Comic Talk, Tips and Tricks

How do Writers with little or no drawing skill go about making their comics?
c_arnold at 7:18AM, Dec. 1, 2009
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Just what the subject header says folks; “How do writers with little or no drawing skill go about making their comics?” I've read a posts on other forums from writers who've shared both good and bad experiences in hiring artists to work with them in producing a comic. Others sharing stories about how they invested years and thousands of dollars in developing their own artistic skills. I'd like it if folks here could share their own experiences and ideas on the subject.
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:02PM
johlin at 7:50AM, Dec. 1, 2009
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From my experience, getting an artist to work with you is really tough without money. I've had three with whom I've developed ideas with, then they just stopped responding for some reason. I'm not very pushy by nature, so there's not much I can do. But yeah, all of them had full input into the ideas and seemed excited at first. I know this is sounding like a rant, but I'm just trying to (rant and) make the point that money really is necessary and something I'm considering (once I have some).

Which I now realize is what you said as well ("experiences in hiring artists"). Great.

But for my current comic, I was just realistic about my limited artistic ability and chose a concept that I was capable of doing. I have been trying to draw more outside of it and hopefully I'll eventually be able to execute the more ambitious ideas myself. In the meanwhile, I think I'm improving in dialogue writing and storyline plotting, etc. So s'all good.

last edited on July 14, 2011 1:10PM
mattchee at 9:31AM, Dec. 1, 2009
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Its a tough situation. If you don't want to pay the artist, then they need to have as much invested in the project as you do. It has to be something that they NEED to do. Either they're ridiculously enthusiastic about your idea, or they have a part in creating it– OR you have some sort of publishing thing happening beyond Drunk Duck… That's what I mean by investment.

A comic is a huge and ONGOING commitment for an artist. If they're “doing it for free” and have nothing invested in the comic other than its something to do– then yeah, as soon as something paying or more interesting comes along, you can bet your asprin they're gonna do it.

So, if you're looking for an unpaid artist, what you're really looking for is a COLLABORATOR. :)

Paying artist can run into any number of issues too (I hear there's lots o flakes out there)– but probably less. I do my own art mostly, so I wouldn't know.

last edited on July 14, 2011 1:55PM
Darth Mongoose at 9:34AM, Dec. 1, 2009
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Improving your artistic skills doesn't have to be expensive, and drawing a comic is actually a great way to go about getting better. Not to mention there are plenty of excellent comics which have very simple art, such as xkcd, Order of the Stick and Dinosaur Comics (which uses the same pixel dinosaurs and the same panel layout every page, relying soley on the brilliant writing).

If you're looking to get an artist, here are some tips:

1. Money does increase your chances, but it isn't everything. An artist will do things for money which they otherwise wouldn't be interested in, but if an artist is interested and thinks you're doing something good, they may work for free.

2. Artists are more likely to be interested if you have some work under your belt, so that you have some kind of reputation for getting things finished and they can see the fruits of your previous labours. Whether it's stories, fanfic, games, comics doesn't matter, just have something they can see.

3. Don't approach an artist before you have some concrete plans. Loads of people ask for artists with only the vaguest idea they'd like to write some kind of comic, then vanish for months while making the plans. It's no wonder the artist wanders off and gets bored.

4. Don't be too snobby about your artist. Obviously you want somebody decent, but remember that artists improve with practice. If an artist is interested, then don't dismiss them if they're still young and unpolished. Give them a chance. You may well both benefit. It sounds obvious, but an astounding number of writers flounce onto art forums having never written anything of note themselves, yet turning their nose up at anything short of pro standard art. Remember that the better the artist, the higher the chances you'll have to pay for them, as more skilled artists may well be drawing for a living. Treat your artist as an equal partner and not just as some tool who's doing the donkey work.

5. Some of the most successful comic partnerships are real life friends. It's true. It's a lot easier to collaborate with somebody you see in real life on a regular basis, and close friends or relatives are often tuned into each other's way of thinking, allowing them to draw exactly what you're after instinctively.

Working with an artist can be very rewarding, but you could try starting out by drawing a comic with simple artwork. It would be useful as it would teach you how to pace comic storytelling or humour, as well as give you something to show a potential artist for a future collaboration as an indicator of your writing skill and ability to get things finished.
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:08PM
sakebento at 10:48AM, Dec. 1, 2009
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Darth Mongoose
4. Don't be too snobby about your artist. Obviously you want somebody decent, but remember that artists improve with practice. If an artist is interested, then don't dismiss them if they're still young and unpolished. Give them a chance. You may well both benefit. It sounds obvious, but an astounding number of writers flounce onto art forums having never written anything of note themselves, yet turning their nose up at anything short of pro standard art. Remember that the better the artist, the higher the chances you'll have to pay for them, as more skilled artists may well be drawing for a living. Treat your artist as an equal partner and not just as some tool who's doing the donkey work.
Seconded. I've seen people say they're looking for free artists (or animators, even!) with lines like “I am EXTREMELY picky about my art! Your art must be polished and professional!” I'm not actually sure if they got any takers. I wonder what would happen if artists starting insisting that writers be of professional grade quality. >.> Sorry…I think I wandered off on a rant somewhere.


For me, I have a mixed bag. My art skills are actually decent, but I use other artists for pretty much everything. Why? Because they're better than me. My artistic skills are good enough that I can convey exactly what I want (page layout, character designs), and I can be more understanding to my artists because I know how much effort it takes to finish a piece. It's best to collaborate with artists who are friends (either online or IRL). That way you can find someone who is interested in your story and wants to help you make it. Plus, you'll know what that person is interested in, so you can build a story that you both enjoy. I've created some of my best stories by talking with my artists. They have a lot of good input, and I tend to give my artists a lot of free reign over things like layout and character design (I assume that, as artists, they know better than I).
last edited on July 14, 2011 3:17PM
Disgruntledrm at 2:21PM, Dec. 1, 2009
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If a person isn't going to hire an artist for their story, then it doesn't cost too much to buy pens and paper. Practice practice practice. Keep drawing, no matter how bad you are. Eventually, bit by bit…comics start to improve. The trick is just sticking with it.
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:12PM
ozoneocean at 7:56PM, Dec. 1, 2009
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Great tips here! One thing I'll add though is that if you like writing and have a good story but can't draw, then why do you want to do a comic?

I know it's easier to get a story seen by a lot of people on the net if it has pictures, but straight stories and other kinds of writing are usually a better use of that skill. Comics are a bit of a compromise between text and images in a way.

I dunno… if you love writing and are really good at it, then why not try novels, short stories, scripts, poetry, plays etc? I'm not trying to be discouraging here, it's just that those forms are much better, more fulfilling outlets for that skill that have less frustration, are quicker to do and allow you more control (you don't need to manage an artist).
 
last edited on July 14, 2011 2:35PM
El Cid at 11:17AM, Dec. 2, 2009
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First off, just backing what's already been said, yes it's VERY hard to find an artist willing to commit to a long project with you because, being artists, they tend to have their own ideas and not enough time to work on their own stuff as is. HOWEVER, it's much less difficult to find artists willing to hop on as Guest Artists for a page or two, especially if they believe in your project. They're helping bring a really cool idea to fruition and they're getting free promotion if you're a success. I'd also imagine having a new artist every week would make it interesting from the reader's perspective as well. Just something else to consider.
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:20PM
kyupol at 1:08PM, Dec. 2, 2009
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Just do it.

Its called “learn as you go along”. :)

I started from this point and now I'm at this point.

Who knows what the future may hold?
NOW UPDATING!!!
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:26PM
usedbooks at 2:03PM, Dec. 2, 2009
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ozoneocean
Great tips here! One thing I'll add though is that if you like writing and have a good story but can't draw, then why do you want to do a comic?

I know it's easier to get a story seen by a lot of people on the net if it has pictures, but straight stories and other kinds of writing are usually a better use of that skill. Comics are a bit of a compromise between text and images in a way.

I dunno… if you love writing and are really good at it, then why not try novels, short stories, scripts, poetry, plays etc? I'm not trying to be discouraging here, it's just that those forms are much better, more fulfilling outlets for that skill that have less frustration, are quicker to do and allow you more control (you don't need to manage an artist).
Personally, I've written all my life, but I wanted a visual story. Plus one my friends would actually read. Comics are different from prose. It's great to paint pictures with words, but it is also fun to tell a story in a visual medium. There's nothing wrong with wanting to be a “comic writer” rather than a poet or a writer of short stories or screenplays. They are completely different media, require different processes, and one does not substitute for another.

I have tried my hands at all those forms. I wrote novellas through high school and worked on novels (all abandoned) afterward. I still enjoy writing some prose, but it is a different hobby altogether.

kyupol
Just do it.

Its called “learn as you go along”. :)
I did the same thing.

I was tired of sitting around daydreaming a vision with scripts and thumbnails and thinking “How cool would it be if someone would draw this for me?” I hate being just a dreamer, so I tried to bring it to life myself – and I sucked. But my goal was just to have something to share with my friends, so it worked for me.

The readers at DD are very supportive. When my brother coerced me into uploading my pages, I found myself ashamed of my work, but support and encouragement here got me to stop making excuses and work at getting better. This is a great source of motivation for improvement. I have wonderful readers who *deserve* better, and if I get better, I get more great readers. I respond well to positive motivation. (Other places provide lots of negative motivation, and some people like that too.) Eventually, an accomplished professional author/artist whom I met in a writing club sort of validated me (he said my art was “not bad,” and he is a critical/cynical guy), so that gave me an esteem boost, too.

Plus, I enjoy the challenge. I like learning new things. I take pride in personal accomplishments without comparing myself to others. Plus, I like art. Even though I have no talent at it, I enjoy being “artistic” again. As a writer, it is more fun for me to draw a comic than it was to paint or sketch still life.

Anyway, I've stuck with this project longer and been more excited about it than any previous writing endeavor/project of my life. It's definitely worthwhile, and it's addictive. I'm not sure I would enjoy it so much if I didn't draw it myself. I might have more fans, but I wouldn't have such personal fulfillment.

So, if you aren't aiming to be professional, and are happy with just a couple supportive readers (and likely many months of obscurity), I'd encourage you to give drawing a try. The rewards are pretty much all intrinsic, but those are the best kinds.
last edited on July 14, 2011 4:38PM
patrickdevine at 11:42PM, Dec. 4, 2009
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Something I figured that I should bring up is that I heard that some more polished comic artists like Chris Ware deliberately adopted a more simple drawing style after having the idea that the function of the art is to tell the story. That said the art only needs to be complex enough to get the point across. Darth Mongoose brought up Xkcd and Order of the Stick, which despite them being stick figures I would say actually have very good art because they tell the story so well.

If we're getting into hiring artists, try sharing your writing with artists and see if they like it. I've actually offered to work with writers based on liking their work. This is getting more into my personal taste but I generally prefer having pieces of writing in a more open venue like Livejournal, a message board or something like that where I can discover and read something and decide if I like it. When I have a piece sent to me directly I feel like I've been put on the spot and I have to comment on it. Again that's just me, some other folks might be different.

ozoneocean
Great tips here! One thing I'll add though is that if you like writing and have a good story but can't draw, then why do you want to do a comic?

I know it's easier to get a story seen by a lot of people on the net if it has pictures, but straight stories and other kinds of writing are usually a better use of that skill. Comics are a bit of a compromise between text and images in a way.

I've actually been asked the same before, I still don't have a very good answer but the best that I can come up with is “I just like comics more.” As for comics being a compromise between text and images, I actually totally disagree. I would argue that in comics the images give additional weight to the text and vice versa. I think that's why the stories in comics stick with me so much.
It's entirely possible that I just misunderstood ya, if that's the case, uh… whoops.
last edited on July 14, 2011 2:41PM
c_arnold at 6:51AM, Dec. 10, 2009
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I just wanted to let everyone who's replied so far know that your commentary has been both very much appreciated and very insightful. I wish you all the best in your own endeavors, whatever they maybe, and thank you for sharing your precious little bit of time in responding to my question. Happy Holidays to each and everyone of you.
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:02PM
ozoneocean at 7:52AM, Dec. 10, 2009
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patrickdevine
I've actually been asked the same before, I still don't have a very good answer but the best that I can come up with is “I just like comics more.” As for comics being a compromise between text and images, I actually totally disagree. I would argue that in comics the images give additional weight to the text and vice versa. I think that's why the stories in comics stick with me so much.
It's entirely possible that I just misunderstood ya, if that's the case, uh… whoops.
The perspective I'm coming from there on the compromise angle is pretty specific…
The most successful part of my comic (Pinky TA), the most cogent chapter, the biggest reader fave is Part 6, Origins. The first Pinky story (1-5) was never specifically written, I just had a rough idea of the story in mind and a lot of detailed thumbnails with some rough scene descriptions. The story would only really come into form when I did the page. While I was doing that part of the comic I tried writing a short story based on an earlier part of Pinky's life. It was a proper short story too, not a story outline or a script of any sort. I LOVED doing it and raced through the pages in no time. I even loved reading it and I must've gone back and re-read it about 5 or six times.

Anyway, when I finished the first part of Pinky TA I decided to adapt the short story for the next chapter. It was MUCH harder than I thought, I had to slice off tons of great text, description, and dialogue- stuff I really, really liked! What was left for the comic was paired to the bone. And THEN I had to work out what parts of the text would be surrendered to the visuals. That was painful too.

The whole thing was a huge compromise for me, but it worked out in the end because reader response was very positive (far and wide), my art was better, the comic was done on time week after week (which for me is a miracle) and I learned a lot more about comic making in general.

lol!
So it was a good experience overall, but still have to say that I much enjoy reading the original short story to the comic version of it.
 
last edited on July 14, 2011 2:35PM
ezra at 8:23AM, Dec. 11, 2009
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I don't suck at drawing. My realism is the bomb, but I do suck at drawing the same person twice, and my drawings of hands just plain suck, so I found something I could work with. Not quite stick figures, and not quite realistic, but close enough to get something more than just talking twigs.

I say find your own style. If drawings not your strong point, then find a simple style to work with, and add some kind of easy pizazz to make it more interesting! Also, trying to draw inanimate objects on the side can totally help styles develop.

If your just not good at anything though, and you can't even get your stick figures straight, then there is the sorry chance that you may be useless for art.

Photography could be an interesting option, or getting another artist.
Abnormal-normality.
Antisocial-people person.
They exist.
They are here.
I am them.
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:25PM
I Am The 1337 Master at 4:02PM, Dec. 15, 2009
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I can't say anything about being a sucess but you just try and do it yourself. Usually it fails but sometimes…
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:53PM
mikemacdee at 12:49AM, Dec. 17, 2009
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Practice.
 
last edited on July 14, 2011 2:01PM
LOOKIS at 9:59AM, Jan. 5, 2010
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3 points in favor of doing the art yourself even if you can't draw…

1) If you're doing comedy, then being a lousy artist can be an advantage because your inadequate art skills might add to the humor.

2) It's actually easier just to do a clumsy sketch yourself than to try to put into words what you want an artist to draw.

3) If two people are working on one comic, then it's always being held hostage by whichever one of them is currently procrastinating. :)
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last edited on July 14, 2011 1:39PM
freefall_drift at 11:44AM, Jan. 8, 2010
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In my opinion, it's more about the story than the art. So if you have a good story, the limited art skills won't kill it. Besides, with practice you will get better.

Or you could be like this guy.
Matt Fezzil has been doing stick figures and making it work for decades.
http://home.comcast.net/~mattfeazell/index.htm

Freefall Drift - A sci fi space opera of a starship's mission of stopping the Endless Kings.
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:31PM
RobertBr at 8:49AM, Jan. 9, 2010
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From an artists point of view I think most writers expect too much. You simply can't buy the kind of professional standard you see in the best main-stream books, for the obvious reason they don't have one artist but three or four. If you want something close you need to give the artist some enthusiasm that the project is worthwhile, and show a real commitment yourself. When I first started I found two long-term projects, the first writer lasted about 30 pages before he just fizzled out (about 20 of those are actually online), the second writer made it about a dozen. Now I don't even consider long-term projects and insist on having a full script for a story before I start.

Robert
last edited on July 14, 2011 3:08PM
mikemacdee at 3:52PM, Jan. 10, 2010
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The art does matter in Matt Fezzil's work, though. Sure, he draws stick figures, but they're expressive. Even if your art is amazing, if your characters aren't expressive, they're no fun to look at.
 
last edited on July 14, 2011 2:01PM
Anubis at 11:29PM, Jan. 21, 2010
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I have a brain injury that makes drawing very difficult, but I found a medium I can work wiht to do my own art, and to learn to use it I used the “Dee Dee” method (What does this button dooooooo?)
last edited on July 14, 2011 10:54AM
LOOKIS at 6:41PM, Jan. 25, 2010
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mikemacdee
The art does matter in Matt Fezzil's work, though. Sure, he draws stick figures, but they're expressive. Even if your art is amazing, if your characters aren't expressive, they're no fun to look at.

In the examples posted here, Cynicalman himself only has one constant expression that never changes and the guy in the hat only has one fixed expression.

I think good writing can make people see things that aren't really there in the drawing.

Charles Schulz's {i}Peanuts{/i} is a good example: very primitive drawing but excellent writing.

In my opinion, good writing can easily triumph over clumsy art, but if the writing is bad, then even the finest art isn't going to save it.
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last edited on July 14, 2011 1:39PM

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