A couple weeks ago I made a post on Intuitive Writing Guide about where to look for cover designers for your book. In this post I said "Having artist friends is great, BTW, in case anyone was wondering, every author should have some artist friends."
HERE'S WHY having artist friends is so great for an author.
Artists see the world differently from anyone else.
They are intensely visual people, naturally. It is their passion (and often their job) to vividly picture something and then visually create it (as opposed to verbally creating it with words).
They look at a scene and they see colors, they see harmony and disharmony, they see aesthetics, they see 'vibes' from characters often embodied as colors or concepts (one reason I love them so much).
As someone who thinks in 'vibes' and designs characters based on 'auras', I adore this about them. I especially love how they can distill a vibe or an aura down to a 'single encompassing element' so to speak, making me sit back and go, 'Wow. I didn't see it like that but YOU JUST NAILED IT.' And that comment can revolutionize the way I see a scene or character.
[You know you've been spending a lot of time with artists when an artist's wife hears you describe
something to them and says, 'Y'know, you kind of see things the way an artist does'.]
My artist friends have helped me improve my visuals in writing, because of
the inspiration they send, the feedback they give, and how they constantly talk
about and 'live in' a mood of aesthetics. Aesthetic is vital to them, and if you hang around long enough (and are open-minded enough), you'll begin to feel that influence, and it will change the way the world looks to you. It's amazing.
An artist's medium is visual. An author's is words.
They're opposites, but highly complimentary opposites. Artists must condense into a picture what an author can use two pages to describe with words... and an author must use three sentences to portray what artists can 'simply' (art is rarely 'simple') show with two shades of one color.
If an artist tells you, "Your visuals in this scene are very good", you're doing something right. If they say, "These visuals are GREAT and I love them!", you know you're REALLY doing something right.
Close friendships always go through levels. After you and your artist friend have gone through the lower levels of:
'I'm comfortable with showing you some of my writing now.'
'I'm comfortable with showing you some of my art now.'
'*fellow creatives in opposite mediums sometimes have to spend a few
minutes figuring out what words to use to make the other understand a concept*'
'Okay, just don't say that to an artist.'
'And don't say that to an author.'
...there are a few glorious, silver, upper levels, when your artist friend says:
1. "I want to sketch this character/creature/scene/landscape."
2. "OHMYGOSH, I HAVE TO SKETCH THIS CHARACTER OF YOURS." And then they do it. (TOTALLY. FANTASTIC.)
3. "WHEN YOU PUBLISH THIS BOOK, I WANT TO DO THE COVER ART." (O.o Did you really just say what I think you said... ohmygosh...WHOA.)
On the flip side of the coin, it's intensely gratifying and thrilling for them to sketch or draw something for an author and have the author's reaction be open-mouthed surprise, speechless shock, or semi-incoherent squealing of, 'OHMYWORD YOU PERFECTLY CAPTURED THE scene/character/vibe/etc.'
Author-artists are a beautiful, fascinating, and rare (well, the good ones are) breed. Not only can they portray their stories in art to give people visual references, but the way it affects their writing is intriguing to trace. They look at the 'blocking of a scene' differently. They may not be outliners or plotters, but they can picture a scene vividly in full detail and write it down, instinctively capturing it. Also, verbal description might not be one of their strong points, but most of the time, you'd never know it because what descriptions they do have LIVE, mostly because they instinctively pick out the important background pieces and feature those.
Which in turn has taught me what background pieces are important in writing and what are less so.
So that's all very well and awesome, you say, but you don't just jump into a great relationship with an artist, right? It grows. And there are things to learn along the way. Little tips and tricks that lessons for any good friendship, tailored to the particular breed of people known as artists.
Artists are every bit as self conscious about their art as you are about your writing (if not even more timid sometimes). Even if they've gone to college and trained for art, they're self conscious, they doubt themselves. Encourage them, ask to see their art, sometimes even nag them to show you their WIPs (this should only be done with certain personalities that require persuasion and actually are comfortable with showing you their WIPs, so tread carefully here and feel this part out).
Be honest with them.
Tell them when you like things or when it's a great picture but not quite your personal type. Tell them WHAT you like about a picture, 'the colors here are amazing!', 'HIS EYEBROWS ARE GLORIOUS', 'can I have her HAIR please'. This thrills them, but only if it's true. Artists are very quick to spot false enthusiasm or fake praise. Believe me, this will be unhealthy for them, for you, and for the world in general. They may be polite but most of them have long memories...and fierce pencils.
If you don't know anything about art, shut up.
'But you just told me to be honest.' Yes. Yes, I did. This is a tricky line to walk. Be honest about whether you like a picture, what you like about it, etc. But if you don't really have an eye for art, refrain from making comments like, 'his eye looks off', or 'maybe his forehead is too narrow' or 'her shoulder is crooked'. It will frustrate the blazes out of an artist and they might stop showing you their work.
In conclusion, artists are a wonderful people and incredible to have as friends. Get yourself some, if you possibly can... and hang on for the ride.