- Tony Gray
Owner of GlassMonkey Studios and Artist/Writer of The Incredible Conduit
Learn more about Creating Comics Here
Pro Tips for Creators by Creators. Helping you succeed one tip at a time.
Two of the most helpful and important things I've learned over the years with regard to working as an artist in comic books and newspaper strips are these truths. - 1. Don't learn how to draw comics. Learn how to draw. If you learn, exclusively how to draw from comics you will develop many great traits from your favorite artist but also their weaknesses. To draw a figure from a comic will net a result that's far different from how you'll draw a figure from life. Backgrounds are an intrinsic element to telling a story so you'll need to be able to draw and understand how to draw cars, buildings furniture, trees...EVERYTHING, not just the human form. Comic book art is one of the last industries where an artist is allowed to let their own distinct style mark their work. If all you learn to do is draw like someone who went before you, you'll offer nothing that hasn't been offered before. Learning to 'draw' ensures that you'll develop your own artistic voice. 2. If you're attempting to break into the comic book business, remember that it's the comic book BUSINESS. It would be nice to be able to view drawing comics as a fun dream job, and it is! But to leave it at that will almost certainly lead you to making the endeavor a hobby rather than a career. The simple bottom line for a comic book publisher is to make money. Without making a sufficient return on the books that they/you publish, it becomes impossible to continue publishing more. As an artist, the most important thing you can do to keep the business machine rolling is to meet your deadlines. Every page can be made better somehow. As the illustrator, however, it's your job to produce the best pages within the set time you have to draw them. To miss your deadline means that the inker, colorist, letterer, and finally, the printer are all put behind in their schedule. Missing deadlines is the fastest way an artist can stop getting work in the industry.
- Tony Gray
Owner of GlassMonkey Studios and Artist/Writer of The Incredible Conduit
Learn more about Creating Comics Here
Never stint on your work. Every job is as important as the next one. Small or big give it everything you got. Work 24 hours a day. Learn something new every day. Wake up grateful every morning for another day.
- Greg Hildebrandt
Fantasy Illustrator and Recipient 2010 Chesley Award
Visit his Website Here
Everything about creating comics can be summed up into answering these two questions: "what do you want, and what are you willing to do to get it?"
Taken directly from Dirk Manning, easily the most successful independent creator I know, or will probably ever know. I've met many. He is successful for many reasons, but the main one being that his work ethic and passion never waver.
I remember when I was beginning on this path and I had interviewed him with my partner Michelle Gallagher on our podcast, he said that quote. Really, he's right. Creating comics requires a lot of sacrifice. Rarely does anyone "make money" in this industry. Everything goes right back into the books and paying the creative team for their work. You give up your days off to work on your book, you skip buying the latest in video games to pay your artist, you will lose sleep, you will lose money, and you may go a little mad in the process... But, it IS worth it. To have your name on the cover of something you can call your own. To have your creation brought to life and others reading it. It's incredible.
But you have to put the work in. You can have all of the passion and desire in the world, but if you don't apply yourself- it'll never happen. So again, (once more with feeling) ask yourself, "What do I want? What am I willing to do to get it?"
- Crystal O'Rourke
The Indie Huntress at TheOuthousers.com
View Crystal's Blog Here
Don't give up. The business you have chosen to enter is a tough one, and you will face setbacks, even after you have 'made it'. But there is nothing more rewarding than working in this field. The journey is a beast, but the final destination is paradise.
Also, along the way, you will get a helping hand now and then. Some one will see greatness in you and decide you're worth giving a boost to. It may be a recommendation for a job, head's up about an assignment or just some much needed words of encouragement. When the time comes for you to help some other struggling creator, pay it forward.
- Dan Johnson
Dennis the Menace Writer
Visit Dan's Cemetery Plots Page Here
Never be afraid to try new materials. Cosplay doesn't have to be expensive, it just has to be fun! YouTube knows all, if you are feeling stuck in a creative rut or wanting to learn a new skill, there will surely be a video on Youtube to inspire you! Explore!
- Kristi Kai
Touring Cosplay Artist
Visit Kristi's Cosplay Page
A lot of artists/writers ask me how to be successful in the comic book industry which is known for breaking the morale, spirit, and bank account of many an aspiring talent.
Heres the secret: work hard and smart, lol!
- RAK (Robert A. Kraus)
Creator of Chakan and owner of RAK Graphics
Visit the Official RAK Graphics Site Here
My work usually starts with a very detailed drawing done with an "H" pencil on illustration board. I use model references to maintain accuracy when drawing the subject. I do all my creative work at this point, because once the painting starts, it becomes difficult to make major changes. I map out all details with the design and composition, which leaves me to deal only with color in the painting phase.
The painting is done by lightly layering airbrush paint over the finished drawing. I go slowly and in light layers to allow for easier erasing techniques. I use a variety of erasers to bring back highlights by removing the paint layer in the highlighted areas. I then airbrush over it again to add another layer to create depth.
Colored pencils are used in the deeper, or, more detailed areas for depth and control. I use erasers to bring back as many highlights as possible, but typically finish a painting with some black and white tube acrylics to create the darkest and lightest areas.
~ Michael Calandra
Fantasy Illustrator & Multi Heavy Metal Cover Artist
Calandra Studio Website
Words cannot express the importance of putting together a solid, dependable and timely team for your next comic project.
Putting together the wrong team will cost you thousands of dollars, months of delays and will funk your vibe. What does all this mean. Don't you dare, for one moment, get ahead of yourself.
Please, learn from my mistakes. If you jump to conclusions, if you don't do your due diligence and if you get overly excited; your are setting yourself and your project up for certain disaster.
I cannot stress enough how forcing a square peg into a circular whole can derail your dreams of the next big thing.
A lot of this will come from experience and self reflection, but more often than not, if you are working with amateur or semi-professional talent, there are many road bumps you can avoid by heeding my advice.
No matter what world you're coming from, be it writer, artist, editor, inker, or colorist, please be certain that your temperament is a good fit with your collaborative partners. If you say the wrong thing to your cohorts you are likely to send your project spiraling into the abyss of unfinished, unpublished work. And that's just one of the potential snafu's of getting your independent comic book off the ground, especially if you are talking about more than a single issue. Trust that you have to vibe well with your team before even stepping foot in the creative arena.
There's no secret to what separates those that do and those that do well.
For those of you that may have guessed, you're correct, that secret ingredient is passion.
I can't tell you how many times I've been through the halls or aisles of a convention and seen a mix of exuberation and lament. And yes, you may have guessed as well, those that were demonstrating joy and a grin from ear to ear were benefitting from a successful show. And, more often than not, those that were in the throws of despair, were probably losing their shorts at that very same show.
So that got me to thinking, how can someone seated just across the row from another creator have a night and day difference as to the success they were experiencing at the show. The answer came easy. You either believe in what you are doing, happy with what you are doing, and finding the path of least resistance, or, you are struggling every step of the way, still searching for confidence, and a reason to continue the fight.
Let's make it simple. If you want to operate in a very difficult and congested arena of comic books, you must have a passion or the art form. No amount of talent will help you sell your book to a new reader face to face if you don't even believe in it yourself. No amount of value will sell your book more than a smile and a lot of enthusiasm.
I've heard countless times from colleagues how they avoid artist alley like the plague at shows because they feel like it's a pseudo 'beggar's row'. And surely not to discredit any of the hard workers in the industry or the selfless hours we pour into our craft. But this is the fan's perception. So what do we do to change this? We put on our happy faces, our happy feet, and pull out the spirit hands.
At the end of the day we need to sell a print or a comic book to get one step closer to our goal, whatever it may be. So why not take the very best shot at doing so as we can.
We aren't selling 32 pages of paper, no, we are selling much more than that. We are selling a piece of our heart, of our passion, of our lives, bound between two covers. And we need to demonstrate that value to our potential readers. Imagine how much more likely someone is to buy your independent title the next time they see an enthusiastic, passionate you at your convention table, with excitement pouring from your ears because you are so passionate about the story or the art you are creating and can't wait to share it with the world. Imagine the perceived value they are receiving when they realize the hundreds and hundreds of hours you selflessly poured into your project, to create the very best end result.
Now that's an invaluable proposition!
So you think you can publish a regular comic book? Monthly? Bi-Monthly? Quarterly?
Have you ever sat down to actually produce such a body of work, with the quality it deserves? No?
Chances are, unless you've been in the industry working as a professional, or you draw a sizable salary from comic creating, you are going to want to rethink this formula.
Being an independent creator takes a big leap of faith and a large time commitment.
One thing is sure to save you many headaches, broken promises, extended deadlines, and a waning fan base.
Momentum plays a large role in getting independent books to market. An average 24 page comic book can take 8-12 hours of scripting, 48-72 hours of illustration, 4-6 hours for lettering, 4-6 hours for layout and design, and that's just the beginning. If you are like the rest of us, you will invest your heart, sole, and some savings into getting your brain child into the marketplace. You'll invest hundreds of dollars in displays, public appearances, and print costs. Not to mention the literal hundreds of hours that you will invest in marketing the book and getting it into the public eye. So why waste all of these resources?
Once you have momentum, you have to keep it, to harness it, and to grow it. But, if you are like most of us, you've wanted to unleash your baby on the world before it was ready. So you went ahead and eked out 24 pages of story, art, and lettering; maybe even had it colored. And then you published it. And when the copies didn't sell hand over fist you got demoralized. Or maybe you did sell out, but couldn't keep up with the fan demand asking when the next issue would be out, because you never accounted for how many sleepless hours would be spent promoting your child.
So Pro Tip #1 - Always work ahead of your production schedule and have a finite story arc for your first indie endeavor. I would recommend a 4 issue mini-series or less, or even a one-shot. Something that you can display a full story, done in one. You won't keep fans wanting more this way, and you won't allow fans to forget about when your next issue will come out. You also won't disappoint them when you can't keep your all-too hopeful production schedule on target. If you are working on a 4 issue series have 2 or 3 complete issues done. If you are working on a graphic novel, wait until you are 3/4 of the way through.
Sure, Kickstarter and other such tools are a great way to allow you to get some attention, but if you aren't doing everything right, chances are you'll fizzle before you rocket.
Good luck, and keep plugging away, there is a light at the end of the tunnel!