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How do you find and select a good artist to collaborate with
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Pumpkin Pie
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Joined: 01 Jan 2005
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Location: Madison, Wisconsin, USA

PostPosted: Sat Jan 01, 2005 7:35 pm    Post subject: How do you find and select a good artist to collaborate with Reply with quote

I've long had a story that I think would be a good one for a webcomic. I also draw but not to the level I feel the story needs. It would need some very good realistic renderings of the human body. What I'm wondering is how best to find and select an artist to collaborate with.

I live in Madison, Wisconsin, USA and there are three institutions of higher education that produce artists here: University of Wisconsin - Madison, Madison Area Technical College, and Edgewood College. Madison is also very much an artist's city. Many artists view it as an oasis for artists in the Midwest. So locally, I think it's good hunting grounds for artists. However...

Is it really crucial that the artist and I live in the same location? Heck, that we even meet in person? What I'm wondering is if one can adequately collaborate over the net. My gut feeling is that it should be more than possible. It's not as if we would be doing live performances together. We don't need to hold each other's hand ... or shouldn't need to ... or at least not physically. I write up the stories, email them to the artist, we discuss it, changes are made, artist renders it, artist send pencil sketches, we discuss them, changes are made, finished artwork done, it is released, and then the whole process starts up over again for the next episode. These discussions becoming less and less as the series' style, characters, setting, and so forth become more and more established. Discussions flaring up only when something new and significant is introduced.

Then there's how to select an artist. Naturally, you need to look at work they've done ... just as they need to see examples of the story you wish to have illustrated. However, there's also work ethic. Afterall, an artist might be fantastic but if he never gets the work done within a reasonable period of time, he's worthless as a collaborator. Is there any real way of determining their work ethic besides trial and error? If so, what is it?

And how best should you handle when a collaboration is just not working out? I would assume there needs to be some prior understanding who owns the series so if there's a falling out, one of the two can continue it. I would think it would be the writer, but that could just be because I place a lot of importance on story being a writer. That and I've subscribed to numerous comicbooks that are constantly switching out artists. Then again, they do likewise with the writers as well. Hmmm. Thoughts? Anyone have a standard collaboration contract between a writer and artist they'd be willing to let us (or at least me) take a look at?

Lastly, there's an issue of adult content. The story I have in mind is a science fiction story where nanites (http://www.totse.com/en/fringe/fringe_science/nanites.html) are a reality and, due to their abilities, clothes are no longer needed. Some wear them, but none do so for warmth or protection from the elements. The series is meant to have adult themes, but not explicit sex scenes. Flirting, yes. XXX, no. However, I do see how this can be a problem in recruiting an artist. Suggestions on how to deal with this would be much appreciated.
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losttoy
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 01, 2005 7:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well I have posted about many of my experiences in another item you posted.

Suggestions:
Send an e-mail to somebody who is already or recently in the past produced something. It does not have to be local but sometimes sitting over coffee and talking helps. Of course one could do similar on AIM or those programs.

Start with story stories. If you like the art and the time it took to accomplish the story, then you got a match. If not ? then, hell it was only a short story anyways.

Be detailed. I have worked with artist who just did not get my vision out on paper. If you are working with a new artist, full script with the action, background, positions, lighting, etc tend to help.

Be flexible to let the artist add his or her own vision. Sometimes it is good to just do the dialogue and see what the artist will do. I know this contradicts with the previous suggestion, but it really works with a good artist.
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Joel Fagin
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 01, 2005 8:20 pm    Post subject: Re: How do you find and select a good artist to collaborate Reply with quote

Pumpkin Pie wrote:
Is it really crucial that the artist and I live in the same location?


No. I've done writing collaborations with writers in America over the internet. Although I usually work via email, an instant messenger and a chat program both help.

Quote:
Then there's how to select an artist.


Uh... Select? In all honesty, you should probably take whatever you can get. It is much, much harder for a writer to find an artist than an artist a writer. Art is harder and longer hands-on work, and it's easier to spot the quality of the work at a glance. Any artist signing on with a writer would be executing a substantial leap of faith. There are also more writers than artists.

Basically, the artist holds all the cards.

However, if you're willing to pay, that gets reversed. I assume you're not, though. The other option, which (almost) worked for me, is to be known as a writer. With luck, an artist will approach you.

The other option is to write a short story comic. That reduces the leap of faith for the artist because, if worst comes to worst, it's only thirty pages (or whatever) and then they can bow out gracefully. Meanwhile, they get some practice and something they can put in their folio. If you pitch it right, a short story can be a win for both. Asking them to sign on for an indefinite comic, however, is a big commitment.

Quote:
And how best should you handle when a collaboration is just not working out?


Depends why but, again the short story is a good idea. Try before you buy, as it were.

Quote:
I would assume there needs to be some prior understanding who owns the series so if there's a falling out, one of the two can continue it. I would think it would be the writer, but that could just be because I place a lot of importance on story being a writer.


Yes, but the artist needs some creative control as well otherwise it might be no fun for him/her.

Hmm.

The problem here is that you're thinking in terms of a contract and terms of employment, but unless you're willing to pay, there is no employment. This is a partnership and must work on goodwill. Basically, you need someone you can be friends with.

And I think you'll have to work out what to do with a falling out when it happens. Telling an interested artist that you retain all copyright on the world, characters and concept at the beginning is just going to turn him off the idea. Even if he agrees with you, you're putting conditions on his involvement when, as I said, he has all the cards. That makes you seem somewhere between officious and a control freak.

Again, this applies less for a short story. It's quite reasonable to wear water wings when you're first getting your feet wet.

- Joel Fagin
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Pumpkin Pie
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 01, 2005 8:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

losttoy wrote:
Well I have posted about many of my experiences in another item you posted.


And they were and are appreciated.

Quote:
Suggestions:
Send an e-mail to somebody who is already or recently in the past produced something. It does not have to be local but sometimes sitting over coffee and talking helps. Of course one could do similar on AIM or those programs.


Pick the style I'm seeking for the story and approach the artist. Sounds reasonable. I guess the worse they can say is "no". Perhaps giving a link to the first few written installments would also help this along.

Quote:
Start with story stories. If you like the art and the time it took to accomplish the story, then you got a match. If not ? then, hell it was only a short story anyways.


How about a complete story arch within the series? No obligation beyond that. See how things develop sort of thing.

Quote:
Be detailed. I have worked with artist who just did not get my vision out on paper. If you are working with a new artist, full script with the action, background, positions, lighting, etc tend to help.

Be flexible to let the artist add his or her own vision. Sometimes it is good to just do the dialogue and see what the artist will do. I know this contradicts with the previous suggestion, but it really works with a good artist.


Yes, that is a problem. Too little detail and the artist may feel I'm letting too much up to them, if not getting off easy or even being lazy. Too much detail and the artist may feel I'm a control freak and they have little room for their artistic expression. And, yes, I would expect the better the artist, the less they need direction.
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Pumpkin Pie
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 01, 2005 9:37 pm    Post subject: Re: How do you find and select a good artist to collaborate Reply with quote

Joel Fagin wrote:
Pumpkin Pie wrote:
Then there's how to select an artist.


Uh... Select? In all honesty, you should probably take whatever you can get.


Well, if I'm not picky, I might as well just do the artwork myself.

Quote:
It is much, much harder for a writer to find an artist than an artist a writer.


By the posts in this sub-forum, that seems apparent.

Quote:
Art is harder and longer hands-on work...


I must not be that gifted in writing since I've always found it hard to come up with a really good storyline. For example, the one I'm thinking of making into a webcomic has been brewing on a back burner for about seven years now. I've considered many different mediums for it. Movies, novels, and even Massively Multi-player Online Roleplaying Games (MMORPG). None felt right for it. Not even traditional paper comicbooks. Webcomics though do feel right for it. The right medium to express the story. Since coming to that conclusion, the words have been flowing ... which for me is always a good sign that I'm taking the right path.

Quote:
...and it's easier to spot the quality of the work at a glance.


I usually only read the first page of a novel to get a sense of how good the writer is. If they don't impress me by the end of the first page, I simply put the book back on the shelf.

Quote:
Any artist signing on with a writer would be executing a substantial leap of faith. There are also more writers than artists.

Basically, the artist holds all the cards.


Ah, the fate of writers no matter what medium they write in. With novels, the publishers and editors hold all the cards. With movies and TV, the producers and directors.

Quote:
However, if you're willing to pay, that gets reversed. I assume you're not, though.


Possibly that would be the best strategy. The question then becomes how much to offer. Perhaps if it isn't an arm and a leg, I can afford to hire an artist to do it for me.

And since I want to do this as a webcomic, that is probably best since I do not expect to be generating money for a while with it. Being a marketing consultant, I do have a number of ideas on how I think I can turn a profit, but I will need to establish a market presence first. That might take time. How much time is unknown, but I do know it won't be instant. Now I was hoping for an artist that would be interested in this future potential as a partner, but perhaps that's an unrealistic expectation.

Quote:
The other option, which (almost) worked for me, is to be known as a writer. With luck, an artist will approach you.


I am not to that level yet thus this isn't an option for me. Wish it was, but not yet.

Quote:
The other option is to write a short story comic. That reduces the leap of faith for the artist because, if worst comes to worst, it's only thirty pages (or whatever) and then they can bow out gracefully. Meanwhile, they get some practice and something they can put in their folio. If you pitch it right, a short story can be a win for both. Asking them to sign on for an indefinite comic, however, is a big commitment.


How about for a complete story arch within the series? That could easily be about thirty pages of panels ... saying six panels per page on average.

Quote:
Quote:
And how best should you handle when a collaboration is just not working out?


Depends why but, again the short story is a good idea. Try before you buy, as it were.


That's a really good suggestion.

Quote:
Quote:
I would assume there needs to be some prior understanding who owns the series so if there's a falling out, one of the two can continue it. I would think it would be the writer, but that could just be because I place a lot of importance on story being a writer.


Yes, but the artist needs some creative control as well otherwise it might be no fun for him/her.


That's why selecting one is important for me. If they have a great style, I'll love to see what they can do with the text.

Quote:
The problem here is that you're thinking in terms of a contract and terms of employment, but unless you're willing to pay, there is no employment. This is a partnership and must work on goodwill. Basically, you need someone you can be friends with.


I would not be interested in a master-slave relationship in the slightest. I would be looking for a creative partner. One whose input I respect and listen to. Not necessarily someone that I would go out partying with every night though.

Quote:
And I think you'll have to work out what to do with a falling out when it happens. Telling an interested artist that you retain all copyright on the world, characters and concept at the beginning is just going to turn him off the idea. Even if he agrees with you, you're putting conditions on his involvement when, as I said, he has all the cards. That makes you seem somewhere between officious and a control freak.


I was viewing it as trying to be professional about the relationship.

Now if I do as you suggest and keep the thing to something limited with the potential for something more (i.e., a story arch in the series), that might be a better way to go.

Quote:
Again, this applies less for a short story. It's quite reasonable to wear water wings when you're first getting your feet wet.


You've always got to start from somewhere. I do not profess to be anything but a novice in this regards. Asking questions here is my first baby steps up that mountain path. And I do greatly appreciate the help you and others are giving me here.
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Joel Fagin
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 01, 2005 9:52 pm    Post subject: Re: How do you find and select a good artist to collaborate Reply with quote

Pumpkin Pie wrote:
Quote:
Art is harder and longer hands-on work...


I must not be that gifted in writing since I've always found it hard to come up with a really good storyline.


Well, I did say "hands on". Thinking up story ideas, plotting and so forth can be done on the bus on the way to work. The actual doing, the writing, is quicker and easier than drawing. Everyone knows how to write (even if not well).

Quote:
For example, the one I'm thinking of making into a webcomic has been brewing on a back burner for about seven years now.


That's good. The best stories are those that simmer for a long time. (And, indeed, you'll often find authors who write the one good book they've been sitting on for ten years and then write rubbish from then on.)

Quote:
And since I want to do this as a webcomic, that is probably best since I do not expect to be generating money for a while with it. Being a marketing consultant, I do have a number of ideas on how I think I can turn a profit, but I will need to establish a market presence first.


That's useful! You should hang around the comic forums. I'm doing well as an unofficial graphic design consultant over at Keenspace and lot's of people could use some marketting help too.

Quote:
How about for a complete story arch within the series? That could easily be about thirty pages of panels ... saying six panels per page on average.


Good idea, but if you could make it more-or-less self-contained it would probably be better from the artist's perspective.

- Joel Fagin
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Pumpkin Pie
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 01, 2005 11:11 pm    Post subject: Re: How do you find and select a good artist to collaborate Reply with quote

Joel Fagin wrote:
Pumpkin Pie wrote:
And since I want to do this as a webcomic, that is probably best since I do not expect to be generating money for a while with it. Being a marketing consultant, I do have a number of ideas on how I think I can turn a profit, but I will need to establish a market presence first.


That's useful! You should hang around the comic forums. I'm doing well as an unofficial graphic design consultant over at Keenspace and lot's of people could use some marketting help too.


I'm willing to help where I can. I do see a lot of potential for webcomics. Unrealized potential. However, my ideas are different than what is currently being tried or what I've read (such as in McCloud's books). But I'll first see if my own webcomic can prove my ideas and if so, I'll share them with others. I prefer sharing facts than theories and opinions ... although some people think some of my facts are simply my opinions. *laugh*

As for participating in another forum, I'd rather just do one for a subject matter. I hope those that participate over at Keenspace also do so here. Do they?

Quote:
Quote:
How about for a complete story arch within the series? That could easily be about thirty pages of panels ... saying six panels per page on average.


Good idea, but if you could make it more-or-less self-contained it would probably be better from the artist's perspective.


It could be a stopping point. However, I would want to do leave it with unanswered questions, some loose ends (not connected that that story arch's plotlines), and so forth to entice readers to want to read more of the series.
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Joel Fagin
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 01, 2005 11:44 pm    Post subject: Re: How do you find and select a good artist to collaborate Reply with quote

Pumpkin Pie wrote:
As for participating in another forum, I'd rather just do one for a subject matter. I hope those that participate over at Keenspace also do so here. Do they?


I haven't been here long but I haven't seen anyone I know. Buzzcomix has a little bit of overlap with Keenspace but is more-or-less a seperate group.

*shrug* I check out all three now. They've all got interesting stuff.

- Joel Fagin
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losttoy
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 02, 2005 10:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The real question that comes to me is ... what are your goals? Are you trying to get published? Are you looking for experience? Do you just want to tell a story? Or perhaps something else ...

Then you have to differentiate between long-term goals and short-term goals. No matter what your goals are, you are starting at the same place. Right now you have to practice practice practice. Some of that might mean writing a lot. Some of that means just going on the web and self-publishing with a crappy free site until you get used to the medium. Some of it might even be practice working with other artists.

I remember somewhere in a submission guideline (probably for Marvel) where they tell you to start small. They do not want submissions for a epic story where Galactus attacks Earth. They are more interested in if you can work on character development with Peter and Mary-Jane while also being able to write a simple action scene with Paste-Pot-Pete. Short stories and such will just show your ability and you will get your practice easier than having an artist or editor (or even yourself) invest themselves in a long story. You are new. Play around a little bit.

However if your only purpose is to tell a story ... tell the story. Forget all the rest. You said that you are not picky and you could draw it yourself. Then draw it yourself. You do not have to deal with copyrights, contracts, artist interpretation getting in way of the original visions and such. If the story is good, it will compensate for inexperienced art. Of course with practice you might get to the level you feel the story needs. I have read some great comics that art was not fantastic but the story was great (and vice versa). Perhaps comics is not the right medium for you. After all, the imagination of the reader of a sci-fi story far better than when a producer tries to make it into a movie.

So what is your short term goals and your long term goals. Let them guide you.
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