The following information is in regards to the creative process, and is unique to Shannon.
Other artists may approach their work differently, so I’m not in a position to speak for them, but I think much of what I am about to say will apply to them as well.
Many of my illustration contracts center around providing interior book illustrations for a wide range of books that are written for adults and children alike. Each are different in how they are approached, and the styles will vary. Gratefully, my styles do vary and I’m blessed to be able to many different types of artwork because of this.
Before I ever begin a job, my clients have viewed, or are shown, work that I’ve already created so that they can understand what they can expect for their own project. You can view my online portfolio by clicking here.
THE CREATIVE JOURNEY
A common mistake that many people, new to hiring an illustrator, will do, is that they will see my style, then as they describe their projects, their internal imagination morphs into something that I do not do. Yes, it is helpful to show artwork that you love, or to provide photographs. Ideally, it’s best to show me samples from my own portfolio so that our communications and expectations will remain on the same page.
However, there are times when a certain look is trying to be expressed, and another artist’s work is shown to me as a reference. It’s important for you to understand that this is for REFERENCE ONLY and is not going to be a direct copy of their style, or the image itself. That would be copyright infringement and is illegal. My style is my own. Their style is their own. Your realistic expectations are expected”
As an artist and someone who loves to support you fully in your project, I have my talent, our communication, and your manuscript to go on as a reference. Reading your manuscript, researching for reference photos for things like furniture, buildings, clothing styles, facial expressions, body language and hand gestures is something that an artist will do ahead of time. Note the keyword “time”. This takes time to do. Therefore, I do not charge by the hour, but per illustration.
As I find certain references, or view the references that you provide, I am drawing and sketching concepts to continue communication on regarding what you have in mind.
Frankly, my favorite illustrations are the ones where the author gives me free license to create, based upon what I”m reading in the book. They might tell me that they’d like five small spot illustrations and three full interior illustrations, for instance. They will also mark in their manuscript where they’d like them to go – or they may ask me to make suggestions.
My goal is always to support the flavor of the book that I’m illustrating and by allowing me creative license, I am free to flow and put my creative brain behind my sketches.
But sometimes, a client is a bit nervous with this approach and would prefer that they maintain more control over what goes where and what the characters will be doing. In this case, part of my brain switches to “left-brain” mode, or becomes logical as I take in the information and concentrate on various details while developing the character concept.
When this happens, the first initial character sketches that I do might feel a bit stiff, as I’m only focusing on various features, and not what the character is doing.
Bare with me … this is just laying the foundation. Once the character style is established, we then get to have fun with adding personality and body language within the various interior illustrations which will go inside the book. These are the fun sketches, as they bring the book to life.
Many people expect well developed illustrations immediately because that’s what they see when they search Google for concept illustrations. What they don’t see are all the chicken scratches and weirdness that happens while an artist “feels’ out the character. If you understand this process, and the time that it takes to lay the foundation for good illustrations which will go inside the book – then you may take a peek. This is where conversation happens.
Speaking of which … I’m an artist. You’ve hired me to illustrate something that you are already familiar with. Your communication is extremely vital so that I can step onto the same page with you to see what you are imagining. Your project is new to me, I’ll need time to familiarize myself to it – and to you. Everyone communicates differently, understand this, is important to me so that I can give you the best experience possible.
Frustration happens when unrealistic expectations get in the way of facts, and established styles. Please communicate with me if you are not “feeling’ something. And by all means, let me know if I’m on the right track with you.
These conversations are extremely important because they save you money! Every time I have to revisit and drawing or redraw something or completely draw something new, I’m guessing if you aren’t communicating clearly. I’m not emotionally attached to my drawings, but my time and your time is valuable. Speak up! Have fun! Be realistic!
When I’m given full license to be creative and to draw as I’m inspired by your manuscript, you’ll get your artwork much faster. But when you want me to draw what you see in your mind, understand that it will be much slower and will require meticulous conversations and patience.
I’ve illustrated full books with 25 illustrations in less than a month and the client was jumping from the rooftops with excitement. And I’ve had to spend well over two years illustrating another book because the client wasn’t sure what they wanted, and we blew through hundreds of versions, only to return to my first initial sketch. The classic response by the client was, “Wow! I didn’t see you make this one. This is what I wanted!” to my very first illustration, has happened more than once.
My experience is that people will have a certain idea, and will begin with that … but then realize that it isn’t working, or that there’s another approach that they hadn’t thought of before. In the past, I made the mistake (yes, I said mistake) of meeting with the client personally and drawing in front of them. After eight hours of concept drawings, I realized that the client was so mesmerized by the artwork appearing before their eyes, that they got caught up in the entertainment of the moment and had completely lost focus of what they had wanted in the first place.
When I listen to a client, I’m listening deeply, I’ll ask questions, and I’ll have an intuition about what will work for them – based upon what I’m hearing. 90% of the time, I’m right on. The problem usually arises with an unclear idea or expectation of what they want – or that they have another artist’s style in mind, and have forgotten that they’ve hired me – not that other artist.
PRICING AND WORK-FOR-HIRE
My fees include all preparation work, editing and finalizing of artwork. I’m very generous with my licensing as I provide you with exclusive, unlimited rights to the work I create for you. I don’t resell it, but I reserve the right to show it in my portfolio, as long as it is not violating a non-disclosure agreement or any other agreement we’ve made that is specific to this.
I do not charge by the hour! If I did – you’d be paying a fortune for my work. Much is put into the foundational part of reading the manuscript, researching, preliminary sketches and character development as well as communication with you. When you pay me, you are paying for my creativity and licensing the work.
Many clients want what they understand to be “Work for hire” – where they own everything, lock, stock and barrel. Including my style of drawing! Work for hire is extremely expensive and it allows the client to make derivatives of the work without any consideration of my style or the integrity of my art. In past judicial courts, some artists have been shattered to learn that when they agreed to ‘work-for-hire’ terms, their style of art was deemed a part of that – and they were effectively put out of business as an artist. They could no longer create anything that resembled the work-for-hire because it appeared to be that product line and that effectively destroyed their artistic career – because their style was their own. Now it belonged to someone else.
- I read the manuscript
- Concept drawings begin (these are the chicken scratches to figure out the layout of the illustrations and character appearances.)
- Research is done to locate reference photos or other artwork which will help to explain the concepts.
- Interior illustrations are sketched out according to conversations that have occurred and adjustments to the illustration list you’ve provided.
- Two edits are allowed in the pencil stage.
- Inking is done after the image has been agreed upon.
- If you have requested color, then the coloring is then applied according to our agreement.
You will pay a deposit of half of the estimated cost of all the artwork. This not only pays for my actual drawing, it pays for all the preparatory work that must be done surrounding this work.
Remaining amount will be broken up in three equal parts, the final being when final files are delivered.
Depending on the extent of your project and the number of illustrations, you can expect a project to last anywhere from a month to … well … like I said, it’s been as long as a year, depending on the communication of the client!