Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Tips and Tricks: How To Ask For Free Drawings

This is aimed, for once, not at cartoonists but at the people who know them and appreciate their talents. You've got this great friend who can draw great pictures; wouldn't you love to have one of those pictures on your wall/computer desktop/Christmas letter/wedding invitation?

You would? But that person is a professional! They get huge amounts of money for their talents! You can't afford them. Wait, maybe they'd just do this for you. You're friends, right?

It's true. They might. Kevin and I have done a lot of cartoons for people for free in the past. And 98% of those people were very pleasant about it. But that two percent sometimes didn't see much difference in free work and work they'd paid handsomely for, and these lessons are for them.

The thing is-- there are some good ways to ask for people to do artwork for you. Most cartoonists like to draw, and if you give them something fun, don't treat them like the hired help, and are absolutely clear about what you want, you'll find that most cartoonists will be pretty accommodating. And now:

How To Ask For Free Drawings

1. Be Clear And Up Front. Tell the person exactly what you want, what you want it for, how big you'd like it, whether it's color or black and white, what sort of format you were thinking, when you want it done, and so forth BEFORE they decide if they want to do it. Stick with this one, and you're 75% there already.

2. Make It Something They'll Want To Draw. This rule is twofold. Cartoonists will be much more likely to put some time aside to draw something cool, even if it's difficult (a zombie with a chainsaw jumping out of an exploding helicopter comes to mind for some reason) than a difficult, boring picture of your childhood home. You should also take care not to ask them to draw something that they are opposed to, or uncomfortable about drawing (e.g. pornography, sacrilegious material, rival sports teams).

3. Give A Deadline. You want it done? Like, ever? Tell them. Heck, unless they're really busy, tell them you want it this coming Monday. If you give them a long deadline, believe me, they're not going to spend all of that time doing it. They MIGHT start it when you say, "Hey, remember last summer when I asked you to draw that one thing...?"

4. Let Them Do It Quickly.
If it's a quick drawing, ask them to do it right there, on whatever paper you've got, with whatever pens you've got. You just need something that looks like a pig? Every cartoonist I know can knock that one out in thirty seconds flat. Cartoonists don't want to go back to their studio and use up expensive paper and art supplies drawing something for a dumb gag when a ballpoint pen and a receipt will do just as well.

The Three Big Don'ts

5. Don't Assume That Cartoonists Are Desperate For Ideas. Some may be. But you don't get to be good at drawing cartoons by waiting for people to tell you what to draw. Every cartoonist in the world has five thousand ideas they know they'll never get to before they die. And if you want to compete with that, good luck.

6. Don't Try To Make It Seem Like You're Doing The Artist A Favor. Come on. I don't care if it's the best idea you've ever heard of in your entire life, and you're sure it's going to be the hugest thing in Hollywood, or Bollywood, or wherever, you're still asking someone to do something for free. 15% of three million imaginary fantasyland dollars won't even pay for a cup of coffee. So ask, just don't expect everyone to hop to it just because you had lunch with someone at TriStar.

7. Don't Imply That The Hard Work's Been Done Already. You've got this great idea, do you? Oh, and all I have to do is draw it? Oh, but now that you're explaining it, it's not so easy to describe? But it's totally in your head? Oh, you just want to look over my shoulder while I'm drawing it so you can match it to what's in your head? Sounds like a real cinch.

Drawing cartoons is more than just being able to draw a chair and have someone guess that it's a chair. Drawing a picture, particularly a gag cartoon, involves choosing a style, staging all the elements, posing the characters, paring down the dialogue to make a succinct point, and then rendering everything in the final illustration. And a comic book requires that for every panel. It's a lot of work. An idea is just pointing in the direction you want to go. Think about that when you ask someone to give you a lift somewhere.

And finally...

8. Like It Or Lump It. You told them what you wanted. If they gave you a picture that meets all the criteria you gave them and you don't like it, well, I'm sorry to have to say this, but tough. They just did you a favor. The people who have the ability to go back to an artist and ask them to fix something have a special name: Paying Clients. Pay 'em next time, or find someone else and start again.

Okay. Have at it. Your mileage on this one may vary wildly.

Cartoonists! Have some funny/horror stories about drawings you were asked to do? Join us in the comments!


6 comments:

Zander Cannon said...

I'll start. The worst things I've been asked to draw were:
1) someone having sex with a dead cat (I declined) and
2) Goldie Gopher (mascot of the U of Minnesota) with a corncob up his butt. I drew a far tamer version of that one (with a ballpoint pen, in two minutes) because it was for my wife's uncle.

I'm an easy mark for the sports ones because I have no sports loyalties-- I'm like that little kid down the street that you can get to say swear words because he doesn't know what they mean yet.

danno said...

FREAKS LOVE PORNO, or DANNO FEARS BEING ASKED TO DRAW THINGS NOW

1) In eighth grade a kid asked me to draw Bart Simpson getting sucked off by Maggie.
I had to decline.
Then they asked for a ninja turtle.
that i did.

2) My first paid sketch was at Fallcon 2002. I was selling my new ITS WAR book which featured an alien invasion and Bill Clinton saving the world by knocking boots(off camera) with the female alien queen.
I sold a few, and eventually a 40-something goober came back about an hour after buying one to ask me to draw him the 3-breasted alien queen--nude, of course.
He paid me $10, so I felt weird but didnt mind.
Five minutes after i pocketed my cash, he returned with an equally gooberish 40-something friend who also wanted said tri-boobied queen.
Now i felt really grossed-out, but figured i had another 10 bucks coming my way.
So I drew it, he took, said thanks, and left without paying a dime(and i think he took a ITS WAR without paying too).
I didnt feel like hunting them down, but learned a valued lession about saying "NO!" to sketched i didnt want to do.

Tad. said...

I'm not a professional cartoonist, pretty much all my stuff has been "free" but I have one horror story:

1) My friends and I used to hang out at the local Denny's. I'd often bring my sketch pad and convince my friends to do goofie jam comics with me, it was fun. Anywho, one night there was a fairly nosey coffee-creature sitting in the booth next to ours and he spent the night chatting with us whenever he could get a word in edge-wise (I think he had a thing for one of the girls that was there).

Eventually he noticed my sketchpad and asked to see it. So I let him.

He'd barely looked at it and he said dumbly, "cool, you're an artist! I've been looking for someone to draw me this one thing I've been thinking about 'cause I want to get it as a tattoo, blah blah blah" I wasn't doing anything important at the time so I said, "sure, why not?"

He told me he wanted a naked female angel with the arms/paws of a lion with gnarly claws, lying in a lounged position, with holy flame surrounding her. It sounded perfectly stupid, but I sketched it loosely and showed it to him, "This is a sketch, I'll tighten it up if you like it." He looked at it briefly and indicated his approval.

So I finished it and gave it to him as my friends and I were getting up to pay and leave. He looked at it and got a twisted look on his face and said "It's good, but it looked so much better in my mind. The claws should be much gnarlier, and the boobs should be bigger, and blah blah blah, can you try again?"

"No, I'm leaving."

"Oh... I know! I'll give you my phone number so you can do it again and call me to set up a time and place to give it to me."

"Uh.. y'know, I doubt I'll draw it again. See ya."

"Aw, man! Common!"

He knew my weakness! "Common!" always convinces me. I said sure, took his phone number, and left. I promptly lost the phone number and with it any motivating factor to redo the drawing. Happy ending.

Maxeem said...

here's another favorite:

Hey Zander, can I get a drawing like the helicopter explosion chainsaw one you just did for someone else EXCEPT can it be for me?

BlogFoot said...

All this yakking is taking away valuable time you could be using to crank out some free drawings for me.

Anonymous said...

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