Thursday, December 31, 2009

Finding an Artist

If you're thinking about publishing your own comic book, or even if you're putting together a pitch package, you'll need an artist. And if you don't have a contact or friend who is willing, available, and whose style fits your story, then you're probably going to be looking for an artist on the Internet.

For Animal Control: Special Creatures Unit, I used the Internet and posted a classified advertisement on three websites: ConceptArt.org, DeviantArt.com, and PencilJack.com. If you'd like to try using these sites, here's where to post (as of the time of this writing):

On ConceptArt.org, you'll want to use the "Employment" listings in the Forums, down near the bottom. Be very careful to use the right category -- for example, small freelance jobs under $500, or non-paying job listings, etc.

On DeviantArt.com, fish for the Forums link under the "More" menu item along the top, then look for the "Employment Opportunities" categories. Again, make sure you get in the right category - and my understanding is you should *only* list paid positions here, under the category of "Job Offers". It appears that "paid" includes the dreaded (from the artist's perspective) "back-end" royalty deal -- where everyone only makes money if the book actually gets printed and sells. But the site emphasizes only "serious" offers should be posted.

On PencilJack.com, you'll want to scroll down to the "Bulletin Board" topic. Since this forum isn't quite as focused as the topic threads on the other sites, I didn't have quite as many responses from here.

Based on my own experience, and what I saw on the forums, here are a few suggestions when posting a classified advertisement seeking an artist:
  • Describe your project in some detail -- not necessarily the story details, but at least the type of story. Will the artist be drawing two talking heads in a bar? Or mythological beasts? Or both?

  • Keep in mind that even if you are paying up front, to some extent you are "selling" your project to the artist. You want them to be interested in doing their best work on your project, right?

  • Be clear about the final work product you're seeking -- sequentials? how many pages? pencils only or pencils and inks?

  • Consider mentioning the kind of art style you're looking for -- Realistic? Manga? Standard super-hero? Some artists have more than one style; others may feel they are only suited to, or only interested in, certain types of stories;

  • How is the book being published? Is it self-published? Is this for a pitch? Print or web?

  • Be very direct about payment. If it's a back-end deal, say that. If it's for pay up front, say that as well. Many artists, with good reason, do not really consider a back-end deal to be a "paying" gig;

  • If you have specific marketing or promotional plans, this might be worth mentioning. Some aspiring artists really value exposure;

  • Ask those who respond to send links to their samples rather than attachments, or else you may overrun your mailbox size limit;

  • Ask to see samples of sequential pages. Fantastic pin-ups will not help you determine if the artist has storytelling ability;

  • Provide some ballpark idea of the deadline, or if the deadline is flexible, state that.
I'd also suggest sending a courtesy reply to everyone who responded to your advertisement, letting them know you received their email. Once you have found your artist, get back to all the other people who applied with kind and courteous rejections. Following up is just professional. Based on the grateful replies I received even to my rejections, it seems like getting back to people is (unfortunately) the exception, rather than the rule. It was a hell of a lot of work following up with everyone who applied, but it was worth it in the end.

Following these suggestions, I had great results from all three websites and ended up with more than 50 serious responses. Of these, there were many artists I'd be interested in working with in the future, depending on the project and the style needed, and I told them that where applicable. Even though I could only choose one artist for my current story, more than one of the artists that contacted me ended up working on other stories in our Comics Experience anthology.

In short, I hope my artist search was a reasonably good experience for everyone involved. And I hope what I learned can help you, if you're seeking your own artist in the future.

Next up, I'll talk about the talented artist who signed on to the Animal Control: Special Creatures Unit project.

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