Reciprocal Responsibilities of Editor and Artist

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Title: Reciprocal Responsibilities of Editor and Artist
Creator: Mary Ann Drach
Date(s): July 1981
Medium: print
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Reciprocal Responsibilities of Editor and Artist is a 1981 essay by Mary Ann Drach and Vel Jaeger.

It was printed in Stylus #2.

It was written "in the weary aftermath of Febcon."

Some Topics Discussed

  • very specific guidelines on trib copies
  • communication
  • stresses that artists are generally writers, and everyone needs to be clear regarding expectations

From the Essay

Perhaps the most important duty an editor owes a prospective artist is to carefully match the artist's style and ability to the mood and illustration requirements of the story or poem being assigned. That means requesting samples of portraits of characters, action scenes with full figures, and a landscape. These may be xeroxes of previously published material. There are some artists who can do exquisite likenesses of major characters, but whose knowledge of anatomy in action figures seems a bit shaky. There are artists who draw beautiful hardware - ships, weapons, alien buildings - but who 'cartoon' their people. Someone with a soft, romantic style is more suited to illustrating a hurt/comfort story or a love story than someone with a hard-edged or angular style. The latter artist might be great for a straight science fiction story.

If you, as an artist, feel you've been stuck with an assignment beyond your abilities, or with a story you just don't care for, be honest. Tell the editor you'd rather have a different job to do, rather than struggle for what may be a less than satisfactory result. Don't be afraid to accept a challenge, of course; that's how we grow. Nevertheless, be truthful with yourself about your own strengths and limitations.

Once an editor has settled on an artist for a given assignment, the artist should be provided with a copy of the whole story, not just bits and pieces of scenes or a verbal description of the illo needed. Try to put yourself in the artist's head; if there's scanty information in the text about a character's appearance, provide the missing pieces, even if you have to go back to the writer and request that s/he write down an amplified physical description of characters,locales,clothing, and' props'. Be very clear about which scenes in a story you want illoed, how many, and if there is a choice between drawing one or another. If you leave such decisions to the artist, especially an inexperienced one, the illustrations may not be evenly spaced throughout the story. Also, specify whether you want the manuscript you've supplied to be returned, and provide postage if you do.

Editors, be clear what medium - pen n' ink, pencil, ink wash - you are financially able to print. Do not tell an artist that pencil or ink wash is acceptable when you don't have the budget to pay for screening. That's the best way we know to get a bad reputation, and lose the services of a talented person. We all want our work shown off to best advantage. Be specific about size requirements within %" in each dimension, excluding margins. Also indicate how large the margins should be which surround the drawing. If this is to be a small 'spot' illo, as on a page of poetry, it is a kindness to type the text with the spacing you're going to use and let the artist see exactly what space is available. You'll get a more interesting result, since the configuration of the drawing may weave in and out of the text, or mirror the typed format in some way.

Be explicit about your method of printing: metal-plate offset; paper-plate offset; high resolution Xerox; plain Xerox; or mimeo. In general,these categories differ in the amount of solid black area and/or fine detail that can be reproduced satisfactorily, but the size of the press, no matter what kind of plate is used, must also be considered: the ink roller on a small press won't hold enough ink to do the job on heavy black areas if they're too large. Ask your printer what he can and cannot do. Never assume anything.

When an editor says pen n' ink, this means black india ink, not felt tip, or ballpoint. Blue ink will not photograph; the camera doesn't 'see' it.

The editor needs to know if art is going to be late, and if so, how late. Over commitment results in missed deadlines, sloppy art, and all manner of other sins, plus probable ill feeling on both ends of the mail route. We shouldn't need to mention this, but double submissions are also a no-no. Unfortunately, there have been cases...