Comic books wouldn't be what they are without the art. The art and story are important factors when it comes to enjoying a comic. Because it's such a visual medium, the art aspect of comics tends to stand out more than the stories at times.
Each week we spotlight sketches and commissions artists do on their free time or at comic conventions. We have had the Mystery Art Challenge videos where artists had a moments notice to draw such things as Wonder Woman and a Cake, Batman with a Broom, Captain America with a Pizza and Catwoman as a Green Lantern. Seeing the characters outside of comic book pages is a treat.
Many have asked how they can get original art for themselves? What are the rules or guidelines? What should be brought to the artist? Below are some guidelines along with some comments from a few artists that will be attending this year's New York Comic Con.
Artist Alley is the place you can meet and talk to artists. They are there so you can talk to them and sign your comics. They are also there to sell you prints and original art. When it comes to original art, that's where you'll see a lot of difference. Some artists will have original comic pages from comics they've worked on. Those pages can vary in price. For many, getting character commissions is the easier and more affordable way to go.
If you are attending a convention and know if an artist you like is attending, you could try to contact them ahead of time. Many artists have Tumblrs and blogs with their commission information. Other artists make themselves available via Twitter. Many artists are beginning to do pre-con sketches to give them a head start and to accomodate more fans.
To get some more clarification, I asked a few artists about their rates, preference in number of characters, if they provide paper, do they limit how many comics can be signed and if they do pre-con sketches.
Todd Nauck (GUARDING THE GLOBE)
I list my convention commission sketch rates for head shot and half figures, black and white and grayscale, on my site toddnauck.com. I don't do full figure commissions at cons. They take too long to do a conventions. Those are handled on my regular commission list. People can email me at email@example.com for full figure commission info.
My initial prices are for single character. But I can add a second character for an extra charge if the sketch line isn't too long. I do have boards to draw convention commissions on but I can also draw in people's sketchbooks and on sketch cover comics for the same prices.
The only limit I put on signed items is Amazing Spider-Man #583 the Spidey/Obama Team-Up comic. I sign 5 for free then charge for any more than 5 of that comic. All my other comics, no limit. But I may sign a person's big collection in shifts so other people in line don't have to wait too long.
I very rarely take on pre-con commissions because of work deadlines. But people are free to email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) just in case I have a free moment before the con. Pre-con commissions are a little more expensive than the convention sketches since I can put more uninterrupted time into the art.
If you have an obscure character request, bring a printed out reference sheet (or digital images on your smart phone) of a few really clear, head-to-toe shots of the character that show off good shots of the character's design, face, and costume. This will insure your character sketch looks as accurate as possible.
Groups of people can clump at a table. feel free to ask which way the "line" for sketches is going. This will help avoid confusion and time wasted in the "wrong" line. And keep tempers from flaring and forcing the artist to play mediator. We need to focus on the art!
Some artists (myself included) like to have conversations with the fans while drawing their commission. Feel free to ask questions and respond to our questions if you feel comfortable chatting. If not, that's okay, too. People are still welcome to hang out and just watch the art be created. I know for me, it's nice to get out of my "work bubble" of a studio and interact with other people who enjoy comics!
Some artists take a list or sketch requests. Some artists draw your request while you wait. I'm an artist that draws while you wait. Taking a list, for some weird reason, doesn't work for me and takes all the fun out of the convention for me. So hit my table (or similar artists' tables) early or pass by every now again to see if the line has shortened.
Ryan Stegman (SCARLET SPIDER, FANTASTIC FOUR)
I don't list my rates online. I haven't actually decided on my rates this year. They generally change from year to year. What I'm trying to do is find a price and a type of sketch that I can do where almost everybody that wants one can get one. But...It's almost impossible.
I prefer to do single characters. I charge more for multiple, and rarely take them on because they take at least twice as long. Yes, I bring my own paper.
I haven't run into any problems with people having too much to sign yet. That'll be a nice problem to have. But as of right now, I just sign everything...Happily!
I had to stop taking pre-con sketches because my workload is too heavy to even entertain the thought of doing more. And I also don't take pre-orders anymore because that was becoming too difficult to keep track of. So right now I'm doing first come first serve at the show.
Chris Giarrusso (G-MAN, MINI-MARVELS)
I don't list rates on line. Best to say "variable depending on request."
I'll do ingle and/or multiple characters. I provide 8.5" x 11" cardstock paper. If larger paper is requested, it must be supplied by the the requester.
I haven't had to limit the number of items in the past. That being said, if somebody drops a giant pile on me while other people are waiting, I'll put the giant pile on hold.
It doesn't hurt to contact me for pre-con sketch requests, though I may not actually be able to do the sketch pre-con.
Things to Consider
Even though these artists are professionals, you have to keep in mind that providing an adequate reference is always a great idea. Bring some comics and images to make it easier on them, especially if you know it's a more obscure request.
Your reference should be ON PAPER. Often I've seen artists try using someone's phone as a reference. the screen constantly dims and it's going to be a small image. An iPad isn't too much better. The artist may not be able to draw the commission at that moment and you'll want to have something you can leave behind.
Please don't set food or beverages on the artist's table. One good spill could ruin thousands of dollars of original art!
Find out how the payment process will go. Some artist prefer to be paid up front while others will allow you to be paid upon completion. You might be hesitant to pay without seeing the final product. I have heard of artists having customers not show up to pick up their drawing when they don't pay up front. If you don't pay up front, the artist might bump you back in the list just in case this scenario happens. They want to make sure the paying customers get what they want, as they are pretty much guaranteed to return.
Be polite and courteous. These artists often spend the entire day drawing countless sketches. Some also have panels they need to run back and forth from. Some artists take the commissions first thing each day to be fair. The lists can fill up fast so you might need to plan accordingly.
Good luck. The only other thing you need to worry about is once you start getting original art, you'll get the bug and want to keep getting more.