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Creating the best Comic Cover (part 2): How to Work with Artists without Hurting Their Feelings

Creating the best cover art: Working with Artists

This can be a very delicate subject for non-artists who write books or comics. So, if you happen to be an artist (or anyone), you may want to read part 1 (click here).

This topic is for writers, editors, friends, family, other supportive people and even other artists who find it difficult to talk to artists when they’re working together on a project. To be honest, I do not have the answers, but I can share some of my work-arounds when dealing with my co-creator, husband and artist extraordinaire – Miguel Guerra. I didn’t say solutions because I don’t have any. It’s always difficult.

How to be honest without hurting someone’s feelings in 4 steps

This is a question I still can’t fully answer, but I can offer some general advice. People are sensitive about their work, especially with personal creations like art. Before you criticize anyone, you must be specific about what can be improved.

Based on my own experience, I’ll try to summarize how I navigate through these very challenging situations in order to preserve your friendship and working relationship.

#1. If you can’t say why you don’t like something then keep your opinion to yourself. There’s no point in saying, “I don’t like it,” if you can’t explain why. Think about it long and hard.

The purpose is not to criticize. Instead you want to help make the cover better. If you can’t do that, you don’t have the right to make someone else feel inadequate or to hurt their feelings. And you certainly don’t have the right to make the artist waste their time trying to figure out what you don’t like. That’s just plain ridiculous.

#2. Use a friendly, non-threatening approach. If you’re angry or frustrated, do not have this conversation. Use constructive and positive words, especially if you’re asking someone to make a change. Always listen to the other person. validate how they feel and avoid any personal attacks. If the artist is particularly sensitive, this can be very difficult, so timing is something to consider as well.

#3. If you have a complaint, it’s your responsibility to offer a logical argument for why a change should be made. You’re putting the artist in a defensive position. Remember, it’s about improving the work, so it should never be personal. You’re a bit like a lawyer making your case. You need to convince him/her why they should bother making the changes.

#4. Be patient. The artist might love, like or hate your ideas. They may be defensive or angry, feel defeated, or stay completely silent. Don’t push too hard. Once you “make your case” chill out and let the artist think about it.

Why am I complaining?

This was Miguel’s first cover for Wolf Boy and the Magical Warriors (vol.1): The Flushing of Atlantis [click to read more]. It’s fabulous! Why didn’t I love it?

Wolf Boy and the Magical Warriors (vol.1) the Flushing of Atlantis illustration

I had two main improvements that I knew Miguel could make – and here’s the important part – which we discussed before he began his sketches. So, I had a valid reason to bring it up. However, I felt terrible telling him because he already spent a lot of time working on it.

Being his wife means I’m 100% empathetic, but being the co-creator means I have to be honest. So, I covered points #1 and #2. In the most constructive and positive way possible, I explained that the cover fully show off the personalities of the three main characters. Their faces and body language needed to be more exaggerated. Although I was specific, he wasn’t convinced. He needed a better reason if he was going to invest more time on this.

I needed to move on to #3 and #4

Now it’s time to make a logical argument for why a change should be made. Continue to use a friendly, non-threatening approach.

• Since this is an all ages comedy, we wrote each character with distinctive personalities. Based on this cover, Monkey King and Tessi the Amazon have the same basic expression and Wolf Boy is smiling and happy. I’m not sure why he’s eating a raw fish. Nothing really identifies each one. [to read more about these characters, click here.]

• The cover is fun, but lacks energy. The wave and their reactions can be more dynamic. To help achieve this, a tighter close up and more interesting perspective might help. Also making their eyes larger and their faces more expressive.

• These were all points we had discussed at the beginning, but he didn’t keep them in mind.

In real life, this was a very awkward conversation. It took Miguel a few days before he mentioned it to me again. He was not happy. I gave him space and didn’t push. I said my peace. Now it was up to him.

Don’t settle when you know you could do better

One thing about Miguel that makes him such a good artist is that he’s never satisfied. He works hard to improve his skills every day in order to bring his imagination into the real world and capture it on paper. It’s time consuming and all encompassing, but when he pushes himself that extra bit further, the results are always fantastic. He never ceases to amaze me.

Finally, the cover for Wolf Boy and the Magical Warriors

And here it is! The final illustration and the final cover. After all of his hard work, it paid off. We have a fun and dynamic cover. All of the same elements are in both illustrations, but there are two major differences:

• It’s much more dynamic. You can feel the energy. The wave is ready to crash down on them, they’re all moving towards the camera (viewer), the facial expressions and body language are more visibly reacting to the wave. They are definitely in the middle of an emergency situation.

• Each character has their own personality. Tessi the Amazon is ready to slice through the watery enemy, Monkey King is tube riding the barrel of a wave while his friends hang on, and Wolf Boy is oblivious to the danger and having a great time. After all, he is the sweetest idiot you’ll ever know.

Wolf Boy and the Magical Warriors (vol.1) the Flushing of Atlantis cover art    Wolf Boy and the Magical Warriors (vol.1) the Flushing of Atlantis cover

I hope this was helpful. In life as well as comic books, there is always room for being a good negotiator and maintaining good relationships. These are both business and personal skills that we need to improve upon with each situation in order to be successful. I wish you luck in your future encounters! I know I’ll need it.

Related articles:

Creating the Best Comic Cover (part 1)

Wolf Boy and the Magical Warriors book information

All art and updates for Wolf Boy and the Magical Warriors 

Wolf Boy and the Magical Warriors FREE SAMPLE