Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Art Of Commissioning A Prop

One way to attract readers to your table at conventions is through the use of props. Nothing catches the eye like a well-done figurine, video, or picture featuring one of your characters.

I already had a nice display prop for my most recent novel, however that was about it. An earlier series, now graced with new covers thanks to my publisher, deserved something too.

I set out to remedy this while attending a comic-con in Houston. There were quite a few crafting folks selling their wares, and I figured I had a chance of finding...something. So there I was admiring a small bust of Superman, one of several hand-crafted and painted sculptures being sold by a small outfit called. Spyridian Productions. At first glance, you would think "nice", but little else. Nothing being sold looked anything like what I needed.

Many dealers will, however, take on a commission. You just have to ask. I approached Sean, half of the Spyridian team (Melissa is the other half) with an idea of a bust for a main character, and showed him the book cover with her face on it. He glanced at one of his Superman creations with an eye toward some serious sculpting, and agreed to take the project on. We settled on a very reasonable price, and a time frame. Half the money to be paid up front, and the rest afterward. Quite reasonable.

A stream of IM messages followed over the weeks to come as both he and Melissa locked down the concept art. I knew that we'd never get the same exact vision, but kept a practical eye on what would please the crowds, not just a cranky author. There was also artistic license to consider, as Sean and Melissa had a far better handle on what looks good than I do. Even so, they pulled down the first chapters from the books where my heroine was described, and showed me an initial sculpted head sans paint. It was far better than I dared hope.The pony tail was their idea, but not entirely outside of the descriptions (she has braids pulled back through a hole in her helmet). More importantly, it looked good (that artistic license I talked about).

Next came the painting jobs, and more Instant Messages with pictures. Nope, the lipstick had to go (actually a cause for relief as they didn't really like the idea either). A white bodice was also changed to black with red trim, as befit the character's uniform colors. Now, did the armor look like what she wore in the book? Nope. Looks good? Yep. Keep it. The cloak and turtle shell fell into the same area where looks outweighed authenticity. Again, these folks know what looks good, and any commission you do should be with the understanding that there will be these differences.

The artwork was paid for and shipped, and a very good sign was when I saw a little regret from Melissa that her "baby" was leaving home. That spoke of professional pride, and a job well done.

So "Mikial" will be sitting with her books at our next convention, easily attracting passers by and opening up a new avenue of discussion that paves the way to sales.  It just took networking, compromise, and a great team of artists to accomplish everything.



Veronica Helen Hart said...


What an exciting idea and how beautifully your character turned out.

Olga Godim said...

What a great idea. And judging from the photo, the result is equally good.