The global furry art market is surely, in terms of its total revenue, and the number of transactions done per annum, the largest made-to-order art market. One only needs to look at e621, searching for any species, object, place, Pokémon, fetish sexual or otherwise, or most any other keyword, to convince themselves of this. (Perhaps add the tag
rating:safe to avoid viewing pornography. Or don’t—I’m neither your priest nor your spouse.)
e621’s database hardly represents the entire market due to DMCA’s, lack of uploads, and other factors, but even still it contains at time of writing 2,632,085 unique artworks. Assuming an average price per commission of $20, which is a low estimate to account for the fact much of the art may not have been bought, its database is worth over $40 million.
Traditionally, and to a degree today, the furry art market has resisted any and all attempts at centralization. Contracts are hastily written, transference of rights—copyrights, personality rights to characters, trademark rights—is not clear, and money is transferred peer-to-peer—most often via PayPal, but increasingly via CashApp, Zelle (USA domestic bank transfers), and various cryptocurrencies. Most often these transactions are negotiated on Telegram; with Discord and Twitter playing second and third fiddle.
However, in the background, a market has grown to greater and greater prominence—the Fiverr furry art market. Founded in 2013, Fiverr has itself gone through multiple phases. Its name derives from the first phase of its business, wherein it tried to convince a world still unfamiliar with the gig economy that it was a hip, fun way to make easy cash. For a “fiver”, an American slang term for a $5 banknote, you could buy a narration of a longish piece of text, a simple artist’s sketch of a wacky idea, perhaps one hundred or so words of translation, or have your homework done for you. In this phase, it mainly wanted Americans to be vendors, and those same Americans to be buyers.
Fiverr then underwent a transitional phase, when it opened its doors to more and more non-Americans, which transformed the site into just another outsourcing hub, except for small jobs.
We now firmly find ourselves in Fiverr’s third phase—its serious phase, its established phase. Gone is any notion that you can get anything worth having for a “fiver”, or even five fivers, this is now a site where one can easily spend five to the power of five fivers on a single job (that is, $3,125). The cutesy slang remains—the jobs are “gigs”, the buyers “doers”, but the vendors are now clearly freelancers, and Fiverr can easily be a profession.
Fiverr offers both sides of the furry art market something. To buyers, it offers legal assurances (you own the copyright to do with as you wish of the furry art you commission unless agreed otherwise), dispute resolution procedures, and well-defined delivery dates, particularly lacking in the traditional furry art market.
To vendors, it offers a steady stream of clients, guarantees of payment (no half-and-half Telegram PayPal payments), the opportunity to also work on art for more “normie” clients who may not even know what Telegram is, and a way to authenticate reviews as being legitimate.
I do not dare predict that the furry art market will be totally subsumed by Fiverr, nor would I think such a monopoly in the interest of the community or society at large. However, for the six months that I have observed the market, and ordered many, many commissions, both for my own interest and with the thought of writing about this unusual market, I believe that the furry art market is destined to become more and more bifurcated. The artists with the large Twitter/FurAffinity followings will continue to be able to command high prices and short windows of opportunity for fans to place a commission, but the unknown artist end of the traditional market, where trust is much lower, is likely to be more and more subsumed by Fiverr.
Let’s take an intermission to look at some of the art I’ve commissioned before I continue. He’s a chunky green raccoon. I call him Fred because I am him (in a sense). We’ll see many interpretations on this core idea, wildly varying in color, height, body type, and so on; indeed, that’s part of the charm of Fiverr, to see an interpretation by many different artists.
That is a good representative sample of the good works, which I’d say were around 85% of what was received. But, of course, I’m not here to cheer on Fiverr—there are times where I was indeed left wondering how in the world my request resulted in the output, but I won’t name and shame artists I didn’t like. (This is in no way to imply that if your art isn’t here I did not like it, I had to choose a wide sample for the purpose of informing people.)
After all, I can readily admit that among furry characters, very few could be said to be “fat”, and those that could be, are probably only so for the purpose of one or two NSFL (not safe for life) fetish drawings, not a constant feature across all art of the character. So, most artists have little experience drawing this body type. I cut them a break therefore—some started commissions only to find that they could not do it, and we amicably canceled.
However, I would say that being able to draw a chubby character, especially if the artist seldom does so, shows considerable skill with anatomy and artistic flexibility. It’s easy to trace a base, or pose a 3D model and trace it, of a character’s body if they’ve a thin build, and furthermore much more example art is likely to exist. That’s why I found my fursona to be a good character for this article, as it forces artists to actually imagine and draw and not rely heavily (heh) on past work.
Through all of this engagement with this fascinating market, I was able to determine its structure quite well. First of all, pricing. For works of good quality, single character, full body, full color, expect to pay at least US$40 as of December 2021. Artists, especially those new to the market, often undersell themselves. Don’t let them, offer more.
Second of all, there are four main types of Fiverr furry artists:
- type OwO—Mostly Westerners, typically zoomers (age-wise belonging to Generation Z). They do Fiverr for extra money and are most often students. They charge little, but also expect you to wait quite long for your order. They can be unreliable, but they would indeed like to eat something besides ramen, so they do deliver. The art quality can be all over the place. Especially typical of a type OwO Fiverr furry artist is the desire for a low workload. They won’t be interested at all in your talk of future commissions. They just want to make money from your commission and use it to subsist between studies. This isn’t their main focus, as much as they may even enjoy drawing for you.
- type ^w^—mostly non-Westerners, of all ages. They treat Fiverr as a job, but are single practitioners. They would be very happy for repeat work. Type ^w^ tend to be from the former USSR—Ukraine, Serbia, Russia, Latvia. I often found that the best way to communicate with these artists was through an automated translator like DeepL’s Russian mode—my typing of grammatically correct English, and checking the reverse translation for sanity (in Google Translate as well if very paranoid), led to very good results from an artist I was struggling to communicate with previously. If you did not know, DeepL uses a superior AI model to Google Translate, and hires many former Google Translate employees, at least at time of writing.
- type UwU—organized agencies. These accounts tend to hail from Venezuela, or Cuba. An example of an account of this type is souta_drawings. You do not get to speak to the artist, you speak to a manager. They can often offer very low prices, but output can vary by quite a lot. They do tend to be amenable to assigning your job to the same artist if you ask, and are mostly friendly. There’s nothing wrong with type UwU Fiverr furry artists—but I always have some concern that the actual artist is not seeing much of the pay. However, they can’t easily break off on their own as they really need the anonymity, living in a repressive country, where they may not have a bank account. The manager knows how to get them paid, and you are surely improving their life, at least somewhat.
- type @w@—scammers. Oh yes, there are scammers here. I chronicled my interaction with one on Twitter; due to my efforts three of these accounts got banned from Fiverr. The scams come in various forms—sometimes they are straight up traces of other artist’s work. My ’sona, however, frustrated this type of scam, as finding references proved nigh impossible for tracing scammers, and when one tried, I even knew the artist they traced. So that was a quick retort. These are rare, and Fiverr does compensate you.
Overall, I rate the Fiverr furry art market as of extreme interest, and encourage you to give it a try. Be polite—don’t reject work. If, after a few revisions, the artist still can’t get it right, approve and move on. That’s my best advice, as it really saves a lot of headache. Perhaps try commissioning some of those I mentioned—most are still active on Fiverr.