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Dave Allsop
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My partners and I at Nightfall Games have set up a web forum in preparation for the release of new source material.


If you like my art, SLA Industries or just friendly banter about RPGs - head on over! :)

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Okay, so you've got your approvals through from the Art Director, and it's time to get painting. In this part though I'm not going to do a specific write up on the painting of the approved sketches because at this stage artists branch out widely in approach and execution, and there's no one surefire way to go about. If you've gotten work out of a games company you must have developed an appealing style of your own, or else you wouldn't have got commissioned in the first place! ☺
(I will post a step by step painting by Dave after I've finished this though).

Here are a few things to consider when you've reached this stage and are cranking up the art program or squirting out the acrylics: -


Ah, the dull side of the job… When you start out freelancing you'll have to keep up to date records of all the jobs you take on. Now trust me, you don't want to leave it all til the end of the tax year – you'll be entering a world of hurt where you trek through piles of bank statements, Art Director's emails and Invoices trying to jigsaw together every job and date of payment you've received over 12 months. Yeah, it's boring but if you take care of it now you'll be in less pain when you come to do your taxes.
Here's the details I have in my standard commission form :-

Date Received: (This is the Day/Month/Year I received the art commission from the AD)

Date Due: (This is the Day/Month/Year the AD requires the finished/approved artwork from me).

Client: (This the name of the company – Wizards of the Coast, etc.)

Client's Email: (albert.crocodilewizards .com – yeah, you get the idea…)

Commission: (This is a brief summary of the job you received. It covers the brand, the product, and the number of illustrations. Eg. Dungeons and Dragons, Attack of the Snooty OwlBear - Module, 6 illustrations.)

Medium: (This is the artistic medium that the AD desires. Eg. Color painting / Black+White Inks / Concepting).

Payment: (This is the total payment you'll receive for the Art Commission)

Payment Due: (This is the Day/Month/Year you're likely to receive the payment into your bank account)

Payment Received: (This is the Day/Month/Year you actually received the payment into your bank account. Results vary ;-) )

Okay, so print that out and file it way. Now there's two ways you can go now. One is to get on with your painting, or you could take an hour out and do this: -

Sooner or later the work you've just received is going to be completed, approved and invoiced. Ideally you want to have another job lined up that you'll move on to straight after this one's finished. You'll find most companies won't have a job for you the moment you email them, so email them now while you're busy. It gives you time to focus on the job at hand, and for them, time to sort out a new set of art descriptions for you. If you time it out right, you could finish up that last painting and have a brand set of painting briefs waiting for you on another job.

Basically, if you're going to survive as a freelancer you must have a steady stream of work coming through, so you've got to chase the jobs all the time. Email your pool of art directors and tell them the dates you'll be available, hit up new companies and send them your portfolio and be sure to tell them the companies you're already working for. It means you've gotten a proven track record.

Okay, many of rules of the Sketch Phases apply here on the painting. Push yourself to produce excellent paintings and submit the art in a TIMELY MANNER. You want to build a positive reputation as a great artist sure, but you also want the reputation of being reliable. AD's will love you if you submit fantastic illustrations, and you're a week early. You'll undoubtedly get more work.

That said, don't rush the work. If you sit back with a big smile on your face thinking 'check me out, I just did two paintings in one of evening' – seriously, something's wrong. Speed paintings is one thing, but there's not a lot companies that'll be impressed with shoddy art, particularly when they know you're capable of better. They're paying for your talent, and they're also paying for your time. Don't short-change them.

Hope this has been helpful, I'll round things up in Part 4.

Dave Allsop

P.S There is no Albert Crocodile working at WOTC. Do not email that address – (because I know someone will try!)
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We're back! Ready for Part 2

This is a tricky one when you're just starting out, as you're not sure how long a painting may take (particularly if you're working on unfamiliar material). Three weeks for the sketch submission may seem like a long time, but you've got to factor in the revisions to your drawings, and the time it may take to get feedback. Answers may not be immediate, especially if the art director has to consult a writer or R+D team – (it may take several days).
Basically you want to give yourself as much time as possible for these eventualities, so try and get on with these sketches in as promptly as you can.
Don't try and gamble on the 'I know, I'll leave my sketches til the absolute last possible moment so the art director has to approve it or he'll fall behind'. Most of these guys will just smile knowingly, and give you the exact same amount of changes regardless. Now you've got to race to catch up and the late changes are eating into the time you should have been doing the final paintings – oops.
You can't really escape changes to you art submissions, but there are a few ways to possibly minimise them: -

Thumbnails: These are good if you've been given a cover illustration, or a complex scene. Just draw a few small boxes and quickly rough in what you're planning on drawing. Do a few different versions and send those in. It gives the art director a general idea in the direction you want to go. If you've gone way off target you'll only have lost an hour or so, instead of potentially days completing a highly polished drawing from scratch.

Ask Questions: Don't guess and hope for the best. If you're not sure about an art brief then send a quick email back to the art director. You won't be pissing them off; it's their job to direct you. That's not an excuse to be sitting around waiting – if there are illustrations that you know what to do, get on with them while you're awaiting feedback.

It's all very exciting when you're starting out, you're still riding on the crest of your success, but it's time to knuckle down and get on with it. Sure, spend some time getting reference material either online, at the gallery or via your digital camera but don't go drowning in artistic pretentions. What do I mean?
- 'I'm sorry these sketches are late; I'm trying to find the right artistic direction to take these paintings. I want to absorb…. I mean, what do these Orc illustrations really represent?' -
You can be the cultured artiste when you're doing your own artwork, but the art director is only interested in getting the best quality work out of their professional artists, and in a timely manner.

So you resubmit the art, and there's even more changes. Again, it happens (did I mention that you should watch your deadlines? I did? Good, just checking!). The best thing to do is save copies of every change you make, and try and keep the initial changes on separate layers. You may find yourself going backwards and forwards so keep everything backed up. When it comes to alterations to sketches, I usually make the changes in Photoshop – I can scale a head larger or smaller, alter contrast; flip the image and mostly anything else the director can require. These can be very time consuming if your talents go down a traditional path.

Congratulations, you made it baby! The art director gives you the go ahead to get on with the next stage of your art commissions, and a whole set of new hurdles appear before you. Don't panic, it's going to be all right. If you can survive sketch phase, you can survive anything!

See you in Part 3!

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Hello again folks! I'm back to talk to you about the life and times of a freelance artist. Last time I talked about all the dos and don'ts of submitting your portfolio, and subsequently getting work from your desired companies. This chapter goes over what happens next, and what you can expect as a self employed artist.

Okay, first off this blurb is for all the artists out there how see their talent as a possible career, and prepared to take it very seriously. If this is a hobby, or if you plan on living off private commissions off the Internet – stop reading now. Some of the stuff I'm going to bring up may depress you somewhat.

Why? Read on.

Let me start by saying that if your saving this text out as a saved file as reference, then you must love art, both looking at it and making it. You love it so much that you want to make it your living. Right?
Good. Now put away the games console, social network programs and anything else that currently eats up your time. Now that art directors are giving you work you won't have time to play them.  If you're going to make it as a self employed artist you're going to need to spend at least 8-9 hours sketching and painting a day. If you find time to play WoW for several hours a day then something is going wrong. You'll know within yourself whether you're 'taking a well earned break' or 'slacking off'.
I'm not saying get rid of the pastimes you like, just put them away. Once you go freelance you'll almost certainly be working from home, so you want to have as few distractions around you as possible.

Right, now we've got that out of the way let's talk about these fabulous new art descriptions that your favourite games company has emailed through! You sent in your best work, waited patiently and it's all paid off. One of the company's art directors has emailed you with a set of illustrations they need painting - you accept the terms, and sign the contract.
What follows is the Sketch Phase:-

Here's a couple of pointers before you put pencil to paper.

Do not just skim through them with youthful exuberance, carefully go through each art description and fully understand what your art director is requesting. Also take note of the art's dimensions (very important if you're doing card illustrations). If you don't do these important things you can end up adding on a lot of extra time, and annoying a director who asked for the Orc Marauder in Landscape, not Portrait format. Oh, and he asked for a runesword, not a wooden club. Are you lazy or something!? … no, you just didn't read the art description thoroughly.
All art descriptions come with two deadlines. The first is for the sketch, and the second for the final painting. Oh, and I should probably point out now that there are very few companies that'll just trust you to hand in a finished product without having seen preliminary sketches first. So once you get work in, don't just go romping off and paint the things. The art director wants to know you're on the right track before you start throwing down colours.
Some companies will want the art in a two week turnaround, but most will give you between six and eight weeks. They're not just being generous; they want the art done Right.
Get yourself a calendar and note down these important deadlines and don't fall behind. If you're late, some companies with deduct 25% of the agreed payment for every day over the proposed date of completion.

Yep, that'll be your thoughts as you read the third art description – which is say, an ugly, human pirate leaping off a sinking ship. This is fine, only you specialise as an Anthro artist, and you've never drawn a ship before, let alone one that's sinking.
As a freelance artist you're going to have to draw and paint a whole bunch of things that you're not going to like doing. Sure, you're good in certain areas but art descriptions are going to come in that push you to your limits. It'll be hard, and you'll find yourself getting frustrated but I promise you, it'll help you to become a better and more rounded artist.

Some of your sketches will please the art director greatly, and he'll approve the drawings immediately for the next stage. Then there'll be the whole bunch that he'll want changed. What's that? You don't make changes?
Well, you'd best quit now, because sketch revisions is going to play a big part of your job. You may have to enlarge a head, change a weapon, or indeed redraw a whole picture at no extra pay. Eight years on, and I'm still making revisions to this day.
The art director isn't going out of his way to piss you off, what you submitted as a sketch just wasn't right. Sure, it'll mean doing extra work and you were real proud of your sketch but if they're paying you it's THEIR art. Grumble to your friends, fine, but make the changes. More work will follow, you'll see.

More in Part 2.
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Just a quick thanks to everyone who made a comment or 'favourited' my Archdemon of Unx painting. Sorry I can't thank you all individually, but it's much appreciated all the same :)

Dave Allsop
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Thanks Everyone! by DaveAllsop, journal

Getting published by Games Companies - Part 3 by DaveAllsop, journal