The Detrimental AweThanks for the ideas everyone! Here's the post many of you requested...
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 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 Write2 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
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 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 Tips2 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
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%3 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)2 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 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 Diminished1 year 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
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.5 Year Plan3 years ago in Personal More Like This
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
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.Grays3 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
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 Artwork3 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
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 Levels3 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.
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
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)1 year 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
5 Career Killers“Whatever happened to that guy? The guy that drew that thing?5 Career Killers4 months ago in Personal More Like This
Comic careers are like any other career in entertainment: if you don't stay relevant and adapt to a trend, you'll eventually peak and then bottom out. But there are more things that can help end a career. Here's a list of 5 that I've been thinking about lately.
1. SOCIAL MEDIA TAKE-DOWN
The creator does something that somehow goes viral, turning his (or her) readers against him. Bad behavior at a convention, sexual harassment online, or a semi-racist Tweet made worse by bumbling attempts to correct it. Or maybe the creator gets blamed for something innocent: innocent comments taken out of context, or involvement in a controversial project that he had no say over. Whatever the case, “social media take-downs” can harm careers, leaving a permanent black mark on your career.
I imagine this one is the most common: no matter how hard you work—and no matter how much a
PROCRASTINATIONProcrastination... Being a sloth... it's a disease.PROCRASTINATION3 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
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
Creators Rights at ConventionsConventions have become big business in the last few years. More shows keep popping up, attendance keeps rising, and there's more money than ever being passed around as comics continue to merge with pop culture/big media/corporate sponsorships into what I've been calling Supershows.Creators Rights at Conventions1 month ago in Personal More Like This
For the most part, I think this is a great thing for the creators and our industry. While a few might miff at the thought of comics being intruded upon by other industries, it means more chances for starving artists to make money, more money for commissions and prints, and chances to travel to exotic locations that were never previously on our agenda.
More and more frequently, creators are being lured to shows all over the world with travel costs (at least partially) comped. When they arrive, they'll be met by capable handlers, lines of cheering fans, and fancy parties while they're given the brief whiff of stardom that's usually reserved for Mick Jagger.
But not always.
While many of my pro friends are ete
Fiction.How redundant is it pointing out these following statements?Fiction.2 years ago in Personal More Like This
There's no such thing as a gigantic mechanical robot fighting off alien monsters. There has never been a report of a man being bitten by a radioactive spider and becoming a hero. You can't summon a mini-tornado at your own beck-n-call, don't matter how much into the occult you are. The odds of a young male teenager having a harem of sexy girls at his every turn is nil. There aren't bipeds of animals that are supposed to be quadrupeds flying spaceships in the galaxy above us. You can't legally hunt and catch thousands of different animals and use them to protect you from other animals and people in a sports-like venue. You can't eat a flower and ignite fire from your hands.
I can go on and on... this journal is probably being expressed because of recent built-up distaste for people bullying others because of what they like when it comes to fiction.
Just to reestablish what it even means, here it is, straight
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...2 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
Some more tips to FreelancingJust over a year ago, I compiled a small list of things you need to get started as a Freelance artist.Some more tips to Freelancing1 year ago in Personal More Like This
Let's accelerate a little bit, and assume that now you're in the business and have a pretty good groove going. While the core principles are still paramount to anything else, here are some quick one-shot tidbits of information that will assuredly save your bacon.
Back up everything, including the backups.
When working digitally, it's so easy to accidentally delete something off your hard drive and be unable to get it back. I've done this a few times myself. Even had entire hard drives fail on me. But it has been a very, very long time since the last time I had to redo an image from the start. Sure, I've had crashes that put me back an hour, I've merged layers together in a manner that ruins my work flow and makes the file unusable. But fixing these issues isn't nearly as painful
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
MotivationMotivation to achieve your goals in life comes in many forms. I decided to take a look at some of mine throughout my life. Keep reading if you care to learn my deep dark secrets [ ultimately you can use them against me later in life when I'm weak and defenseless. ]Motivation2 years ago in Personal More Like This
When I was a kid I wanted to be just like my father. He passed away when I was 28 but man he left a mark! By the time I was a teenager I was a lot to handle - so we hardly ever saw eye to eye. He was a tough and talented man. To me he was like a super hero. He had a very black and white philosophy about life. He defined right and wrong very distinctly - there was no grey in his world. As a kid, a philosophy like that makes complete sense even if it isn't very realistic. He was a former pro boxer turned commercial artist. Eventually he ran his own ad agency. He could play guitar and piano by ear and played baseball as often as he could. He also loved comi
average pay rates for comic book artists:"Generally, the good graphic novels fetch $100 - $300 per page, although professionals who have been in the industry for a long time can command as much as three times that amount. In fact, one elite illustrator commanded as much as $1,000 a page (on a 22-page comic book)! Most of the popular titles that artists, like David Cassaday, work on are monthly issues, which end up providing him with a six-figure salary. The back-end royalties on merchandise, trade paperbacks and movie royalties are also generous."average pay rates for comic book artists:2 years ago in Personal More Like This
"In 2008, Sean Jordan, founder of Army Ant Publishing, claimed established freelance comic book artists were paid anywhere from $220 to $4,400 per book project, which breaks down to $10 to $200 per page. Pencil and inker artists can ask for $75 to $200 a page. Colorists often fall in the range of $35 to $125, and writers and letterers make $10 to $50 a page. A lucky few dozen famous artists working for to
GET OVER YOURSELF!Oh, before I begin:GET OVER YOURSELF!3 years ago in Personal More Like This
If anyone know any fantastic 3D Zbrush (and Maya, though the originality in Maya is hard to find these days; everyone's building off of stock models) modelers, please let me know. I'm looking to hire a peep for some Rat Rage prototypes for figures in the near future. They have to be good with catching the original art exceedingly well, as well as astounding anatomy work. THANKS IN ADVANCE.
Also, I'm working my new gig + Rat Rage + miscellaneous. Haven't sent ALL of the commissions out yet, but they are definitely on their way. Had to begin the new gig earlier than I thought.
GET OVER YOURSELF!
Sometimes it's good to give yourself a pat on the back for your accomplishments. When you get done with a piece that you poured blood, sweat, tears, saliva, and urine in, you feel like you can throw the whole planet of Earth into a different galaxy. Those are very natural feelings. You have a right to be proud of yourself for what you've done.
But pride is an
DO YOU KNOW THESE ARTISTS?It's been a while since i've shared some of my favorite deviants. Here's a list of talent that some of you may or may not be aware of that i've been drooling over lately. I love this place!DO YOU KNOW THESE ARTISTS?2 years ago in Personal More Like This
Check 'em out!:
:iconmonk-art: Fabian Schlaga. LEGEND. If you haven't heard of this guy, you're missing out!
:iconsaspy: Saspy's work is amazing. The female mega-talent from Italy shows no sign of slowing down with her bright and fun approaches to character design, expressions and energy.
:iconjoel27: Joel is currently my FAVORITE ARTIST on Deviantart. Just flip through his gallery and you might find yourself there all day.
:icontchokun: French Artist who worked on online games and flash shorts such as WAKFU is not to be missed. serious talent here
:iconrikkitikki: Rikkitikki's light hearted animation influence illustrations are something to fall in love with. He's got a detective concept he's been playing with that shows the main characters quite often and i usually fave when he draws th