How to Find an Artist for your Indie Comic
I wouldn’t classify anything I’ve done to this point to be successful, outside of finding some amazing collaborators to work with. In fact, where and how I found my collaborators has been the question I’ve gotten the most.
I’ve been making comics, adding up all the time together, for maybe 15 years in fits and starts. For Abducted being the first limited series I’ve finished successfully, I have 15 other series pitches and note-bibles and maybe 15 short stories scattered across the internet. I’ve went down multiple roads, thinking about getting more of these things made, and as far as finding and artist goes, I think all of my attempts falls into three buckets.
So how do you find an artist for your indie comic?
1. Be lucky
I fall squarely into this bucket.
This might be a demotivating first headline to read, but ultimately it just requires a bit of a shift in perspective. To whit: someone has got to be lucky, so, honestly, why not you?
The formula for luck is well documented and honestly pretty simple.
time x effort = opportunitysometimes
Some people have amazing marriages. They’re “lucky” too, for sure. But they also worked hard to be someone worth marrying, put themselves out there probably more times than they’d like to remember and finally ended up meeting an amazing person to build a life with (And then, y’know, the real work starts).
Artistic partnerships can have a pretty similar story for how it started. So how to be lucky as an independent, amateur comics writer?
Work at it
You want to be someone worth
marrying drawing comics for? Start by practicing at being an amazing writer. Put together some short prose stories that are undeniably brilliant and fewer than 1000 words. Shoot for something that leaves an impassion in fewer than 4 minutes of reading by the artist. Maybe draw a few of your own comics (more on that later).
Put yourself out there
Less easy than swiping right, but the internet has still made finding amazing artists easy. DeviantArt, Reddit, Digital Webbing, Instagram - if you don’t find the sheer amount of amazing artists doing great work humbling, then you haven’t spent 30 minutes on the internet.
Also don’t count out looking locally. It’s easier to build up a meaningful, mutually rewarding creative friendship IRL, no matter how good online communication has become.
Some places to look
- Your local Community College
- This is where I met Jay, so it gets my most solid of recommendations. This is where we both went when we realized Joe Kubert’s School of Sequential Arts wasn’t an option.
- Meet-Ups (for comics, art, and drink-and-draws)
- the bigger the city you live in, the better the comics scene is likely to be. We have a decent one in Colorado, but I am straight up jealous of the artist and writers working in Portland, Seattle, Chicago, Austin, Kansas City, Saint Louise, and New York City.
- In a smaller town? There are still definitely people who read comics. And comics has a disproportionate amount of amateur practitioners in it’s ranks. Out of the population of baseball watchers, probably fewer than 1% play it on the weekends. I’d guess our numbers are closer to 15% in comics. Hit up your local comic book shop, and if there’s nothing in your area, consider starting one. Build a community and you’ll find amazing folks to collaborate with.
- Partnership v. Transactional
- Are you looking for someone to collaborate with? Or are you looking for someone to execute the script you’ve already got handy?
- This is an important distinction because, a lot of times, when a writer talks about having a script and needing an artist, there is a specific vision the writer has and is looking for an artist to execute. Nothing wrong with it, just recognize you aren’t looking for
Option 2. Pay Them
While you’re working on the lucky route (time x effort = opportunitysometimes), start saving because the next-best option for getting artists is paying them.
Full disclosure: This is what I’m looking at right now. Jay is working on Abducted, I’m finishing up the script and ramping up the marketing side of it but still thinking of whatever projects are “next” for Red Herring (our umbrella comics collective). An achievable 10 year goal would be to have a body of work we could start selling at a store front and cons, with maybe ~6 decent sized OGNs. Assuming I never go full time (a more-than-likely assumption, looking at the state of comic industry and my general disinterest in working in the IP Mines for the Disney or AT&T), I need to maintain a decent, ~100 page a year output while doing good work at my day job(s).
A decent, living wage in the US, near as I can tell, is around $250 a page pencil drawing. My napkin math being ~8 hours a page, 10 issues a year, 20 pages an issue, you’re looking at $50,000 a year pre-tax for the lucky artist.
So write a 5 page story, save up $1,000 dollars and find an artist that you love to bring it to life. This is your foot in the door for other partnerships and starts building your library, maybe even as treatments for a series with a publisher or Kickstarter.
And if you’re balking at the idea of saving up and spending that kind of money (and I don’t blame you, I’m blanching at it too), then consider the last option…
Option 3: Learn to Draw
One of my very first comics pages, circa 2005-ish
You don’t have to be a Ryan Ottely or John Paul Leon to make this work. In fact, it’s probably best that your drawing style isn’t there yet. That means you’ve got the time to develop both skills (Any good writer will tell you you’ve got around a 1000+ pages of bad writing in you, and you have to put on the mileagze to get it out. Do you really want to blow your big shot with an amazing artist on your first script?
Who else started by drawing their own work?
- Brian Michael Bendis
- Danny Cates
- Rick Remender
- Alan Moore
- Grant Morrison
- …A buncha others. This list isn’t exhaustive.
A more recent example, 2017
Get into the art side, even if you aren’t the best, and drink from the fire-hose. Don’t skimp, either. This is a mistake I made early on - write a full script even for yourself. Step back, forget the headspace you’re in, and then try to thumbnail from the script you wrote. You’ll be amazed at the details you left in your head and off of the script page when you start writing for others. Being on the illustrative side will give you a better idea of what an artist needs to know when drawing from your scripts.
If you decided to start drawing your own comics, please drop me a line and share them. If you have questions or want to argue about this, I’m also available, usually on twitter.