How do I go about obtaining a sketch from my favorite artist?
Well, money will usually do it. Once upon a time, most comic artists were enormously generous about whipping out freebee drawings
for their fans. In the last decade or three, two things have changed. One is that an extraordinary number of those gifts — bestowed
as favors — turned up being sold in the original art market.
The coming of eBay has pointed up the problem but, even before online auctions made it so obvious, artists knew that their good nature
and generosity was being exploited by others for profit. The other factor is that since the comic book biz offers little or nothing in the way
of pensions or unemployment insurance, a lot of artists — especially older artists who no longer get work in the field — have turned to
selling sketches as a source of basic income.
The two easiest ways to approach an artist about a sketch are (a) via an agent or (b) directly, at a convention.
The agents usually deal in high-end, expensive commissions. Who they are and who they represent are constantly changing lists, so your best bet
is to ask around, at cons or in public forums on the Internet, and check out ads in the Comics Buyer's Guide. A few can be located by doing a Google Search on the Internet for the artist's name and perhaps the phrase, "original art."
At conventions, artists who are willing to do sketches will usually have a table displaying their original art. If you are timid
about talking money with them, wait and see if they have a friend or relative manning the table when they take a break.
You can usually get an idea of their pricing policies by looking at the samples they have out and/or by asking others who've had
sketches done. Usually, it's a matter of "The longer it takes to draw, the higher the price." In other words, a head and bust shot of one
hero in black-and-white costs a lot less than a color shot of six heroes in action poses.
You can ask for just about anything you want but don't be surprised if the artist wants a heckuva lot of cash for something he figures
will take him a long time. (Some artists prefer not to do elaborate drawings at conventions, either because they want to service as many of
their fans as possible and not spend most of the con doing a drawing for one guy, or because they don't feel they can do a real "finished" drawing in
that environment and prefer to keep things on a "quick sketch" basis.)
Here are some other points:
- If an artist is doing commissions at a convention, get your order in early. Often, they wind up taking orders for drawings they'll work on
during the con and by the last day, the list is full.
- With most established professionals, it's safe to commission a drawing which they'll do when they get home from the con and then mail to
you. You will almost always get a better drawing that way, though you will miss out on the fun of seeing it created in your presence and then
being able to take it home right away.
- Many artists do not remember vividly the characters they drew in past years. If you want some veteran artist to do a sketch of a hero he
handled 20 years ago, he may ask you to scare up reference for him. (Some refer to such reference materials as "scrap.")
- An artist who is set up to do sketches will have his own art materials and illustration board on which to draw. The only way you'll have to
supply anything of the sort is if you want your drawing, as some fans do, in a bound sketchbook. And if you buy a sketchbook for such a
purpose, buy a good one...with high-quality drawing paper, and get a sheet of stiff cardboard that the artist can put under the page on which he's
drawing to prevent "bleed-through" to the following page.
- Some artists do not like being asked to draw their female characters (or even male characters) in the nude. So don't ask about this unless
you have some reason to believe the artist does such sketches.
- If you're going to be buying artwork at a con, it's a good idea to take along a folder or folio to carry the pages in.
- Most artists expect to be paid in cash. Some will expect to be paid in advance, especially if you're commissioning the kind of sketch that
they can't easily sell to someone else if you disappear.
- A lot of artists will do "re-creations" of old scenes or covers they've done for comics, but they usually won't do these at a convention.
Cover re-creations generally require more complicated art equipment — including, often, a device to facilitate tracing the printed comic.
If you commission a re-creation to be done later, keep in mind that most artists do not own complete libraries of what they've done in the past, and
may need you to supply a copy of the material they're going to re-create. (Also, you may be asked to specify if you want an exact replica or if
the artist is free to expand on or improve the design.)
None of this is intended to make it sound difficult to get an artist to do a sketch for you. In most cases, it's a matter of
finding out what they charge, handing over the bucks and specifying what you want, then taking home and framing your treasure. But perhaps the
above will take some of the fear out of the process.
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