One great experience when going to any comic con is meeting your favorite comic artist creator. This allows you to get your favorite comics signed, buy an original art print, or if you want a one-of-a-kind souvenir commission original art.
While the idea of getting a commissioned art piece may seem as simple as walking up to the artists table and asking for them to draw you an original piece, oftentimes that may not be the case at all. Guest artists usually have guidelines, tight schedules, or may not even offer commissions at the show at all.
In order to decide whether or not you want to invest your time trying to get an artist to do a commission (or not walk away disappointed), here are some tips that can make your decision easier.
Just as you do research on what a convention offers when attending, you will have to do your research on the artists you are interested in. You will need to determine their table location and available times during the show. Usually you can find all of the attending artists/writers in the artist alley listing on the convention website or in the guide-book. In other cases, artists may have their table on the show floor of the convention, or as part of their publisher’s table (eg. BOOM, Aspen, and Oni).
Once you locate the artist’s table, you will need to ensure that you get to meet them and you should therefore expect a line waiting for the artist. The more popular the artist, the longer you can expect their line to be. It should also be mentioned that often artists may not show up on time, so you should plan some additional waiting time just in case. This is where you also have to decide whether or not getting a commission from them is worth your time at the convention, or if you’re better off doing something else.
Once you have determined to wait it out you should not expect the artist to arrive right upon opening; they may have a signing somewhere else, be participating in a panel, or roaming the show floor. Once the artist you’ve waited for has arrived and it is your turn, you can inquire as to whether or not they’re accepting any commission work. Usually if the artist has their own table they’re there to sell art and accept work to be commissioned. They will often have an list for each day that they’re accepting commissions. Some artists may accept up to 10 commissions per day, while others may accept fewer than 5 commissions. However, in some cases, artists may only be giving autographs and selling pre-made sketches and prints. If this happens, you might end up walking away with nothing at all; I however would still recommend checking out the artist’s work, even in this disappointing situation. After all, you enjoyed their artwork enough to attempt a commission, so you may enjoy some of the already-completed sketches the artist has to offer.
Once you have made it to your artist, you will want to take a look at their charge rate(s) and the types of commissions they are offering. Artists may offer head sketches, bust sketches, or full figure sketches. Some artists also charge for specific formats, such as penciling work, inking work, or coloring work. You may want to decide prior to the convention what type of work you would like commissioned as well as knowing your comfortable price range.
Pricing of commissions can vary and they can trend higher for popular artists. The higher the artists profile the more you can expect to pay for the commission. Usually, you can expect artists who work on a big title books from Marvel, DC or Image to have a decent price of $20 -$100 depending on the kind work. However, some artists who are icons of the comic industry can charge upwards of $1,000 for a commissioned piece; so you need to determine if you are comfortable with that price, and if it is worth it to you before inquiring.
There are also times where artists may offer free quick sketches. Others may offer a free head sketch, after a purchase of merchandise from their table — so it can help to be supportive of the artist. As a last resort, you can also politely ask the artist for a quick sketch or a doodle.
As many artists often promote their work through social media, that’s usually one form of communication, you can use to inquire about their commissions. They usually have a link to their webpage showing where they sell their original artwork, as well as their convention schedules. There may also be on a banner on their social media sites. From there, you can communicate with them on their price rate, their schedule at the show, and whether or not they’ll be accepting any commissions. This can help you decide whether or not it’s worth the time investment for a commission at the show.
Once you have contacted the artist, you can also inquire as to whether they’ll accept pre-commissions from their home and bring them to the show for you to pick-up at any time. This method can usually save you a tremendous amount of time and allows you to do something else during the convention.
What to bring
While artists may offer their own Bristol paper to sketch on, you can also bring a sketchbook, so that you can have your sketch collections all together in one book. However, some artists will require that they hold onto your sketchbook which may be inconvenient for you if you plan on getting sketches from other artists.
In addition, if you do plan to have a sketchbook, it is highly suggested that you put your name and contact information in it. This helps the artist contact you in the event the work can’t be finished on time or if the artist needs to bring it back to their home/hotel to complete the work.
2. Blank comic cover:
This is the next most popular choice after a sketchbook. A blank comic cover can be complemented with your choice of sketch, to help give it a unique visual perspective on the book when on display. And unlike a sketchbook, you can drop off multiple blank comic covers with many artists to work on, allowing you to have a collection of sketches done at the show. This option also allows you to have your book graded by CGC once the sketch is done which helps encapsulate the sketch in a protective display casing.
However, some artists may charge additional fees if you request a sketch on a blank comic cover. Some artists might not even accept the work, as they view it as a form of resale of their own work, or may simply not be comfortable sketching on it. In particular, Disney animators will tell you that they’re not allowed by the company to sketch on these covers.
3. Comic Bristol Page 11 x 17:
This option is for those who would like a large-scale sketch, on an official comic page that comic artists work with. Some people also use this choice for a collaboration jam piece, having multiple artists work on specific areas of the Bristol page, and complete it as a project.
Use a post-it-note to put your name, information, and the type of sketch you want for the artist as a reminder. You can put all the information down, and leave it within your sketchbook, or on your blank comic and Bristol. This will help the artist be aware of what you commissioned and be able to contact you once they are finished.
5. Image References:
Not every artist knows exactly what every superhero looks like. By giving them a reference to work on they’ll have a better idea of what the character may look like and successfully create what you want. The reference is also helpful if you’re planning to ask the artist do a recreation of a famous comic cover, as a comic swipe as this can give the artist a better idea of what you want, and how to approach your sketch.
Comic Art Fans offer a search for any artist’s finished commissioned work. You can search to see the quality of the artist’s commissions, and the different types of commissions the artist has been offering.
This site is also linked to some private art auctions, and some of the artist’s art dealer pages; so you can also ask for more information about the artists throughout this site.
This is a community Facebook page that has gathered together every artist’s commission prices from many conventions. Prices are also updated, and you are allowed to contribute your convention experiences. You can find the latest information on the artist’s rates here; along with people’s experiences when they have commissioned from this artist in the past.
It should be noted that this site should not be used as the definitive source for artist’s price rates, as price rates for each artist may change over time. You can, however, use it as a general idea of what you can expect to pay.
Hopefully, this guide has given you an idea of the process of getting a commission, or offered you some new tips as to how to acquire commissions from artists. The next time you’re at any Artist Alley at a convention, help support your favorite and local artists by getting a commission work that you desire.
Here are some photos of my past commissions along with the artist that created it.
Click here to join the conversation on the FoCC forum.