The Renaissance is alive and well in the world of comic books. The comic book community is one of the few sub-cultures where the patronage of the fans directly pays for the livelihood of the creators. For many artists, their commissioned work adds a significant amount of income to their lives. Maybe it’s because I’m still relatively new to the world of comics culture or my social anxiety, but commissioning work from artists is still nerve wracking and strange for me.
Why would paying an artist, whose job it is to create art, make me so nervous? Because the transaction of the commission has rules, but there are grey areas. Prices can be set, but would you haggle a price? I never could. What if the artist asks for payment that’s more than what you thought it might be? Would you say something? I couldn't. These things might never happen, and the few times I have commissioned work I have taken great pains to make sure they won’t, but still I have that nervousness.
When I have asked for commissions, I have also asked for pieces that are not the normal work of that artist. At the top of this post are two examples of work I commissioned recently. On the left is a ROM Spaceknight by Lucy Bellwood and on the right is 1970's style Iron Man from Brian Hurtt colors by Bill Crabtree. Both of these pieces were not the normal work that you would see from these artists, but I like having them even more because of that. At the same time what if I hated the outcome? I asked for it, I committed to payment, and the risk in that is significant, both monetarily and emotionally.
How do you go about commissioning work from artists? Do you have a "go to" piece type or is it completely dependent on who you are getting the work from? Have you been satisfied with the work you have gotten, any horror stories or great successes? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this process, and what you do to make it a good one for you and for the artist.