Thursday, November 1, 2012

Answering Questions

Craig Glesner asks a rather specific question that perhaps doesn't concern a lot of you, and that has to do with art. He asks about how one goes about finding artists, how much one pays, and so forth. Now, many of you out there aren't trying to publish your own game material, but you might find some of this information interesting in a "behind the curtain" kind of way. For me, beyond the nuts-and-bolts of finding artists is the more interesting comment Craig made: "Of course, now I am looking at all the new stuff I have to do for real as opposed to hobby".

The short answer, Craig, is go here:

First, it's not that hard to find an artist. The problem is finding "good" artists. If you're looking for an artist, all you need to do is post something online, either to EnWorld or RPGnet. What you're going to want to do is look at their online portfolios, and most professional artists maintain websites for just this purpose. This is a lot better then we had it back in the early days of the internet, when there really was no central location to go and post jobs. Most game companies would bring their art directors along to conventions for the express purpose of looking at all those portfolios artists would bring with them. So, post a job offering and see what response you get. 

Second, art direction. I gotta tell you something, there's a metric ton of stuff us non-artists don't know about art. Forced perspective? Light source? I don't know that stuff, man, just draw me a cool picture! It is so much harder than that. That's why most professional game companies hire a professional artist to act as art director. What he does is turn your words into pictures, and he does it a specific way: He tells the artist what to draw. In other words, he visualizes something from your game and describes it in such a way as to be helpful to the artist. I had to write hundreds of these things for the Star Trek RPG, and man does it suck. It's not so much the difficulty of doing it, as the fact that you're basically writing stuff for the game that will never appear in the game as words. It seems a little pointless to describe the Vulcan riding the chariot pulled by sehlats for a piece of art when you could be putting that stuff in the game.... Anyway, since you don't have the money to hire an art director, Craig, I suggest you just describe what you want to the best of your ability. 

Third, payment. I have no idea what pay rates are in the industry these days. It used to be that an original, full-color piece of art for a cover ran you about $2,000. A quarter panel used to go for about $125 per piece. All I have to say is that you negotiate a price with the artist. You now also have to consider all that fun stuff you never considered when this was just a hobby: when is payment due? That's up to your contract with the artist. Didn't think of that, either, did you? Your artist, whoever it turns out to be, isn't going to put pencil to paper without a contract. It stipulates when the work is due, the conditions for accepting the work, and when payment is due from you (plus how much). Happily, you can find a standard boiler-plate contract on the web. 

Lastly, there's a bunch of other stuff I can't even begin to go into because a) I wasn't an art director and b) I remember only as a hazy nightmare. You're art may not come to you in a digital format, which means it's got to be scanned. You've got to scan it at the right dpi, otherwise your picture is going to look pixellated. You've got to keep track of the art itself, because many times the artist isn't selling you the original, just the right to use it. By that I mean, the artist owns the physical artwork (unless you want to pay more), and he'll likely want it back after you've scanned it. Again, this is something I'm only hazy on. So take this part with a giant grain of salt. 

Let me suggest this: Find a friend with graphic design experience and let him worry about this stuff. Flowing text in Quark isn't that hard, but including artwork increases the difficulty modifier. Even better if you can find some friends who are artists, and are willing to cut you a deal on the rate. Finally, ask around on one of the gaming websites out there, like EnWorld. There are a lot of industry professionals with way more knowledge than me, and I'm sure they'd be glad to help you out with information. Lastly, allow me to direct you to this site one more time:

Hopefully tomorrow, I'll tackle the larger subtext behind your question -- turning your hobby into a business. 

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