Comic Book Artist Job Description:
It's my job to really bring the story to life. I'm given a script, similar to a movie script, and it's my responsibility to take the story and create something visual that readers can enjoy. In a sense, I'm a movie director, but it's film on paper. As the lead artist, you're responsible for scene, setting, lighting, costume, acting, etc.
My specific tasks vary. Often times I'm hired to pencil, ink, and digitally color an entire issue myself. Other times I'm asked to only pencil or digitally color a story. Being skilled in each area will enhance your chances of landing jobs and getting repeat customers.
Can you tell us about becoming a comic book artist?
I've been drawing since I was a child. I have memories of wanting to be a paleontologist in grade school... pretty ambitious for a grade schooler, I know, but I loved dinosaurs. What child doesn't? I picked up a "How to Draw Dinosaurs" book from a book fair one year. I began drawing each and every dinosaur in the book, sometimes more than once.
I soon discovered that I enjoyed drawing even more than I enjoyed dinosaurs. From that point on, I wanted to be the best artist possible. I pursued art through high school, which led me to pursue art in college. It wasn't until I was in college that I really became interested in being a comic book artist.
I've always read comics, the classics, such as Batman, X-Men, etc., but I had fallen out of the habit of reading comics. One day, probably for the nostalgia of it, I decided to stop in a comic book shop. I became excited to see that comics had really begun to change and become diverse. I remember being drawn to one artist's work in particular, Humberto Ramos.
He had a very dynamic, energetic and cartoony style that got me excited. I began studying comics again; drawing my own every chance I had, all the while going to college full time. My passion for comics helped me teach myself Adobe Photoshop, angles and much more, so that when it came time to learn these tasks in college, I was already ahead of the game.
My junior year in college, a friend and myself planned a trip to the San Diego Comic Convention. We both loved comics, and we wanted to work in the industry more than life itself, so we set out for San Diego. We showed our portfolios to anyone and everyone who would look at them.
I ended up meeting up with Disney and Ape Entertainment at the convention, and that led to my work on "Pirates of the Caribbean" and "Go-Go Gorilla and the Jungle Crew." I owe so much of my present day connection to Ape Entertainment.
David Hedgecock, Brent Erwin and Mike Hall, the founders of Ape, really took me under their wing and helped me out at every chance. From that point on, it's been kind of natural. I work on a book, finish it, then I find work from another source and/or repeat customers.
Are there humorous moments during the adventures of a comic book artist?
I'd say life as a comic book artist is pretty much a humorous moment all in itself. There are a lot of memorable moments and perks to being a comic book artist. I've been fortunate enough to meet a lot of celebrities at conventions. I was able to meet Rob Zombie, a big inspiration of mine.
I seem to have a knack for running into celebrities in the restroom as well, so my friends joke with me about that a lot. I met Keanu Reeves one year in SDCC, which eventually led to the opening conversation that I had with my present day wife.
Any advice on how to be a comic book artist?
I know a lot of people say this, BUT persistence truly is key. If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Never give up. What one editor doesn't like, the next might think is gold. Also, never let yourself be taken advantage of. Never work for free. Always require pay, never work on the promise of pay if profits are met.
When I first started, I would keep my price lower than maybe I should, but if you're going to make a living, you have to stand up for yourself and be a great agent for your work. Be proud and confident in what you do. They need your services, and you just need to decide who is lucky enough to receive those services.
Not to sound pompous or conceited, just be confident in your work. Remain humble at the same time. You never know who you'll meet in the industry and who will be working for which company down the line. Don't burn bridges.
What is the job outlook for those interested in becoming a comic book artist?
With the surge in comic book movies, I would say comic books are as well off as ever. I think, so long as there is entertainment, there will be a spot for comic books. Hollywood loves them, and the die hard fans love them.
Comic books can appeal to so many ages and demographics, I don't think they'll ever go away. Webcomics seem to be the wave of the future, so while they may adapt and change, there will always be a job market for comic book artists.
What factors can affect a comic book artist salary or comic book artist's page rates?
Your work experience, skill level and connections are the biggest factors on your payscale, in my opinion. They say it's all about who you know, but I would say that's half true. Certainly having connections and knowing people for bigger companies will earn you more pay, but if you don't deliver as an artist, it doesn't matter if you're best friends with Stan Lee. Experience is key, because the more you know, and the better you are, the more in demand your work becomes. Then you can ask more for your work than a first year rookie.
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