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How to talk to artists...

Hi! I'm heading off to FC next week and I'll be running a panel on How To Talk To Artists (unless somebody else wants to do it , please please please let me know! Or if you'd at least like to come and help that would be great too!). I'm hoping some of you artists may have some points and tips to share with me to pass on to commissioners. I think this could be a very informative panel for people.

So far I pretty much have:
-I don't need your full character history, just a description of what you want.
-character refs are awesome
-we are not art machines...art takes time to make
-if you know what you want feel free to give us tons of detail...it leaves less guesswork for the artist and you'll get what you want
-don't complain about the price. The artist sets the price that makes the art worthwhile for them to make. If you don't like their price then find someone in your price range.
-be polite
-don't be a creepy stalker
-just because you bought something does not make us friends

Ummm, anything anybody can add would be fantastic!
If any non-artist people have anything they'd expect from or like to get out of a panel like this one, that would be extremely helpful too!

* I know this is kind of last minute, but I had responded to a LJ post months ago that I was interested in maybe running that panel and then promptly forgot about it until I was contacted a few days ago...

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( 204 comments — Leave a comment )
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Jan. 6th, 2011 05:49 pm (UTC)
When is your panel?
Jan. 6th, 2011 06:09 pm (UTC)
I also would like to know this!
(no subject) - taen_artcat - Jan. 7th, 2011 01:24 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - westly_roanoke - Jan. 7th, 2011 04:05 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - taen_artcat - Jan. 7th, 2011 08:37 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - westly_roanoke - Jan. 7th, 2011 04:27 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - taen_artcat - Jan. 7th, 2011 04:36 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 6th, 2011 05:49 pm (UTC)
expanding on the character history thing. An in-depth personality description isn't as important as physical things like....er...gender (I've had this happen waaaay to many time. The reference sheet has everything BUT gender....and they commissioned porn...)

I know you're passionate about your fetish...but the artist may not be

Never use "well I've done this in real life before" when describing a fetish scene you want drawn.

Deodorant is important, an artist shouldn't smell you from behind their table
Jan. 6th, 2011 05:52 pm (UTC)
That's a really good point. Then again, hopefully the artist has all that written in their TOS if it's an issue for them. But then again, I've still had people send detailed pictures of their character's genitals after I've sent them my TOS which CLEARLY says to not do that. D:
(no subject) - thaily - Jan. 6th, 2011 06:21 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - thaily - Jan. 6th, 2011 06:22 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - blitzava - Jan. 6th, 2011 06:23 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - thaily - Jan. 6th, 2011 06:32 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 6th, 2011 05:50 pm (UTC)
This is a great idea. I think a lot of the issues between artists and customers are caused mainly by ignorance.

I do have some suggestions, though. It might be nice to give people an idea of what who expect in return from an artist. How to set a reasonable deadline if necessary. How much communication should be expected from the artist, and how to tell when "enough is enough" so to speak. It's nice to protect the artists, but sometimes the customers need a little protection too!

Maybe mention how important it is for a customer to CAREFULLY read and fully understand an artist's TOS before the commission officially begins. Explain the importance of a TOS and how reading them can maybe even change a customer's mind about commissioning that artist. I've come across some TOS's that were just plain ridiculous (no refunds EVER, etc). They help you understand what you're getting into as a customer, as well as protecting the artist.

Aside from that, I think it sounds great! I especially like the note there about not buying the artist's friendship. If I had a nickel for every time...
Jan. 6th, 2011 05:54 pm (UTC)
Maybe give some suggestions as to how long is too quick to ask for a progress updates on a piece? Or more discussion as to when they can contact them about stuff? That seems to be a biggie here, when is it okay to ask how things are going and to be not considered pushy. Cause I'm sure some artists don't want to be harangued constantly, but there is the definite balance of curious commissioner and busy artist.

Definitely don't lounge in front of a table if there are other people interested in talking to the artist about something. I think that probably falls around the "not friends" bit. I guess its fine if you want to look at the stuff they have, but don't spend exorbitant amounts of time there, especially if they're busy? I see that a lot at anime cons.
Jan. 6th, 2011 05:54 pm (UTC)
How about not making everything sound as if you're a stuck up asshole? That might help the panel be more informative without it sounding pompous.
Jan. 6th, 2011 05:56 pm (UTC)
Yeah, not appropriate. Freezing this. We won't have this kind of name-calling in here.
(Deleted comment)
Jan. 7th, 2011 01:30 am (UTC)
I have noticed that every artist has different wants/needs in respect to the amount of detail described by the commissioner...some of us love detail, some want lots of artistic license. I'll definitely be addressing that!
Jan. 6th, 2011 06:01 pm (UTC)
Oh there was no name calling at all I'm simply saying that you want to make a connection with an audience and not lecture them. It DOES make you come off as an ass if you word things incorrectly.
Jan. 6th, 2011 06:04 pm (UTC)
It is against community rules to go around frozen threads by replying elsewhere.
Jan. 6th, 2011 06:04 pm (UTC)
These journals by SecreT (commissioning guides/advice) might be worth a read.
Jan. 6th, 2011 06:05 pm (UTC)
- Mention chatting at the table with the artist -- it's something to do with caution.

Some artists enjoy that, it helps break up the monotony of the day. Some do not, they want or need to concentrate on customers or their art. If you want to shoot the breeze, ask them if it is okay. If they are busy or not interested, they'll tell you; if they are receptive, you just might brighten their day.

- Homework. Some artists insist on it, some prefer it and some do sketches at the con only. Ask which they'd prefer, and go for it. In general, the longer you're willing to wait for a piece, the less stress for the artist and the better a piece you will get.

- Ask an artist what their highest-profit item is. Some make more money off their sketches then color. Some make more money off their color work then their sketches. Commissioning a higher-profit item is a nice gesture and also will tend to get you a better picture!

- Another great technique is to go to a really busy artist you know, and asking them for an artist reference -- someone they'd recommend that may be hurting for business. You'll usually get an excellent picture, the recommended artist will usually be quite grateful, and the recommender gets to do a friend a favor. Everybody wins.
Jan. 7th, 2011 01:32 am (UTC)
That last one is a fantastic idea!
Jan. 6th, 2011 06:06 pm (UTC)
The no full character history is a VERY good one. Some artists have sheets you fill out with check boxes and descriptions, which mean that you can shove it at the client and say "Fill this out," instead of having to sit there hearing about how they raided the temple of thingy and got the magic whatsit of thing that made them switch genders and transform into a nudibranch. This has always struck me as a great idea, and maybe someday I'll actually get aroudn to do it.

Just because you know phrases like "worgen-type" and "therianthropic" do not assume that this means anything whatsoever to the artist. The artist is probably not in your particular subset of fandom. If you have a body type in mind and the commission will be ruined without it, include reference material, do not use vocabulary specific to your particular subset and expect the artist to know what you're talking about. Furry is occasionally bad about that.

As general courtesy, do not say "Hey, this reminds me of ______." You are probably just trying to make conversation and mean well, but it does tend to come across as "You un-orginal sod." There is so much "OH GOD, YOU COPIED ME!" rife on the internet that a lot of artists in fandom just plain hate to hear this phrase. (Others undoubtedly don't care, but if you're trying to compliment someone, this one has low odds of success, and high odds of smile-nod-gritted-teeth.)

DO NOT BLOCK THE TABLE. This one often doesn't get mentioned, and applies to more than artists. Browse, by all means! Buy art! Chat a bit! But if there are people crowding up behind you, and your business is concluded and now you're just talking at the artist, it is the time to thank them and withdraw. Do not stand and talk about things important to you for twenty minutes. You may think you're making a connection, but you may well be costing the artist money by blocking access to their table for other people.

Do not go behind the table unless they specifically invite you to do so. Do not ask to sit in any free chairs they may have. Do not pull up your own chair. If you hear the phrase "Oh, no, I don't need to be anywhere for an hour, so I'll just hang out here," cross your lips or brain, and you have no reasonable expectation of being in the artist's will, you probably need to go away.

Do not offer to watch the artist's stuff unless you are con staff, the person at the table next to them or know them well already. You may think you're trying to be helpful, but this actually comes across as creepy and inappropriate to a lot of people, particularly unaccompanied female artists.

All I can think of offhand--hope that helps!
Jan. 6th, 2011 06:15 pm (UTC)
Yeah, not blocking the table is a good caveat to my chatting with artists advice. Receptive or not, never be afraid to interrupt a conversation in favor of a paying customer. They're basically in their office, and have to be treated as such. If there's a conversation I *have* to have with an artist I know REALLY well, or are good friends with, I'll offer to meet them on a break, away from the table, or prearrange something prior to the con with them.
(no subject) - grygon - Jan. 6th, 2011 06:24 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - shukivengeance - Jan. 6th, 2011 06:25 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - westly_roanoke - Jan. 6th, 2011 06:34 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ankewehner - Jan. 6th, 2011 06:39 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - shukivengeance - Jan. 6th, 2011 09:58 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - saeto15 - Jan. 7th, 2011 01:47 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - celarania - Jan. 6th, 2011 07:19 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ursulav - Jan. 6th, 2011 08:40 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - celarania - Jan. 6th, 2011 08:46 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - shukivengeance - Jan. 6th, 2011 10:00 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - celarania - Jan. 6th, 2011 10:06 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 6th, 2011 06:09 pm (UTC)
One thing I hear from artists constantly is "Oh I gave this customer my cell number at the con and now they won't stop bothering me!"...I know generally most people may not be comfortable giving them out, but at a con people just tend not to -THINK- straight. So maybe put something in there about "DON'T GIVE YOUR PHONE NUMBER OUT" or something. It amazes me just how many times I've heard artists complain about this, after willingly giving it out!

Also something in there about how to keep in touch with an artist who doesn't finish your commission at the con. This also happens so often, so deadlines are great, or contracts or -something- preventing the artist from running off with the clients money and ending up on this community =p.
Jan. 6th, 2011 06:28 pm (UTC)
I guess it's hard for some artists to say no when they are put on the spot and get asked for it? idk, I wouldn't dream of asking someone I just met for something as personal as a phone number :V
(no subject) - thornwolf - Jan. 6th, 2011 07:21 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 6th, 2011 06:11 pm (UTC)
One thing that I think really benefits both parties, is to be up-front (without being rude) about what you expect, and see what the artist expects. An easy and polite way to ask is to see if the artist has a Terms of Service (ToS) or any other type of agreement before entering a commission. This can be done easily and politely simply by asking when the artist sees as a realistic completion time, talking about how payments and revisions are handled BEFORE the commission starts, etc. Right are also an important thing to ask-- if you (a client) wants any rights to the image at all you need to talk to your artist straight up from the start. This will help prevent the stories we see where artists complete a work, and the client lets them know that they expect the artist NOT to post it and keep it private. Or that they expect to run prints from the image. Etc.

Politely talking about expectations of each other before the commission starts helps to prevent a lot of the most common nasty surprises and problems that we often see here.

I think many artists are starting to come up with some basic guidelines/terms and might offer these terms to the client BEFORE the client has to ask about them specifically, but if not there is no harm in asking!
I say this with some hesitation, because I don't want to sound snippy, but I really believe that any artist worth working with will not mind your polite questions. Some considerations and things you can ask:
- How the artist expects payment(s) to be made and when.
- What the artist feels is a fair deadline or soft deadline for the piece.
- If you are expecting any rights to the image, politely specify.
- How revisions work and if you can expect to see a sketch or WIP at any point to make said revisions.
- Contact information. No, not creepy stalker contact info.. but at least an email or website where you can easily reach the artist. Be respectful with this information (while most artists are friendly, an artist is not automatically your best friend when you commission them). Especially at a con! Make it a note to at least write down the artist's name and an email or something when you get a commission from them. Cons are crazy and there is a chance you might need to contact them using the internets if you don't see them again during the con.*

* I don't even know how many times Joe Furry has come up to me at a con and asked some variation of "Do you know this person that draws (wolves/foxes/mongooses) because I commissioned them yesterday but I forgot who it was." or even asking if they commissioned me during the convention... really? Cons are crazy, but at least make a note in your phone or on the back of your hand, or take a business card so that you know the artist's name. XD
Jan. 6th, 2011 06:12 pm (UTC)

Perhaps stress that the basics are important when giving a description, seriously I once got a character description that was "a red fox" followed by about thirty odd weapons he was apparently carrying.
Jan. 6th, 2011 06:14 pm (UTC)
That's not just fans, alas--I'm still bitter about the one illustration gig where they spent two paragraphs describing the creature's place in the ecosystem, and never bothered to mention that it had six legs.
(no subject) - lilenth - Jan. 6th, 2011 06:21 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - animecat - Jan. 6th, 2011 06:28 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kayla_la - Jan. 6th, 2011 06:53 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sigilgoat - Jan. 6th, 2011 08:01 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ryunwoofie - Jan. 6th, 2011 07:41 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - westly_roanoke - Jan. 6th, 2011 06:29 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - thaily - Jan. 6th, 2011 06:33 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - westly_roanoke - Jan. 6th, 2011 06:35 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - greenreaper - Jan. 6th, 2011 06:40 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 6th, 2011 06:13 pm (UTC)
just because you bought something does not make us friends

I have a vision of "the artists and the fanboys should be friends" now. Thanks. :-p
Jan. 6th, 2011 10:57 pm (UTC)
This is completely unrelated but oh my god is your icon a norn??

This is my inner child breaking free and I refuse to hold it back.
(no subject) - greenreaper - Jan. 6th, 2011 11:03 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - mentaljunkyard - Jan. 6th, 2011 11:06 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - greenreaper - Jan. 6th, 2011 11:09 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 6th, 2011 06:18 pm (UTC)
I think talking to an artist is pretty much the same as talking to anyone else ;P
"How to commission an artist" might be a better title.

- Put your name and address in your sketchbook just in case.
- Exchange contact info such as an e-mail address.
- Use copies for reference rather than originals.
- Don't talk the artist's ear off if they're trying to work. They might want to chat, but don't always have the time.
- Don't stare or try to hover over an artist's shoulder if they're working.
- Artists won't have time to read a novel, a list of details is better.
- If you have questionable fetishes, might not want to discuss them in public. It's hard for an uncomfortable artist, stuck at a table, to extract themselves politely from a conversation about diaper soiling.

On the note of people who think commissioning an artist makes them BFF; "The artist will likely want to maintain a detached, business relationship during the transaction" might be a more diplomatic way of putting it.

Other points I encountered at cons:
- Wash. No-one wants you around if you stink.
- In the dealer's den/artist alley, don't block the table, you might be costing the artist customers.
- It pays to come prepared and bring a binder or something else to keep your purchases safe in.
Jan. 6th, 2011 06:25 pm (UTC)
On the other hand, if as an artist you're drawing questionable fetishes, it's probably best to convey the work privately to the commissioner. Their friends might not all be in on their little secret, and if you just run up to them and hand it to them in the corridor, they might learn more than they wanted to.
(no subject) - thaily - Jan. 6th, 2011 06:35 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kakabel - Jan. 6th, 2011 08:43 pm (UTC) - Expand
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