Finding an artist has been my biggest fear since this competition started. There are so many things that could go wrong when you have to depend on someone you don’t know to contribute a third or more to your project. The style may not be a match, they could leave half way through the project, the budget estimations may be way off — the list goes on and on. I must say though, I’ve gained confidence in art contractors in the two weeks I’ve been speaking with them. I thought I would share some of my notes.
Where to Look
I started out by looking for people directly and emailing them via their websites. Places I would search included:
After sending out 15 or so direct emails, I felt I had a grasp on illustrators. I was having trouble finding an animator, so I decided to post on a job forum. The deviantART job offers section appeared to have high activity, so I gave that a shot. I received about 20 good leads through the forum post, so I consider that a success.
Lastly, ask friends. I’m only mentioning this because it provided leads I was completely unaware of. For example, I asked one of my friends in Business Development if she knew any artists, and it turns out two of her good friends work for game companies. Prior to that, I would have bet she had no connections or interests with gaming.
My initial question was whether or not I should post my budget, which is roughly $10,000 per artist (animator and illustrator). In my initial emails, I did not list it and only followed up with it if I sensed doubt over the legitimacy of my game. This got me some ballpark figures. In my forum post, I did list it to get as many leads as possible, but that made filtering out talent hard. In the end, I would recommend against posting your budget.
Revealing your financials isn’t the end of the world as most artists I’ve spoken to give honest hourly rates, and do paid trial runs in your desired art style. As for pricing, my guesstimate post from two weeks ago was almost spot on. ~30-50 custom sprites, or more than that if you reuse as much as you can. For example, just replace weapons on existing sprites, or add a small armor change.
Most importantly, it turns out there is no magic price, as the art style makes a huge difference. For animators, hourly costs and trial runs appear to be the best way to narrow down cost. For illustrators, I’ve seen a few with fixed tiered pricing based on the amount of detail or characters you require. That said, I still feel like estimating the cost for an entire project is tough to do in advance.
Everyone I’ve spoken to has been super cool. Some just aren’t interested, which is fine. I’m reluctant to force someone into such a large project. For the others, even those you like, I can’t emphasize enough how important I feel a trial run is. Things to look for in a trial:
- Are they open to criticism?
- Do they respond to emails promptly?
- Will they be able to adapt to your style?
- Do you get along with them?
- Are your requests focused enough, or are they too vague?
Not only has this process built up my comfort with artists, it has made me refine the scope of my game. I feel like I have realistic expectations now.
Don’t let style be your determining factor for ruling out a potential artist. For example, I knew I wanted to explore a brush stroke style of illustration. That led me to Matt Forsyth. After speaking with Matt, I had him do a trial piece. Next, I needed to find an animator who could match that style. I came across Gareth who had this pixel based animation. I don’t love pixel art, but I did love his attention to detail in the animation. For that reason, I felt a trail run would be helpful to see if he could adapt his style. Below is the progression so far:
The last point is to be open to new styles. I found Dangerdom to have a unique take on art, and to be completely unique on the app store. I’m currently brainstorming what that art style would look like in a tower defense world.