Hiring artists - one, or several?
For those who hire artists rather than doing it inhouse:
Do you strive to find a single artist who can do ALL the artwork for your game - backgrounds, icons, animations, characters, UI? Is it easy to find someone who can do all of those things? Or is it more likely that you end up having two or more people work on different types of art?
If the latter, what do you do to make sure the art coming from several people is cohesive and that it's not obvious several people worked on it?
Artists, feel free to add your 2c.
A lot depends on the scope of the project, and how polished you want it. There are certainly people out there who can wear many hats - I'm a graphic designer, illustrator and writer, for instance. However, the very best people are often quite specialized... it's hard for a jack-of-all-trades kind of person to compete with someone who's spent the past decade doing nothing but one specific thing.
It's a trade-off, because as you say, when you hire multiple people, there's the problem of making sure all their stuff fits together. I see five options:
1) If it's a small project, you can hire a single, multi-talented freelancer.
2) If it's a big project, but you still want to go with one guy, you could consider hiring someone as an employee on a temporary basis, especially if you foresee launching right into another project when the first one is done. Employee wages are considerably cheaper than hourly freelance rates, though there are all sorts of other concerns you have to think about when you have other people working for you.
3) You can look for an art house, or a group of freelancers who've done work together in the past.
4) You can contract an experienced graphic designer first to be your art director, and involve him in the process of selecting e.g. sprite artists, 3D artists, cartoonists, UI designers, or whatever else you need. He'll be able to tell you whose work matches his vision, and will be better able than you to communicate with them and make sure everything fits well into the big picture.
5) You can take a couple of graphic design classes, read some books and magazines, etc. and try to acquire some rudimentary creative director skills of your own. Depends on whether you have the eye for it or not.
Last edited by AlexWeldon; 11-28-2008 at 07:17 PM.
well, generally, the more artists you have working on things, the more quickly stuff gets done.
But there is a catch: You MUST organize it correctly.
If you fail to do this, then you will end up with a fairly substandard product. Here is the right way to organize an art team:
1) Know EXACTLY what you want. If you are bad at concept sketching, you can often find a modeler willing to do some quick and dirties for free as long as they get the modeling work.
2) Task things specifically - Have one guy make all of your models, have one guy do all the unwrapping and texturing, one guy doing rigging and animation etc, and double duty the texturing guy for level textures.
For 2d stuff, you should get one experienced artist to do the backgrounds and basic animations/characters, and one less seasoned artist to do the tween animations, icons, and gui.
Following the advice in 1 and 2 will get you a good cohesive look with little effort.
3) Get a vision in your head. Keep it there, and do *not* change it. Every project needs a vision guy who can provide constant guidance and feedback so that everything looks right together. If you aren't that guy, you need to find one really bad. Try to find an artist you can rely on if it turns out that you aren't so hot on it.
4) Don't ignore the nice artist's advice on anything that isn't set in stone. You are not only paying them to make stuff, you are also paying for their expertise - use it.
5) Have the artists document their processes exactly, and have them follow the same processes in everything.
For Summer Session, one artist did everything, but for my latest game Heileen (and the new one I'm working on) I split the work in 2 artists: one for characters and the other for backgrounds.
This has the advantage of speeding up the process, and also I found that not many artists are good at drawing both
This is true too... the boundaries of someone's talents don't always fall along the same lines as the job description boxes we try to stuff them in. I'm good at my particular style of cartoony illustration, but I'm not good at people. However, I'm also good at more serious-looking UI stuff. Another guy might be great at 3D level design, yet crap at creating his own textures, but draws anime on the side.
Originally Posted by Jack Norton
Generally, you can tell what someone's particular skills are by looking at their portfolio, but don't be shy to ask... most artists would rather be honest up front than get stuck working on a job that doesn't really match their skills and interests.
Wha...? How in the heck can someone draw characters but not backgrounds? It's all the same skill...
If you want high quality art it isn't all the same skill. People specialise in things. It would be like saying coding a 3d engine and writing a database is all the same skill.
Not really. Drawing people is all about anatomy, and being mentally able to rotate things in 3D, so that you're actually drawing the same person when you do the profile as when you do the face-on shot, without there being inconsistent details. The human brain is so attuned to facial recognition that anything that's even slightly off ends up very jarring.
Originally Posted by Acord
Backgrounds are more about colour harmony, texture, depth, mood, etc...
Also, especially for games, artists who like to put a lot of contrast and fine detail in their work are better off working on characters, sprites and foreground objects. Too much detail and contrast in backgrounds is distracting.
Of course, it's entirely possible to be good at all these things... but they don't require exactly the same set of skills.
Although it's not game art, this charcoal that I did is a good example of how it's possible to be good at one and suck at the other. I'm happy with the composition, the house, the trees & sky, the depth... but I could never quite get the portrait part right. Part of the problem was that I was working from a reference, but I wanted to turn him a bit further away from the viewer, and I just wasn't able to adjust the angle while keeping all the anatomy correct. His neck is too fat, there's something weird about his mouth... nose is a bit too long, top of the head too flat... A good portrait artist wouldn't have those problems.
Last edited by AlexWeldon; 11-29-2008 at 05:48 AM.
(hehe, I have all the profiles (several others here do so) because no other way if you worked in very small, small or intermediate companies. Simply, there's no one else at your side. If low money, boss will not outsource any thing. Am specialized in characters, but for example, remember a big game me making all the landscapes as well as the heros' menu gui stuff... and the 3d animated characters. Lol, even sound effects...well, all which was not code..)
Still is good idea to divide in two artits IF both are good. A good one will adapt to any style of the game, the other artist, or existing one in the already done assets. And would make his/her best to ensure seamless integration with whatever the other art.And more, will not kill the ambience and inmersive feel, but empower it.
Good reason to split, imo, is....time. The most expensive thing o all..
Well, I think there's certainly some truth there - that's why it's important to draw a variety of things, and not just one thing over and over. I spent a lot of time in coffee shops just drawing what I saw using one of those big, fat pencils. Did wonders, lemme tell you. You think you'd focus on the people, but you realize a lot of little details - how the swivel seats at the bar are made, coffee grinders, espresso machines, other art pieces, stocked shelves etc.
Man - I wish I hadn't sold those now. But I *really* liked the coffee shop, and the owner liked the drawings, even though most were really on the sketchy side. But I had one classmate who could almost do photorealistic drawings, but he couldn't hold an idea in his head long enough to just dump it out from his mind's eye.
Well, I'm not saying that you're likely to find an artist who can make amazing digital paintings for backgrounds, but couldn't do a halfway decent vector illustration of an apple. Certainly, there's some carry-over, just like an Olympic archer could probably pick up a rifle and shoot it better than I could.
And you both have valid points... depending on their budget, a developer could hire one artist to do everything, even if some of those things aren't their forte, or they could hire 20 people for very specific tasks, and an experienced art director to coordinate everything. Likewise, as artists, we have the choice to divide our time equally between styles and genres and be a one-stop shop for low-budget developers, or to specialize one or two things, so as to find a places on teams for larger projects.
Personally, I prefer to be a generalist, though I'm still specializing in terms of style - I don't really like games with extremely realistic, detailed art, so I'm trying to specialize in being a complete package with respect to more cartoony (but not anime) or stylized games.
This might be something I'll try a little further down the track. After I see how the pros do it.
Originally Posted by AlexWeldon
I'm curious about this. What kind of processes? What kind of documentation? What's the benefit of doing this, and the risk of not doing it? How many artists will actually spend their time documenting their processes when what they really want is to be working?
Originally Posted by Acord
An interesting option I hadn't considered. Am I right in saying this should get everything done faster - several artists, all communicating with someone who knows what he's talking about - less back and forth? Would it add significantly to the cost? Supposedly the artists chosen by an art director would really know their stuff, and if you pay by product or by hour, it shouldn't make a difference whether I have one person or 20 people doing the work - I'll have the same amount of products, or roughly the same number of hours, in the end (assuming a single person won't be rushed through). So the additional cost is for the art director? Now you can tell me how far off the mark I am...
Originally Posted by AlexWeldon
Graphic design is one of the most misunderstood professions there is. Most people see the graphic designer's role as just about everything it isn't: an illustrator, a photographer, a Creative Suite technician...
Originally Posted by Shaz
Graphic design is actually as much science as it is art, and is something that takes place at the level of vision and planning before the artists get going, and at the level of adjustment and fussing over details after they're done. So many people hire a designer and then completely miss the point by insisting on keeping control over those parts of the process - if you do that, you're the designer, and you should have just hired an artist.
Of course, most designers are artists as well, mostly because of this misconception... otherwise, people see them as being like a plumber who can't use a wrench. Untrue, but what can you do?
Anyway, no, it probably doesn't add a whole lot to your budget to hire a designer, mainly because if you don't, the artists are going to go through something resembling a design process on their own anyway, and also, the guy you hire as the designer is also likely some kind of artist, and will probably be doing some part of the artwork himself (most likely the UI).
Just be sure to talk to the individual artists and make sure that they know they're going to be taking creative direction from another person you've hired... artists tend to be an egotistical lot, and some might not be willing to work that way. You don't want to work with those guys anyway.
Of course, you want to make sure the guy in charge isn't a raging egotist either... be sure to ask him for references not only in terms of past clients, but artists he's worked with.
The whole thing depends on trust, respect and good communication between the three parties involved... the designer needs to be willing to adjust his vision to fit your tastes, while also giving the artists the freedom to express themselves, within reason. The artists need to understand they're working as part of a bigger team, and be willing to make some changes they might not agree with 100%. And you need to be able to convey your wishes to the designer, and then be willing to step back and trust him to make the correct decisions after that.
There are a lot of ways it can go wrong... but the plus side is that once you've found the right group of people, the process will be super-streamlined the next time around.
Generally, they should document it as if they are writing a step by step tutorial for a n00b. The benefit of doing this is that when the process everyone is using is more consistent, the product is more consistent.
Originally Posted by Shaz
Of course, they won't like it, but when you have several artists working together they will have several different styles. If they document and use one process, then things like shading, line widths, glossiness etc. are all determined by the first document, and the consistency is better.
The upside is that they only need to do it once for each type of thing - characters, backgrounds, objects etc, so it shouldn't be too hard to convince them.
Of course, this sort of thing is most useful in a large team of artists. In a small team, just make one guy the art director/vision person.
So, for a large team, this will improve consistency greatly and keep everyone focused on that. The risk of not doing it is that you'll have a lot of assets that don't look like they belong together when all is said and done.
I would recommend treating it as a large team if your artists are online contractors, and spread out as well. Even if there's only three of them. This way, they are forced to communicate with each other and stay focused on consistency. This also leaves you with something to pass on if you have to halt the project for financial reasons or an artist has to leave.
With a small team, the way to achieve consistency is much easier - simply have people specialize. One person doing line art, animation, and the other doing the concept sketches and coloring, for instance.
As far as Alex said, there are jacks of all trades out there, but we are few and far in between. For instance, I can do simple illustration, pixel art, traditional 2d animation and just about everything 3d related well. I still have fun with t-shirts and brochures too.
For the non-believers:
No offense, but I don't think you're being honest with yourself... those three are not of equal quality in their respective styles. The second one is good (though the animation of the feet is a little weird) and the first one is passable, but the third is considerably below the standards of the other two. You may be able to do everything art-related better than someone with no training at all, but you definitely have strong and weak areas like the rest of us. I've done posters, brochures, photography & retouching, websites, packaging design, restaurant menus, GUIs, comics, typesetting, logo design, illustration in vector, pixel and digital painting, fine art landscapes, portraits and still lifes in charcoal, pastel, acrylic, felt tip marker and linocut... but I wouldn't say I'm equally good at all those things.
Originally Posted by Acord
Last edited by AlexWeldon; 11-30-2008 at 01:38 PM.
Right, I wasn't trying to bash you, only to point out that being able to do everything to some extent is not the same as being able to do everything at the same level. It's important to have broad horizons, as you never know when you'll be called upon to use them, but it's equally important to know what your strengths are, and play to those. If someone hired me to do digital paintings for backgrounds, but then suddenly realized that they needed, say, a portrait hanging on the wall in one of those backgrounds, well, I'd step up and probably do a respectable job. But I wouldn't bother applying for a posting for 100 character portraits in the Help Wanted forum. You know what I'm saying?
Originally Posted by Acord
Small exemple, sometimes (if pixel perfection is not required) you might want to draw bigger than the final piece will be, say, 400%. If so, do you convert the art to 256 colors before or after you've resized? It can make a difference. If using Flash, do they paint the outlines with the paintbrush or do they draw it with the pen tool? One results in even lines, the other in thick&thin. They also resize differently.
Originally Posted by Shaz
Details like that are important. If your game requires palette specific work, you will need to work with them to make sure everything is compatible with your engine AND that they all understand the subtlety of why it needs to be done that way.
Also, if an artist tells you that they have only 3D work on their portfolio but can do 2D, ask to see samples. Don't take them at their word, so many artists never drew so much as a word balloon and are trying to pass themselves as comic artist, or never did a sprite and think animating is just drawing the same thing many times.
Incidentally, I had the same problem with a music composer (the producer hired his friend who kept telling us he could do mod.... when he could obviously not...) Ask for samples people!