This post is one of a four part series:
How to contact Art Directors: Part I – Marc Scheff
How to contact Art Directors: Part II – Jon Schindehette
How to contact Art Directors: Part III – Lauren Panepinto
How to contact Art Directors: Part IV – Mike Linnemann
Again summarizing from previous posts: This is a blog series to help art students as well as new artists familiarize themselves with the best ways to go about contacting art directors, when starting out as an illustrator. The goal is not to be a nuisance and make a good impression.
In order to give you a well rounded perspective I asked a handful of art directors to answer 10 questions on the topic. First was Marc Scheff from Tree House Brand Stores and second up was Wizards of the Coast Art Director Jon Schindehette , next we had Lauren Panepinto from Orbit Books and to wrap it all up, here is an interview with Mike Linnemann, who is a former Art Director from Fantasy Flight Games.
1. What is your preferred method of communication if a new artist is looking to make contact and why? (ie. Postcards/email/phone/facebook/meeting in person)
Email is best. It is the fastest and most easily recorded. It’s a lot harder to forward a Facebook message/tweet to a fellow art director, no?
2. Social media is becoming increasingly popular amongst artists as a tool for networking, how do you feel about artists befriending you on Facebook? Is there a right and a wrong way to go about it?
There is no “right” way, but there’s definitely a wrong way. Creating a fan page or just using the personal page doesn’t matter. In the end, if you don’t have an external portfolio link-self website or DeviantArt etc, you won’t be added to the list.
Another example of the wrong way would be adding someone randomly or sending a Facebook message with just a portfolio link. When you are cold calling an Art Director introduce yourself at the bare minimum, don’t just send a link. Here’s an example of a message you could send:
I’d like to work for you. Here’s my portfolio link: www.wizardryaction.com.
– Frank Jenkins”
We befriend artists because we talk and work with them, it’s a gray area but there are levels, like adding someone on Twitter vs. Facebook. There’s a privacy/intimacy line.
2. a On that note does it make a difference to you whether a new artist uses DeviantArt or actually has their own personal website?
Companies haven’t kept up with the speed of social media. Databases still have “URL:” as the portfolio link so it doesn’t make a difference. I would say, sending PDFs is a bit old hat and I wouldn’t do that unless requested. It fills up the inbox and they are hard to keep track of, also you have to wait for them to load.
Same with flash websites. If I can’t hit “next” or the arrow to see another image or the load times are long, um, yeah. It’s a speed thing, absolutely.
The bare essentials that we need are: Full name, phone number, address with postal code, portfolio link, PayPal address, preferred email address. We expect to find your name, email and portfolio link immediately.
People think it arrogant to google themselves, when in actuality, that shows what pops up first. So do it and find out how easily your contact information is to locate. Your website? Your blog? Your website? Once you know, focus the energy there.
3. Conventions are a great opportunity for networking, both for artists and Art Directors alike. However some new artists are nervous about approaching Art Directors in person just because they would like a job. What is your advice to this and how do you prefer that artists introduce themselves to you during conventions?
“Are nervous about approaching Art Directors in person just because they would like a job ” Why? Art directors are often busy, but are very rarely unpleasant. Here is my advice:
1. Go to the portfolio review. Sometimes you have to sign up before online. Do that.
2. If you don’t do it online. Go to the booth/room and see if there’s a cancelation and sign up.
3. If that’s not possible, ask to see when they’re done, catch them on the way out.
4. If there’s a line for that, ask them when they have time later. Ask them if they can have 2-5 minutes before dinner somewhere, anywhere.
5. If that’s a no, all ADs walk around the booths. Stop them in the hallways.
Be pleasant and ask for a short review. Being shy does not help you. Honestly I’m sorry but if you don’t want to work for me, then don’t talk to me.
Last year at Spectrum, I hired someone 2 days after he had a portfolio review. I told him “Why didn’t you contact us earlier?!”
4. If you ask a new artist to email you after meeting in person. How soon after the meeting should they do so? (ie. The next day, next week, next month)
First of all, we’ll ask for a leave behind: Business card or whatever. Don’t spend a ton of money on them – they just get put into a box. After the convention, we review everyone and put them into our database. Please note it is very, very important to leave space on the leave behind for us to write notes: LEAVE SPACE ON THE LEAVE-BEHIND!
People can email us, but most likely, we’ll contact them for address, phone number etc. but honestly, after the con, doesn’t really matter when. If the Art Director said “we want you on X brand” and they haven’t heard in a week or so, then ping them for sure.
4.a On that note do you prefer the leave-behind to have address and phone on it or just email?
Phone numbers is only to confirm address for payment. We don’t call people unless there’s a problem: Hit by a car, etc. The leave-behind needs to have name, email and portfolio link at minimum.
4.b How about artwork on the business card? Unnecessary or not?
Personally I like when people have the 4 versions and I get to pick one. Helps make it more memorable for me. It doesn’t really matter though. The portfolio is what I’m looking for.
5. When emailing an Art Director for the first time – what should the ideal email contain?
Contact information and portfolio link.
6. It is no secret that many Art Directors are busy people and get a lot of emails. If your email goes unresponded, should you send a reminder email and if so how long should you wait before doing so?
A month or so.
7. On that note Art Directors may ask for artists to send them periodical updates. What is the ideal timeframe for you to receive such updates without feeling like you are being spammed?
Quarterly and I fully expect at least 4 new images, good gravy.
8. How do you personally seek out new artists and how do you keep tabs on the artists you have met?
Personally? I would check DeviantArt Daily every day. Some people troll through the links part of websites or deviantart friends, but it’s a crapshoot at best. Magazines? Sure and Spectrum to some extent, but otherwise, our ArtDrop gives us tons and we always go back to convention lists. ArtOrder is a huge gorilla though. We always notice them.
Sometimes artists refer their peers but they never do that enough. Artists have contemporaries all the time. Every artist with prominence has 2-3 friends that are close to them. They then eclipse them Picasso style, but it happens.
9. What is the most positive encounter you have had with a new artist and what is the worst?
Positive: Chris Burdett making doodles and posting them on our Facebook walls. It shows friendliness. For example, I love ‘merika and one artist sent me a postcard with a Captain America image he did with just ‘merika as the text. That stayed with me in both cases because they did research I suppose.
The worst is Vague-booking: It’s really, really bad. Don’t do it. It’s happened to me once and it stuck with me for weeks. It’s really, really harmful to a reputation. We can’t trust you with an NDA.
10. Do you ever get tired of having to explain the same things over and over to new artists?
No. To the same artist about the same thing? Yes. When it comes to artwork though there are always going to be issues, even if perfectly done. Horses for instance are always a problem but proportion issues are just a part of the process.
The biggest issue is that artists starting out paint what they see themselves. It’s a hurdle, not a barrier. We paint from experience. We don’t immediately deviate because it’s unknown, unfamiliar. If you look at 20 year olds’ portfolio – if you see a fairy, it often looks like the woman or her friend due to reference.
Getting new reference is a big step but one that’s very exciting. One the best places you can go for it are Sports complexes. We had requests all the time when I ran track in college. Big thrower guys, skinny distance guys, everything in between and when you called it “modeling” people were ok with it. It only takes minutes to get reference images.
– Mike Linnemann
About: Mike Linnemann is a former Art Director of Fantasy Flight Games. He describes himself as a patriot, art enthusiast and a lifelong learner. He was educated at University of Minnesota and lives in Minneapolis with his wife Emily .