A creative, collaborative relationship is often a difficult one. Sometimes, these teams involve big personalities and big egos. Yet, in spite of what may seem like obvious potential for conflict, many of the world’s most enduring creative works are the result of this type of venture.
In an effort to better understand the talent and tactics it takes to succeed in this environment, we reached out to some local artists.
Cartoonist Jeff Martin works at Renegade Arts Entertainment. He’s known for the Hockeypocalyspe series, the historical comedy Redcoats-ish, and the webcomic HEAT: The Space Age of Pro Wrestling. Comic creator and editor Allison Paige and artist Amber Noelle make up the creative team behind Whispering Ash: Ophelia, a regency-era horror story.
Here’s a look at what these artists think is important.
Vue Weekly: How do you describe your approach to a collaborative working relationship?
Allison Paige: Amber and I work really well as a team. We talk through the entire process when we’re working on a comic together. I think the most important thing in a collaborative creative relationship is to keep talking—if you have an idea, speak it, and when your partner has an idea, listen. We work together to nurture the good ideas and cull the ones that would take away from the core plot or aim of the story we’re telling.
Jeff Martin: Having the same shared vision of what the end result of the project is more conducive to a harmonious working relationship. Communication is also very important, as is the ability to understand that a collaborator not liking one of your ideas doesn’t mean they don’t like you or the project. They don’t like the idea because it doesn’t match what they think will be the best final product, and debating those ideas will improve your ability to work together and the project’s overall quality.
VW: Do you generally welcome the opportunity to collaborate on a project?
Amber Noelle: Yes. Being able to work with another creator on a project is very fulfilling. It pushes the ideas to another, better level. In the end, the project is better and I develop as a creator.
JM: It depends on what else I’m doing and who the collaborator is. If I don’t already know and like a person, I’m generally not going to be keen to collaborate unless I’m incentivized in some way.
VW: Can you describe elements that have led to conflict in the past?
JM: I’ve found that conflict is always at its worst when one of the collaborators treats the project as lesser than the others. If a project is one collaborator’s primary focus, but second or third priority at best for another collaborator, a situation is created where someone is going to get frustrated.
VW: How do you resolve creative differences?
AN: The important thing is to not let your ego get in the way and have the best interest of the story or the project at heart, and to trust your collaborator enough to share your ideas and challenge them if something isn’t making sense. Also, you need to have the willpower to push past any resistance you may have from being precious with a certain idea or approach. Once you get past it, you almost always find something better, more polished and more sensible.
AP: I think an important lesson for every artist to learn is that the first idea isn’t ever the best one, and almost everything can be improved by considering feedback and doing iterations on an idea or a concept. If the suggestion you get isn’t in the direction you’d like the story to go in, hash it out with your collaborator until you land on something you both agree on.
VW: Can great art be made by committee?
JM: I always envision a committee as a group of people who are imposed on artists by some body that provides funding. The peak example is network executives controlling movies and TV. Can great art exist in that environment? Yes. Is it likely to? No.
AP: If you’re asking if great art can be made by collaboration, then absolutely, yes. Great art can also be made alone. Also, ‘great art’ is very subjective.