Tuesday, July 24, 2012

In Which the Author uncovers artifacts from ancient history

Well, in terms of the these books, that is. Ancient history being circa 2000.

As anyone who visits the Gallery knows, I am totes mad about old timey woodcut illustrations. The original Bayard et al pictures are among my favorites, although Lynd Ward's 1930's style images are themselves very cool, with quite a bit of the art deco about them. Nothing I like more than some good illustrations.

So back before Resurrections was published, I was introduced to someone who wanted to illustrate the books for me. Actually, back that up: I wanted an illustrator, and she had been pointed to the online version of volume I and was, according to the mutual acquaintances, amenable to illustrating. So I sent her some very VERY sketchy sketches of the scenes I wanted depicted, some of the more dramatic ones, wanting some appropriately woodcut style images. And she sent me some pencil sketches of her renditions of them.

On the one hand, I was bemused, because they were not the kind of illustrations I wanted. I wanted something like, well, the lineart seen in Bayard, Jeanniot, etc. What I got was, to be blunt, a Disneyesque rendition of the Tenth Anniversary Cast. No, seriously.

But this was twelve years ago, I was about to publish my first volume, and I wanted it illustrated so bad that I was willing to take what I got. It's not that I didn't like them, I did... or at least the idea of them. And I was in that first blush, gee-whiz-someone-drew-my-characters stage. (I have become somewhat more discerning since) So, I sent her a contract for the art. She was not doing me a favor; this was to be a business transaction.

Now, when an artist gets a contract to do work for hire, nothing is in concrete. They are perfectly able to negotiate clauses, payment, terms, the whole bit. In the end it's like any other contract: the artist is free to sign or not, and the contractor is free to accept the artist's revised terms or not. It's called negotiation, and it's usually the province of agents. Anyway, one of the terms I laid out was that I requested to be able to buy the original artwork on completion. I had this weird idea that I could hang them on the walls of my little apartment and enjoy the pictoral representation of my story--this before it occurred to me to just print the dang things out and hang them up that way.

Also, I know a lot of artists who make as much if not more money from the sale of the original artwork than from the proceeds of the project the art is done for, and I have bought art done for smaller projects before with no second thought about it.


This is where things went really bad. I got a very nasty email back to the effect "no one buys my originals, I do not sell my originals, you have no right to ask me this, the deal's off."

This took me quite aback, let me tell you. Because she had been represented to me as being professional, and one of the hallmarks of being professional is to act professionally. A simple "no" would have sufficed. But her reaction was a big red flag in the wtf department. So I went ahead and published without illustrations, and the rest is history. In the end I'm glad I went illustration-less, because the mood and tenor of the pictures I got would have detracted from the story. Also, although I do have a great deal of affection for the portrayals by certain actors in the stage version, I'm very clear in that this series is not connected with the musical version, but rather with the original novel.

So here I am looking back at my archive disks, while preparing the new ebook versions of things, and came across the pencil illustrations again. I present them here for the edification of the readers, to show what might have been, and are covered under fair use. In a followup post, after I get them all organized, I'll post my pathetic original sketches to compare how well they followed the idea, if not the execution, of the original intent.


  1. Oh, WOW. While the illustrations may be... fun for a one off thing posted on deviantart, I am *quite* relieved these did not end up in your books. They really do not fit the mood... at all. Your books do not feel like almost joke like in tone, modern version of Hugo's work. Hugo did not have Disney like illustrations (That would be an outrage!) so why would your books, so lovingly close in tone to his, have such illustrations? No, that is just not right, not right at all. Your books need exactly the type of illustrations you wanted them to have. :)

    1. Admittedly if I were doing a fan fiction style, not quite so serious piece, these would have been more appropriate. One day when I'm rich and famous (whatever the opposite of "when dinosaurs ruled the earth" is) maybe I can commission an illustrator to go back and redo according to what I had in mind in the first place.

      Some people have lists of who they'd cast for their book's movie; I have a list of who I'd hire to illustrate or do the GN version of it :-)

    2. I think you're right. I'm doing a little print run of my novel-length "Between the Dog and the Wolf" fic, and that's pretty much the kind of illustrations people are submitting for the project. They don't really fit the tone entirely either, but it's a fanfic collaboration, so the point isn't to create a coherent work of art, it's to have the most people have the most fun participating. :)

    3. The illustrations that are coming in for my little print run of "Between the Dog and the Wolf" are delightfully cartoony, and I can't say I mind. But that's fanfic, so the point isn't to create a coherent and lasting work of art or to sell a lot of copies - it's to let the maximum number of people have the maximum amount of fun, both contributing and reading. :)

    4. sorry axmxz, I have a delay on posting, not your fault it didn't show up immediately.

      I have been part of other projects, including my own zine back in the 90's, where the collaborations of art went from stick figure to ZOMG, but it didn't matter: the point was participation. Again, had this been a different work it would have been different regarding the illustrations. I'm a bit grateful the choice was made for me, because the end result would have been far from what it is now, which is what I wanted it to be in the first place.

      (and congrats on your own book also!)

  2. Well dang. I know I have a really angular, almost caricatured style myself (see submitted fanpiece) - but there IS something to be said for a little bit of shading. (Or an attempt at how gravity acts. Picture of Valjean catching Javert by the coat, I am looking at you).

    1. well these were just preliminary sketches, far from completed works. I don't know what shading the finals would have had, I believe they would have been pen and ink. It's hard to say.

      I do remember on one of them I asked for a different expression on one of the characters as an alternative and it was worse than the first one so I stopped asking. I thought I was being unreasonable, but having spoken with some professional illustrators about the whole thing for their opinion, no one thought of any of my requests unreasonable.

      Way back after this debacle I had another illustrator who I've worked with before that I asked if he would pick up the project. He had time and he definitely needed the money. But he chose to continue to draw furries for free rather than illustrations for pay, so, that's when I threw in the towel and gave up on illustrations altogether.

    2. ...I thought you meant these were the "finals". No wonder I was confused. :)

    3. no, I sent her some rough ideas of what I want, this is what I got back, with the understanding they would be finalized based on these designs.

      sorry for the confusion. I'm not a good writer

      *eyeroll so violent they fell out on the floor through the ear*

  3. It was certainly interesting to see the sketches, so thanks for sharing them, but I'm also glad they didn't end up in the book!

    One day I hope to see illustrations the way you've imagined them!