Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Jamie Tanner's Business Plan

Above: The Night Watch by Rembrandt and The Squid by Jamie Tanner.

I was told this story about Rembrandt and his famous painting, The Night Watch, by a guide at Amsterdam's Rijkmuseum. I find no corroboration for this on the Web. It's a good example of raising money -- more and more money -- as one works on their art.

The story goes that when Rembrandt was commissioned to paint The Night Watch, he took his sweet time.

The Night Watch was commissioned by Captain Barining Cocq and 17 members of his civic guards .... Doubtless the guardsmen expected a group portrait in which each member would be clearly recognizable, although perhaps not of equal prominence; it was often the practice for less affluent or junior members of a group to be represented only by heads or partial figures, for which they paid less than did those who were portrayed full length.

- "The Legend and the Man," in The World of Rembrandt: 1606-1669 (Time-Life Library of Art), Walter Wallace, New York, 1968, pp. 107-111 via and ©

One of the reasons Rembrandt took his sweet time was so that those guardsmen would have the opportunity to drop by and check in on the progress of the painting. The painting's composition was a new thing.

The group would not be shown in a standard, static row, but depicted in action. This was, at the time, a revolutionary idea. This meant that some figures would be more prominent than others.

So, as I was saying, the guardsmen would come around to the Rembrandt studio to see how things were going on the massive canvas (363 x 437 cm ~ 11ft 10in x 14ft 4in) -- and possibly sweeten their original payment of 100 guilders with even more guilders to encourage the painter to make them more prominent -- and maybe put in their favorite dog in the portrait.

The longer he waited, the more men and more guilders trickled in.

In the end, the painting swelled to 34 figures.

I was reminded of this story when I read about Jamie Tanner's business plan for his new graphic novel.

It's simple: you give Jamie money now, and he will promise you
  • an autographed book,

  • original art,

  • or a cameo,

  • or even a full speaking part in his new graphic novel.

Drawn called it an "unusual plan," but it sure reminded me of Rembrandt.

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