How can I propose to my girlfriend with a children's book when I am a terrible artist?
May 16, 2012 3:50 AM   Subscribe

How would I get semi-professional digital artwork done on a personal income?

So I think I have a somewhat unique way of proposing to my girlfriend, however I want to do it right and I am sure you folks might be able to help me out in figuring out how not to break the bank in the process. I'm not proposing until late summer, so I think I have time*.

The night I propose to her, I want to give her a small children's story that I've written about how we met with two puppies as the main characters. One dog being a wild but loving stray, the other a well-trained shelter dog looking for a home. It ends with two adult dogs lying together and watching their own puppies grow up. Cue tears.

I am writing the story myself but I am a terribly artist...especially digitally. The idea I have is that someday, this will be a book our kids can read about how their parents met and I want it to look good.

I am going to lay it out in InDesign (which I have the skills for) and have an editor lined up to help ensure the text is solid. I also have a print shop in town who'll help me out with actually printing it.

The most challenging part so far is finding an artist who would be willing to take on a little project like this. I'm looking for simple, but solid, sketches of this quality of a couple of characters and their journey through a number of scenes. I also am conflicted asking established artists for this kind of work as I know I can't afford a fair wage. What are my options?

I've thought about art/graphic design schools (not in session in the summer), or India, but don't know whether either are viable options. What would you do? My budget for this might be $1,000 as I have, you know, a ring and whatnot to buy too.

What would you suggest for getting the artwork I need to make this project memorable?

* I also know it's a yes, so there's really not a chance that this project is in vain unless something drastic happens between now and then.
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre to Human Relations (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Oh, and if it matters, I was thinking it would be about 12 pages with a front cover.
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 3:54 AM on May 16, 2012

All the amateur artists seem to hang out at DeviantArt. Find someone whose style matches your ideas and send them a proposal.
posted by Faint of Butt at 4:04 AM on May 16, 2012 [3 favorites]

pro comic book artist here.
$1000 is enough for a private commission. I've done more for that much. It's a nice extra addition to the week's paychecks, you know?

You aren't going to be marketing it, using it to make yourself more money, whatever- so it's going to be less of a big deal. if someone is used to say, $150 per small commission and used getting one or two a week, they probably wont mind making a bulk discount. Just sell it like this:

"I want to hire someone/you for a commission. It's a proposal gift for my girlfriend, consisting of thirteen digital images. They need to this size (inches, dpi) and I can offer you a 800 for the whole thing- Half up front and half upon delivery of the full rez scans. I need them in this time frame and I'd like to see and approve the layouts stage, final line art and the color- with one round of changes for each stage*." Then bargain up.

it's not a bad deal, dude. Try every artist you like- pro and student- that you like. It's going to just depend on if they want to make a quick buck or not. I would also go with an older, more experienced artist because of the size of the project. It's enough images that someone has a lot of room to flake. If you end up with an amateur (someone without any professional work, someone really young and new) offer only a quarter of the money upfront- and don't send anybody the finial payment until you see all the images, and if they are new- not until you see and confirm that they didn't fuck up the size requirements.

Don't feel bad about offering low- they can always say no, and then you can offer more money. AND- it's money they weren't going to get before you came along.

*that last little bit is for bargaining and clarity. Changes take longer- and cost the artist more "money" in time. If they ask you to give it up- you can ask them for a deeper discount.
posted by Blisterlips at 4:26 AM on May 16, 2012 [10 favorites]

Other things
1. don't give them months to work on it. hire them and get the work back within a month at most. People get distracted easily by other jobs.
2. Artists are big softies- chances are they are going to WANT to work on your cute little book because it is a fucking adorable idea, and it's way more fun than drawing a toothpaste tube in six different angles.
posted by Blisterlips at 5:07 AM on May 16, 2012

1000 usd is a very reasonable amount of money. DeviantArt is a great place to get a bargain, but will require some poking about.

Also it's May 16th a TON of unemployed talented artists just got a bunch of free time handed to them. They are called college students. I did tons of little commissions like this in and after college and I would have been very happy with 1000usd.

I'd say 30 days is the deadline you'd want to set for 13 cartoon images. You want plenty of time for formatting/changes/corrections etc.
posted by French Fry at 9:12 AM on May 16, 2012

Sorry meant to add:

As for getting college kids to do the work, contact professors as their email's are publicly available and ask if they have any students interested in a commission, they can pass along your contact info. This is how I got most my gigs; and you get the added benefit of the professor vetting the students for you. I got the comic book/hero type stuff the serious graphic designer girls got handed stylish websites and the like. win win.
posted by French Fry at 9:17 AM on May 16, 2012

A few years back I wanted a huge (wall sized) image involving some fairly extensive rendering, lighting and colour work made to be printed on canvas. I shopped around a bit, but in the end I found someone I liked on dA who was an experienced, semi-professional artist. My budget including the physical print was just over half yours and he delivered it on time, exactly how I wanted.

This isn't more than anecdata I realise but it's just an example to show that you can get good work done at reasonable prices.

Another tip to make sure things work out well - set a reasonable midway deadline for the artist to show you drafts so things can be edited if need be before he's too far through the project. Nothing annoys a creator more than a client coming back repeatedly or late on in the process about things that could have been much more easily fixed earlier.
posted by fearnothing at 10:42 AM on May 16, 2012

if it turns out nicely, why not sell it? self-publish it on amazon or some other outlet as an e-book as well as making the nice archival copy to keep for the family. Give the illustrator proper credit, and a fair royalty on the self-published versions. (which, lets be honest, could sell only to family members and has a 1 in a Million chance of becoming a huge seller, so pay a fair amount for the work up front rather than relying on royalties.)

and don't limit yourself to 'digital art' either. Hire someone who does it in ink, watercolors, pencils, pastels or something, and then you can have framed prints as well. Scan those originals and you are all set to add in the copy in InDesign.
posted by th3ph17 at 11:57 AM on May 16, 2012

Keep in mind, if you plan to publish it you're getting into rights usage and other contract issues that you would need to get from the artist in advance.
posted by Bunglegirl at 6:23 AM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thanks everyone. I have had a couple of offers from really talented Mefites and have some things to think about.

I actually like the idea of selling it and the proceeds going to a children's charity of some kind, although that's a pipe dream and not really the point of the exercise. In any event, I will post the final results when they are done.
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 5:51 AM on May 20, 2012

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