A lot of artists dream of breaking into the comic book industry. Suppose you’ve ever been to comic cons and shows. Hundreds of aspiring comic book artists are going about showing off their portfolios to folks, hoping to get discovered by a talent scout or coordinator from Marvel, DC, Image, and other comic publishers.
However, rarely can you show up at conventions and get hired on the spot unless you’re incredibly talented and have put together an outstanding portfolio. While it does happen, it is not the norm for most pencilers, inkers, and colorists. Things like that are more of an exception and not a rule.
And while technology has allowed artists to speed up their work and produce top-notch artwork, it’s still not enough to make them stand out.
How to Increase Your Chances of Becoming a Professional Comic Book Artist
If you’re an aspiring comic book artist, here are some things you should do to get through the narrow gates of the comic book industry:
Draw every day
There are also plenty of disillusioned folks who think they can get by on pure talent and luck. While those can help turn your dreams into reality, they can only get you so far. You have to be willing to put in the hours to work on your craft and keep improving it, whether you’re a penciler, inker, colorist, or painter. You need to practice every single day. You don’t always need to come up with portfolio-worthy pin-ups or sequential art. You just need to make sure you grab ahold of your pencil and draw daily.
Keep Learning from the Best
Continuous learning is what will bring your artistry to the next level. You need to have a learner’s mindset in this business. While you might have your distinct style that separates you from the rest, there’s still so much to uncover as an artist. Social media has allowed us to learn from many respected industry professionals via their Instagram posts, YouTube videos, and live streaming Twitch sessions.
Get Formal Training and Mentoring
While on the topic of learning, it might also help if you decide to pursue formal training. Getting an art degree will enable you to learn more theoretical and technical things about art to go along with your practical skills.
Mentoring also plays a crucial role in the development of an artist. Ask an artist you look up to (that you know, of course) to help you grow in your craft. Look for someone who will tell you what you need to hear, not just what you want to hear. This means you should be prepared to take in criticism. The good thing about a mentoring relationship is that your mentors’ criticism is motivated to see you become a better artist.
Put Together an Impressive Portfolio
This is perhaps where most of your energy will revolve around. Coming up with a decent portfolio is hard enough, but putting together one that will blow the minds of talent coordinators, managers, and publishers is even more challenging. Understand that they see thousands of submissions year in and year out. You need to come up with a portfolio that will make you stand out. This is where your artistry and creativity will come into play. Don’t waste this chance.
Make Yourself Highly Visible
Back in the day, if you want to get your foot in the door, you need to come out to where the decision-makers are, namely in conventions and shows. Now, you have the technology to make the job easier. While aspiring pros are still encouraged to go to shows—person meeting is more impactful than a virtual setting—artists have been online to showcase their work. Hundreds, if not thousands, of artists are online every day putting out great work. Each has their style, branding, and online persona.
If you want people to notice, you need to put yourself out there for the world to see (and follow and subscribe to). You want your work to always pop up in people’s newsfeeds. You need to create content regularly to remain visible. Remember, out of sight, out of mind.
Keep Reading Comic Books
This might be overstating the obvious, but no one cannot stress this point enough. An aspiring comic book artist must have an intimate knowledge of the medium they want to work with as a pro. Sadly, artists (and even writers!) want to enter the industry without knowledge about comic books. If you have not picked up a single comic book in your life, how do you expect to draw them? They are the best learning tool for any aspiring comic book professional.
Brace Yourself for the Long Haul
Lastly, you have to have patience for the long wait. Remember that the comic book industry is small, with hundreds of thousands of people wanting to come in. The queue is quite long, and it will help lessen your anxiety if you manage your expectations. While it’s important you remain hopeful; you also need to be grounded enough to know the realities of the world you’re trying to get into. But as they say, good things come to those who wait. Keep improving your craft and assemble a kick-ass portfolio as you wait for your big break.
Like any other profession, being a comic book artist takes a lot of hard work, dedication, and passion to succeed. If you’re willing to put in the work and you never quit, you might be fortunate enough to get a foot in the door and live the life you’ve been dreaming of.