When I commission someone for a piece I plan to use professionally, I apply a large set of criteria as to what is needed, what is not needed, what should be avoided and the like. When the first sketch comes back, I usually pay very close attention to make sure that actual named characters have the right color combinations, identifying marks or the right attitudes. I look for discrepancies between my setting information and the art. I try to find something to comment on because if I can't then it should be fairly good to go. I also apply a different set of quality standard to my book covers than I do my internal art or short story art. I'll usually spend forty-five to eighty dollars on internal or short story art, but I have spent as much as five hundred dollars on covers.
In this case, I was looking at the completion of the project being next year or the year after and was basically considering this playtest packet to be setting up for when I get my current projects (a novel and a Divine Blood supplement) finished and into editing. I commissioned the piece of art more as a gift to myself and let the artist have more or less free reign rather than apply my normal criteria of looking at it. I let it get a bit outside my normal taste in terms of overt sexuality thinking that that went with the genre I was dealing with. Which is insane, because I write the games and stories that I want to play so my audience is likely to have the same preference for more mild and practical costuming than the stereotypical fanservice filled stuff you find in a number of places.
The art that was produced would be fine as one piece of internal art of several other pieces with differing styles. However, as a cover, first impression piece, it was woefully inadequate. It was not doing the job it needed to do in that position. It did not convey the story genre I was looking for and it outright offended some people. Which made people not want to download a playtest packet which I had put up for free download.
Even ignoring the fanservice, scantily clad women that initiated the discussion on what the art lacked, the characters were vague and generic stereotypes which were not clearly representing the various concepts that they were supposed to represent.
This is not the fault of the artist. I let her have a lot of space and she drew the art to what she enjoyed and she enjoys drawing art of sexy women with unrealistic chests. Normally, this same artist has done good work for me and has shown no trouble at all with avoiding making things too sexual when I am specific with my needs. She is a wonderful artist and her artwork is very vibrant and full of life. This is totally my fault for not thinking through my needs and stating clearly what is and is not appropriate. Given that I okayed the sketch, I am even more to blame since I looked at the sketch without really giving it much of a thought.
This has resulted in me commissioning a second artist with a more specific outlay of what I need. Mostly because I'm too embarrassed to go to the first artist and tell her how her art was taken, because her art is good and she doesn't need to be burdened with my mistake. This means I'm now out around one hundred thirty dollars when I could have been just fine with the first artist had I just gone into the commission with the thought that "this is a thing that I will be presenting as part of a professional project" rather than thinking it's just something to setup a project further down the line.
That is money I had been intending on using for other purposes and though I'll likely consider the new piece of art to be well worth it. Likewise, I am unknown enough that the damage to my project is likely transitory. I'm easily forgotten, so the flurb is easily forgotten (that's a hopeful thought on my part...I may find people have long memories). But the mistake on my part is inexcusable.
Now, below I have two pieces of art that the same artist did for me showing that she by no means is incapable of toning herself down.
And below here are are other pieces of art I've used for covers:
Now the piece of art that caused all of the trouble for me is below here:
This is because I was lazy and did not give good instructions.
As such, I'm putting this up as a reminder to myself not to be lazy any more. (And now I wonder how many grammar errors I'll miss in this rant.