The answer is-- occasionally and of course not.
Do YOU enjoy going to work on your day off for no pay? Why not? Gee, it seems like it would be fun.
I do work with youth groups that I decide could benefit from some additional art direction in their lives. I've been mentoring students at a Charter School for a number of years now who want to be graphic novelists. ANY student who has ever taken a class with me has my private email and contact info and are welcome to call me for advice, critique or whatever else they need and I provide it gratis.
Every year I donate work for a charity auction to the Boys and Girls Club-- an organization that did a lot for me when I was a kid.
Recently I was contacted by a Scoutmaster who asked me to do the same for his boy scout troop-- I declined and he was horrified. Sorry, not a fan of the boyscouts-- got kicked out when I was a kid for gambling-- a clearly minor infraction and basically an unavoidable one due to the fact that we had a pool table in our meeting room and little else to do. It was urban boy scouts.
But that's the thing, isn't it? I get to choose.
I had a student brag once to me that he did about 10 hours worth of artwork for a local bar/sink hole/enemy of the BOH and he was paid in Hamburgers. I'm not even sure it was plural. My response was it's his choice but said shack has no problem charging its customers so why should the same treatment not be given when they are requesting service.
Because it's art.
All you have to do is draw it, right? You could do that while you're watching TV.
I should try that with my accountant. Do my taxes for free-- you can do them while you watch TV!
So on the occasion that I do agree to do something gratis (and yes, I get to sit on my throne and decide whether or not you are worthy of such consideration) I have some simple rules:
1. You can tell me what it is you're looking for, give me reference, suggestions, ideas. Glad to have 'em.
2. I get final approval-- which means no revisions, no retakes, no preliminary sketches, what you get is a final piece of art.
3. I own the original and can use it for whatever I want should you decide not to use it.
4. You credit me as the artist and you do not use said piece for profit.
5. You need to give me a long deadline, if a paying client comes along they get priority over your project.
You don't get approval or revisions because you're not a client. Clients pay me. Clients allow me to keep the lights on. It's because of those clients I'm able to do an assignment gratis once in a while and not have to drive a bus during the day.
A consultant for the Worcester Historical Society approached me to do an illustration for Hepisbeth Hemeway's 135th birthday. She's a grand old dame and I thought it would be fun. Plus I like the WHS.
I delivered the piece and while they thanked me, they said they'd hoped it would be fun and that this was kind of scary. I explained to them that scary is fun to me. You can see the piece above and decide for yourself. Its based on a famous portrait of her (in fact I'd say ripped off) but with the added element of a flaming birthday cake.
I gotta be honest, if they think this is scary then we exist on two different planets. You want scary? I can do scary for real.
But no hard feelings, I love working in Corel Paint because it closely mimics working in real oils in about 1/10th the time and without the messy cleanup.
Since I did the work I have to justify it somewhere, so getting a blog-post out of it works for me.
Happy Birthday Hepisbeth! You look good for 135!