Oliver Wetter’s New Client Guide To Illustration

©Leo Acadia

©Leo Acadia

by Oliver Wetter

Before billions of users occupied the Internet, illustration was a specific business. That term only rung a bell if you were an art director, editor or a publisher.

Today entrepreneurs and independent publishers can be anyone and this leads to certain problems.

If you need an artist to get something done, please read this post and pass it along.

Never Assume An Artist Reads A Book Before He Can Do A Cover Illustration

©Lorenzo Gritti

©Lorenzo Gritti

A myth in self-publishing circles:

Artists needs to read a book before they can make a cover illustration.

No, that is not necessary at all!  We never get paid to read a book.  This is a personal joy that can help, but, more than a blurb about the story is often not necessary.

A Word About Visual References

Archive Fantasio / Warren Louw / Lady Morgana

Most agencies and art directors know this and hence approach artists with references.  But yet, with the rise of self publishing, new problems have developed.  Many authors approach illustrators for book cover art, without providing the necessary visual references.

Artists are visual people and therefore need references to create images.

I for my part, am willing to go through written descriptions.  But I can not speak for all illustrators here.  Some prefer just stock photographs, others prefer a more strict guideline.

A helpful tool to gather reference images is Pinterest.  This site allows you to create visual pinboards.  It also has a great pool of visual imagery to describe your story.

No, We Are Not Able To Change The Artwork As You Change Your Mind (Without Cost)

"Crowd Funding" for CFO Magazine

©Ken Orvidas


Another common misconception seems to be changes in the artwork  while in process. I have especially experienced this with musicians. Best to communicate extra costs for changes beforehand.

There might be artists who are willing to work on major changes in the middle of a project,  but I feel a lot initial enthusiam towards a projects gets lost with too many changes. The best money can not buy intrinsic motivation.

Yes, We Need Guidelines And A Concrete Idea

Lara Odell - Writer (hand)

©Lara Odell

Sure there are artists who only do their thing. But even those are open to work with you if the budget is right. Especially from paying clients it is vital to have guidelines and concrete ideas.  Every artist likes to have a certain amount of artistic liberty.  You approach an artist mainly because of a certain type style.  That choice is part of the artistic liberty.

A concrete explanation of your idea is important for two reasons:

  • It reflects your credibility
  • It shows that you are not going to change your mind too soon.

It is helpful for both sides of the table to have this conversation upfront.

If You Don´t Know Exactly What You Want

Take the necessary time to think your goals through.

Mind mapping is helpful to get this in place.

Often it is possible to arrange a development phase for your project.  Regardless of the agency or freelancer, this can be an expensive adventure.

In most agencies or studios, the hourly rates for conception and development are high. Compared to the regular cost of an illustration, it can be twice as much.

Don´t Hold Back With Your Need For Regular Art Upfront

Speak with the artist.  It might be possible to get a discount on commissions when clients commit to creating a series.  Building a style in a series is easier when this point is clear upfront.

Convenient Communication

©Daniel Bejar

©Daniel Bejar


A convenient way to approach an artist is the way you would like to start a conversation.

I had people asking me connect through Whatsapp or a Skype chat.  To be honest, that is not the best way for me, however, it might be for you.  We are talking about personal style.  It definitely says something about the value the work has for the proposing client.

When it comes to communication, like it or not, there is no way around email.

Email is a to-do list.  It helps to reread an email conversation to recall the details.  Many things that can be overlooked in the sketch phase become important later on.

Skype or phone-calls fall short in that regard as well. It is nice for a personal chat,  get to know each other better.  The real important information gets lost between the lines, and sometimes hard to remember later on.  This can lead to unnecessary questions during the process.

Do We Need A Contract?

Yes we do.  At least a simple agreement. It is the only respectful way of saying that you have read and understood all of the above and agree with it. That is what an agreement does – nothing more and nothing less.  If you want to skip that important step, there is no reason for me to value your project.

No We Can Not Do A Sketch Or A Sample For Free

In a professional environment we would not need to talk about work for free.

Even professionals can be black sheep.  If they approach an artist asking for a sample – it is a generally scam.

The best intentions won’t help an artist to create a Facebook banner (for example) for free. The artist could certainly do that and many do, especially for friends. However, in the long run it does not help either party.   The vicious cycle of doing free sketches can end up disastrously. Not asking for payment on work may lead to the worst case scenario, not being able to make a living and  giving up on a possible fruitful career in the arts.

Contributing illustrators: Oliver Wetter, Leo Acadia, Lorenzo Gritti, Ken Orvidas, Lara Odell, and Daniel Bejar.

About altpick connects

Established in 1992, The Alternative Pick commenced with a clear mission, providing creative buyers with a vehicle to source the best brightest and most exciting illustrators, photographers, graphic designers and animators in the business. The Alternative Pick sourcebook (1992-2005) became the outlet for cutting-edge commercial talent, offering a unique platform for artists to showcase their work. The Alternative Pick Deck (2009-2012) offered a fun and engaging format for locating leading commercial artists. In addition, The Altpick Awards (2003-2011) introduced yet another way to provide a platform for talents to shine. To meet the demands of an ever-changing industry, Altpick.com was launched in 1996 and presently provides a vehicle for talent to utilize the web to connect more effectively with buyers. As we mark our 30th anniversary in 2021, Altpick.com remains a premier source for creative professionals and we plan to continue to push the envelope providing the best vehicle for buyers to connect with creative talent.
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