ANDY FISH is a comic book artist

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Graduating Art School Students Advice

I miss my days teaching at Mass College of Art.
There's an energy to art school that is unlike any other institution.  While I know we're a month out from Graduation I also know that this is crunch time for final projects and many of those graduating seniors are now realizing they have to put all they've learned into practice and hopefully start making a living.

I was often referred to as Obi-Wan, for my straightforward sage advice on this subject, and since I'm no longer there to offer these words in person, here are my thoughts and suggestions.

If you're good at something and you want to be a professional, never work for free.
Free is okay if it's YOUR project.
Free is okay if YOU are the OWNER of this idea, if YOU are the one who will profit from any success of said project.

1. Make a list of the companies you want to work with.  Break them down into categories A, B and C.
A- The companies you would sell your grandmother to work for.
B- The companies you hear good things about, but you don't know much about them.
C- The companies that might hire you so you can pay some bills.

Do some recon.
You need names and contact information.
You can get the art director name and mailing address of the companies from the masthead of any publications they do, or from their website.
For the A Companies I would even go so far as to call the company and ask if so and so is still the art director.

Its critically important that your packages go to a named person, and not submissions editor or something like that.  You want these to be seen.  If your contact is an editor- send it to his or her assistant.  You have a better chance of striking up a relationship with an assistant, and they dont' get a lot of personally addressed mail.

2. If you haven't already done so, design yourself a killer business card.  Google examples of good cards.  I often collect well designed cards I find in public, and I have a file of great designs to use as reference.  Design your card and have it printed at Overnight prints they do great work, offer low prices and high quality cards.  You can even do fancy things like spot gloss.  YOU MUST HAVE A PROFESSIONAL BUSINESS CARD.  Do not print out cards yourself, its like cutting your own hair. YOU might think it looks good, but everyone else doesn't.

3. Prepare your samples.
In this modern digital age more and more companies want to see an online presence and are less interested in hard copies, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't do them for the A group.

Go to Staples or the like and get yourself an 8.5x11 project cover-- the kind you can put three ring bound paper in.  The best ones for this have a clear cover so you can see the first page.If you don't have a three ring hole punch now would be a good time to get one.

Get some Hammermill or HP High Quality paper-- bright white, 32lbs.  Its going to cost you between $8-$15 for a ream of 500 sheets, but it will be worth it.

4. Print out your ten best pieces on the bright paper.  Make them about 4x6 or 5x7 on the page.  A border around them is good.  You want to give the eye the chance to take the image in.  If you can prepare the images with a title and medium underneath it that is good too.

Portfolio Example
Notice the four lines under the image:

The lines are all flush right to the edge of the image.  The font is pretty straightforward.
Use this same format for every page.
The art directors will want to know the size and medium used, that makes a difference when you are trying to judge a piece's merits.

5. Go through the prints and decide what the four absolute strongest pieces are, and YOUR absolute favorite-- a piece that you consider your signature piece.
Be honest in your evaluation.  Are all of the pieces you are presenting professional?
Can you imagine them being printed in magazines or as book covers?

If the answer to any of them is no, eliminate it, choose another piece, make another piece to replace it if you have to.

6. Hole punch them.  Make sure the holes line up through all ten pages.
PUT your absolute favorite piece first.  That should start the presentation.
The second piece should also be a favorite, as should the last two pages.  You want to start strong and end strong.

The dead last page should be your business card mounted in the middle of the page-- not a print out of your business card, an actual card mounted with those glue dots in the middle of the last page.  That way if they like what they see they can pull the card off and stick it in their file of freelancers.

7. Print your resume on the same high quality paper.  Include a CVA of any gallery shows or published work you've done, hole punch that too.  Put that in as the next to last page.

8. Write a cover letter addressed to that contact person you got in your recon mission in section 2 above.  Explain briefly who you are and what you are hoping to do.  Write it in professional business language-- if you don't know what that looks like follow this.

April 17, 2013

Steve Leiber
Assistant to Stan Lee
Marvel Comics Group
575 Madison Avenue South
New York City, NY 10010

Dear Mr. Leiber;
I am a recent graduate of Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston and have just embarked on a freelance art career.  Enclosed are a resume and samples of my work as a sequential artist and some potential cover designs too.  I've exhibited my work publicly at several group shows in Cambridge and Boston and am currently in talks to show in New York as well.

In addition my work has been published in The Boston Weekly Dig, Pet Journal Monthly and Operation Hunger where I've worked closely with editorial departments and I'm proud to say I've never missed a deadline.

As a lifetime fan of Marvel Comics I'd love the opportunity to help carry the torch for some of your stable of characters who are so real to so many fans.  I would be happy to show you additional samples or discuss any possible needs you may have.

Please contact me either at my cell phone or email address below.
Yours Truly,

Jimmy Pottlebutts
263 Massachusetts Avenue
Allston Ma, 01578


Please note a couple of things that are important.
Always address to whom its going to at the top, and your name and full contact info at the bottom.

Your contact info, especially your email has to be professional. is going to paint you as an immature crackpot.

Remember you are asking someone to HIRE you.  To put MONEY up and take a chance on you.
So if you don't have one already, get a real email address, one that has your name.

I don't like gmail, but it's the best option if you can't afford your own personal email tied to your website.

And as an aside, you can register a domain name for about $10 a year and buy an email account to go with it for about the same price.  GoDaddy has a pretty simple structure to help you do this, and they actually answer the phone if you call.  I use them for several websites I have and I recommend them.

In the body of the letter you should mention something SPECIFIC to the company that relates to what they do.  This shows its not a form letter you're sending out to everyone (you can do a form type letter for the companies that fall into category C).

9. Take the packages and put them in manilla envelopes, address them to the person your cover letter is written to-- if you want to doodle something on the envelope that can work, but don't go crazy.  Mailing them first class should only cost a few dollars.  If you want the samples returned include a self addressed stamped envelope with it, but really do you want them back?  They will likely be a bit used looking when and if they do come back.

10.  Sit back and wait.  In the meanwhile work on a project you've always wanted to work on for yourself.  Give it 10 days or so and if you're up for it call the A list people you mailed the packages to as a follow up.  Its not required, and if you aren't a phone person don't do it.  If they're interested they'll contact you.

If you don't hear back or get rejection letters keep making more work and do the whole process over again.

Good luck!