A Tale of Art Acquisition

Started by drkrash, October 28, 2009, 03:11:02 PM

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I'm mostly wrapping up the art process of my present project and I thought I'd share a bit of my story, perhaps as inspiration for those who might despair of having (good) art in their own projects.

I'm working on a decent-sized core rulebook (see my sig).  The game's genre is intensely visual, so a large rulebook with no art would have been a little sad.  That being said, I also have a very, very limited budget for art.  So I had to make it work for me.

I sought a cover artist first at the modest price of $40.  I posted my request on deviantart, and quickly discovered something: there are a LOT of unemployed or underemployed manga-style artists.  Within a couple days, I had 45 artists to choose from.  Some were just not good, but some were amazing! So I secured a cover artist I am happy with at the price I wanted.

As for the rest of the art, I'll be totally honest: I wanted to go as cheap as possible.  I gauge my books' success basically on whether or not I break even in the cost to produce it.  I know I have a decent product, but I also know it's definitely a niche product.  So I wanted to keep the cost low.

So I begged. 

I was totally honest that I had almost no money and was even so not-proud to ask for freebies in exchange for artist bios and/or comp copies of the finished PDF.

I didn't really get any takers on the "free" part.  Oh well.  It was worth a shot.

However, my honesty and my enthusiasm for my project DID lead some artists to give me ridiculously cut rate deals on art.  This, I think, is the most important part of my story: be honest about your budget and let them know how much their consideration means to you as a writer.

After some e-conversations, I established contracts with 4 artists.  Most of the art is in now.  I was actually still a little UNDER budget, so I am presently working on a 2nd contract with one of the artists who is simply phenomenal.  For her, I'm actually even going a little bit overbudget.  But just a little bit.

So, in the end, I have acquired about 20 pieces of art.  Not a lot, but enough to keep the book from looking blank (plus I have a friend who is providing about 15-20 more pieces at an astronomical "friend discount" rate, so that helps!).  It is also the case that the majority of the art is character art rather than scenes, but the game is very oriented towards visually strong characters, so that's OK.  Best part of all: every single piece of art I acquired was a new commission - none of it was existing art - and I had some say in the direction of it all!

So that's my story.  If you want art for your project, be honest about your financial limits, be enthusiastic about your own work, and one last important point, coming from a person with not a shred of artistic talent: love the crap out of your artists and tell them often how awesome they are for what they do for you! 

Thanks for reading! Have a great day!
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Ron Edwards

Your tactics and outcomes match mine from about ten years ago. I never blew smoke, never promised what I couldn't, and gave full credit and contact information for whoever worked with me. Plus, I did in fact pay what I said I would.

Not only did I receive way more great art than I ever expected, the payoff in good will was priceless and lasts to this day.

Best, Ron


Hey, thanks for sharing your story! I'm putting together my first RPG now and I'm thirsty for this kind of information!

The Forge looks like an amazing site. I'm working hard on my system, I have definitely got some material completed which I can start talking about very soon, and I'm going to hang around here and annoy everyone for months I expect. Blog starting soon, etc.

I'm also keen to include as much artwork as I can possibly manage, but right now I'm looking at what I can do myself for free while building the system. It's reassuring to think I might be able to get okay artwork for around the $40 mark. That's not a huge amount for an image or two to start with, and one could feasibly pay for just enough art to make up one sourcebook's worth.

I had been also wondering about how much art you could get for reciprocal attribution only, or if some artists would be happy to provide sketch-level art. I have much to learn.

(I'm designing a game. www.mythology-rpg.blogspot.com)

Callan S.

Some of the art at elfwood.com is pretty good, and they are practically giving it away now (Obviously I'm not saying they are giving permission to now. I'm saying there's a high likely hood of an inclination to, if asked). And it depends on what you mean by 'free' - as in, you own it, forever and ever in what ever way you want? You could make an arrangement where you can use it in products made during a year and after that, if the artists writes and says you can't use it any more, you can't. If they don't write, you can use it for another year, etc. That way they aren't giving away their art entirely. More of a loaner.

Or you could offer some split on profits, up to a certain amount. So when you get paid, you split off a certain amount to them, until they are fully paid an agreed upon sum. Or do that along with some initial deposit that is within your miserable budget >:) And have a release agreement that if they aren't paid fully after X time, you can't make more products with the art in them (regardless of what they have been paid already).