Tools of the Trade.
I noticed that the same questions seem to pop up so I thought I'd save myself a couple minutes in the future by answering some of them here. Also if there are any more questions that pop up feel free to ask it here and I'll added it to the questionnaire. Anyways on with it.
1. What kind of paper do you use?
I either use the DC supplied art board smooth finish, but since I've started inking my own work with the washes I've been using Canson 14x17 Bristol with the Smooth finish. It comes in a pad which contains 15 pages [link]
. I usually rule out the page to 11.5 x 17. I use the extra space on the side to do ink tests and run my brush and washes.
2. What kind of pencil do you use?
I use a .05 staedtler mechanical pencil with an HB lead. [link]
I also use a kneaded eraser [link]
to lightly erase my roughs but it leaves enough there so I can see all my under drawings which gives the perception of "clean" pages. I also use Tuff Stuff erasers which have a nice point to it which enables me to erase little details [link]
3. What tools do you use to ink?
I use an Escoda Series 1462 Rounds #2 brush. [link]
I also use Black Gold Brushes [link]
size 3 for inking and 5-6 and up for washes. For the washes I'm not too particular with the brush any cheap watercolor brush higher than a 5-6 will do. I find that the Escoda Series Brushes last much much longer than the Black Gold brushes for inking so I've been using those more often. They tend to be more expensive than the Black Gold Brushes but if you have a Curry's art store near you it's actually quite cheap! Almost the same price as the Black Gold with only a dollar or two difference. I think I get for around 6-7 bucks. I also use Sharpie Peel off China Markers for that dry brush effect look. I'm not that confident yet doing real dry brush and I find China Markers are able to do a somewhat similar effect thats much easier to control [link]
. And lastly to add highlights and for corrections I usually use Rapidograph White ink [link]
but for some reason the new batch that I got was very transparent and not as opaque as I'd like it to be. So I started mixing it with Liquitex Acrylic Ink Titanium white [link]
and it seems to do the trick. I use a brush to apply the white ink, I usually just get a cheap brush for this since the white ink tends to clump up. I also use Faber-Castell Pitt pens in "s" size as well as my Rapidographs for other odds and ends.
4. Computer stuff?
I use an iMac 24' [link]
computer but I still use a Logitech wireless mouse. I hate those one button mac mouses...but I love macs... I have a pretty cheap scanner probably the cheapest large format scanner you can find, the Mustek Scan Express A3 is discontinued but can be found on ebay (which is where I bought mine from) or now Amazon as well [link]
It's a fairly old scanner but it works just fine for me. If you're running a mac OSX or higher over at Steve Lieber's site he posted a detailed description of how to make it work and where to get the drivers [link]
. I basically followed the steps and it worked for me! But don't blame me if it doesn't work for you, I'm not a big computer person so I was elated to get this thing working the first try. I use CS4, and Corel Painter X for computer art stuff.
5. At what age did you get into the business and how?
I had my first printed work when I was 18, but I'd been showing my portfolio at local conventions since I was 16. I did it for free just so I can say I was published. It was a book called Love in Tights [link]
(yes I drew that crappy image in the circle) which was written by my friend J. Torres [link]
. I did I believe either a 4 or 6 page short story . We later collaborated for more free work on a book called Monster Fighers Inc. Christmas Special [link]
which was my first full comic. At this point J. myself, and a bunch of other local aspiring artist started hitting US conventions to show our portfolio which lead me to Top Cow. I started working for Top cow when I was 19, but my first work for them actually never hit the comic stores, it was these small comic inserts in a toy called Shogun Racers. They asked me if I could draw cars (which I couldn't at that point) and if I could finish it in a week and half. I think it was around 24 pages or so that I had to do. It was the most intense week and half ever I remember literally not sleeping for 3 days straight to get it done. I would take 15 mins power naps. At this time I didn't have what is now called "the internet" so reference was hard to come by and I had to buy a wack load of car magazines. Needless to say I got the job done but it wasn't good enough to get me into the main Top Cow books. But it did establish a good relationship with Frank Mastromauro (who continues to be one of my best friends in the industry) so I just kept bugging him at cons and showing him new samples which lead to Fear Effect Retro Helix from Top Cow which was my first "real" full comic book, and I got paid for it and everything! Best advice I could give is to keep hitting conventions with your portfolio and try to establish connections with editors. Of course now it's different you can have an online portfolio and get noticed, but back in those days I didn't even know what email was. The rest as they say is history.
6. How do you prepare a portfolio?
It's really important that you have sequential art work in your portfolio. It's really hard to get hired based on pin ups unless you're so spectacular they hire you as a cover artist. But those tend to happen for painters and digital artists. Anyways if you want to do comics, sequentials is a must. What I did was prepare 3 sets of sequentials which consisted of 3-4 pages each. So that's a total of 9-12 pages. I also added pin ups and stuff like that at the back. I tried to show as much diversity in the sequence to show I can draw everyday normal things. I also suggest putting your best set of pages at the front and your second best last. Usually editors can tell right away whether you have what they are looking for in the first few pages. The rest of the portfolio is mostly just to show consistency and work ethic. I don't think its necessary to have an abundance of pages, at this point you're trying to impress so I suggest quality over volume. That said I'd try to aim for 2-3 sets of short sequential pages. Also make sure to make lots of photocopies of your portfolio and staple them together the same as you would present them (best at the front second best at the back and pin ups and odds and ends at the very back) and make sure to print your name and all your contact info at the back of each page. Have these packages ready to give to the editors after a review or if they don't have time to do a review you can simply give it to them. Like I said make lots of copies and try to give them to as many editors as you can, from big to small companies a like. Using the net to show your art is also a fantastic tool to get your work seen and out there. Sites like DevaintArt and having a Blog site are quite useful along with other online artist community sites. And lastly make sure to have a business card you can easily hand to editors and potential clients.
7. Do the big two even look at samples anymore?
Someone brought up a good point that the big two may not be likely to look at your sample packets these days, and he's not totally wrong about this. Having gone to many conventions and handing out many packets it can be very discouraging. However you just gotta stick to it. I found that the best thing to do is to just get your work out there and in my case it was getting myself published regardless of how small the company was, even if it was working for free, which pretty much all of them were. Having these smaller books under my belt I was able to not only give a sample packet of my art I was able to give them an actual printed comic. I know it sounds kinda odd that in order to get published from the big two you have to be published somewhere else. My suggestion would be to try and get some sort of gig with a smaller company and work your way up to the big two. It's kinda like if you were a band playing as many dark dingy bars as you can, but make sure to have those burned cd's to sell at the end of the show. You never know who's listening or where that disc will end up. Another thing you can do is partner up with an aspiring writer and pitch to smaller companies which is what J. and I often did. This is very advantageous to both the writer (he gets to show his story visually which is much easier for editors to see, and you the artist get to hone your storytelling craft). Whether it gets picked up or not is a moot point since you're constantly improving your work by doing rather than sitting on the sidelines and hoping. Also with the internet you're not limited to the print medium. Get your work on line, create a blog, an online comic and so forth. The thing about this industry is that you have to be really proactive and explore all avenues which will get your work out there and seen. I'm not saying this will work for everyone, but I can only preach what worked for me. Everyone will have a different story of how they broke in. Again I mean all of this with the best intentions of helping out aspiring artists. Anyways all the best and good luck, it's not easy but it's damn worth it I swear!
that's it for now. if you folks have any additional questions just reply below and I'll try to add it to this list. Also I don't endorse any of these sites, I was adding links so that you you can simply identify the item if you choose to search for it at your local art stores.