Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Four S's for Finding a Penciller

In the next couple of days, I will have some stunning artwork to show off from my first comic book story. But today, as I was reading some comments from other aspiring creators, it struck me that as writers the biggest thing standing in our way of making comics is finding somebody to draw them. Yet, in my short comic-book-making journey, I've already learned four easy steps to finding a penciller to collaborate with on a comic book. Let's call them The Four S's: Sift, Sort, Study, and Seek Out.

1. Sift: This should be the easiest step, but it's also time consuming. Go to Pencil Jack or digitalwebbing (you've joined those forums already, right?) and start looking at artists' portfolios. Sift through the many, many postings to find art you like. I say that this is the easy step because if you have script ready for drawing, you probably have a firm idea of the art style you're looking for. Don't like manga? Click and skip. Want something realistic or fantastic but not cartoony? Click and Click. You get the idea. Skip through until you find a style you like. (And remember, different stories might call for different styles. Also, a penciller's portfolio might draw you in, even if it's not the style you thought you were looking for.) Bookmark those portfolios.

2. Sort: Once you've found some potential collaborators, sort their portfolios by good, better, best--ranking them by talent/skill. There's a couple of things you want to look for. Pinups are awesome, but unless you are telling one-panel-per-page stories, you want someone who can do sequential art--i.e., someone with comic book page layouts; someone who is telling a story. Rank all the artists with sequential samples. At the same time, this doesn't mean you write off someone who only has pinups. If you dig their work, contact them and see if they have a sequential art sample.

3. Study: By this time, you should have just a handful of artist candidates. Study their sequential pages, really examine them critically. On second and third review, is their work as good as you initially thought? Also, read the posted "crits" from others.

But here's the main question you need to ask yourself: Do you have a good idea of what the story is without the dialogue, captions, etc.? A good comic book should be able to tell its story without words. Does this sample do that? Can you follow the story? Does your eye naturally flow from panel to the next.

On a secondary level, you should also see whether they showcase both action and "talking head" scenes in their work. You want to see both to see whether they can do dynamic action sequences and imaginatively stage a conversation. Also, look at their backgrounds. What's going on behind and around the main characters? A lot of artists will do nice figure work but then totally skip out on setting or they draw really bad cars or trees or whatever (as a result, they will not draw those in their samples).

4. Seek Out: Okay, so now you've picked the one or two artists you think will do the best with your story. Now you need to seek them out and contact them. This may be hard for some people--but it's the only way you're making comics, so you have to do it. As I've written before, comics are a collaborative effort. It takes a team to bring your story to life.

Write them a short e-mail. Tell them you like their portfolio. And here's the big part: don't just say, "Your Spider-Man pages were cool." Be specific. Tell them specifically what you liked about the pages. Reference their work, compliment them, etc. Let them know you are serious about creating comics by speaking in the language of comic storytelling. Then cut to the chase. Tell them you have a script you think they'd be good for, etc. Offer to give them a sample of your work, etc. It's all easier than it sounds. If they turn you down, and you will have people turn you down, move to the next person.

So there's your Four S's. Money, scheduling, setting expectations--are important, too, and I'll get to them in later posts. And at some point, I'll get around to elaborating on the above points as well--because if you want to make comics, these four items are key.

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