Working in Partnerships
An Illustrator’s View on Working with an Author.
By: Mikey Brooks
As a freelance illustrator I get to work with various authors with all different points of view. My main mission is to take an author’s story and transfer it to imagery. Sometimes it’s not always an easy thing. I have a great challenge because I know, being an author myself, that writers see their work in a specific way. I would hate to create an illustration and it not stand up to the expectations set by the author. This is why it is so important to work together with the author to build a beautiful story.
It’s all about partnership. Like any great marriage both parties involved need to care about the goal (in this case the book) and always be givers. No relationship can be strong if one is always taking. Give ideas freely, and give each other help in reaching the goal you have set together. Although I feel the roles of the author and the role of the illustrator should remain separate, so that creativity isn’t influenced, I also believe that communication and compromise is the key to success.
As an example I’d like to share my experience with working with author Jim Long on our book Lucius and the Christmas Star. You might have noticed I said “our” book. Remember that it’s a partnership; it’s no more Jim’s book than it is mine. We created it together. When Jim approached me to illustrate his book, I was thrilled. I love Christmas stories and his was very unique, because it told the account of the wise men that is taken from the bible—which is much different than one told traditionally. The only thing that scared me at first was that the main character was a camel. I did not draw camels well! In fact I had created a wall mural for my sister’s home where I painted Noah’s Ark, the camel was hideous and I hid him mostly from view. So I had lots of homework to do. I drew nothing but camels for about a week.
Once I came up with the camels that I liked the best I emailed Jim some of the drawings. Once he approved them I then started on the actual sketches. Throughout the process he would give me hints on what he preferred things to look like. I would tweak them a little to meet his expectations, but at the same time give me myself creative liberties. In the end I believe Lucius the camel turned out perfect.
Lucius and the Christmas Star is now available. You can find it and other books by me at www.insidemikeysworld.com and click on the picture books tab.
If you are an author looking for a freelance illustrator I suggest some key things:
1. 1-Before you even look at their prices, look at their art. See what work they have already put out. Look at their website and look at their galleries. Make sure their art coincides with your vision.
2. 2-Check out the books they have already done. If they don’t have a book yet, please do not mark them off your list. Everyone needs a first step. You could provide that for them.
3. 3- If you like their work, and their prices fit in with your budget (illustrators all charge different rates, but most freelance artists stay way below the threshold of the mainstream market) then ask them about their process. Some might have this on their site, I do, and it’s important for authors to know because this goes into the next key…
4. 4-What is their time frame going to be? Most freelance illustrators have day jobs too. So the work they do will be done on the side. Make sure you give them enough time to do their job effectively. Most work within 6 months to 1 year. If you have a Christmas book, don’t wait too long to hire your illustrator.
5. 5- If you like everything about them, then make sure you both agree on the terms. You are building a companionship, a partnership, together; your goals need to be the same. I wish you best of luck in your process.
I have more information on illustration and tips for authors and illustrators at www.insidemikeysworld.com and also on my blog at www.writtenbymikey.blogspot.com.
I invite you to look at them both, or just email me if you have any more questions: insidemikeysworld-AT-gmail.com.
Where to find me:
Twitter at @writtenbymikey
Facebook under Mikey Brooks
Pinterest at: http://pinterest.com/writtenbymikey.