Comic Talk, Tips and Tricks

Illustration Career
Priceman at 10:11AM, March 12, 2007
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I'm not sure if this topic goes here, but anyway….

Basically, i'm about to start taking college classes to recieve a bachlor's degree in illustration (not exactly sure what kind as of yet). When i'm done with this, i was thinking of being a professional illustrator. I basically wanted to ask any illustrators out there, or those who know anything about the career field, for their opinion on the subject.
last edited on July 14, 2011 2:47PM
reconjsh at 10:32AM, March 12, 2007
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I got my BS in Computer Science (emphasis on graphic design). I work as a professional Graphic Designer. My work ranges from company branding to web design to marketing… and on and on. While I don't do exactly what you probably want to do, I work with alot of “illustrators” and I am familiar with the field.

My question for YOU is… what specifically do you want to do as an illustrator? That title alone is too vague. What specific questions do you have?

If you want to know if there's work potential out there for “illustrators”, then the answer is “definitely yes, for some kinds of illustrators”.

last edited on July 14, 2011 3:02PM
Alexis at 5:00PM, March 12, 2007
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I graduated last may with a BFA in painting, drawing, and photography and I would say that the one thing they didn't teach us is how to find work, keep work, and promote ourselves. I personally had some rough wake up calls when I started going to comic cons because I have problems with social anxiety disorders. I would suggest taking some classes in buisness and sales if you can. My illustration professor described comic book art in particular as the NBA of the art world, but if it's what you want to do then go for it.
I serve and bartend right now and make enough money to live. I make virtually no money with my degree, but I am happier than many of my friends that make muchmore money and work for the government or something. Just follow your heart. Even though that sounds corny.
last edited on July 14, 2011 10:49AM
Hyptosis at 5:04PM, March 12, 2007
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If you enjoy drawing and painting, then don't become an illustrator. There is a 99.9 percent chance you won't love those things anymore IF you do manage to beat out everyone and become one. Do something else, that way you can still love your hobby.
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:53PM
subcultured at 5:19PM, March 12, 2007
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imo it's not about the degree, but the talent.

there are a lot of self taught artists that gets gigs because they have an eye for art
J
last edited on July 14, 2011 4:01PM
Alexis at 6:16PM, March 12, 2007
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subcultured
imo it's not about the degree, but the talent.

there are a lot of self taught artists that gets gigs because they have an eye for art


That's true, but I would add that desire, persistance, and hard work are probably even more important than talent. There's a lot of really talented people that aren't willing or able to do the legwork.
last edited on July 14, 2011 10:49AM
subcultured at 6:40PM, March 12, 2007
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yup, for a while frazetta was in a rut cause all he did was a cartoon. but when he got his break doing paintings on book covers, he became ultra famous
J
last edited on July 14, 2011 4:01PM
reconjsh at 7:20PM, March 12, 2007
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subcultured
imo it's not about the degree, but the talent.

there are a lot of self taught artists that gets gigs because they have an eye for art

This is both absolutely true… and also false. In the design/art world, you need to be good (in someone's eyes) to get work, that's for sure.

But my personal experience is that there's a lot of times where you can't even get your foot in the door without education. They won't even finish reading your resume or invite you in for an interview without whatever minimum education they require.

These companies sometimes sift through 1,000s of resumes… so they usually have a small list of requirements to reduce that number down some. Education is sometimes (but clearly not always) a good indicator as to someone's talent.

For instance, after I graduated with a BS, I struggled to find stable design work. It wasn't until I asked a business that never called me for an interview why I was not considered. Their candid response: “We don't want to hire someone to work primarily in Photoshop who isn't an ACE (Adobe Certified Expert)”. So I went and got my ACE in photoshop and also in web design (2 different certs). Now, I have no such problem. I believe this holds-up for degrees too. Alot of jobs I applied for required “min. education - 2 years college; preferred BA or BS degree” and I'm certain that without the minimums, you won't be considered.

But, if I sucked at what I do and my portfolio wasn't full of quality work, then I'd still struggle to find stable work.

Also…

Someone explained this to me about the design world once… I'll paraphrase to the best of my ability:
In order to find and maintain work, you need to do/be 2 of 3 things in excess. 1) Be excellent at your craft. 2) Be easy to get along with. OR 3) Be punctual and always meet deadlines.
The most talented artists may/will struggle to find work if they're complete jerks and they don't meet demands of timelines. Also, mediocre artists can/will have work thrown at them if they're completely reliable, always meet deadlines, and are a pleasure to work with. Also, they'll put up with an asshole for awesome and timely work.

Sound advice!

The point… strive to excell at 2 of the 3. And if you can be all 3, you'll always find work.

My 2 pennies.
last edited on July 14, 2011 3:02PM
Priceman at 10:22PM, March 12, 2007
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Geez, leave you guys alone for a few hours and look what happens.

Excellent advice all of you, i greatly appreciate it and will take it into heavy consideration. Let me get in a few responses first:

reconjsh
My question for YOU is… what specifically do you want to do as an illustrator? That title alone is too vague. What specific questions do you have?


Specifically, i'm not sure. I know there are plenty of subcategories for the illustration field. If I had to make a solid choice, i suppose i'd stick with my strengths as a pencil artist. I'd probably strive for something such as concept artist, or penciler. I'll be able to give a more definite answer after I meet with the counselors of the school. As for questions, i was basically wondering what i could do to better my chances, and what the forecast was for the illustration field; but those have been answered.

ian_feverdream
I would recommend you take business classes along with your art classes. Take everything you can, to learn to sell yourself and your product and service.


Excellent advice as a whole. It's reassuring to have the word of someone that's been there before. Thanks alot.


Alexis
Just follow your heart. Even though that sounds corny.


I understand perfectly what you're saying. Also, that doesn't sound corny to me at all. I'm currently in the military working as a network administrator. It's cool and all, but i don't think it's something i'd like to do for the rest of my life. I'd prefer to do a job that I look forward to every morning than having to force myself out of bed.

Hyptosis
If you enjoy drawing and painting, then don't become an illustrator. There is a 99.9 percent chance you won't love those things anymore IF you do manage to beat out everyone and become one. Do something else, that way you can still love your hobby.


I've been told this before, and i won't even lie by saying that it won't happen to me. However, in my eyes, making a hobby into a job and then hating it would be much better than finding a sure thing career and hating it from the get go. Thanks for your input though.

subcultured
imo it's not about the degree, but the talent.


I've heard this one before as well. All i can say is that you may be right. However, in a world where everyone and their grandmothers seem to have a degree of some kind, i'd be more confident knowing that i've at least tried to cover my bases. Also, i feel like i'm nearing that area of my skill where simple how to books and tutorials won't take me much farther. Professional instruction seems to be my best bet at improvement.

reconjsh
But my personal experience is that there's a lot of times where you can't even get your foot in the door without education.


This is what i've been told as well. Even though I do computers as my military profession; chances are that the only reason i'd be picked over a fresh guy straight out of college is because i'm military. I'd be willing to say the same about art.


reconjsh
1) Be excellent at your craft. 2) Be easy to get along with. OR 3) Be punctual and always meet deadlines.


1). Working on it
2). Kinda needed in the military (got it covered)
3). Extremely needed in the military (got it covered)


Once again everyone, thank you all for your input and advice. Keep em coming!
last edited on July 14, 2011 2:47PM
reconjsh at 5:35AM, March 13, 2007
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Ah, a Veteran eh? Good for you! Seriously, thank you.

I'm a disabled army vet… served 1998 - 2006. What branch are you?

To be as marketable as possible, know the entire workflow of an illustration or design from start to finish and be highly proficient in most or all of the steps. Highly individually skilled people are nice and can/will find work, but employers are increasingly seeing employees that can “do it all” and it's a trend that I anticipate continuing. Be a jack of all trades and a master of one (or more).

I'd suggest being familiar with the Adobe work flow software. Seems to be the industry standard and is only growing in popularity.

That's: Photoshop(raster)/Illustrator(vector) and then usually to InDesign(print)/Dreamweaver(web)… which as an illustrator, your work will no doubtedly end up as a printed product. Whether that's for comic books or whatever… knowing these programs will be good for you. There's plenty of other good software choices, but these will still definitely be the programs of choice 4 or so years from now when you graduate.

Also, don't just take “business” classes; include business mangement classes… particularly Small Business Administration/Management. Why? Because almost all your work is going to be within a small business structure and understanding how it works thoroughly at the price of one semester's tuition is a good decision. Plus, should you decide to freelance or start your own small business, you'll be prepared. And I can tell you, freelancing is both amazing and scary.

EDIT:
Someone
1). Working on it
2). Kinda needed in the military (got it covered)
3). Extremely needed in the military (got it covered)

Adjusting to civilian life is going to be harder than you think. I have no doubt that you'll succeed, but warning: the civilian standards for “easy to get along with”, “meeting deadlines” and “being punctual” are quite different than the military. There's several other differences too that you will just have to experience because me telling you won't make you any more prepared. College is a good way to make this transition. You'll laugh… and you'll cry… and you'll probably long for military structure again… at least for a year or two, lol. Then, you'll be a nasty civilian just like the rest of us.
last edited on July 14, 2011 3:02PM
ozoneocean at 7:01AM, March 13, 2007
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Priceman
I'm not sure if this topic goes here, but anyway…
Where else to put it? Tips and Tricks? Art and Lit? It doesn't really fit either of those. The General section is prolly fine really.
 
last edited on July 14, 2011 2:26PM
Priceman at 8:32AM, March 13, 2007
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reconjsh
Ah, a Veteran eh? Good for you! Seriously, thank you.

I'm a disabled army vet… served 1998 - 2006. What branch are you?

Actually, i'm active duty Air Force. And, the thanks should go to you.

reconjsh
Be a jack of all trades and a master of one (or more).

I'd suggest being familiar with the Adobe work flow software. Seems to be the industry standard and is only growing in popularity.

That makes a lot of sense. Knowing more would better my chances. Thanks for that.

reconjsh
Adjusting to civilian life is going to be harder than you think. I have no doubt that you'll succeed, but warning: the civilian standards for “easy to get along with”, “meeting deadlines” and “being punctual” are quite different than the military.


Yea i thought about that. I know a lot of people that have retired and now work with me as contractors. They pretty much tell me the same. Thanks for the heads up.

ozoneocean
Where else to put it? Tips and Tricks? Art and Lit? It doesn't really fit either of those. The General section is prolly fine really.

Sorry, but i usually start of a thread like that; just to be sure.
last edited on July 14, 2011 2:47PM
ShadowsMyst at 2:09PM, March 13, 2007
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I'm not an illustrator, but I am a graphic designer and I've worked with several and known several others.

There's been some good advice on the freelance side of things in terms of business classes. You may also consider taking something on contracts and contract law. You don't know how many illustrators I've seen get screwed out of their payments and have to go to court to get their paychecks. :P Also, copyrights and such are important to be very aware of, so get as much of that as you can while in school.

One thing you will have to ask yourself, and it will show up fairly fast, is can you handle someone pissing all over your artwork and spanking you back to the drawingboard? Art Directors and clients really don't care about your feelings. They only care about the product. Many people who decide to get into illustration because they are passionate about turning a hobby into a job, is that when faced with the reality of the harsh world of commercial art and the ‘but do it as I say and do it over until its right and make sure its ontime’ mentality of editors and art directors shrivel and die inside. There is no room for pain, no room for vanity really. You have to be able to seperate your work from your feelings and take any and all punches to something that can be highly personal. You can't be ‘precious’ about your work because chances are, you are going to go through a lot of revisions before you get to a final product. Also, you have to be able to be creative on command. You can't wait for inspiration, you have a deadline. Can you do that? That's a question you have to ask yourself.

Also, dealing with clients is a PITA. It really helps if you've had sales experience believe it or not. Because you are selling yourself and a product. I've found that my stint in retail really did help me in dealing with clients, particularly problem clients.

The illustrators I knew that were the most successful were very versitile in a variety of traditional and digital mediums. They did children's books, magazine illustration, editorial illustration, medical illustration, technical illustration, and commercial illustration for things like pamphlets, hand outs, tags on clothing, etc. Concept illustration is a pretty specific and extremely compeditive field that unless, realistically, you are at least as good or better than the people already working in it, you probably are going to have to work your way up. Same with working in professional comics as a penciller or something along those lines. A good way to guage your skills is to see if you can get a portfolio review at a convention. Good way to get a slap in the face as to where you really are, technically speaking.

I'd suggest you really research the illustration field, get ahold of some illustration annuals and check out what the world is buying right now. Illustration is a lot like fashion in that there are style trends and what might be out one year is in the next and vice versa. You kinda got to have your fingers on the pulse of that sort of thing to locate the best markets for your personal style of work.

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last edited on July 14, 2011 3:32PM
reconjsh at 2:47PM, March 13, 2007
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Wow, great post ShadowsMyst! Two things rang out as especially insightful.

Someone
One thing you will have to ask yourself, and it will show up fairly fast, is can you handle someone pissing all over your artwork and spanking you back to the drawingboard?
This isn't typical, but the point is so true.

You may think to yourself: “Damn, this is design perfect. Each design element plays off of every other element masterfully. The contrasting elements; colors; white space; typography; etc are going to accomplish exactly what the client wants.” After inspection, the client says “Can you make this red? I like red! I don't think this can be red enough.” and now you must apply your brillance to this new element. The mood you created and everything else depends on the implied meaning of your original color.

*sigh*

After some revision, you later think to yourself “Alright, it's red now… and it's as effective as my first version”. As you leave your workspace, the boss let's you know, “Hey, your project sheet says you spent 7 hours on this! That's double what it should take; don't let it happen again.”

*sigh*

Someone
Also, you have to be able to be creative on command…
There's a lot of intangible value in the time spent preparing for a project. To some managers, this intangible value is invisible too - just wasted time. ;)
last edited on July 14, 2011 3:02PM
Priceman at 7:24PM, March 13, 2007
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Wow ShadowsMyst, excellent advice. A real eye opener.

But yea, I'm pretty much prepared for most of the things you laid out there. The contract law suggestion never even dawned on me. Thank you!
last edited on July 14, 2011 2:47PM
reconjsh at 8:20PM, March 13, 2007
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There's alot of legal websites out there that provide “tried and true” legal documents for all sorts of professionals… including design contracts. Usually you can pick one up for about $25.

And then local, hometown lawyers will generally “scrub” those contracts for $50 or so and ensure that a particular contract works exactly as you need it to.

~$75 for a contract is a good deal. Sure, there's scammers out there on the web… but I'm sure you're smart enough to avoid them… not to mention that hometown lawyers will let you know if a contract is a dud.

This isn't to say that understanding contracts isn't important… just letting you know about a service that exists out there.
last edited on July 14, 2011 3:02PM
ozoneocean at 8:08AM, March 14, 2007
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ian_feverdream
Client don't alway care about good design, they have their own ideas and they sign the paychecks. I was working on a flyer. The client looked at it and ask, could I make everything bigger. I couldn't make the paper bigger, he just wanted all the elements bigger. I kept scaling and reworking it till it was practically a sheet of black ink on a page before he was satisfied. Then he did fault me for making it look really cluttered.
Have a thick skin and sell your self. I like the idea of having direct sales experience.
Yep, they're fucking morons. I hate graphic design. People simply don't realise how hard it is to make crappy ideas look good… I love when they reckon they can supply you with all the images, but what they give you is a couple of 200x200 pixel 72 dpi pics from the net, clearly under someone else's copyright… Or they say "yeah, we have all the files for the work, just get it off our website." -same deal.

I'd love to do illustration.
 
last edited on July 14, 2011 2:26PM
F_Allen at 8:56AM, March 14, 2007
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i studied graphic design, which hasnt got me a job yet. Now im wishing id studied an illustration degree instead. I didnt draw a thing the whole time i studied design except the occasional layout sheet. Its only the last two months ive drawn anything for years. Good luck with the studies man.
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:32PM
ccs1989 at 12:57PM, March 14, 2007
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If I go to art school, I'll probably look at animation and 3D animation, because that seems to be a growing field, especially with all the video games using it, and it teaches you to draw, color, animate, and use computers. So that would be my choice major.
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“If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”
-Henry David Thoreau, Walden
last edited on July 14, 2011 11:38AM
Priceman at 1:55PM, March 14, 2007
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F_Allen
i studied graphic design, which hasnt got me a job yet. Now im wishing id studied an illustration degree instead. I didnt draw a thing the whole time i studied design except the occasional layout sheet. Its only the last two months ive drawn anything for years. Good luck with the studies man.

Whoa, really? Well thanks for telling us; actually, i was considering Graphic Design for a while before i finally settled on Illustration. I was thinking that it was basically the same except for a bit more computer instruction with GD. Good to see that i'm on the right choice.

ccs1989
If I go to art school, I'll probably look at animation and 3D animation, because that seems to be a growing field, especially with all the video games using it, and it teaches you to draw, color, animate, and use computers. So that would be my choice major.

Sounds like a solid choice. I chose illustration cause i want to draw more than anyhting. Thanks for the input though.
last edited on July 14, 2011 2:47PM
ShadowsMyst at 4:00PM, March 14, 2007
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A good part of being a good designer does include the ability to ‘compromise’ with a client regarding between their wants, needs, and good design practices. It takes a hell of a lot of patience, confidence, preperation, knowledge of design, and no small degree of fast talking. I've learned a lot from other designers and marketting people about this particular skill. Client education is a large part of the job of a graphic designer because everyone thinks design is easy and anyone can do it. There are some tricks that you can also employ to get a client to go the way you want them to.

Like illustration, graphics is often a good deal of self employment, although conversely I've found my design skills have netted me far better paying freelance in no small quantity than illustration ever has. People always need logos, business cards & stationary, or fliers/websites/ads, etc. If you handle the whole job, including print sourcing and such, you can earn even more than the base price of the design. I've found that illustration and design tend to really marry well. Being able to do both doubles your chances of getting work and because you can draw you don't have to subcontract the illustration work. In today's market, most employers expect more and more to have an ‘all in one’ package of a designer who can illustrate or an illustrator who can design. If you are freelancing you can bid on both design and illustration jobs. I've found my Illustration skills have come in very handy as a designer. I'm a designer, but I did take illustration. Originally I thought I'd be into the illustration because I loved to draw, but I soon found I didn't really have what it took, but I found I was one hell of a designer, even though I thought that was my weak spot. So sometimes you find interesting things about yourself.

Design really is one of those fields where you are either really good, or you end up sort of falling to other things because it does require a particular mind set and skill set that isn't particularly common to most highly artistic types.

Design is also a huge field, as is illustration. There is SO many different opportunities in areas most people don't even think of. I actually recently met up with a former college classmate of mine who's biggest thing was he wanted to work for Marvel or DC penciling for comics. Apparently he actually ended up doing 3D animation with Mainframe Entertainment.

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last edited on July 14, 2011 3:32PM
Priceman at 7:04PM, March 14, 2007
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Again, great advice. I'm gonna have to keep your number close by once i graduate :)
last edited on July 14, 2011 2:47PM
hysellt at 1:26AM, March 15, 2007
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Wow, really big section to read here.
I skimmed through it all and found it very helpful, good stuff ya'll.
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:53PM
Priceman at 6:45AM, March 15, 2007
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hysellt
Wow, really big section to read here.
I skimmed through it all and found it very helpful, good stuff ya'll.

Tell me about it. I made this thread hoping to get a word or two of advice, but the info given here has been invaluable.
last edited on July 14, 2011 2:47PM
ccs1989 at 12:58PM, March 15, 2007
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Yeah, this is helpful stuff. Thanks for your input, people in the biz.
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“If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”
-Henry David Thoreau, Walden
last edited on July 14, 2011 11:38AM

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