The Cover that Should not be, how to Deal with Rejected Cover Illustrations

It happens to every illustrator, photographer or designer who is working for hire, but you´ll not find many who talk about that "dark -side" of the business very much.

Duncan Long has put it into the right words about the "death by committee" in this specific publishing industry. Maria Brophy has put the general illusion of rejection together into a blog - a recommended read.

It seriously has it advantages to have independent Authors who know what they want.

The problem most creative in this industry are facing is not a fickle temper of some art-directors or the editors, it is the committee and/or conferences, mostly consisting of salesmen: "those-who-know-what-works-and-what-not-because-of-the-numbers"

I was working on this cover for a German edition of Mike Resnick´s Stalking the Unicorn and it usually would remain in the nearly empty drawer of rejected works, but this one was different. The only given guideline was a "not-so-busy" version of the original cover created by no less than Dan Dos Santos, huh!

Something told me this will be a very nice work, I was given a great deal of freedom since no one, even the publisher didn´t knew what they wanted, ( actually this is a very bad sign) but however, I decided to finalize it with my own personal vision and also with the motivation to add this different "spec-work" to my portfolio, and wanted to put it up here into my series of "Book-cover- walkthrough´s" for those interested to see.

The left one was an initial pencil sketch, a rather Graphical approach, which should give the Agency more space for playing with colors and typo.
The right one, was done after the first round of feedback a perspectively digital sketch of the idea, since the editor liked the idea of the unicorn to be a neon-sign, which was, all-in-all, approved.

Based on the approved sketch, I did a colored one, the palette above is basically everything I used to achieve this mood. I work with 70% color on a new layer for each object, usually I group foreground, middle ground and background for later editing and changes.

Since the Editor didn´t like the Zombie-Gorilla with his umbrella *sniff*, since it would be too comic-like, I rather think of Japanese humor or English trash, but anyways, I left that funny detail out in the further work.

It appeared that some characteristics of the protagonist and some architectural details in the background needed to be adjusted, so that was in this version, but still some details are wrong, if you compare the different versions, you see what I have changed.

Here I added more details to the Newspaper, fur of the Gorilla, the hat and the trench coat, some effect on the lighting and corrected the perspective of the street-view.

The word "Roman" should be display of the genre in German, which is a nice idea, in this pre-final version I rendered out the face more realistic and added also more detail and light to it, while keeping the characteristics. But on a second look, the head is still to low which makes his appearance look wrong somehow.

After I got the message of it not being used, I put another hour of work into it, to add the umbrella to the gorilla which I liked so much in the sketch, set the head higher and added the rain to achieve a more dramatically, even "bladerunner-mood" effect. All in all, this illustration does resemble the ingredients of the original cover, without being so busy but still teasing, in my opinion.

To come back to the Headline:  
How to Deal with Rejected Artworks, in General?
First thing is to not get angry about it, in most cases the artworks are great and the AD´s are happy, but one of the deciders may have a bad day, which makes your day bad as well;-)

On another note, you have put work into a project and you should at least be partially paid for it. In Germany a cancelateion fee of about 50% of the agreed payment is usually fine. Give or take something if you put more or less work into it, so at least you don't stand there with empty hands. Many international publishers know about cancelation or "Kill-fees" just ask them about it.

Well, you´re basically free to do with your work as you please.
In my case I add them to my "Art-archive" for Art-buyers to see. And if I´m really happy with them, I post something like this in my blog. Besides that, there are a lot of options, making prints, postcards or merchandise products, if you can identify with the work, or making a tutorial for a Magazine (paid) are the most useful actions.

But I´m also curious to hear other possibilities or stories, where turned down art shines in a new positive way.

Thoughts about Spec Work and Crowdsourcing

First off: this is my personal view about this matter, and its mainly focused on the creative field -art, illustration and design!

Yesterday I got that tweet from TheIspot, via @andrewhyde who had a blog posted about his view on spec-work, which was very specific and as a statement of fight against "bad-spec-work" IMHO justified in its own right.
But I felt there was something missing, the good side of things - which made me think about a response post- or sort of.

Some basic definitions first:
It appears that often crowdsourcing and spec-work are mixed up, I´m especially afraid how many designers are mistaken by these wrong misinterpretations.

Crowdsourcing: the act of outsourcing tasks, traditionally performed by an employee or contractor, to a large group of people or community (a crowd), through an open call. source: Wikipedia

Spec work:
“Spec” has become the short form for any work done on a speculative basis. In other words, any requested work for which a fair and reasonable fee has not been agreed upon, preferably in writing. source: no!spec

When Jonathan Zittrain explains crowdsourcing as part of this video on youtube  it sounds even very useful; websites  through which thousands of people connect to playfully find solutions to mathematical or even economical problems. My opinion about crowdsourcing is: as long as it serves the general public, its all fine.

My thoughts about spec-work are a little complex, mostly because i tend to separate good spec from bad -spec:

Bad Spec is the above mentioned, an exploitation of creative talent to get a custom made work done to primarily achieve commercial success in a pitch situation (for example)

Good Spec is doing the pitch yourself, which means:

Personal work: Artists are at the beginning of our career their own patrons, this means creative freedom and play of imagination, publishing or showing this to the right recipients, this output can appeal to interesting projects and lead to a possibly successful career.

Contests / competitions:  this is a tricky one and it requires a keen eye to find out what is a serious contest in the mass of opportunities today . Its also important to do the guesswork about the time -input and what can be gained, if this is not equally 50/50 (speculative) , than its not worth entering in my opinion.

Collaboration: A collaboration with other artists, is mostly fun, but can be also considered spec, because every time we try new things out , just for fun, a new trend, new styles can be shaped -which can result in request for more work, think about it!

Advertising: Every time you update your portfolio, submit a new piece on your website, post a link to or from facebook, doing interviews, displaying your work to the public in a mag, or web portal - this is also spec work -ever considered how much unpaid time it consumes to do all these things? In the tax computation- this is called "promotion".

There are a lot other kinds of spec-work situations that one might even not have thought about, but exist:

Financial spec: Do you knew how many from your money on the bank is used for speculations on stocks by the bank itself, and do they ask you for permission, huh?

All in all, I will sum this up with this last sentence:

If your project is important enough to hire a professional who will take care and the time to understand YOUR situation and invest the time needed to create a suitable solution, then any professional is definitely worth their money regardless if that is a photographer, designer, illustrator, or a motor-mechanic.

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