Friday, April 13, 2012

Draw Me Like One Of Your French Girls

Hi again everyone! With all the artists that are featured on Beaucoup Pop and the fact that the con season is here, I thought I would give you all some of my thoughts on being on the other side of things...that of being the consumer.  Hopefully you can learn a thing or two from my experiences with a project that I started with last year.

Phoenix by Tressa Bowling
I have always been a big fan of sequential art and have been reading comics ever since I found my older brother's stash of Uncanny X-Men and Man-Thing comics and Heavy Metal magazines.  Over the years I have had the opportunity to meet some amazing local artists who work in and around comics and I wanted to figure out a way for me have a small piece of work by these talented people that would be easy for me to display in my Nerd Lair (calling it a "man cave" just doesn't seem appropriate for what all is housed there).  So, last summer I started commissioning sketch cards from local artist friends and what started as a small project has continued to grow and grow until I have needed to buy bigger and bigger displays.  Here are some things I have learned that can maybe help anyone else out there who is considering commissioning some of their own original art (with some samples of my favorite pieces).

Plan ahead
Sabretooth by Sean Lightsey
If you are going to a con to get sketches, any con worth their salt will have a website with all the artists who will be there and links to those artists.  Take your time and look at their sites and get an idea of what they do.  Then, you can plan your attack of artist's alley and know exactly who you want to hit up early so you can get your pieces done before the end of the day.  Additionally, there is nothing wrong with even contacting them before hand and setting up a piece that you want them to do that they can do before the show and you can pick up there.  This leaves them more time at the show to do more pieces and you won't have to wait.  Just be sure if you do this to pick it up.  Stiffing an artist is very bad form.

Have an idea in mind
Gambit by Brett Hatfield
From my experience, going up to an artist and saying, "just draw me anything" will get you a huff and an eye roll.  When you are asking for an artist to do something for you, know what you would like for them to do.  Have a particular character in mind or take a look at the artist's portfolio and get an idea from that.  Sexy Power Girl sketches?  Neat! Zombified Sailor Moon characters? Cool!  Batman getting his nuts destroyed? Why not?!?!  For me, I wanted a lot of sketches, but wanted variety in the characters represented so I have kept with a theme of X-Men characters.  Tons of variety and most people have a favorite or two.  Just remember, if you tell someone to draw "whatever", don't be surprised when their idea of "whatever" isn't exactly your idea of "whatever". 

Size matters
Prof X by Justin Stewart
When getting a sketch, you have to have an idea of how big of a sketch you want.  This will greatly affect the time it will take for the artist to complete it and also the price (but more on that in a minute).  Some people have actual sketch books that they take with them to cons to have the artist draw in.  This is a great idea, but remember, they have to hold on to it so it can affect how many pieces you can get at a con.  If you aren't looking for quantity, this works great.  It keeps everything together and safe from folding and what not.  If you want a basic sketch from an artist, from my understanding most sketches are done on 9x12 inch Bristol board and most prices are set for this size piece.  One thing to remember though, if you are picking these up at a con, you are going to be walking around with them and you might want to make sure you have something you can put them in where they won't get bent, creased, or stained.  Sketch cards are typically the standard 2.5x3.5 inch card stock, but not always, so check before you ask for one.  If you want a very specific size, I suggest providing that size material to the artist.  Typically for a sketch card, if they don't have that size stock that they usually use, I give them a couple blanks.  I use Strathmore brand Bristol smooth surface that I get in packs of 20 sheets for under $3 at Hobby Lobby or Michael's.  Most artists seem to appreciate this and I have sometimes gotten two for ones when I give them a couple blank sheets to use.   

Know your limits
Rogue by Sara Turner
One of the biggest factors to consider is cost.  Most artists who have tables at cons can and will do sketches and have set prices.  Ask about them up front.  Things like size, color, level of detail, and amount of figures on the page all affect the price that you ultimately have to pay.  Have an idea of what your upper limit is.  Typically, the more published the artist, the more expensive the piece is too.  A lot of big name artists have gone to auctioning off their sketch time for cons ahead of time on sites like eBay after being burned too many times by people who get a great sketch from them for little of nothing and turning around and selling it for a lot of money.  It may seem like a dick move to some, but there are very few rich artists working in comics today and they have kids and house payments to make just like the rest of us.  So, if you are going to a con to get a big name artist sketch, research it first and bring some cash.  For me, when it comes to sketch cards, they are a small and typically cheap way to get a work from an artist that I like.  I have an upper limit that I am willing to pay for most artists who I solicit works from and I keep that in mind when talking to artists about what I want.  Take it from me, know the price before you commit.  I have been burned once from not knowing before hand and once is all it takes.  As much as I love that artist, they are never getting another dime from me...which is sad, cause you never know when a first-time customer will become a returning customer.

Never haggle
Storm by Annie Erskine
When you are looking for a piece of original art, let the artist set the price.  You are wanting something specific and it will be something that is yours and yours alone, so if they tell you price that you aren't comfortable with it is OK to say that that is too expensive.  They may come down on the price on their own or offer you an alternative to the specific sketch you were wanting.  Maybe instead of getting a sketch you can buy their comic or a print that they may have for sale instead.  Might not be original, but they will typically sign it for you and it is a way to get something from an artist that you enjoy and you are still supporting them.  In my mind it is like any skilled labor, it is something I can't do myself, so it isn't up to me to decide how much it ultimately costs.

Everything is negotiable
White Queen by Billy Boyd
Know what I just said...well, sometimes it is OK to haggle.  Often, an artist will have sketches premade for a con and though they might not be exactly what you would want, it is a way to get something original.  There is nothing wrong with asking if the prices for something like this is negotiable (unless they are insanely cheap to begin with - $10 and under as a rule).  Just remember, it may take the artist a little aback if you ask this, so be respectful about it. Sometimes you can get a "twofer" or buy "x" and get one free or in one case for me, get a little bit of a discount.  I was eyeing a particular sketch card that an artist had on his table that as it turns out, he had made for someone at a con and they had never picked up.  Had this other person's name on it and was on cardstock specific to the con he was at when he did it.  It was pretty, but it was clearly not made for me and he gave me a discount for asking about it.  Sometimes it works...sometimes it doesn't, but as a rule, if they are doing the piece specifically for you, as I noted before, they set the price.

Be nice
Magneto by Ray Coffman
If I learned anything from Dalton at the Double Deuce, it is "be nice".  Be respectful of the artists, their abilities, and their time.  "Please" and "thank you" work wonders and when you commit to something, give them time to do it.  Don't hover till it is done.  That's just creepy.  If it is something that will take a while, offer to just let them mail it to you and chip in a couple extra dollars for mailing it out.  Offer to pay before hand and always pick up what you commission to be done.  Just remember that politeness is a two-way street.  If the artist comes across as a dick, move on.  You are a customer after all.  If you can't get someone to respond to an email sent through their website, move on.  There are plenty of good artists who are nicer and more deserving of your cash.  As a rule, the nicer you are, the nicer the piece you get will be.

So there you have it.  My ever evolving list of the rules that I use when getting original art from artists.  I know I focused on cons, but you can use a lot of this information when working through other means like live art shows, Deviantart, or the artist's own website.  Just remember to have fun and focus on what you like.  For me, my focus is X-Men sketch cards done by artists with Kentucky ties, for you it may be Rule 63 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or chibi Doctor Who characters.  Go wild! And hey, if you are an artist with Kentucky ties who would like to do a sketch card for me, feel free to contact me at  I would love to add to my collection. Any and all feedback is welcome for this post and have a great con season everyone!

1 comment:

Christopher John (@Christopher2814) said...

I need serious work on the whole "Plan Ahead" thing. Even if I have a game plan in mind before I arrive it quickly goes out the window once I get to the con. I'm always so excited to see the different artists that I end up wandering around artist alley asking random questions like the hatchling in "Are you my Mother?"

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