5 Year Plan*Because I'll be teaching in about a week at SCAD, I've been thinking a lot about what to tell the students. And I wrote it out so that I could solidify it in my head. This stuff is for younger artists mostly, so feel free to skip.
When I spend time with another comic artist, sometimes I'll ask, "What's your 5 year plan?" In other words, what steps is he taking in order to gain control over his career in order to move up the ladder? Usually I don't get much of an answer.
The reason I think many comic artists aren't forward-thinking has to do with the way our industry is set up. Whether by conscious design or through the neglect of its participants, younger freelancers get into a habit of complacency while hoping for a chance to suckle from the teet of a major publisher. Waiting around for a career doesn't promote the idea of freelancers taking active control of their OWN careers.
If I had to sum up the 5 Year Plan
5 Reasons to WriteI wrote a blog once that urged comic artists to try writing their own books. I held back a bit on what I said--Punk Rock Jesus hadn't come out yet, so I didn't feel like I had the proper authority to really speak up.5 Reasons to Write3 years ago in Personal More Like This
Since then, there's been a lot more discussion about the etiquette of publishers toward their freelancers, the recent rise of creator owned books, and the effects of Hollywood moving into comics (or vice versa). And as friend of mine at Newsarama pointed out recently, I'm one of a few guys who's found a middle ground--not only because I'm writing and drawing my own book, but because my OGN is partially owned by DC Comics.
Certain events of the last year have created new concerns within our industry. Do you still need to work for big publishers if you want to "make it"? Do they deliver a better product than creator owned books? Are the Big Two treating creators as fairly as they've always been? Between the rise of digital comics and comic-based movies, are creators getting
The Detrimental AweThanks for the ideas everyone! Here's the post many of you requested...The Detrimental Awe3 years ago in Personal More Like This
Here's a sample of responses I've heard from some editors over the years when I've raised practical business concerns regarding comic book publishing:
"No, we don't know exactly what books you'll be doing, but we're (insert name of big publisher) Comics, so sign exclusive with us and not (insert name of competing publisher who has titles ready for you)!"
"This is a (insert name of big writer) book! I know he's late, but just think of how many people would love to be in your shoes!"
"The page rate isn't good, but at least you'll be getting to work with (name of big superhero whom you're supposed to be a fan of)!"
"We won't fly you out or put you into a hotel, but you should come so you can sign at the booth for us! Who doesn't love signing autographs?"
What do these statements have in common? They're emotional arguments made to sidestep yo
5 LevelsI've spoken as guest speaker a number of times over the years (come visit me at SCAD Atlanta in January). While I'm not the best or most patient teacher, I think my strength is my pragmatic and blunt approach to the business side of comics. In order to help the students think of a "5 YEAR PLAN" (more on that in an upcoming post), I'll often break down the different page rate levels of comic book artists as a way to help analyze the playing field of our industry. If there's a ladder to success, what's wrong with defining each rung? I imagine such a breakdown helpful for moving up in most any industry, not just comics.5 Levels4 years ago in Personal More Like This
Here are the 5 LEVELS of comic artists as I see them--NOT based on talent but on page rates, popularity, and the prestige of the titles the artist works on. You might define them differently or have more than just 5, but I find that less-is-more when it comes to people being able to retain information.
5%If you're reading this now, it means you're roughly in the 5%. Most people who go online to read about comics will end up reading previews and "top 10" lists--subjects we all, or course, enjoy. But the articles/blogs that critically analyze our industry are usually only read by two types: people in the biz whom are affected by this stuff, and the few readers who are interested in reading more than word balloons when it comes to comics.5%4 years ago in Personal More Like This
And I'm not knocking people who don't care to read these articles. All readers are contributing to the industry with their buying power, and I'm thankful for them, even if they're not in the 5%. I admit, if I had a normal 9-5 job and a boss that was kicking my ass 5 days a week, I might not have the tolerance for these sorts of articles either.
That being said, I think we need more of these articles/blogs written from different points of view--more from creators especially. The 2010s will likely be r
Top 5 Mistakes (I've made over the years)To many people in comics, I only arrived a few years ago with Joe the Barbarian. Then came Hellblazer (completed in 2008 before I began working on Joe), American Vampire: SOTF, and finally Punk Rock Jesus. Once in a while someone will mention Off Road (an OGN I did with Oni back in 2004), but for the most part it seems like I've been published only these last few years when in fact I've been published professionally for a decade now.Top 5 Mistakes (I've made over the years)3 years ago in Personal More Like This
This isn't a plea to have everyone go back through my previous work--in fact, I'm glad that a lot of the books I've done over the years aren't on readers' radars. I'm proud of it all, but the books above are a nice, tight group of titles to be associated with. They're all in a similar brand, they're all recent, they all have good creators/publishers associated with them, and the artwork is mostly consistent. Go back further than that, and you'll see artwork that looks nothing like the stuff I'm doing these days. (Although Off Road still holds up to some de
5 Art Selling TipsWhile I used to see "art sales" simply as bonus money coming in on the side, over the past few years it's become enough of an asset that it justifies an art dealer, record keeping, insurance, and taxes at the end of each year. It's currently 25% of my total income, and that has a lot of impact over my work. And just like storytelling, design and page flow--abstract principles that keep my career afloat daily--art sales also deserve to be studied, theorized, and understood.5 Art Selling Tips3 years ago in Personal More Like This
These are guidelines, not rules. And while most of them usually work for me, they might not all work for you, so keep in mind that my market might be different than yours. Because not only do we not draw the same, we probably have different sorts of buyers.
1. Don't stay on a book for too long
I find that doing mini series of 4-12 issues is optimal for selling art. If you spend a year doing one-shots or 2-3 issue minis, you'll be hard for buyers to keep track of because it's too infrequent. And it's hard to make an i
Why are we slower?About a month ago I finally got to meet an art hero of mine, Klaus Janson, a well known pro who's been in the industry for over 30 years. A mutual friend introduced us, and we hit it off right away. The group of us went through the Village hitting pub after pub, and soon I was drunk enough to ask Klaus something that had been bugging me.Why are we slower?3 years ago in Personal More Like This
I asked him if modern comic artists are, on average, slower than we used to be. He said yes, and I agreed.
From the Golden Age until the 80s, pencillers were generally expected to turn in at least two pages a day, while an inker was expected to turn in around 3-4. There were a handful of exceptions, I'm sure, but most of the artists could pump out pages like human printing presses. In the current comic industry, it's completely reversed: while a handful of artists can still hit this speed, the vast majority can't. Pencillers today struggle to produce a page-per-day, while inkers (those who still ink with ink) are hitting around 2.
So what happened? I'v
5 Comic Book Truths (that I don't think are true)There are lots of tips, chestnuts, and other pieces of advice that I've heard over the years--tidbits of wisdom passed on from one generation to the next, from professional to professor to prospective student. Some of them are drawing tips, some of them are tricks to dealing with publishers, and some are general guidelines on how to survive in comics. Most of them are useful and true and will stand the test of time, but a few of them have become hackneyed platitudes and have gone unquestioned for too long. Here are 5 that I'm questioning...5 Comic Book Truths (that I don't think are true)2 years ago in Personal More Like This
1. READERS WILL ONLY LOOK AT A PANEL FOR 5 SECONDS, SO DON'T SWEAT IT TOO MUCH.
I understand the intention of this bit of wisdom, and I mostly agree with it: drawing great interiors is important, but at the same time, you don't want to get bogged down with small details that most readers won't even notice.
But here's my concern with this: if you treat every panel like it's disposable, then you're less likely to make an impact with reader
No More Unauthorized ArtworkRegarding the debate of whether comic artists should continue selling unauthorized prints/sketches of characters they don't own, I think Bissette and his legal advisor are 100% correct. So from now on, I won't be doing any sketches or commissions at shows of any character that I don't own. Am I rolling over in fear of Marvel? Maybe, but as it states below, they're in their legal right to come after me if there's ever a dispute. I love to complain about the Big Two, but I can't (in good conscience) get upset at them if I'm breaking the rules myself. Being DC exclusive, maybe I can get a waiver that allows me to sketch DC characters, so I'll keep you updated.No More Unauthorized Artwork4 years ago in Personal More Like This
From Steve Bissette's FB page:
ALERT, ALL COMICS CREATORS: With permission, I'm quoting key points my dear friend and own legal advisor/contract consultant (since 1992) Jean-Marc Lofficier raised on his posts to a Yahoo forum discussing Ty Templeton's cartoon concerning the Gary
PROCRASTINATIONProcrastination... Being a sloth... it's a disease.PROCRASTINATION4 years ago in Personal More Like This
All of us struggle with it. On certain days you just don't feel like doing nothing at all. Other days you feel that you worked hard on something and that you're owed time-off for it. And there's that period where you KNOW you should've been working on something; after a lot of time have passed you eventually find yourself wondering WHY you even went along doing nothing for so long.
We're not perfect creatures, it HAPPENS.
But being a procrastinator compared to being a hard-worker is a measure of how serious you take yourself.
If you have a regular 9-5, come home whether it's a long commute or short one, and then taking care of family matters (wife, kids, or parents), it can be pretty hard to keep yourself focused. That's a valid reason for struggling trying to stay focused on a creative project. Life is hard in that aspect. You're definitely a hard-worker in that regard. If you do all that and then work your
GraysLast week when I said that I wouldn't be doing con sketches of copyrighted characters, I had no idea that the news would get the coverage that it did. But seeing as how I helped poke the hornet's nest--and having taken the time to read the opinions of readers and other artists--I feel like it would be helpful if I responded to help clarify what's been happening.Grays4 years ago in Personal More Like This
First off, I think that what happened regarding this issue highlighted the BEST of our industry. I'm thrilled with the results, although I don't find Marvel's statement reassuring (more on that later). When we learned that Marvel was pursuing the $17,000 from Friedrich, we came together as concerned professionals and fans and managed to affect the situation. Even though we disagreed, at least we weighed out the options. And we even came together to set up funding to help out Friedrich. With the use of Twitter, blogging, and proper action from the media outlets, w
HOW TO GET PUBLISHEDThis is an old piece I wrote and posted a while ago, but just recently people have been asking what my experiences were with regard to publishing and getting published - so here it is again, with a few new notes added about dA and Madefire!HOW TO GET PUBLISHED2 years ago in Personal More Like This
This is a very honest view based on 27 years experience as a writer, artist and publisher. The point here is to try to HELP you go into the business enlightened and with open-eyes, knowing what to expect. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PUT YOU OFF! However, you should know that getting into comics is NOT easy - as too many people frequently imagine - and neither is it a glamorous 'rock-star' existence. It is hard work, as are all trades, and it should be treated as such. I see too many people despondent and badly hurt by their experience, and this can be avoided if you know what you are getting into right from the outset.
Getting into comics is something a lot of people want to know how to do, but there's a lot of questions you w
Exposure, Getting Better, Having the ChopsEXPOSURE & GETTING BETTER AT WHAT YOU DOExposure, Getting Better, Having the Chops3 years ago in Personal More Like This
I'm only going off of my own personal experiences talking about these few things. (And I'm not specifically talking about ONLY dA here.) So take it with as many grains of salt as you can.
I've recently been asked questions like "How do I get people to see my work?", "Why am I not receiving commission inquiries?", "Why isn't anyone following my work?", "What can I do to get better?". Often, and I answered it before, the answer is as simple as this:
Create, as in, DRAW. PAINT. RENDER. SCULPT. You have to do develop a tolerance (or the obvious definition: LOVE) for creating if you want exposure and to get better. You have to LOVE the drawing or illustration that you HATE how it came out in the end. You have to ask yourself after every piece, what could I have done to do that differently. And you have to do this frequently.
Some folks come on the scene, post once or twice a week, and expect an audience to flock yo
Stop the perfectionismOn my Tumblr site someone asked me for some general advice for an aspiring comic creator. This is what was on my mind. Thought I'd share it here on Deviantart as well.Stop the perfectionism4 years ago in Personal More Like This
Right now all I can think of is something I've been thinking about lately. And that is the depression some of us artists get about our art. Like our expectations aren't just "My drawings need to be good!", they are "My art needs to be PERFECT."
So I would suggest always try to improve, gain confidence, but expect good/average output. Don't expect perfect art, ever. By doing this only causes you to be frustrated, which in turn causes mistakes, which pisses you off more, then you're stuck in a lame spiraling circle downward to the pathetic whiny artist. Which in turn kills your deadline. Giving yourself freedom from perfection makes drawing much easier and better art is produced and on time.
I'm currently working on this piece where it started out difficult, I had high expectations for it, I was in a bad mood, nothing was
5 Ways to Avoid Being DiminishedThere's a discussion brewing in comics about artists being more diminished as of late--that readers, reviewers, and publishers are focusing too much on writers rather than the artists who draw the book. I agree it's happening, but I'm not sure it's worth sounding an alarm over. I never felt diminished, but maybe I'm part of the exception. Maybe it's because I'm an artist and a writer.5 Ways to Avoid Being Diminished2 years ago in Personal More Like This
Either way, I do have a few thoughts on what artists can do to pull themselves out from under the rug.
1. DON'T DRAW LIKE A COG.
If you conform to a "house style", then you're at higher risk of being treated like an interchangeable cog in the comics machine. Yes, you're more likely to get consistent work, but you won't stand out as much. Therefor you'll be sought after less by big name writers, you're less likely to make a lasting impression on reviewers and readers, and you'll have a harder time getting raises (12 others draw like you and for less money).
I also suggests inking yourself if it helps. Penc
THREE TIPS FOR DRAWING CARSYou know that green ellipse tool that you bought in art school? Do you know how to use it for something other than oval shapes? Do you know what those "cross-hair" marks are for? And do you know how to use it for technically correct perspective drawings?THREE TIPS FOR DRAWING CARS2 years ago in Personal More Like This
TOO many comics artists don't, and it's driving me crazy. So instead of starting a blog that starts showing examples and naming names, I figured it was better to make a quick tutorial. And this isn't just for cars but also for guns, fire hydrants, and millions of other machined objects found in comics.
If you go through this and you're still stuck, please don't write to me. I'm happy to show you at a convention to make it clearer, but within a blog this is the best I can do. Check out "Perspective for Comic Artists by David Chelsea" for more.
Cars are a whole lot easier to draw if you know how to properly use perspective and ellipses. The more familiar you are with the math, the more fun it is to draw cars. Once I figured out th
Doomsday....sorry, you missed it.Since the concept of the Leap Year was first implemented back in 45BC, there have been about 514 of them.Doomsday....sorry, you missed it.4 years ago in Personal More Like This
Without the extra day every 4 years, we would be in 2013.
As the Mayan Calendar doesn't take leap years into account; 2012 has been and gone.
(Edit - no: I'm not smart enough to work that out myself. I read it!)
Background TipsHey all! I've gotten a few people asking me about advice for drawing backgrounds. So instead of being a true gentleman and writing each person back separately, I figure it's easier to tackle this with an nice, impersonal journal post! Maybe one day I'll shoot a tutorial or something to actually demonstrate what I'm talking about, but for now a quick list will have to do.Background Tips4 years ago in Personal More Like This
*Before I start, a quick disclaimerby no means do I have "it" figured out. My opinions on backgrounds and how to tackle them are always changing. And a lot of what I think is based on the artists on whose shoulders I stand upon. Feel free to disagree with any of this.
Remember those point-and-click adventure games from the 90s? I loved those games! Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, Flashback, Full Throttle, Space Quest, Hero Questadventure games blew me away by how beautiful, imaginative and expansi
4 Kinds of StorytellingHere's an old journal from 2010 about storytelling. Because I have a lot more readers these days, I think I'm going to start reposting some of my earlier posts for my newer audience. So for you old timers, feel free to skip.4 Kinds of Storytelling2 years ago in Personal More Like This
In full disclosure, I slightly edited this journal to make it a little more balanced (while also fixing a ton of typos).
I feel like the word "storytelling" gets thrown around a lot in our industry. Yet when I look out there at some comics, I don't always see a lot of evidence for it.
It feels like people in comics pros--myself included--often use the word only because we feel like we're supposed to. Over the years enough professionals have been accused of being poor storytellers to the degree that everyone is now afraid of being a pinup artist as opposed to a bona fide storyteller. But it's not enough just to claim you're a storyteller.
Most people reading this probably h
Comic Story Pitching TutorialsHey deviantARTers -Comic Story Pitching Tutorials3 years ago in Personal More Like This
Just as I did with my comic script writing tutorials, I thought it might be a good idea to link to my recent blog posts focused on pitching your story ideas to comic publishers.
Part 1: The Difficulty of Pitching
Part 2: Summarizing Your Ideas
Part 3: Sections of a Pitch
Part 4: Pitching Do's and Don'ts
If you found these posts helpful, feel free to let me know here (or on Twitter), share it with your friends and consider buying some of my comics to show support for me teaching you how to steal my job.
Let me know if you have any questions or comments.
Obsolete InkingLately I've been doing work for DC Direct--the wing of DC in charge of statues, toys, etc. It's been a nice break from PRJ. The money is good, and it hasn't been soulless like I imagined. Corporate gigs can go either way--sometimes they want you to do exactly what "they" want, other times they want you to do your thing unencumbered. Luckily this was the latter.Obsolete Inking4 years ago in Personal More Like This
The rates for toy designs are broken down into three parts: you get paid for the sketches, the final pencils and the inks. For this gig, the inking rate was higher than my normal inking rate. It felt good, but then I realized that 25% of my fee was for inks. And it raised an unsettled concern that's been on my mind.
How long will inkers be needed?
In the old days they needed inkers because computers weren't yet being used in print. I forget the name of the machine that preceded the scanner (process cameras?), but it was low-tech enough that i
Had the Urge...…to write this because I'm getting repeated questions that are pretty much along the same lines and rather than direct each one to my FAQ, I have a different way to answer the question, which is basically:Had the Urge...3 years ago in Personal More Like This
"Why am I not getting anywhere in my art? What can I do to get better? No one is liking my work, how can I get more people to like my work so they can pay me?"
The real question you should be asking yourselves is:
"Why am I drawing?"
I mean, I take a look all the time at people who may not be skilled or whatever, and I'm sure they don't feel the best about their work (or they may), but they always have something to say that made them feel good while drawing it. Saw a sunset beach picture earlier that someone drew/painted and of course, it's not professional-looking at all. What ringed to me was the fact that in their comments, they said they "enjoyed it and was a relaxing piece". Not complaining about how the sand looks too crappy or the colors in the s
Convention BasicsComic Cons are our bread and butter. They're how we interact with our fans, how we sell a lot of our merchandise, and how we meet with other artists. Comic Cons are fantastic... but at the same time there is a lot of unknowns and variables to contend with. I'm just going to outline a couple of things which should be common knowledge. If any artists who have attended Comic Cons want to add their own advice in the comments section, please feel free to!Convention Basics2 years ago in Personal More Like This
Make sure that you travel light. Try and fit everything you can in as small a space as possible to avoid having to pay for excess luggage. Even if you don't fly, getting around an unfamiliar city with piles of luggage will just complicate things. If the con is local, you can probably afford to have more stuff on your table. But if the con is far away, or you need to take a plane or bus, it's probably best to try and pack as light as you can while still having as much inventory as you can manage.
GREY INKIf a printed comic book is like a movie, then "original art" is the behind-the-scenes feature on the DVD. I love great comic artsometimes I love it so much that I want to see the original art so I can better understand how the artist arrived at the final product! And because I'm trained in art and do this stuff for a living, I'm probably a better "archeologist" of original art than someone who's just a reader.GREY INK4 years ago in Personal More Like This
Usage of the word "archeologist" might seem a bit grandiose, so let me explain why I chose it.
Recently I saw a special on National Geographic about Egyptian tomb robbers. Nat Geo gathered a room full of different experts to inspect how tomb robbers stole treasure from one of the great pharaohs; included were an Egyptologist, a geologist, and a cop who was familiar with modern day heisting. The entire 60 minutes were spent using their expertise to figure out the likely number of tomb robbers, the tools they used, the resources the