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Working With Artists

by Amber Yoder

Stock photography fatigue is real. If your content strategy could use a shot in the arm, consider commissioning original artwork for your next social campaign or publication. Original artwork can inspire your audiences with sophisticated, culturally relevant content that elevates your messaging. Even more exciting, artists can bring their audience to you, amplifying your reach beyond your owned channels. And artists can work from anywhere – quarantine, time zones, and national boundaries can’t squelch their creativity.

If you’ve never worked with an artist before — or even if you have — here are a few tips to help make the collaboration smooth and successful.  And if you need some help finding the right artist to work with, see our previous post, Finding Artists.

How to work with artists

Dig deep into their portfolio

Spend some time looking through their portfolio. Look for techniques that are similar to your project. Look to see if they have versatility in their aesthetic, or if they focus in on one particular approach. If you see something in their portfolio you like — tell them specifically what you like about that piece and why. Put together a moodboard of their own work as a helpful jumping point to orient the artist to what you’re looking for with your project.

Have a clear brief

Provide a clear, written creative brief of your project that includes timeline, proposed budget, and end usage of the artwork. This doesn’t need to be a contract (that comes later), but be clear and upfront about the parameters of the project. Provide visual references to help inspire and guide the artist. Also be sure to include any must haves – color palettes, logos, fonts, or anything else that must be included in the final art.

Get a contract signed

Though some artists may work without a contract in place, it’s best practice to get even a simple contract signed. A few things you’ll want to consider:

  • Rights / usage – Where and how will the art be used? How long will it be used?

  • Quantity of deliveries – How many finished pieces of art should they create?

  • Rounds of review and revision – When and how will you be able to provide notes to the artist?

  • Format of final delivery (color, black and white, layered files?) – If you hope to animate the art that the artist delivers, be sure to specify that you’ll need layered design files.

Get to know the artist and their process

Some artists are highly collaborative, others need to work in private. During your kick off or interview with the artist, ask them about how they like to work. What is their process for delivering materials and how do they like to receive feedback? Many artists prefer visual prompts, briefs and feedback – so find out the best way to work with each individual. Be open and flexible in how you work together.

Document the process

If your artist is open to the idea, ask them to capture some of their work in progress. A quick timelapse of them sketching or designing is all it takes. If your project is for a specific cause, ask the artist to capture a brief video talking about why this cause is important to them.  These materials can be behind-the-scenes peeks on your social channels, extending the life of your content beyond the finished product.

Give a shout out

When the finished project is finally published, give them a shoutout in your social channels. Most artists are happy to share their work, and can help amplify your content through their own posts and tags. However some artists with large followings may rightfully have some parameters around sharing commissioned work. So if you want an artist to share your content in their own social channels, be sure to discuss it with them before the job starts.

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