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Author Topic: User Submission: Turning Art from Hobby to Profession: Part 1 The Basics  (Read 3217 times)

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Offline Rob

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Todays article was written by Keith W; aka verias here on the site. Kieth is the artist for Mysteries of the Arcana. This article was originally written for and published at Moonhawk Studios Presents and is republished here with permission from the author and artists. With the exception of some minor editing for links and layout the article has been published in its original format.

Turning Art from Hobby to Profession: Part 1 The Basics

So, as promised, I'm going to impart, hopefully, some of my experiences and knowledge to you guys on what you can do to ease your drawing desires from a hobby to an actual income making job.

I am going to start out by saying, if you're hoping that someone here is going to teach you -how- to draw... you're in the wrong place, there are tons of books on the subject, which I will include at relevant points.

However, I will cover some niches that I found myself, on how to make large leaps of progression in self-improvement.

With that out of the way, let's begin.

Part 1: The Basics

Before deciding you want to make money with your art, you need to establish a few things.

1. Where your strengths are.

What I mean is simple. Just because you can do something like this:


Doesn't mean you can do this:


The two referenced images are from

a) Ivan Flores ("transfuse" on DeviantArt, and Crimsonjassic.com) and

b) my own work on Mysteries of the Arcana.

By no means am I bagging on Ivan either. He is an extremely talented artist, and no doubt capable of beautiful work. Personally I've never seen sequential pieces by him, which leans toward my point. I'm not saying he can't do it, I'm just saying that I've not seen them. The man definitely knows his strengths.

Understanding composition, value, and lighting is not the same thing as understanding visual flow, and story progression.

Know your strengths, and then identify your weaknesses. Don't think that drawing gorgeous pinups will land you a comic job, and vice versa. Once you're honest with yourself here, you can then begin to build from your weaknesses and expand what you are capable of doing professionally.

2. What type of work you want to do.

After establishing point 1, you might find point 2 narrowed a bit, but don't let that diminish your motivation to improve. Working as a pinup artist is a great thing, and it also lends itself well to conceptual design and cover designs. There are a multitude of writers, companies, and the like that look specifically for a strong visual style for establishing character concepts that they can then present to their sequential artists later. Having a firm design allows for strong consistency in their works no matter who the final artist is.

Inversely, working as a sequential artist has both boons and banes as well. Before diving into looking for a sequential art job, ask yourself a few things.

a) What's your primary motivation?

The more you know about what and why you want to draw a story, the easier it will be to identify "compatible" work. What I mean here is simple. Don't just grab at a job because it pays $60 a page. If you aren't enamored with the subject matter, or find it boring, no amount of money will get you to produce quality work regularly. It also tends to get you burned out much quicker.

So, find something you're passionate about, and work with that.

b) Can you produce quality work consistently?

What this means, is simply what it says. If you've done your comic work as a hobby up until now, don't simply assume you can do it, because you believe you can. Test yourself.

One really good way of doing this, is to set aside 2 full weeks of time. From Monday through Friday, complete at minimum, 1 full page of comic, to your specified finishing point (be it final pencils, inks, or colors). Do this across the two week period, with your weekends being your offtime. And don't cheat yourself. Make sure each page is the quality you would be proud to see distributed professionally.
This example works well, as print books that are done in issues are usually 22-24 pages, and if you're capable of producing about 1.5 pages a day, then you will have weekends off.

Now, the dreaded topic of portfolio.

Building a portfolio is a great way to help land a paying job, but it can also stab you in the foot if you aren't careful. When selecting your portfolio pieces, it's easy to immediately want to grab your most visually appealing works.

There are a few things to keep in mind before you start doing that.

Firstly, choose work that represents your current skill level. It is possible for artists to backslide, it happens, and if you do, don't think nabbing your higher quality work from a year or two ago will hide that once you start putting pencil to paper. If you've slid back a bit, then take some time and push yourself back to a strong point before sending out portfolio work.

Secondly, and this is the one that can really trap some artists. Submitting your "best" work is not always the best idea. Examine the works you're going to submit, particularly your sequential images. If you have a beautiful comic page and want to show it, make sure to note to yourself how long it took you to complete the piece. Citing the "two week" rule from above, don't show off a page that took you two weeks to complete. This traps some artists because they show such beautiful work, but then cannot replicate the results in a timely fashion.

Lastly, before submitting your portfolio, make sure you read and adhere to the submission requirements and guidelines of the group or company you're submitting to. In this day and age, digital is a strong medium, still being adapted by lots of companies. Some will ask for links, some will ask for attachments, and some will ask for physical copies of the work. Send the right stuff to the right people. If you don't, you've severely cut your chances of even getting a response.

3. What are the limitations of your chosen medium?

This is a big issue with the digital age. A lot more artists are leaning to the digital medium for its vastly forgiving ability to "undo" mistakes. But just as traditional media has drawbacks, so does digital.
If you're a penciler, or applying for a penciler position, bear in mind that someone else will be inking said work. If it's digital inks, it's not a big deal, but if the person is a traditional inker, then they are going to want a physical representation of your work. Check with the publisher or group you're applying to for which method is preferred. It's always okay to ask questions. Similarly, traditional artists need to be mindful of the medium that they are applying to work within. Some digital penciler/inkers lend well to watercolors or opaque paints, but if that's not your strong suit, try to work with a more traditional creative team.

4. Where does your work really shine?

In many cases it is incredibly tempting to want to try and take on a larger workload, to increase your paycheck. But this goes back to point 1. Know your strengths. Just because someone is offering double the pay if you can ink your own work, or even more if you can color it, don't just leap for the opportunity if it's possible that someone else's ink and color could really make your pencils shine out. If you leap before you look, it's possible you could be heavily cutting your ability to shine in one area by attempting to control the others.

These are all important things to consider before you dive into attempting to infiltrate the workspace. Don't forget, ask questions, even here, I'm available most of the time to answer them, and will do my best to be concise in my explanations. In the meantime, keep drawing!

Regards,
Keith W.
Illustrator, Mysteries of the Arcana
http://www.mysteriesofthearcana.com
« Last Edit: February 22, 2010, 02:30:00 AM by Rob »

Offline perk_daddy

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Excellent article, Keith. The part about identifying your strengths is something I hadn't considered so much before. Thanks for posting this!