Jenny recently published a series of posts (Here | Here | Here) about the process she went through in completing my commission. (Side Note: I feel all hoity-toity just saying I commissioned artwork from someone but there ya go...) I found these posts fascinating, so I decided to write a blog post myself to run through the whole process from my end.
So, first off, Otter:
Otter was conceived, in part, for my husband, George, who loves otters almost as much as I love foxes. Alright, I love otters too! Ahem. Yes. Anywho...as I said here, the first Crowhammer story came about as a result of a bet with a fellow writer. I always felt that story would make for a great graphic novel but, sadly, I have no artistic ability. I mean, zero. None. Circles and lines are hard, ya know. But I kept thinking it would be nice to have a picture of my brave, bold Otter hanging in the house, and with Christmas coming up, I thought an Otter portrait would make a perfect gift for George.
To the internet!
Finding a Graphic Artist:
I got to know Jenny through Twitter (where else) and after seeing some of her work I knew I wanted her to draw Otter. Correction, wanted, needed, had to have her draw Otter. We communicated back and forth through email so I could understand her process and what she needed from me. Turns out she didn't need all that much if I was willing to give her a bit of artistic license (Yes-Yes-Yes! Please let me let you do all the work!). All she asked for was a description of Otter, ideas for setting, pose, etc. I might want, and any reference images or material to help describe what I wanted. So, being a writer and lazy, I sent her my Crowhammer story and asked if 'oh-by-the-way,' she could work in some Samurai Jack elements for the background.
Yup, that's me: uber helpful. Luckyily, Jenny was up for a challenge.
Jenny read my story and then disappeared for a while. Well, not really :) We chatted back and forth in email a few more times and then she went off to do research and finish up other projects. Two weeks later she was back and we got down to business.
Phase 1: Concept Sketches
I'm sure these were no big deal to Jenny but when I saw these simple little concept sketches she came up with I got really, really excited. The idea here was just to select a pose for Otter that the rest of the picture would be built around. I, being me, wanted them all. I mean, seriously, tell me these aren't all awesome?
Unfortunately, my wallet reminded me I should probably pick just one. So, no more foolin' around. Time to get down to brass tacks and make a selection. It wasn't easy--believe me. In fact, it took me a long time to choose, and in the end I enlisted the help of a few friends to help me decide on the best one. In the end, I went with A. Although D was a close second. I mean really close. He's just so...super heroic with the diving to one side and the otter-sized guns blazing....
Phase 2: Composition & Background:
A few more weeks passed while Jenny fleshed out the selected concept sketch and started brainstorming the background setting for the commission. And when she came back, she essentially offered me more options for posing. :) Jenny and I had agreed on what Otter would be doing in the picture, now these two outline images would help us determine how Otter would interact with the background. Here's what she came up with:
Tough choice again: Sacrifice Otter's feet and part of his tail to get the ship's wheel in there or focus on showing full-on Otter in all his magnificence? In the end, I had to have the ship's wheel. After all, what's a pilot to do without a wheel to steer his starship true?
Otter pose? Check. Background setting? Check. Once those details were in place and agreed to, I expected to wait a while for...well, whatever came next. Remember, I'm a noob at this whole 'commissioning artwork' business so I just bumbled along, waiting for Jenny to tell me what to do next. Imagine my surprise then, when the completed artwork arrived less than two weeks later. Drum roll, please...and bam!
Ahem. Yes, Well. Lost my dignity for a second there, didn't I?
The truth is, the image was perfect. More than perfect, it was wonderful, fabulous, everything I wanted and hoped for only better than I could have ever imagined. There was Otter, in all his glorious, incredibly cute badassedness, and around him was the most beautiful Samurai Jack inspired bridge, and it all looked exactly as I'd pictured it when I wrote that first Crowhammer story. One problem: Christmas was still a month away so I had to keep this beautiful picture a secret for four long, agonizing weeks!
So, I know what you're all wondering at this point: Did George like it? In a word...YES-YES-YES! He loved Jenny's vision of Otter every bit as much as I did, now we just have to get the art print framed and fancied up so we can hang it in a place of prominence. :) In fact...George and I both love this image so much that I've been talking to Jenny about potentially doing a web comic. Got the story written and everything....
Oh shut up, wallet. I can too have pretty things.