won't share their sushi. Don't be an N.