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Why Do Cover Artists Not Contribute Any Interior Art?

Something that I've noticed in all my RPG books is that the cover artist for a book almost never contributes any interior art to the same book. Does anyone know why that is the case?

Are artists that paint/draw cover art of a much higher standard to interior artists so much so that publishers can only afford them for the front cover?

Or do artists specialise in cover art (which is almost always full colour) or interior art (which is usually black and white)?

Or is there some other reasoning behind it?

Just something that I've always been curious about.

Olaf the Stout
 

JustKim

Villager
In many cases it's the cost. Commissions are structured by level of work and a high-quality cover art piece goes for several thousand dollars (depending on the artist). Color art without scenery is less expensive and line art is pretty inexpensive. You could probably populate a D&D book with B&W line art for the same cost as a high quality cover.

It's not that the artists who do covers are better artists, Wayne Reynolds does both covers and interior art. But the artwork he does for covers are a higher quality, larger, more detailed, and WotC is probably more involved in the process of its creation.

A contract for that caliber of artwork may prohibit the artist from working on other commissions, such as interior illustrations. I think it's unwise and probably asking too much to hire the same artist for a high quality piece plus 10-15 interior illustrations on a deadline. So that is also a factor.

But in the small press publishing world this is generally not the case. I've seen a lot of small press products with art on the cover that does not even contain a background. It's very doubtful those artists were paid more just because their artwork ended up on the cover, but then I don't know what the art budget is for these companies.
 

Wild Gazebo

Villager
Its also the nature of the game. As an artist you would much rather spend your time productively. Work your big gigs for the bills and then catch the filler work when its slower. Its just easier that way...throw in a couple of deadlines and bang: you only have a single piece in the product.
 
I guess that is a point I never really considered before. Often the front cover piece is a big, detailed, colour artwork. If you are producing a piece like that for a deadline, you probably don't want to also produce another 10 smaller pieces due at exactly the same time.

From a publisher's perspective, it's probably better not to put all of your eggs in one basket with an artist either. If an artist misses a deadline it isn't such a big deal if they are 1 of 8 artists working on the project.

You may need to re-do some of your layout to cover up the gaps where the artwork was meant to be, or you could get a rush job done for a couple of pieces from your other artists.

However, if they are your one and only artist and they miss the deadline you may have no artwork at all for your project. That is a big problem.

Olaf the Stout
 
They expensif.
Don't drink and post Erik! :p:D

Are you saying that to get someone like Wayne Reynolds (the only artist I can think of that I know produces a lot of covers) to do interior art would cost more per piece than an artist (call him Joe Bloggs) that mainly produces interior artwork? Even if both Wayne and Joe's interior art were the same level of detail?

Just like say, a major league pitcher earns more than a minor league pitcher, even though they perform the exact same role. One just performs it better than the other so you have to pay more for it.

Is that fair to say or am I off the mark?

Olaf the Stout
 

Klaus

Villager
Don't drink and post Erik! :p:D

Are you saying that to get someone like Wayne Reynolds (the only artist I can think of that I know produces a lot of covers) to do interior art would cost more per piece than an artist (call him Joe Bloggs) that mainly produces interior artwork? Even if both Wayne and Joe's interior art were the same level of detail?

Just like say, a major league pitcher earns more than a minor league pitcher, even though they perform the exact same role. One just performs it better than the other so you have to pay more for it.

Is that fair to say or am I off the mark?

Olaf the Stout
Kinda, but not kinda.

Most publishers have a set rate per piece. If a "cover" artists feels like that rate will cover his expenses ("expenses" being "time he could be using to make more money with other assignments"), he'll agree. If not, he'll turn it down. Simple business, really.

That being said, if you do want Big Damn Artist to do some interior pieces, you'll set him up with a higher rate.
 

Janx

Adventurer
I imagine Erik Mona and other actual publishers have some insight (as he said, expensive).

I've met Larry Elmore and AggieCon a few years back. My wife, being a bigger artist person actually talked shop with him for a while.

a) almost all the women in his paintings are of his wife
b) he paints LARGE. His works are done on multi-panel masonite (particle board) that he has to haul in to get scannned/photographed. This is how he gets all that detail in, by making it big details.

That means that one of his classic covers is not a simple wall painting. It's nearly life sized.

Granted, not all artists do it the Elmore way, but the point is, color art for a cover is probably a larger painting.

A recent painting I did was on a 2'x4' canvas. I used all my wife's supplies for acrylic painting. I had to buy an extra jar of blue paint for $15 on sale. The other colors I used were tubes of the "not cheap, not student grade" paint. I had at least $200 in supplies, and that was at my wife's discounted price from when she worked at an art supply store.

I spent about 3 days of man-hours working on it. I'm told I'm pretty fast for what I produce.

The point then is, 1 cover probably takes the time it would take to do multiple interior drawings.

Plus, at least in the past, the cover was where the nice color printing was spent on, regardless of what you put there. The interior paper and printing was most often black and white, lower grade.

Thus, black and white worked well in interior, paintings and photos work well on covers. Just because somebody is a good painter, doesn't mean they are a good drawer.

How can that be?

Light table and photo projector. These tools make me a better artist than I really am.

trace a picture of Elmore's wife on the light table, make a few adjustments for period clothing, etc (easier than getting the full figure correct by freehand). Then project the tracing onto the canvas with a the photo projector and trace that onto the canvas. Now paint it. Its so easy, I can do it.
 

Morrus

Administrator
Staff member
Artists are expensive, and covers are usually bigger and more detailed than interior pieces and thus cost more. Some artists specialise well in colour covers, some are better at interior stuff, some are good at both, some are too expensive to use on more than just the cover, some don't have time to do the cover and the interior art - there's a million reasons.
 

pawsplay

Villager
1. Cover art is expensive, and a good cover can take time, during which time you may be wishing to be looking at other submissions for the interiors.

2. Different artists have different strengths. I prefer black-and-white line art for interiors, and I know some artists who have exactly the look I prefer. On the other hand, I appreciate a good, painterly cover, which is a different style. Whether due to stylistic differences or differences in technical ability, I might prefer some artists for color covers and others for B&W interiors.

3. Not all RPG art is original. Many publishers, even the bigger ones, buy rights to use pieces of art. The front cover may be a rental from a well-established artist, while the interior may be filled with stock art and small commissions. Either the cover or the interior art may be original or re-used.

4. Style fatigue. More artists means more variety. Plus, it can give the publisher more control over the preferred style, while still unleashing individual artists to approach things from their own perspective.
 

James Jacobs

Explorer
As Erik said, cover artists are more expensive. Also, working on covers takes a lot more time than interiors, since covers have to be a LOT more detailed. Since they're more expensive and take more time to create, that creates a perfect storm of reasons NOT to have those authors do interior illustrations, since those illustrations can be PLENTIFUL and thus cheaper is better and faster is better.
 

Klaus

Villager
As Erik said, cover artists are more expensive. Also, working on covers takes a lot more time than interiors, since covers have to be a LOT more detailed. Since they're more expensive and take more time to create, that creates a perfect storm of reasons NOT to have those authors do interior illustrations, since those illustrations can be PLENTIFUL and thus cheaper is better and faster is better.
Yes, but the real question was if "cover" artists get paid more for interior artwork than a purely "interior" artist.

For instance, if you paid Todd Lockwood to do an vignetter picture of a dragon for a MM-style book, would he get paid more than a journeyman artist? That's what Olaf wanted to know.
 

Janx

Adventurer
I don't have that interpretation of what the OP is asking, it seems he just questioning the general situation.

I think a closer question would be:
would Todd Lockwood get paid more to do a cover, or an interior piece (assuming illustration, not a cover worthy painting like the 2ePH had a few of)

I suspect the price for a cover art is higher than what an illustration pays. There's size differences and expectations of "level". Publishers/art directors would know that answer.

that said, as I mentioned about the 2E core books, they used a number of full-color "cover worthy" Elmore paintings as full page illustrations. Those must have cost more than the simpler illustrations they had elsewhere in the book, unless they owned the rights on the elmore pieces and could bypass some traditional costs.
 

Morrus

Administrator
Staff member
Yes, but the real question was if "cover" artists get paid more for interior artwork than a purely "interior" artist.

For instance, if you paid Todd Lockwood to do an vignetter picture of a dragon for a MM-style book, would he get paid more than a journeyman artist? That's what Olaf wanted to know.

I guess the answer is yes if the publisher in question believes his name will add value to the product (or if the artist in question is notably more talented than others being considered).

It always comes down to a value for money equation - especially in our industry where, frankly, there isn't much money.

Plus, of course, some artists will simply charge more. Todd Lockwood charges more than Claudio, for example. It depends how much they charge and what difference the publisher thinks that'll make to sales.

It's kinda akin to casting a known or unknown actor in a TV show (although it's amplified massively in TV since actors are more recognisable to the public than artists are).
 
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TheAuldGrump

Villager
3. Not all RPG art is original. Many publishers, even the bigger ones, buy rights to use pieces of art. The front cover may be a rental from a well-established artist, while the interior may be filled with stock art and small commissions. Either the cover or the interior art may be original or re-used.
Not just RPG covers - and at least one cover (Old Nathan from Baen) reused a cover from Dragon Magazine - reversing the trend. :)

The Auld Grump
 

Erik Mona

Villager
It comes down to cost, both real (in the case of the publisher) and opportunity (in the case of the artist).

Since you brought up Todd Lockwood, I'll use him as an example.

Paizo's current pay rate for covers starts at about $1200 and goes up based on the "asking price" of a given artist. Because Todd Lockwood is so experienced, such a great artist, and has more art opportunities than he has time to paint, he is not available at Paizo's regular (or even high) cover rate. We can't afford him. Nor can we afford Brom or Tony DiTerlizzi, both of whom have achieved a fair amount of fame and success and are no longer doing much in our industry.

Add in the fact that most RPG cover art is contracted on an all-rights "work for hire" basis (which means the publisher owns the painting and severely limits the artist's ability to reprint or make any additional money off the work short of selling the original), and you're adding a stipulation that many artists just don't want to deal with when they have the option of more lucrative art that they own outright.

So, let's say we could somehow convince Todd Lockwood to work under his pay rate for the fraction of the rights he is used to retaining. And it's worth noting that for most artists, they're willing to do anything if the price is right, so something like this isn't out of the question if I'm willing to bust the bank and sacrifice profit margin for the right cover artist. So Todd's on the (very expensive) cover. Huzzah!

Think he wants to do any interiors? Paizo pays about $600 per full page of color art, with a half-pager getting $300 and so on down. This rate is better than most companies in the industry, but Wizards of the Coast pays a bit more. Many artists will tell you that a full-page illustration takes the same amount of time as a cover. So you do the math. Is it better for the artist to take another $1500+ cover assignment (for which he will probably retain all rights) or do my interior piece for less than half the amount of money?

After a certain point, artists start viewing themselves as "cover" artists, so they may turn down interior work on principle. Sure, you can get them to do interiors, but it's going to cost a LOT more than it will to get another artist to do it, and we're back to sacrificing profit margin. And again, if they're really good, they have other publishers knocking on their door with more lucrative work. Hell, if they're someone like Wayne Reynolds, they're probably moving on to another Paizo cover immediately after they finish the one just before it, so putting him on interiors robs me of the ability to use him on the cover of the next big release.

So, in summary, as I said before: They expensif.

--Erik
 

pawsplay

Villager
Not just RPG covers - and at least one cover (Old Nathan from Baen) reused a cover from Dragon Magazine - reversing the trend. :)

The Auld Grump
I still remember my befuddlement as a young teenager seeing the original GURPS Fantasy demon-pentagram cover on a boxed Ultima computer game.
 

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