Don’t Expect Free Sketches
Some artists may offer to provide sketches, but bear in mind that the reason usually falls into one of two categories; one is that they do not have full-time work on their desk from other clients and are desperate for work, or two is that they are just inexperienced.
Most professional illustrators don’t provide sketches on speculation of obtaining a contract. Very few professionals who do this for a living have free time to give away. With most successful professionals, they have other clients waiting to pay them for time to do the work they want done.
Why would someone work for free(or on speculation) when they have others waiting to pay for their time? That makes about the same amount of sense as walking into a grocery store and asking to try the food first, and if they like it, they’ll pay for it. Wouldn’t we all love to be able to do that?
Besides the time issue, there are many reasons why I don’t provide sketches on speculation. As a life-long illustrator, I still sketch characters and environments several times trying to determine the best pose, expression, body language, perspective or background elements. I often do several sketches in an attempt to capture the one with the “Wow Factor” I strive for before submitting the sketch to the client for review. It would not be plausible to go to that extent on speculation. And finally, I rarely achieve exactly what I want on the first sketch.
Additionally throughout the years, I have experienced, as I’m sure most professional illustrators have, people posing as potential clients with a hidden goal of obtaining a free sketch because they admittedly couldn’t draw but thought they or a friend of theirs were pretty good at coloring in Photoshop. I’ve also experienced people who straddle the fence, collecting sketches from numerous artists because they don’t really know what they want, but will know it when they see it. This strategy is very unfair to any working professional.
In the case of potential clients wanting to see a sketch before committing to an expensive illustration project, I often write a Contract with an option to quit and walk away should they not like the resulting sketch. I determine and offer sketches at a fixed rate. If the client wants more sketches to choose from, additional sketches are provided at the previously agreed upon fixed rate. If the client likes the sketch and wants to proceed, we continue onto the other phases of the Contract. If the client does not want to continue for any reason, the client is released from any further obligation to continue with the Contract, the copyright to the sketch and contents therein remains with me, and the client agrees not to use the sketch or concepts developed for any reason.
Different Cartooning Styles
This is one of the most important points to consider. There are many different cartooning styles available. Besides the best known styles like Disney, Nickelodeon, Marvel, Hanna Barbera, Barbie, Strawberry Shortcake, and the list goes on. There are styles unique to editorial, magazine, and newspaper products. There is also caricature that shows an exaggerated likeness to a person or celebrity. And then there are styles that are unique to the different cartoonists that may not be as well known.
If you have a particular cartooning style in mind when shopping for estimates, find reference material that closely resembles that cartooning style you have in mind to show the illustrator. As mentioned earlier, verbal descriptions vary by the individual’s interpretation or definition of the terms you use to describe the cartooning style you want.
When shopping for a cartoonist, keep in mind that not all cartoonists can draw in different cartooning styles. If they can draw in a particular style, they should be able to show you something similar. If they do not have a sample, and you are not completely sure they can do the work to your expectations, proceed with a fixed price sketch as mentioned in the previous section. A general rule of thumb is that if you like the style of work you see in the illustrator’s portfolio, you will probably like the work you hire them to do for you.
Consider Your Target Audience
Take the product and target audience into consideration. Although there is no hard and fast rule, in general look at the style of art and where that style is most often used, associated with, or seen. Not all styles of cartooning are well suited for all products or services.
You may like a particular cartooning style, but there are some questions to consider before making that determination. Will your target audience relate to that style? Does that cartoon style compliment the business, product or service? Or are you using a particular style to introduce humor into your marketing piece?
For example, if you have a fantastic service that you want to associate with a superhero mascot; a target audience that appreciates Marvel style superheroes probably would not relate to a character drawn in a style similar to SpongeBob or a sketchy anatomically-incorrect drawing style.
If your promotional piece is about a high tech product, and you’re targeting today’s college students, they probably wouldn’t relate to Flintstone style artwork unless it was used in a humorous way to convey your message and mock old technology in comparison.
Another example involves using goofy characters with goofy expressions. I am a huge fan of this style of cartooning. I love to create them and smile when I look at them, but they have limited use in business advertising. No matter what the humor is, goofy characters used improperly will either depict the customer or your staff in the wrong light. They’re only use is in depicting the competition in a bad light, and that only works if your marketing message is to compare your business as being better than the competition by visually (and humorously) putting the competition down. So use goofy characters only if your target audience can relate.
About the Author
Malane Newman is a full time freelance graphic designer, illustrator and cartoonist. Her lifelong career spans decades. Prior to starting her graphic design business in 2001, she worked in different art departments as a Lead Illustrator and Lead Graphic Designer. And in later years, as the Visual Communications Director for Accenture Corporation (previously named Andersen Consulting). She has supervised both artist employees and freelance contractors, and has worked with management and project management personnel, and large business and fortune 500 clients. She holds a CA teaching credential and has taught both privately and standup instruction in local Art Schools in cartooning styles among other creative and technical subjects.