A question about working with art directors.

  • SVS OG

    Hey everyone, I know it’s been a long time since I’ve posted. Finally feeling settled into The Netherlands and working on a book finally!

    One thing that has caught me off guard a little is how much directing the art director is doing, so I’m wondering what is typical? After the dummy is sketched out do art directors usually throw out pages they don’t like, and ask for very specific actions, expressions, compositions? It’s not that I don’t agree with it like much the feedback/changes, just curious what other people have experienced as I’ve heard @Will-Terry talk about illustrators having more freedom. Thanks!

  • Pro SVS OG

    Hi @natiwata ! Welcome back and glad to hear that everything is fine!
    I cannot say what is "typical" - I do not have enough experience. So far, I have worked as illustrator for educational books and there I have been given very tight briefings (in educational, apparently, that is very common), including outfits, expressions, etc...However, the AD let me completely free with regard to composition, layout and viewpoint and they only made very minor changes to the sketches (none to the finals).
    The book I am working on now is for a company's marketing department, not for a publisher. They have given me an indicative brief but they are very open to suggestions and changes from my side and I feel quite free on the content and layout of the illustrations...but they split hairs when it comes to technology details (the book explains electronics to children).
    When I work as art director myself it's only for editorial illustration. There, I normally give to the illustrator the editorial content (aka, the text of the article), a few keywords and the specs and let them free to interpret the topic whichever way they want (that's what they are paid for, right?).

  • Hey @natiwata! Welcome back 🙂

    I'm currently working on illustrating my first picture book and I was surprised at how many changes the AD wanted at the thumbnail stage. There were quite a few rounds - but honestly, looking back she was pretty spot-on and the book will be that much better for it. I'm at final art now and two of the spreads she wanted to see in final colour along with approving everything at the linework stage. Thankfully, I had to change a lot less and I recognize that it's largely in part due to "nailing it" at the thumbnail stage. I'm hoping that when I submit all the final art there's minimal changes too because at least she liked/approved the line art and compositions already.

    As much I was surprised by the rounds of changes to the thumbnails, I went to a talk with Ashley Spires recently. She's a Canadian illustrator and has done 10+ books with Canadian illustrators and is just now working on her first one with an American publisher. She said it was like night and day - that the Canadian publishers gave her so much more freedom and the American one was soooo uptight at the character design phase. She showed us her sketches she did for her character design - she gave them more than 150 options before they chose one! Yikes.

    At the end of the day though, I think it depends on the publishing company and the personality of the art director whether they'll be more hands-on or not.

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