To all you writer/artists out there...

... also to all you artist/writers out there...


First of all, I hate you all oh so very much.


;-)


Seriously, though, what I actually mean is that I'm extremely jealous of you. Very much.


I'm decidedly not an artist. I do a webcomic, sure, and the main character in my current serial is a painter, but I don't have the energy or the will to do any of that stuff. I also have this thing called essential tremor (my hands shake) which makes it even harder to try to learn All That Drawing Stuff, so, you know, that's that. I'm primarily a writer and always have been, and for the most part I'm tremendously happy to be one...


... but man. I just got pencils in for a new cover for Pay Me, Bug!. It's from the same guy I hired to do the cover for Curveball... and it's just amazing how much that adds to the story. And I'm not really talking about for the reader, I'm talking about for me.


I mean, I'm pretty sure that there are people who have checked out Curveball because the splash graphic I use is awesome, when they wouldn't have otherwise. I'm utterly convinced of that. But what's amazing to me is that when Garth (the artist) sent me the pencils for that cover, he'd actually drawn CB so close to the way I'd imagined him that now when I think of how CB looks I think of his cover. He actually defined the protagonist for me, physically. When I need inspiration when I'm writing new issues, I open the graphic and move it off to the side.


So lately I've been trying to publish a trade paperback of Pay Me, Bug! on CreateSpace, and the original cover I used for the ebook, having been designed for the ebook, is too small. So I hired Garth to create a cover for it, told him basically what I'd like to see, gave him descriptions of the characters, and when he sent me the pencils for the concept art the other day I'll be damned if he didn't do the same thing for Grif, Amys, Cyrus and Ktk that he did for CB--and he hasn't even read it!


And when I look at it I find myself getting inspired all over again. I'm going to have to pay him for a cover for book two, and get it done before the rewrite, so I can have it open on monitor two while I go through it, making it purdy.


You lot who can go do that on your own are incredibly lucky. I'm definitely going to be getting a lot of use out of these drawings, but they weren't cheap (well, they may have been cheap compared to the overall market... they weren't cheap for me, personally). Worth every penny, but paying for inspiration means you can only do it so often...


I feel lucky, although I can't do anywhere near what I want to do. I'm not really an artist, I'm a writer and designer. I have a lot of training and I know how to train myself, and that helps.


And I agree with you. If you can do the art, you have another tool to express the story -- even if it's more abstract and not a direct illustration. It's also another "entry" for the reader into the story. It's something you can show off. Whether it's an illo you did, or the cover you commissioned for a book -- you an tweet "hey look at this cover so-and-so did for me!"


Because I'm not as practiced at art, the artwork I do takes a VERY long time, very often longer than writing the episode. But I did find this:


This summer, when I decided to have an illustrated header graphic for each episode of Misplaced Hero, that decision forced me to get better at it. Even though I only intended to do abstracts, I still had to do two a week. And once I started doing little silhouette characters, I found I had to stick with that, even though doing consistent characters is really hard.


You talk about your artist nailing the look of your characters: when I started doing mine, I didn't always visualize the characters before I drew them. Or the drawing affected my picture. In once case, though, I ended up with a split vision: a major supporting character, Rozinshura, is "a great bear of a man." But in the some of the early drawings he came out as a bit of a pencil-necked geek. There was something about those simple drawings, though, that captured his attitude, so I kept it, even though I did not change him. He's still a big guy in the text even though he's not so much in the drawings.


I've never been able to draw my own characters well enough to satisfy myself. It's always frustrating, and I never expected to do the art as actual illustrations of the story... but there I did it.


It was so much work to do those little drawings, that I vowed not to do it again. For THIS serial, I was going to do abstracts. Definitely, for sure! An example: http://daringnovelist.blogspot.com/2012/10/test-of-freedom-episode-2.html


But then in the very next episode, my pencil drew a face. Not a cartoony silhouette like I did with Misplaced Hero, but a sketch. A face of one of the characters. It came out so well I had to use it. http://daringnovelist.blogspot.com/2012/10/test-of-freedom-episode-3.html


And now I'm stuck trying to live up to that one. And you know what? Because I have to do something episode after episode, I am getting better. There are some awkward illos, but I realized that I need to do faces. I've been avoiding that, but now I see that those are my best ones.


And that allows me to use them the way I originally intended, not as illustrations of the specific scene, but as "dingbats" which get reused. That gives me time to work on new ones where I need to. (And yeah, there will be some that are specific illustrations for a particular episode.)


BTW, I got the idea for these mini-illos from an old pulp magazine called "Adventure." They have several issues at Archive.org. They put little half-inch square dingbat-style illos at the start of each interior section of a story. They were just clip art -- a face, a treasure chest, a pirate ship, a gun -- but they really added something to the story.


I find this as exciting as the serial itself. And I never thought I could do it.


I do know this: not everybody can draw, but everybody can draw better than they think they can -- it's just that it's like writing and like making pie crust or making music. It's takes learning and practice.


Camille


That's so cool you got some sweet art for your stories! Must feel so great.


I have to say as someone who writes and draws... the grass is always greener on the other side. I find my page views are in the single digits for my online novel despite having 1K twitter followers and having awesome (?!) drawings skills. People like seeing the pictures, but it's almost enough for them. They're satisfied, they don't need the prose.


So I guess I'm trying to say, in conclusion, while it's nice to have some cool drawings, story is still king!


Whibbage:


Yeah, I have to admit that's one of the reasons I do the art as headers or dingbats, and don't want to get into full illustration -- it's more work than payoff. The only time I do more is for my monthly comic strip, which is there for its own sake, and not to draw people into the story.


One thought on this: my own strategy for both serials and art is to be browsable.


Instead of having a separate blog for my serial -- where I have to convince people to go look at it, and THEN convince them to read it, each and every time -- I am going for the "magazine" model, where the serial is a part of my regular blog, and people are attracted there for other reasons.


Half of my readers subscribe to my blog for my other content, but the short episodes and small illos mean they are exposed the the work naturally all the time. (And the small illos show up in the little thumnbnails many RSS readers show -- whereas something bigger gets cropped down to a tiny piece of the middle.)


The downside of this is that you have to be a good blogger -- a good "magazine editor" -- and get your audience to the blog regularly and get them to subscribe. You might as well keep up with what you are doing if that's not in you established skill set. Building up a blog is a long slow process too.


It's also not a proven concept. I don't have a huge following or anything. I think I may have a couple of dozen people reading my serial via RSS, and I get maybe 20-30 regular hits on each episode on the site. These are each out of maybe tend times that in followers or hits on the site overall.


(However, this particular serial had a rough start and I haven't done things like list it here. I want to replace the Ep 1 illustration and do other things before I list it.)


However you go after it, it's a long haul. And followers elsewhere don't equate to followers of the story.


Camille


I have to say that being able to illustrate doesn't mean your covers always turn out for the best. My graphic designer friends know a lot about use of space, typography, and color theory . They will more than likely also make better cover ready art whereas I probably won't (because I just go by gut instinct and don't spend time studying what makes good covers or know the formats behind making something truly camera ready).


I'm debating whether to paint my own cover at this point since the readers have given me very good direction on what they think the style should be (aka painted fantasy) and it's something that I could do. That said - I also enjoy seeing other people's interpretation of my directions and even concept stuff I draw. IT's so much fun for me (as an artist) to see how your characters live in other peoples' eyes. Also, painting a cover at professional level will be a 10-40 hour investment on my part (because I'm compulsive when it comes to coloring and working with alternative versions) and that kind of scares me. I'm still tempted to talk to some of the people on Deviantart I know and see if they'd do the illustration for me but I'm afraid of what they might ask if they realize I'm going to be putting it onto an ebook.


Where I love being an artist though is in the early stages of character development/world development. I spent a lot of time doodling the look of the characters and trying them out online and at anime conventions. (But admittedly at the time I was still exploring the idea of doing a painted graphic novel so I needed to test out designs.) To some extent though, the downside is what I think is attractive might not be attractive for others. Art is such a subjective area and one persons' "good looking" is "meh" for others... so you almost could shoot yourself in the foot if your style isn't popular.


What I really like though? Mapmaking. Drawing the world you're in. That helps a lot more in writing. Especially fantasy. For me, my favorite thing I put together was the map. Too bad no one seems to look


So here's the goofy thing. After spending a lot of time on the art, the truth is that my readers don't look at the art much. I track the hits on my character , map, and extras pages and they are relatively LOW compared to the readerbase. Some readers admit they had NO idea that someone's features were like "XYZ" because I had only mentioned it in passing and then not often after that. It cracked me up because if they had looked at the character art or doodles that I often posted either as incentives or "extra links", they would have had their impression corrected.


Where the art is important is when I'm trying to advertise on my art communities. A small percentage will click through from the image to the story. It is not a huge percent, but for those who do, they spent anywhere from 5-40 minutes on average looking at the story. (That makes me very grateful.. it's far more effective that project wonderful advertising.)


BUt back to your initial post Uber - I thought your first commission from the artist was great. It perfectly fit // was well done/professionally colored and could hit the right audience if you decided to go advertise.


I'd like to see the art when it's ready for sharing.


And mind me asking? How did you negotiate with the artist?


And here's my list of stuff-

My concept stuff + commissions/gifts: http://talesofthebigbadwolf.com/artwork/


More commissioned work:

http://talesofthebigbadwolf.com/incentives/


Map:

http://talesofthebigbadwolf.com/the-world/


I met him at a con. Every year (when I can make it) I'm a guest at What the Hell?!? Con in Greensboro, NC because some of the IT people there like Help Desk. It's basically my vacation. And every time I've been there, Garth has been there with a very elaborate booth filled with amazing art hanging from this very elaborate frame that is pretty cool to see (he does a lot of steampunk art so the frame really fits thematically). The first time I ever met him, the display I was trying to set up went horribly wrong, so all I could manage was to have my website on display on a 9" netbook. I was put at the table right next to his. Same size table, but the only thing on it was a 9" netbook.


I hated him so very very much. :-D


So that's how I knew about his work, and how I knew he did paid commissions for fans. At the last con I got his business card, and when I was planning Curveball I emailed him asking him if he did professional work for hire and we started negotiating from there. He's a pretty busy guy, but on the other hand I was someone who said "hey I have this idea for a project AND I WANT TO PAY YOU" and apparently while the first part of the sentence is pretty common the last part is kind of rare. ;-)


And I like your samples!


You're describing the way I feel about audiobooks. There are characters now I can't listen to without hearing the voice actors who performed them in the audiobooks... there are scenes I've written because I know that when the voice actor gets them they're going to be -amazing-. And I've now written two books because of the way a single voice actor handled two pieces of dialogue in a couple of short stories.


For serious? They made those stories into real things for me. I thought there were plenty real in my own head when writing them, but getting them back after they'd been filtered through someone else's head into a medium foreign to me... that was mind-blowing. Just... wow.


Hogarth, the number of audiobooks you've done is making me think of doing audio sections for a webcomic I'm kickstarting.


Uber, So agreed! I have the drawing ability of stick figures (crappy one, not xkcd quality). I've been doing a webcomic for a bit over a year now with an artist (we took over for the comic's creator, time issues), and writing something out, and then having the page come my way and just... the way my mental image has been captured... It's magical. That artist and I are teaming up on a project all our own now, and I just can't wait. It's the most excited I've been for a writing project in a LOOOOONG time, in large part because, even though I wrote it, once he makes it really happen, I get to actually ENJOY it as well.