Sunday, April 3, 2011

Exfanding How to: Commissioning an Artist

I probably should have named this, "Exfanding How to: Spelling 'Commissioning' Right in Less Than Six Tries." That was...embarrassing. But, eventually, I figured it out. We're good to go.

Right. So, on to the post, then.

As I've been on a bit of an original comics art bender these past few weeks, I thought it fitting to write about my experiences. At this point in the game, I've dealt with nearly all of the various comics art dealers/artist representatives out there, and there's not one I've done business with that I wouldn't whole-heartedly recommend.

Double negatives and poorly constructed sentences aside, however, lately I've been in the mood for something a bit different in my collecting habits.

You see, typically, I focus on nice panel pages, which are, yep, you guessed it--These are pages featuring multiple panels from a particular issue. Usually, I look for good examples of storytelling and/or "acting" on the part of the artist and the characters. Sometimes, I'll buy a page for the conversation that's happening.
Ideally, a nice panel page features some good character studies, a nice story beat, and maybe even some action. Nothing better sometimes than a multiple-panel fight scene.

Then there are splash pages, which feature one big, honkin' image. Ideally, you'd like this to feature a major character from the issue. I own a couple of nice examples, and I was fortunate enough to get them for very reasonable prices.
(I tend to buy art from up-and-comers whose prices are initially pretty low, and by the time they become established and everyone else takes note of their talent, well, I'm usually priced out pretty quickly.)

Very rarely, I'll reach a bit deeper into the pockets to acquire a cover, but doing so usually just is not a reality. That's another corner of the market that I'm priced out of.

But lately, I've felt like doing something different, and so I've started reaching out to artists for commissions, which are pretty much exactly what they sound like. I pick a character and a theme, and I ask the artist if he or she would like to draw said character and/or theme.
I've commissioned artists in the past, but each time I've done so, I've done so at shows or at in-store signings.
Recently, however, I've reached out online and gotten in touch with a couple of artists directly.

The approach for both ways--either in person or online--is pretty much the same, as similar rules apply in both scenarios. First of all, remember that these artists have day jobs. And they have day jobs with very pressing, very public, deadlines.
So don't be too disappointed if your favorite artist has to turn down your request outright. Also keep in mind that the turn-around time on your typical commission from a comics pro is--at the VERY MINIMUM--two months.

Sure, if you're lucky enough to get on an artist's commission list at a con, it's likely you'll be able to walk out of the convention center with a new piece of art. But if you're contacting an artist via his or her email, well. Be prepared to wait a bit.

There are a handful of pros out there that can churn requests out quicker than that two-month minimum, but for the most part you'll find that the vast majority of pros will take longer than that.

Again, they have day jobs. Plus, it's likely that any artist you get in contact with will already have a list of people already signed up, waiting on their own commissions.

Another thing to keep in mind is to always be polite and professional. I know, I know. This is not going to be an issue for Exfanding readers. But, hey, I figured I'd mention it. Sometimes it can be a little intimidating to correspond directly with someone you look up to, but if that's the case, just treat it like any other business transaction.

And, finally, let's talk pricing.

This can range tremendously depending on the artist, obviously. Still, you can pretty much expect to pay anywhere between $50 and $300, depending on artist and complexity of the commission. A black and white head shot or a bust will be on the low end, and a full figure, full color commission will be on the high end.

Yeah, I know. That's not very helpful, but like I said, it'll depend on the artist.

Currently, I'm on two artists' commission lists, and the experiences in both cases have been great. They responded to email quickly, and they worked with me to make the art happen. When they come in, I'll be sure to post them up here. In the meantime, if you have any experiences with artists, I'd love to hear them.

And, if you have any art you'd like to show off, please do so!

Enjoy your Sundays, everyone, and we'll be back, as always, tomorrow.

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