I figured I would continue the commission discussion this time focusing on source material.
Source material is art you provide to the artist you are getting the commission from so they have a reference for the character you want.
Now in this era of smartphones and the internet and Google images, where many images of a character are a few keystrokes away, you would think that having source material would be an anachronism but I am here to tell you differently. If you have an image in mind, or a particular costume in mind, you should definitely have something with you that you can give the artist.
And here is why:
1) In this era of multiple costumes, if you have one you prefer, it is better to be exact about things
2) Smartphones run out of power, con centers probably have spots of poor wifi connectivity
3) It provides both you and the artist some assurance that you will be happy with the piece
Source material can me almost anything that conveys the look you want. So if there is an issue that has great art showcasing the character, bring that. Or you can print up a picture from a comic that has the costume you are looking for. On the internet, you can sometimes find style sheets that other artists use. I have made sheets with multiple pictures on it which I tuck into the sketchbooks and bring with me to cons.
But here is the most important thing, this also means that you need to have an idea of the character you want to have source material ready. And that doesn't always work out. I'll talk about this a bit more in the next post, which talks about artist decisions. If you aren't certain, at least have a vague idea in mind so you can guide an internet search or rummage through a dollar box to buy an issue at the con for source. (For example, you might say 'Mike Kaluta Madame Xanadu' or 'Guy Davis Sandman' or 'Chris Bachalo Shade the Changing Man' all of which are different than Amy Reeder, Alex Saviuk, and Steve Ditko respectively.)
And remember, this is reference material. The artist has the license to embellish, accentuate, deviate.
This is my source sheet for my main Supergirl sketchbook and the Matrix version of the costume. For me, key portions of the costume are the pointy sleeves, the pointed belt, and the 'full shirt'. So this sheet, with poses from Gary Frank, Jackson Guice, and Art Thibert highlight those. And I will point out the small things I like to the artist. I could just as easily brought an early issue of the PAD Supergirl for source as well. But this has worked nicely for me.
I recently have started to branch out a bit and I have got a couple of more 70's style Supergirl commissions with the hot pants and puffy sleeves. The first time I decided to get one ... you guessed it ... I didn't have source material. Since she wore that costume for a decade, it was pretty easy to head to a quarter box at the convention and buy an early issue of Daring New Adventures to give the artist.
I have since made this reference sheet and will bring it to Boston. Here we have Rich Buckler, Dick Dillin, and Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez shots. For me, the key thing is the boots and shorts since earlier versions of this costume had elf slippers and shorts with beaded edges.
But as I said, style guides are out there as well. Here is the Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez style guide for that very same costume.
If Garcia-Lopez is sketching at the convention, I might try to get a 'head band' Supergirl from him and would probably use his own style guide as source material for him!
But to reiterate the importance of source material, if you asked an artist to do a commission of Jean Grey, they might as which one ...