Welcome to Working with Artists! In this series, we’ll be going over the fundamentals on how to work with professional or aspiring artists on comics, games, and other collaborative mediums to build your story world and artistic process. This series should be useful to writers, producers, content creators, and anyone else who wants to work on their world-building collaboration skills. More particularly, in the next few weeks (aiming to release an article a week) we’ll be going over the following topics:
- Conveying Your Vision - how to develop a strong visual identity for your work even before beginning the artist search.
- Where to Find Artists - where on the world wide internet to look for artists, and how to gauge their potential interest before approaching.
- Artist Portfolio Reviews - how to look at portfolios, examine fundamentals, and unearth red flags.
- Partnering with Artists - how to approach and audition artists, contracts, and how to be a professional.
We’ve always been known for our beautiful art, which is no coincidence. We work with talented artists from around the world and have been able to develop the skills and portfolios of those who have collaborated with us. That’s in turn opened the door for us to work with more established artists, and so and so forth.
So without further ado, let’s hop into Part 1: Conveying Your Vision after the jump.
STEP I: VISUALIZE YOUR WORLD
In other words, before you find the artist, you have to find your own vision for the project first. Even if you can’t draw a stick figure, you should still be able to imagine what you want your project to look like. It’s not hard; it’s why you got into creating in the first place!
TRY THIS:For me, it’s never something so concrete as a specific image, but I do get a general feeling - a mood, an impression - from the exercise. And, if I don’t get that feeling - it’s usually a sign that maybe I need a little more time to think and develop what I want before finding artists.
Close your eyes. Think about your masterpiece. Your world. Your story. Your VISION. What do you imagine it looking like? What are the colors you see? The shapes? The images that pop up into your head? What is the mood? The feeling? What do you see?
Close your eyes. Think about your masterpiece. Your world. Your story. Your vision. What do you imagine it looking like? What are the colors you see? The shapes? The images that pop up into your head? What is the mood? The feeling? What do you see?
For me, it’s never something so concrete as a specific image, but I do get a general feeling - a mood, an impression - from the exercise. And, if I don’t get that feeling - it’s usually a sign that maybe I need a little more time to think and develop what I want before finding artists.
Once you have a strong sense of your vision, the next step is to convey it into something tangible.
STEP II: CREATE A MOOD BOARDTRY THIS:
Now that you have an idea of what you want, create a MOOD BOARD for your vision. A mood board is a collection of images, colors, songs, and other assets that evoke or inspire your vision. These can be concepts or artwork from other properties. Have no shame to your game - grab anything and everything that you can see fitting into your world!
You can create a Mood Board through a number of ways:
- You can use a tool like www.mural.co to create a virtual whiteboard with an infinite canvas.
- You can save images / other assets to a folder. This is typically how Vince and I do it - through a Google Drive folder labeled REFERENCE.
- You can print out and create a collage, old school! This gives a more tactile approach and fosters greater subconscious buy-in from yourself, which many people will find useful for their process.
All creativity is derivative. Most artistic projects are works of collaboration. Collaboration is the ability to take concepts and improve upon them. What you’re looking for is an artist who can see what you’ve created, and add onto that, creating something unique and wonderful. To do that, though, you not only need a strong sense of what you want, but the ability to convey that information.
Hence, the Mood Board. When Vince and I work on our own projects, we actually have an entire REFERENCE FOLDER of images and other things that we research and gather for inspiration. Eventually, this folder is something we hand off to our Artists, but in the meantime the exercise of curating the mood board helps us further refine our vision for the project.
This is an integral part of our process. No project we’ve done has skipped this step. Through it, we’re able to hone in on exactly what the aesthetic of a project should be before we even begin approaching artists.
STEP III: DRAFT A CONCEPT BIBLE
Another tool that we sometimes find useful is the CONCEPT BIBLE. This usually takes the form of a fairly robust document, anywhere from five to fifty pages, detailing the concept, including, but not limited to the following:
- One-liner or Logline.
- Short Synopsis
- World Overview
- Style Guidelines
- Future Story Structure
The creation of the CONCEPT BIBLE goes hand in hand with the writing stage of the narrative. We usually develop both simultaneously and fill it out with information as we go.
The Story Bible for Glow (linked below).
Find a CONCEPT BIBLE from a TV, game, or comic that you like. Here are some places to find them:
- TV Writing has an excellent repository of TV Scripts and Bibles that you can peruse.
- The Comic Experience has a Script Archive for comic scripts. Look for the Proposals (shorter versions of the Pitch Bible)
- Here is the original world bible for Glow. Spoilers ahead!
Once you’ve read through your chosen Concept Bible, think critically about the information presented, and how it related to the actual finished work. Can you imagine the world from the words? Where do things converge and diverge?
Oftentimes when people come up to us at conventions, they immediately ask if I’m the artist. When I say no, they then immediately want to know who the artist is. I’m always more than happy to introduce them, as our artists deserve all the credit in the world. Oftentimes, however, those same people asking are aspiring creatives, and I think they’re approaching the question from a “Where do you find your artist? How do I get art like that?” standpoint, t
You can of course find an artist first and develop the visual style of the work with them. There are countless examples of beautiful and successful works that begun with this type of collaboration.
But, in our experience, in order to get the best out of your artists, you need to have a strong idea of what you want. That’s why we think it’s better to go through the visualization exercises listed above so that when you approach artists, you can convey exactly what you want through both your words (in the form of your concept bible) as well as images (in the form of your mood board / reference folder)
Remember that in an ideal situation, regardless of starting circumstance, your artist will contribute more to the aesthetic of the project than you could possibly have imagined by yourself. Finding an artist that is inspired by your vision and that inspires you is the most important ingredient to a successful collaboration.
Okay, so you’ve done all the exercises. You have a strong vision of what your project is, and what it could be. What next?
Stay tuned next week as we delve deep into where to find artists!
Have a question? Difference of opinion? Worked on the exercises or need more guidance? Comment below!