I have one artist that I go to. Well, they're twins, so it's really two artists. They are very inexpensive, really fast, and very professional. They are the Fraim Brothers.
I order black and white art. I think for younger people, black and white art is no good. I grew up with black and white interior RPG art, so it's fine with me. The Fraims do color, but it costs more. Sometimes I take a stab at coloring them on my own in photoshop, with mixed results.
Finding an Artist
I have tried other artists and it is almost always a fiasco. Most artists don't return my messages.
Some tell me they only take commissions of stuff they feel like drawing, and that my thing didn't fit the criteria.
The biggest pains are the ones who take your money and then take forever to do the work (if they do it at all).
I found one artist who drew art on a live stream. She was really good. She took my money to draw a dwarf (no background, just one dwarf) and told me it might take a few weeks. It took her 4 months to get around to it. Keep in mind, she drew on her livestream all the time. She just had to wait until she felt like it. It was a good piece of art, but it was not worth the wait.
Don't Be Vague
The key to getting an art commission is in your description. Don't be vague and make sure you send reference images.
I had one player who was in marketing. I asked him to send me a description of his character to send to the artists. His description of his character was the most bizarre thing I'd ever read. I don't remember the exact description, but it was something like:
"Think of a bodybuilder combined with the Hulk. He's got a helmet with one horn on it and the biggest sword you've ever seen. He's pro-active and screams INTENSITY."
He included an image of an oily, steroided-up bodybuilder doing a posing routine.
Here's the pencils of the group image. See if you can spot his character:
That player was quite a character. At least once every session, he'd get up and do something perverted with a remote control or a joystick or something. There was one time when he put a blanket over his body and pretended to be a ghost for about 5 minutes. By that point, we were desensitized to his antics and just kept playing while he waved his arms around and went: "OOOoooo."
I'm not much of a colorist, but I tried to dress it up. He was a goliath, so I could do some fun stuff with his skin:
Placing an Order
It's pretty simple. Here's how it works:
- Send an email/message, get a price estimate.
- Pay. I use paypal.
- Send a description.
- Check out the pencils, tell them about any corrections.
- Enjoy your finished product.
Here's the description I sent:
"There's two heroes looking at their planar compass. The lady of pain is behind them, looking ominous. They are in the city of sigil, but i don't really need any special detail, just something to indicate they are in the city. This is the city that is in a tube, so there's buildings up above them - but you will be happy to know that there is a haze that hovers in the air that pretty much blocks those buildings from view. This haze is the light source of the city.
Theran - He's a dark elf wizard with long blonde hair. He wears a robe of eyes (attached image).
Bidam is a dragonborn fighter with platinum scales. He's got a sword of sharpness. He's wearing armor and has a bag of holding, which just looks like a normal D&D backpack.
They are looking at their planar compass, trying to find the location of the nearest portal in the city.
The Lady of Pain is this weird entity who rules Sigil. She is 12 feet tall, hovers off the ground and never speaks. She's got all these blades sticking out of her head. When someone makes her angry, she sends them to extra-planar Mazes.
Planar Compass: I don't know if we'd even be able to see it in this image, but here's the description. It's a 6 inch iron sphere. The two halves of the sphere split apart, revealing a hollow cavity within. When an object from a plane is placed in the cavity and the two halves are joined, the direction of the nearest portal of that plane is revealed - the compass has a small arrow that juts out of one of the halves, pointing the way."
I sent a pile of reference images. Here are some:
Here's some of my other favorite commissions from days of yore:
These are the bad guys from a recent campaign I ran. They are a bunch of "zombie" gods and primordials:
- Shar: The Forgotten Realms goddess.
- Piranoth: The primordial from Revenge of the Giants.
- Timesius: The primordial from E3 Prince of Undeath.
- Orcus: Orcus had been killed when my players went through E3. Here he's wielding the Orcusword.
- Aoskar: The god of portals referred to in many Planescape products.
- A former character who had turned into an evil lich-god and had the wand of orcus.
Here's my colored version:
If you have a campaign that has some legs and you think will be fondly remembered by your group, you might want to get a commission. Get it while everyone remembers all the little details, so that they can be included in the art.
Remember that sometimes the art isn't going to come out how you envisioned. Some players might not like what they get. I don't think I've ever had a bad commission.