Children's Book Illustrator
Eric M. Strong
How to Communicate Your Vision to Your Artist
You have an amazing story, character, cartoon, or video but you’re no artist. So how do you get what’s in your head to become a reality? How do you bring your visions to life?
Obviously you’re going to have to use an artist of some sort. Communicating clearly with your creative professional is probably the most important part of this process. Here are a few tips to keep in mind.
1. Be Specific:
Most truly professional artists are not worried about you stifling their creativity, so don’t let that concern you. They just want to know exactly what it is you are looking for so they can deliver it to you as efficiently as possible.
Be as specific as you can about your project, character, or what have you. The more detailed you are the less your artist has to guess. Try to fill in all the blanks ahead of time and have the answer to any questions your artist may ask. (Preferably before they even ask the question) Don’t worry that you will “overwhelm” your artist. When I see a long project description it is actually a relief. It means that I am working with someone who has given this project some thought and has taken the guess work out for me.
Spending some time up front can make a big difference for your artist. This translates into clearer communication, more efficient creation, and lower costs.
2. Use Concrete Language
Different words mean different things to different people and cultures. I find that it is best to avoid words like “edgy” or “fresh” because they are too abstract to sink your teeth into. For example the word “dark” could mean dark colors or evil.
If you feel you have to use some abstract words, then take a moment and define the term in your own words. This will help ensure that you and your artist are on the same page when you say “dark”. Each of you will know what you mean. This is really a huge help when if come to describing styles, feelings, and emotions.
Also make sure you are using the correct industry terms when talking to your artist. This is a pretty common mistake among new employers and can be a source of frustration for your artist. For example, when you give the dimensions for an image the first dimension is the width and the second dimension is the height.
3. Show Examples
Even better than using concrete words and correct industry terms is showing examples. You may not know what you call it, but you do know what you like. There is a common writing rule that says, “don’t tell something when you can show it” That rule is not only helpful in writing fiction, it’s helpful in communicating a visual idea to your artist.
Spend some time surfing the web and grab a handful of images that you like. Again, don’t worry about getting in the way of the artist’s creativity. He or she should appreciate this gesture on your part. If not, I’d find another artist who isn’t so….artsy.
Sometimes it can be hard to find a common thread among the images you gather, but your artist should be able to see some overlapping themes. If not, you’re no worse off for having the pictures.
Even better than grabbing random pictures is finding an artist or two to reference. This can really help your artist nail down the look and feel you are going for.
What is even better than that is pointing to a specific piece in your artist’s portfolio. I have about a dozen different styles showcased in my portfolio. If you can point to one of my images and say, “make it like that” I know exactly what I need to do. That is probably the quickest, clearest, and best way to communicate with your artist.
Getting your vision just right will take some back and forth. It takes practice and a little patience. Anything you can do to help streamline that process will just make an already fun process even more enjoyable.