Behind the Commissioner – Commissioning is Serious Business
Note: This post was written with the assumption that you have a somewhat clear idea of my mascots.
You can check them out here.
Miharusshi probably doesn’t know this, but I had been thinking of writing about commissioning for awhile, she ended up beating me to the punch in ask.fm, but I’m going to expand on the idea in this post, and will write about different aspects of my commissioning so far, some of these may also help if anyone of you would like to start commissioning too.
My Discovery of Commissions
I first saw Danny Choo’s mascots and think they are kinda cool. I thought of doing this too when I started my blog, but on the other hand, trying to actually get them done seems like trouble, and expensive too, so I sat it out. Additionally, the fact that I barely knew anything about the procedure fueled my decision to stay away from it too, even though I already have a DeviantArt account at this point. After looking at some of AceRailgun’s commission posts and his original characters page however, I’m starting to understand the procedure just slightly, but at this point, I still didn’t feel like doing it.
However, as if fate was guiding me, I won a contest AceRailgun organized, where you need to design a character (just a textual description), and Ace will pick his favorite.
Until this day, I kept having the nagging feeling the reason I won is because I’m the only participant. After the result was announced, Ace immediately e-mailed me about the details. Being the middleman, he asked me about the visual designs for the character, and relayed it to the illustrator. He also sent me the illustrator’s sketch for finalizing. After some time, Ran Kougetsu debuted as a mascot on deluscar.
With Ace guiding me along the way, I got a really good idea behind the commissioning procedure after that, and since then, I had been commissioning my own artworks without Ace.
Why do I commission?
At first, I wanted to personalize my blog. I don’t want to use pictures of pre-existing characters and designs by other people, I want ones that are truly my own. Seeing my own commissioned artworks also helps me garner a deeper sense of appreciation compared to when I’m just cropping random pictures on the internet.
On the other hand, commissioning is also pretty fun, especially for someone like me who can’t draw for life. When you can’t draw, you have all these images in your head, like how your own original characters would act in some specific scenes-and seeing these scenes visualized is such an extremely satisfying experience-even if sometimes, this “hobby” is just so damn expensive (as you can see, my commissioning is very sporadic).
Then again, it’s your own money and if it’s harmless and fun for you-it’s money well spent.
The Process behind the Character Creation
I think nobody know this, but I used to do some text-based roleplaying before. For those uninformed, it’s self-explanatory-it’s where you design your own original characters (again, just a textual description), and have them roleplay in settings created by other people; or you can create your own setting and invite other people to play with you. Depending on some sites, it’s a popular pastime for forum-users, and I was especially active in mangafox’s roleplay threads. I prefer roleplays where you are required to at least write one or two paragraphs, not one liners.
Anyway, in roleplays, there are usually different forum threads for one setting-the actual roleplay thread, OOC (out of character) discussion tread, and the character creation thread. In the character creation thread, you usually have to create a character with/without provided forms (Name, age, personality, etc..) to use them in the roleplay thread. So I basically just copied the same thing I did there for my commissions.
It helps if you have a clear idea of what kind of personality you want for your mascot beforehand (cheerful? quiet?), and try not to dump too much personalities in one character. I mean, if you’re writing a story, it might help if your character is a developing character-developing different shades of personality as the story goes-but mine is just a mascot, so I kept things simple. It also helps if you have multiple and related characters, so you can divide the personalities between them and even contrast them. For example, Ran originally had the “loyal” attribute at first, but figured it didn’t really suit her, and ultimately gave it to Kyouko, who fits it more. Also, it helps if you shared your own personalities to your characters in some form-for example, the music Ran, Rin and Kyouko like (classical, jazz and rock respectively), are all genres I personally like myself, and I divided them to all three of my characters.
You might be asking “But Kai, your characters are just mascots, why give them personalities?” It’s to give your characters some color and life, and also, the personalities can also help artists have a better idea when they draw your characters. Last but not least, designating personalities for your characters is pretty fun, at least it is for me (remember my roleplaying roots?), and personally, I feel this aspect is also a significant part of character design, other than the obvious visual part.
The Process behind The Actual Commissioning
I usually commission my illustrations in DeviantArt, but I think the procedure is more or less the same. What you do is you find artists who do commissions; in DeviantArt, the artists will let people know if their commissions are open through their profiles. Then, check the details and prices. The prices will vary depending on chibi/half body/full body and whether or not you want a transparent/simple/complex background. Some artists also put up different coloring and lining qualities like sketches, cell shades, soft shades and so on, also varying in prices. Each artist has a different set up for their commissions so it’s something you have to check thoroughly. If you don’t understand, just ask said artist.
Once you decided you want to commission from this specific artist, just contact him (I usually “note” them in DeviantArt). At this point, it will help if you have a clear idea of what you want to be drawn. The artist will usually ask you to fill a character form (see point #3) which provide details on character name, personality, pose and so on; or you can just create your own form provided you gave the ample information needed by the artist. I personally prefer to provide image references when textual descriptions begun to get tricky, for example, when the artists require pose/angle reference, I just find the images for them. This also helps a lot when you’re designing a character or costume for the very first time, for example, if you want your character to wear a cool jacket, get the image with the jacket you want and show it to the artist, which is better than just describing with text. It’s not uncommon for me to have around 5 to 7 image references in one note.
Usually, an artist will provide you a sketch just before he colors. Once you made sure there are no changes needed, he will just finalize and color it. I personally find it helpful to request color WIP sketches just to confirm if it’s the right colors.
The Ideal Commissioner?
One that thing sets me apart from Ace and me, is that Ace’s usually more open-minded and just leave it up to the artist to interpret it however they like. For me, as you can see, I usually have a strict image in my mind to adhere when I commission. This means I’m just not as flexible when it comes to commissioning, and unfortunately, there are some artworks I really would had love some changes, but couldn’t, since the art is already done and colored and all (also partially my fault since I missed it during the sketching process). For example, the hair on that daki there really should had been black, and the ribbon here looks weird, also again, her hair should had been black. The funny thing about Ran is that people just seem to constantly get confused over what her hair color is supposed to be.
I also had to check the artist’s style and see if they fit my idea. Say, if I want to draw a cute picture, I try to find artists who specialize in moe-style artworks and if I want a more mature picture, I find artists with that style and so on. I think it’s best if you had an open-minded way like Ace, but if you’re like me, unfortunately, no matter what kind of image you had in your head, no artists would be able to replicate your ideas perfectly. The ideal commissioning would be to have a balance of open-mindedness and an adherence to certain image. But like I said, if you’re not as fussy as me, and is completely open-minded, then that’s much better.
Claims of Plagiarism
One thing that slightly frustrate me is when people claim I’m plagiarizing my designs off of other existing characters. It’s fine if you say “this reminds of [insert name]”, but downright claims of plagiarizing feels insulting, which I assume other commissioners would feel similarly if the same thing occurred to them. After all, we’re paying good money for our original character designs, why do we need to copy others? I’m mostly talking about Rin here by the way, whom had to deal with the most plagiarizing claims (quite a few people said I’m plagiarizing her off of characters like Noire and Kooh). But hey, it’s twintails, and there are tons of characters with twintails-also similarly with black hair and red eyes too I might add. Part of the blame lays on me since I picked such a stereotypical design, but eh, I like twintails. Also, for the record, Rin was already designed long before I even started playing the Hyperdimension Neptunia games, yeah, I was quite the late starter to the series, but I digress.
My Recommended Artists
Depending on what style of artworks you want, Futarinokizuna for one, put incredible details in her backgrounds, and always just seem to think of great ideas beyond my initial one. I never would had thought of an aurora background for this, for one, and to this day, still remain my favorite commissioned piece ever; she has a nice dreamy/fantastical style. Guys like Kazenokaze and MMrailgun are my go-to artists for moe artworks. Shadow2810 has a sort of watercolor/pastel-style which would be great depending on the type of picture you want. Aionlights specializes in realistic styles. Tonee89 is great at background CGs and yuri artworks.
Commissioning is serious business, and admittedly, I ran across some troubles here and there; but despite that-commissioning is fun, even if it’s time-consuming, arduous and expensive. The best part about commissioning is that it feels extremely rewarding to be able to see all these images in my head sprung to life, especially since I can’t draw myself. I would like to have my mascots here do something more beyond just “mascots” one day-I’m thinking of writing a story involving them, but haven’t been going well so far. Guess we will see in due time.