Kav's Tips for Comic Artists - Dealing with Frustration
by A. "Kav" Kaviraj
Comic book artist, A. Kaviraj, continues his op/ed series of providing useful tutorials for comic book artists.
Every comic artist goes through it. Frustration. Both at their drawing ability and their desire to get published. I myself go through this
about three times a year-when I am absolutely convinced my drawing sucks. Some artists give up the first time they experience this.
Novice artists are in a different zone-they suck really bad, but think they are good. I have also been in this zone.
What this syndrome actually heralds is a growing period. If you think you suck, you can either give up, or seek to get better. The way to get better is not practice; there are artists who have been practicing all their life, and they still suck. So practice alone will not do it. You have to study. Study other artists. My most recent period I went back and studied Sean phillips again, as well as Michael Lark. I have studied Sean Phillips repeatedly over the last 3 years, and you might think, 'hey-if you've already studied him, why bother to study him again?'. But after you have improved, you go back and notice more things. Your eye can only see so much, depending on your skill level. The more you have learned, the more you can learn.
So it's a cycle of drawing, then studying, then drawing. Recently in Sean Phillips blog he posted what he called 'his best panel ever',
and bemoans why they can't all be that good:
The panel doesn't look near as good as many that he has drawn but it tells me something-that even an artist as good as Sean is often disatisfied with his work-that is why he improves so much over the years. Look at an early page:
And a more recent page:
Not all artists grow like this-some look the same as they did 20 years ago. So frustration is actually a good thing-it keeps you from being stagnant.
The other frustration is that felt by the artist who hasn't broken in yet. Sean doesn't have this frustration anymore. His place in history is assured. But I do-and so do lots of others. Breaking into the comic business is even harder than breaking into the movie business, if you can believe it. It is nearly impossible-even if you are really good.
You also have to get noticed. Very, very hard when there are tens of thousand of hopefuls, maybe hundreds of thousands- and very few openings. Marvel, for instance has plenty of hungry artists already-they don't even need new artists. So you are applying for a job that has NO openings. You have to be really good and really determined to snag a job like that. You have to produce something yourself so awesome that they notice you. and feel they can make money from your genius.
About this type of frustration your only weapon is determination. You have to be prepared to draw pages for the rest of your life, even
if they never see print. So you have to work at the upper limit of your ability and beyond, expend considerable time and effort and continuously grow, knowing that you will probably never work for Marvel. This is too much to bear for many, and they self-weed. I myself spend 10 hours a day drawing, fighting the pages-pacing the room-using every single brain cell to accomplish my task. And Marvel has no idea nor cares that I even exist. That is as it should be. Van Gogh sold no paintings in his entire life-yet he painted daily. I haven't cut my ear off, but I am missing two fingers on my drawing hand-and it took me a year to be able to hold a pen and draw again. OK, don't get out the meat cleaver-I'm not saying you need to be missing body parts to be an artist!
"So why do you keep drawing, Kav, if it's so essentially hopeless?" Because, I love to draw. I don't want to do anything else. So I can't stop, even if I wanted to. Also, even though unknown, I have collaborated with writers and produced some really great stories. That in itself is satisfying enough.
Now, if I ever do get hired by Marvel, I will be inundated with the same question all pros face- "How did you break in???!!!" And I'm not going to try to discourage anyone, but when I explain all the things I had to do at every level there may be some fallen faces. Do you know I hate sneezing because it takes me away from drawing? That's the thought I have when I am about to sneeze! "Not now I'm RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF THIS!". That's how focused you have to be. How driven.
So I hope this helps-I hope it gives artists a clearer idea of the enemy they face-so they can better fight it.
For more of Kav's Tips at Comic Related: http://www.comicrelated.com/forums/index.php?showforum=602
A. KAVIRAJ: Kav is an artist, teacher, and biologist who lives in Sacramento, California. He is the artist forThe End of Paradise, Rapid City, and Dr Death vs The Zombie. He is the writer and artist for Dr. Death vs. The Vampire. E-mail: email@example.com
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