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May 2007

May 2007 - Music

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  • Industry News:
    Industry Announcements for May 2007
  • Healthy Green Artists:
    Solvents and Cleaners
  • EMG News:
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  • Wombat Droppings:
    Dealing with Art Directors
  • Behind the Art:
    Life Models and References Used in Art
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  • Fiction: Kokopelli's Flute
  • Fiction: Twenty-first Century Siren

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  • Book: Sing the Light
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  • Dealing with Art Directors
    Wombat Droppings
    by Ursula Vernon

    Well, look at that—back in the saddle again! Hello again, O Reader, and welcome back.

    Today we're gonna talk about freelance art, and more specifically, Dealing With Art Directors.

    A few weeks ago, I gave a little talk at Beloit College in Wisconsin, and one of my rambling diatribes was about art directors. Before embarking on this topic, I went ahead and called for suggestions from art directors of my acquaintance, on the subject of "What do you wish your artists knew?"

    The vast majority of them came back with "Deadline, Deadline, Deadline," and in one particularly amusing case, "If another artist flakes out on me about deadlines, I'm gonna start hiring snipers to pop their arty little heads."

    The absolute, tip top, most important thing, bar none, is to get the work done by deadline.

    I cannot emphasize this enough.

    Freelance art is a lousy job for perfectionists because of this one thing. If you're of the mental stripe that says that the art must be perfect, and if it's not perfect, you won't hand it in, I want you to push away from the computer and go sign up for a nice course in any other field of human endeavor. Any field. Interpretive dance. Anthropology. Green Beret training. Anything. Because freelance art will make you wretchedly unhappy.

    The deadline is important. And if you flake on it, you won't get another job from them, and you won't get a job from any of their friends, because believe it or not, art directors talk to each other.

    Have I harped on the deadline enough yet?

    But of course, there are other things one needs to know when working with an art director, and that's probably another two columns there, so I'm going to start with "Things To Ask Your Art Director." And it's even nice and bullet-pointed and organized and stuff, in part 'cos I love you, and in part because these questions are being copied from the notes for my aforementioned talk, because I believe in recycling.

  • When is the deadline? (Understand that a deadline is for delivery of FINAL art, not the first draft. Try to allow at least a week for the art director to get back to you with revisions, and two weeks if you can manage it.)
  • What should the dimensions of the final image be? (This may be in inches, cm, or in half-page/full-page/quarter page. In that case, get the dimensions of the pages.)
  • What is the bleed? (Bleed is additional space around the image which must be painted in, just in case the printer gets the image slightly offset. An 8 x 10 image with 1/4 inch bleed will measure 8.5 x 10.5 when you get done with it. It's handy to mark the bleed with faint guides if you're working digitally.)
  • How much dead space do we need? ("Dead space" refers to the area on a cover where the title/logo/author's name will appear. Obviously you don't want anything important, like a character's face, stuck in the area that's going to be covered by the title, so find out how much space you need to leave with nothin' goin' on. On a wraparound cover, this also includes the blurb on the back, and the binding.)
  • What format do you want it in? (In these digital days, they probably want you to upload a TIFF to their server, but it never hurts to check.)
  • When do I get paid? (Ideally you will get paid upon delivery of the art. Sometimes you get paid on publication. This is not ideal, and you are much more likely not to get paid at all, partly because small companies sometimes grossly overestimate their odds of success, and partly because people are easily distracted and may forget that you exist in the frantic rush at the end of any publishing project. Pay-on-publication need not be a deal-breaker, but try to get paid on delivery, and try not to do any seriously epic projects without it.)
  • What your art director wants . . .

  • Know thy deadline and keep it holy. You have no other god before the deadline. It doesn't matter that the art will be better in a week—art directors would generally far, far rather have okay art on time than great art a week late. Seriously, have I harped on this enough yet?
  • Roughs are rough. Depending on how specific the instructions given by your art director are, you can submit anywhere between one and five rough sketches of the image. These are roughs, fit to scale with all the dead space and whatnot, they're for determining composition, and they don't have to look pretty. Mine generally didn't even have facial features. The rough is not the place to worry about details or sloppiness—you are getting an idea down so the art director has a general idea what to expect and can make suggestions.
  • Mix it up. Always include at least one, and preferably two, that's exactly what your art director asked for, even if you think it's boring and uninspired. However, you can also toss in one that's wildly different but that you think would fit the theme. Generally they won't pick it, but sometimes you get lucky.
  • Stay in touch. The art director would like to hear from you. Dead silence because the art isn't done is Not Good, and not professional. If you're going to be later than the deadline, let them know ASAP. Apologize and give an ETA. It is also perfectly fine to send them a note now and again saying "Still working, hoping to have art for you by next Thursday/end of the month/whatever." They will probably appreciate knowing somebody's on the ball.
  • Okay. Those are the questions you should ask up front, those are the basic expectations that your art director probably has.

    Next month, we'll tackle a few more important questions like "What do I send the art director and when?" and "What horrible things might happen to me as a freelance artist?" and "Will I be working with the writer?" and other such exciting tidbits!

    ,

    Ursula Vernon
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