Tuesday, March 24, 2015
I Am A Full Time Comic Book Artist - Or Making a Living Doing What You Love
I am a full time working graphic novelist. I live in the City of Worcester Massachusetts about 40 miles outside of Boston and about a three hour drive to New York City.
That is how I make my living. I went to a variety of art schools and taken courses well into adulthood (kind of a funny word), as I feel as an artist you should always be growing, always be pushing yourself.
Look at the work of other artists but do so to get inspired. If you're feeling a sense of jealousy recognize that they have their career and you'll have yours.
I write all this for a number of reasons, first of which is I get a lot of people who I run into contact with who are certain I must have a "real" job, I assure you I do not. Let me say this again, I make a living from my art, so if you're a student or wondering if you can make a living as an artist I am here to tell you without hesitancy that you can.
I also get a lot of requests for interviews this time of year from students who need to contact a professional in the field they want to work in. The VAST majority of these are form letters, and I'm here to tell you that if you want me to bother responding you better not be sending me a letter that looks like it was written with a Mail Chimp program. I can tell generic bro.
Quote something I've worked on, or something you read about me in an interview, but don't send me the same letter you're sending to twenty other artists hoping one of us responds.
I'm writing this mainly so that if you want to interview an artist working in the profession of your choosing you can get all your info here. One easy place. Consider me interviewed. I would suggest you EMAIL me (firstname.lastname@example.org) in the oft chance your teacher checks to see if we chatted.
Here are my credentials, just to start:
Quarto Publishing, London
HOW TO DRAW SUPERHEROES
HOW TO DRAW GRAPHIC NOVELS
HOW TO DRAW SUPERNATURAL CREATURES
HOW TO DRAW ART FOR TATTOO DESIGN
McFarland Publishers, North Carolina
WEREWOLVES OF WISCONSIN
Blue Water Productions
THE MISADVENTURES OF ADAM WEST
BAGMAN AT THE WORLD'S FAIR
QUEEN OF ESCAPES
THE TRAGIC TALE OF TURKEY BOY; AN AMERICAN LOVE STORY
FLY, A TRUE STORY COMPLETELY MADE UP
MURDER THEM ALL
JERRY CLAUS; THE REVENGE OF DARK SANTA
FREEKISH BLUES with Ken Abate ongoing series
GEEKS AND GREEKS with Steve Altes
And there are more, check em out on AMAZON
My convention appearances for 2015; HEROES CON (Charlotte NC), SAN DIEGO COMIC CON (San Diego, CA), WIZARD WORLD CHICAGO, NYCC (New York, NY) and possibly Austin Texas Halloween Weekend.
I'll be returning to Japan in late Fall 2015 (my third trip) where I study Manga and techniques of the Japanese masters.
Q- How long have you been an artist?
A- As long as I can remember. Art is not a talent, it's a skill. You TRAIN yourself to get better. Think about it. In kindergarten we all draw, and no one well. We draw like Kindergarteners. Some of us stay with it, and some of us give it up. Like the violin or the guitar if you practice everyday you'll get better until you become proficient.
Imagination is another thing-- I'm not sure you can learn that-- that may be a talent.
If you're asking how long I've been a PROFESSIONAL artist? Started freelancing in 1997 part time, finally went to full time 2005, do the math kid.
Q- Have you always wanted to be an artist?
A- As a kid I wanted to be either a lawyer or a super villain. Had I not gone to public school maybe my dream could have happened and I would have been a defense attorney for the Boston Bomber-- which is essentially the two put together.
Q- Is Comic Book Art the only art you do?
A- No, I do book covers, illustration and some limited design work. I also have done paintings and gallery shows in the past and I'm still dabbling in both, but comics is my full time gig.
Q- Do you need a degree to be a comic book artist (or any kind of artist for that matter)?
A- Nope. The colleges I teach at won't like to hear that, but it's true. What you DO need is the knowledge you gain from those classes. If you can't afford school see if a college in your area allows drop ins for no credit where you can learn techniques but not earn a degree. There is no publisher or client on Earth that will ask to see your degree-- they will ask to see your portfolio. Focus on the work.
Having said all that-- that DOES NOT mean you should not study everything you can about the history of the art form you're trying to get into. I run into young artists all the time who think they know everything and have nothing to learn. That is the biggest crock of shit I've ever heard. As a real artist you are always learning.
Impressed with the work of James Jean? Look at Alphonse Mucha-- that's who inspired him. Love Mark Schultz? Look at Frank Frazetta. Discover the chain of talent and where it leads. Open your mind. You don't know anything.
Q- What's the hardest thing about being an artist?
A- The same thing that is hardest about being your own boss-- discipline. There's nobody yelling at you to get to work. You have to be self motivated otherwise you're going to miss deadlines and stop getting work, which will end your career before it even starts.
Q- I've heard you can't get published if you've never been published, so how do you break that chain?
A- Network. Get a real email address. i.e. not email@example.com -- you need an email that is both memorable and easy to spell-- I suggest your own name. You want to be taken seriously, commercial art is a business, you're asking someone to risk a lot of money on you. Do work for a small company to build your resume.
Q- So are you saying I should do free work when I'm just starting out?
A- Nope, unless that's your only choice. If you absolutely can't get hired and you like the project you'll be working on then go ahead and work for free with the idea that you'll generate countless fans from the published work. Just don't do it a lot.
Q- What is your favorite project, and what is your dream project?
A- Usually what I'm working on right now. I really enjoyed working on Freekish Blues with Ken Abate and Geeks & Greeks with Steve Altes is possibly the funniest best written script I've ever worked on.
Dream project-- I have an idea for a Batman project that requires DC to trust me with the character. I'd also love to do a fill in issue of Batman '66 and I have an absolutely GENIUS idea for an Aquaman series if they decide they want the book to sell blockbuster style.
Honestly, I don't like the lack of fun in modern comics, too dark and "edgy". Hawkeye is great, so is Captain Marvel but so much of what is coming out is like an episode of THE WALKING DEAD which is just depressing sometimes.
Q- What is your typical day like?
A- I get up between 7am-9am eat breakfast, walk the dog and then get to work. I take meal breaks with my wife (who is also an artist) and if I'm on deadline I will likely work late into the evening, go to bed and repeat the following day.
Q- Do you enjoy doing comic conventions?
A- Honestly, no. They are a lot of time away from my studio and I always feel like I could be getting so much more done if I weren't at a show, BUT I do like meeting fans and fellow artists and it's nice to see different cities. That's why I'm very selective about the shows I do.
Q- Advice for a new artist?
A- Get disciplined. Set deadlines and meet them. Communicate with your collaborators or clients especially if you're in trouble or behind. No one likes a surprised missed deadline.