Buying Art in the OSRPosted: January 1, 2011
I wanted to continue the conversation that developed in the comments portion of my last post because I think it’s worth talking about. One set of comments that struck me were from Jim of LotFP and B. Portly Esquire:
>>The thing that irks me about Raggi’s
attitude is that claims to be an “art director” and knows best.
What’s the alternative? One thing that
is totally escaping me in this conversation is how I’m to get the right
look and feel if I take a hands-off approach.
More than anything else in
this whole publishing thing, dealing with artists is the big thing that I’m
still largely in the dark about.
I’m not going to call anyone out on this one, because I think the positions of both people have merit. But I hope that a majority of problems can be avoided if expectations and the philosophy that drives them are made clear up front. Maybe that’s just the optimist in me talking because I seem to have had more than my fair share of misunderstandings and fuck-ups.
As an artist and photographer, there are actually only a few things have really made me want to put a bullet in a project in my past work, but they all seem to boil down to actions or events that cause me to feel as though my time and efforts are not valued or are taken for granted by the client. I don’t know if that makes me ‘uppity’ or not. But maybe I can start the conversation by talking about what I want as an OSR artist.
It drives me insane when someone comes to me asking that I do work that I am obviously not suited for. I don’t draw with a computer tablet. I don’t paint like Larry Elmore. I don’t do anything in an ‘Anime’ style. I’ve never drawn something “furry” or “Toonish.” There is nothing like that in my samples or on my website. So I guess I don’t understand why some people seem to keep asking me for that… especially when portfolio sites like ‘Elfwood’ or whatever all over the web are bursting with people who do that kind of stuff. This is especially galling when the requester only gradually reveals that this is what they want… when, three or four emails into the conversation and I’ve been sending them sketches and trying to pin down what they want, they finally say, “Can’t you do more of an anime style?” Motherfucker. If you could strangle people via email I would be a murderer several times over.
If, as a client, you have a laundry list of requirements, deliver them in advance. If you are the client, realize that you may not always get 100% of what you want (especially if you think of it late in the process). Over on Dragonsfoot I remember reading some dick ranting on and on about how the picture of the mindflayer in the original Monster Manual had little pupils and the description said that the mind flayer didn’t have pupils. What a dicksack. If, as a client, you can’t handle the occassional discrepency between what you wanted and what you got, then go to art school and learn how to draw because that is the only way that you are going to get 100% of what you want 100% of the time. If, as an artist, you absolutely can’t stand to make any changes ever, then illustration (where you illustrate someone else’s book or idea or whatever) may not be for you.
My time is valuable to me. I get resentful when someone sends me a big manuscript and says, “You are the artist… read this over and pick out a dozen different illustrations that you would like to do, then do sketches of them and send them to me for approval and I’ll tell you what changes to make.” Honestly, I do not want to read your manuscript or be your unpaid art director or layout artist. My one-time usage price assumes that I can just sit down and draw the thing and send it to you and be done with it.
Obviously, my loyalties are on the ‘artist’ side of things… but I want to work in illustration and I want people to be happy with my work so I try to understand the client point of view. And I’m trying to teach myself how to avoid problems and identify clients that I may not be able to have a productive relationship with. So part of what I want to tell Jim of LotFP is that he should try to find artists he can work with who can consistently deliver the ‘look and feel’ that you want and allow that it isn’t brain surgery — occassionally, the artist might draw pupils on the mind flayer(whether because you forgot to tell him or he didn’t read your art direction)… but if you get most of what you want most of the time, you are doing pretty well in the grand scheme of things.
I don’t know if what I have written here is helpful or not — I hope it is. I think it’s a conversation that the members of the “OSR” publishing community need to keep having. From my own experience in the world of commercial print production, the problems of the OSR artists and OSR art directors are not unique to the OSR — they are just part and parcel of the collaborative process of getting something to print. Personally, I like the D.I.Y. aesthetic of the punk-era ‘zine and think too many OSR publishers are hung up on making their product look like it was published by TSR circa 1985… I wonder if OSR publishers would do better to celebrate the “warts and all” aesthetic of the small press… but that’s just one opinion.