TESS FOWLER: I Let The Artist Have Her Say

As many visitors to my blog are aware, last year I had the misfortune of hiring artist Tess Fowler for art duties on my second Doc Wilde book. I paid her a thousand dollars and received nothing but a handful of rough character sketches, and I don’t even have the originals of those.

I detailed the disintegration of the deal and both my and Tess’s behavior in extreme detail, using our actual correspondence,  in this post.  It tells everything you need to know about our entire working relationship, and about Tess’s choices at the end.

As someone commented on the one followup post I wrote, there are two sides to every story. I agreed and stated, “Tess is completely welcome to share her side here.” Of course, she never took me up on the offer.

She did, however, post a lengthy diatribe on Facebook. I didn’t see it on her page because Tess has me blocked (and I have better things to do than monitor her behavior), but several of her friends sent me the information pretty much immediately. A couple even provided actual screenshots of the post and its resultant discussion.

I’m going to share those screenshots with you. This is the closest thing to Tess’s side of the story that she has provided, and I feel no compunction about showing it to you because it was posted publicly. I’ll offer commentary as we read it together.

1

First, everything I have ever posted on this matter is demonstrably true. There’s a reason I used our actual emails and was so thorough in my account; I wanted folks to have all the information they needed to come to their own conclusions about what happened. There are no emails I refuse to show publicly, and you may notice that she says there are but never shows them to anyone.

And yeah, based on my experiences, I’d definitely recommend nobody else hire her. I’m not running a smear campaign, but I damn sure can’t give her a good reference.

2

Bullshit. I stand by the post I linked to at the start of this one as a rebuttal of what she says here. I in no way abused Tess, and since my feeble attempts to contact her to ask that she resume work (attempts she completely ignored), I have made no other attempts to contact her. It’s easy for her to claim that I am “stalking” her, but I challenge her to prove that very libelous charge.

Further, since shutting me out as described in the original post, she has neither tried to discuss matters with me nor in any way offered in any way to continue the work. She blew me off entirely, kept my money, and I’ve had no contact with her of any sort since she did, not even these mythical emails she references yet again without producing them, except that the day I first saw these screenshots I emailed her, offering to get back to work whenever she was ready. She never replied.

I, however, was very public about the fact that I was willing to get back to work with her. She is a talented artist, I liked her take on my characters, and I was already out a thousand dollars so it was fully in my interest to try to get my money’s worth, even after the trauma I’d already suffered.

For the record, that offer no longer holds. I’ve accepted the loss of my money and the lessons learned and there’s no way in hell I’d work with her again.

3

Again, the emails she could produce, but doesn’t. Ever. Whereas I shared damn near every meaningful correspondence we ever had.

And again, bullshit that she ever offered to continue work after communications broke down.

And note here that I am “a madman.” What she means is that I suffer from depression, and she’s trying to use that against me. In a very libelous way.

4

I’d really like to see those emails. If called on it by someone, at most she could produce (and possibly misrepresent) emails I already quoted in my original post, because there has been nothing since. Again, I tried to sweet-talk her back to work after the communications breakdown, and then I’d have jumped on the chance to get back to work on the book because I had, after all, already paid her.

Now, the discussions began:

5

Again, portraying me as crazy because I’m depressed, and the continued insinuation that I’m stalking her via email and phone.

6

You know what? I do know exactly what I can get away with, because I’ve talked to a lawyer too. For something to be considered libel, it has certain criteria it needs to meet, chief among them the stated information has to be untrue. I’m not worried about her lawyers because I have no reason to be worried about her lawyers. And I’m pretty sure that the three different lawyers she spoke to all pretty much told her that.

7

I think that may be my favorite bit.

8

Ironically, the message I received from Tess blocking me and not responding to my emails or calls was very much “Sit down and shut up.”

9

Tess knew I suffered from depression the entirety of our working relationship. I’m very open about it, and about my battles with it. It’s even all over this blog.

And yes, Gary Chaloner, the original Doc Wilde artist, left the series (he didn’t think he could keep up with the workload), but he remains very much a part of the Wilde family, as well as a friend. Our working relationship was always professional, I was thrilled with the book we turned out together (Doc Wilde and The Frogs of Doom), and I have nothing but respect for him. We had delays and the book took longer to do than we’d planned, but Gary was never anything less than a trooper and I’d recommend him in a heartbeat to anyone who wants a talented, reliable artist. I invite anyone who thinks Gary left because of interpersonal dynamics to contact him directly and ask.

There was more discussion under Tess’s post, but the topics drifted away from me, so  there’s little point in sharing it. For the record, her post was made way back at the end of January, and there’s been no contact or any activity of any sort between Tess and me since. I intended to post this message ever since, but she’s no longer any sort of priority; the only reason I’m going ahead and posting now is because I want transparency for Doc Wilde supporters, so they know what happened and why the second book is delayed. This was also a way to let Tess tell her side of things.

I honestly wish things had gone differently, that Tess had actually been open to continuing the book. She’s a gifted draftswoman and I think the book we produced would have been beautiful.

Now, I wipe my hands of her.

UPDATE: Another of Tess’s victims has come forward and let me share his account. Read it here.

UPDATE: Tess victimizes the creator of the comic Rat Queens and his wife. Read it here.

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3 comments on “TESS FOWLER: I Let The Artist Have Her Say

  1. nydiacarioca says:

    I had no respect for this artist the moment she didn’t honor her deal with you and kept your money not providing anything but online sketches. But I totally came to despise her the minute she cowardly and ridiculously used your depression (as if it was something you hide from the world, which you don’t, or are ashamed of, which you aren’t) as an excuse for her lack of professionalism and as a way of removing the attention to the real issue: that she didn’t honor her deal and was absolutely untrustful as a hired professional. The typical excuse of those who don’t have a real argument.

    Not to mention that she messaged me early in the morning once via Facebook trying to put me against you, and in a burst of rage blocked me because I didn’t reply her message after less than 30 minutes she sent it (she had already unfriended me months before when she didn’t honored her deal with you). It’s clear to me who is the unstable person in this story.

    I wish more people, like you, went public about their bad experiences with this woman. This would surely show her true colors even more.

    Truth is by your side.

  2. aileenmiles says:

    Sorry you had this bad experience with an artist.

    As a former art director, I’d advise never paying an artist in advance, especially not one you haven’t worked with before. Pay on receipt of art or half on receipt/half on publication. WW also had a clause that let us dock artists’ pay 5%/day late, but we almost never invoked it.

    Artists always accept projects with good intentions but aren’t always the best at time management and their schedules can get away from them. Some of them are honest about it, but you will also hear lots of excuses.

  3. Shannon says:

    Tim. Wow. Do I ever know what you went through. I haven’t said anything public about this but I feel like this is a place perhaps where people can tell their own stories, the struggle of feeling like you don’t have a voice, like everyone’s turned against you not just with dealing with the likes of Tess Fowler but with online bullying and slander and the damage it leaves behind.

    This is going to be a VERY long post.

    Since Tess Fowler seems very adamant in wanting to speak honestly about her involvement in the comic book Rat Queens, let’s do it. Let’s actually be honest about what went down.

    Though I can’t comment on all the particulars of Tess’s working relationship on Rat Queens which lead to her being off the book (those are circumstances that Kurtis wishes to remain professional about), I will talk about the impact of what she said on Twitter and to media sites has had on our careers and family; whereas, I have not witnessed Tess taking one iota of risk for making these unsubstantiated claims, if anything she has greatly benefited.

    For example her social media following has more than doubled and is flooded with support as well as job offers. Kurtis has lost jobs directly because of Tess’s statements. This is fact stated in e-mail. (I wish to keep the parties involved secret) as well as a public boycott of his work and of mine as well by association as my clothing line is tied to his creative titles. These are our incomes and livelihoods that we have built ourselves from the ground up and worked hard for.

    There are also a surprising amount of what I would describe as mean spirited tweets and messages sent towards him that has had me think about about things in a different way… There has been something more then just a disapproval of an action but a real revelry in the misfortune of another. There was a tweet by one women at a local con who passed by Kurt’s table and had a few nasty things to say. There’s a sentiment of Let’s try and ruin his career and then we’ve won. Won what? I’m not really sure. This was far from the worst tweet we saw, but it made me suddenly regret being somewhat public on the Internet. As a mom keeping my family safe is always at the forefront of my mind and the sudden realization that this person, who I or my spouse don’t know but wants my spouse to be unsuccessful, for what ever reason, lives in the same city as me sets off a kind of anxiety in my deep brain functioning that I just can’t control.

    I’m currently writing a article with the help of one of North Americans leading experts in personality disorders. I’ll admit the situation with Tess has contributed to my thoughts in this article. But so has a past long term relationship and dealings with other people in my life, as well as years studying psychology post secondarily. I still worry about publishing this article because people might want to make the connection with Tess and the article. I worry about everything I do on social media now… So I will address the article I’m doing now even before I publish it.

    Do I think that Tess is a has a malignant personality disorder ?

    I have NO idea. Someone would have to look into her past and see if there is a consistent pattern of behaviours in order to even suggest that.

    Is she a harmful person with what I witnessed in her involvement with Rat Queens?

    Yes. Very.

    She threatened to expose Kurtis for being “the worst man in comic books” and ruin his reputation because she didn’t get what she wanted, that being more control of Rat Queens in some way in the future. She then followed through on her threats in part by publicly making false claims about her termination that she knew without a doubt where wrong. And I truly believe that she would have made worse false claims if she could have.

    That’s extortion in my books .

    She went out of her way to do what she could to purposely harm another for the benefit of herself. So yes, in this instance that would be the very definition of a harmful person.

    I don’t doubt that she will try and attack my credibility for saying this about her. Nothing she could say about me no matter how far fetched would surprise me at this point.

    I’m very passionate about the subjects of equality, social responsibility and human rights and I take the actions that I can to help my communities. I’m also a Canadian indigenous women (that being Metis which means one of my birth parents is full First Nations), so I have some pretty clear personal examples for the importance of the concept of intersectionality. That being said I really don’t know how she will be able to claim that I am a false ally or sexist like she has done with Kurtis.

    I used to believe that Tess believed in some of the same things as I do in regards to human rights but now I know that I just fell for her con. She weaponizes social issues and uses them for her own self advancement. And it works . How do you think we even found out about her in the first place? It wasn’t for her art at first. This is a woman whose moral compass points in a completely different direction than my own and maybe that’s why I believed her for so long. It’s just really hard for me to imagine that someone would continually baldfaced lie about such important things.

    Though people that actually know Kurt or his work thought what she was saying seemed way out of character for him, she somehow still managed to do a good job of really sullying his reputation with very few publicly questioning her. This is the same man behind a book that was first turned down over and over for being too female-centric and told that it wouldn’t sell when he began this journey. He didn’t care if it would sell or not, he believed in his story and kept pushing till a publisher took a chance on it and it’s been sheer hard work through so many obstacles that it has gotten it to were it is now.

    Tess did not create the characters or any of the stories of Rat Queens. She drew them for a few issues and for reasons that only Kurtis is at liberty to disclose was decided to not be the right fit for the book or a working relationship.

    In a string of messages ( the same ones that she threatened Kurtis to say that he’s worse then a sexual harasser), she said she decided she wouldn’t “ruin ” Kurtis and “wouldn’t say anything for now” after he told her that he wasn’t sure at that time if the book would ever come back and probably be canceled. He was out of steam with dealing with all of Tess’s constant drama and was really not proud of the last issue and didn’t know if he could bring it back to where it was in quality before. Tess seemed fine for the moment with no longer being on Rat Queens… but what we were not getting in that message was the ultimatum that she wouldn’t proceed with character assassination as retaliation ONLY if no one else was on it either. If it just ceased to go on without her.

    After the message where she said she was “fine” with the announcement of the hiatus, Kurt stopped responding to any communications from her but then ended up getting a angry e-mail from Tess when she discovered that Kurtis was testing an artist she knew from our online community for a Rat Queens web comic to try and get back on track. That was the same time that Tess publicly claimed she was pushed out to make room for Roc Upchurch. After Kurtis made his public statement that this was not what was happening, Tess went on to claim in media publications that Kurtis was lying and that she was told by both the publisher and by Kurtis himself that Roc Upchurch was coming back.

    Those statements were false.

    Nothing was said to Tess that could even be confused as that fact by the publisher or Kurtis. It isn’t the plan now nor was it then, and Tess was not lead to believe that; she knowingly completely made it up and ran with it.

    That is it. Those are the facts.

    There are no two sides to this story except someone who continues to lie and someone who dos not and just wants to write a book that means something to him and the fans.

    We both first learned about Tess online after she started drawing a ton of Rat Queens fan art and we saw her as a woman who had been blacklisted in comics for daring to speak out against harassment in the industry. We both thought it was unfair and that Kurt should try and give her a chance if he could. They worked on a couple of pitches and she drew a one shot Rat Queens that Kurt wrote that went well as far as I know. She has a great knack for likenesses and I still really really enjoy a lot of her pin ups and splashes. That is me trying to separate the art from the person and just appreciate it on its own, which is very hard to do sometimes. I don’t take it personally when people we know that also know a bit of the background celebrate her art publicly. There no angry emails going to them asking why they are supporting a harmful extortionist. Because I don’t believe that’s what they’re doing. Liking someone’s art is not taking a side.

    We can’t control everyone’s thoughts and actions on the Internet. That’s ridiculous. In high schools in my home town they are teaching that it takes the power away from a internet bully if they don’t have a following to bring attention to their harmful messages. They will be bullying in a vacuum. We need to learn this lesson as adults as well .

    I wrestled for so long time with coming forward and saying anything to anyone negative towards Tess. I was concerned with my own actions causing harm in any way. I’ve now become unconcerned with protecting Tess’s reputation any longer.

    Enough is enough.

    She’s harmed us enough. Anytime any of Kurt’s projects get any kind of notoriety online, the tweets keep coming where she alludes without naming the sexist comic creator that hired a women to just cover up that he’s a harasser. Then she just lets the fans go on to make the connection to Rat Queens. She’s pushed her way into both Kurt’s and mine online communities and is taking every opportunity with anyone she sees self advancement with, in what now looks like a campaign of flattery, just like she used to do with us. (Everything I did or said was just soooo great and wonderful!) It won’t stop either. It seems like she’s addicted to the attention and the feeling that she has the power to burn the book and/or us down. She (and her followers) just have to keep reminding people not to buy a book that she’s no longer part of. Or support us in any way in anything we do. I mean, who cares if people actually really enjoyed it, that must be taken away from them too.

    I’m done. I’m out of empathy. There’s no more excuses.

    In an environment where we are supposed to be able to talk about abusive people without the same fear of repercussion as in the past, it’s time people start to look at who the real Tess Fowler is. People who have come forward privately are scared to say anything about her publicly. Why are we scared to defend ourselves against this person? If you have been publicly falsely slandered, extorted, stolen from, or have been harmed by this individual, I hope I help you feel the confidence to come forward too.

    #silentnomore #onlineBullying #comics #HarassmentinComics

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