by James Stimpson
The question I’ve been asked the most since I started my Kickstarter is “How did you find your artist?” It wasn’t a journey that was straightforward and took a long time. Hopefully you can learn from my mistakes and shortcut the process. My journey does have a happy ending though, I found Liana Recchione and we co-created The List, a comic about a Santa who saves children every Christmas instead of delivering presents. It is now on Kickstarter and close to being funded.
Two words of advice before you set off on your journey to finding an artist that were given to me: be prepared to make the artist a co-creator (giving them 50% ownership of the comic, characters and all the other commercial rights that go with it) and be prepared to pay them (this doesn’t always happen).
“Do I need an artist to get my comic picked up?” I’m afraid the answer is yes. Very few publishers accept writer only submissions and those that do will still prioritise submissions with pages. Why? It’s easier to see if the comic has potential by reading finished pages, as you get a feel of the comic; having to read pages of solid text isn’t fun and it’s difficult to tell what the comic will be like.
Before I found an artist, I went to a convention in London where I was lucky enough to speak to some industry legends: David Lloyd, Steve Englehart and Karen Berger. They were all incredibly generous with their time and offered a unanimous opinion, “If you want to get this made you need an artist.” Thanks again to the three of them for their time and kind words.
At this point I’d finished writing my comic. I’d written both single page and five page summaries (if you’re aiming to submit to publishers you’ll definitely be doing this anyway). These summaries were my selling tool, to both the publishers I originally approached and the artists I was about to approach. These documents need to tell the reader exactly what your comic is all about, so be prepared to spend time re-writing these over and over. It’s a good idea to get others to read over them and give feedback too.
Okay, now you’re ready to pitch your idea to an artist, but where to start? There are lots of places that you can begin: deviantart, peopleperhour, pinterest, upwork, behance to name a few. I do need to give a special mention of the subreddit r/ComicBookCollabs. I suggest you start here as there are many like minded people there wanting to create comics and will be able to help you on your journey; this is also your best option if you can’t afford to pay someone.
I spent a long time searching through artist portfolios trying to find a style I liked. I contacted a few people who were self-claimed amatuer artists and they wanted astronomical amounts of money for very little work. It was at this point I made the conscious decision that I was going to have to pay someone but if I was going to pay someone for the work then I was going to make sure they were a brilliant artist with experience. This process can be sped up easily by putting in the effort, I did it over a few weeks doing the odd hour here and there so you can easily hammer it out in much less time. Don’t be discouraged if you can’t find your perfect artist, it takes time.
You’ll never get a professional artist to work for free on the promise of future revenue. They need to pay bills etc. like the rest of us and they can’t do that with promises. If you could persuade one to do it for free, all of their paid work would take priority and they might not ever get around to doing it…
One artist I really liked agreed to work with me, within my budget and for a co-creator credit, who worked under the umbrella of SmArt Studios in Spain. Unfortunately for me he became inundated with professional work. However, he and his boss (Christian Mirra) suggested another artist, Liana. I looked at her art style and was a little unsure, but she really liked the idea so I got her to do an art test. The test that came back was the first page of the comic and I was incredibly pleased with it, I’d found my artist! I suggest getting them to do a test before agreeing to anything to discover what kind of working relationship you may have. Liana and I had a little bit of back and forth on the test page, as you can see in the gif below, which really helped cement the fact that we could work together.
The next step was to sign a contract. You don’t need to do this but it keeps the working partnership clean and avoids any arguments down the line. At its essence it states that we are co-creators and we are jointly hold the rights to the characters. One (I think standard) stipulation was that I own all of the writing materials and Liana owns all the drawings she does.
I’d found my artist, we’d entered into a legally binding partnership and we were ready to press forward with creating the first set of pages and character designs for The List.
That leads us to this point; if you’ve enjoyed reading this, or you just really love the art, please take a look at our Kickstarter and if you like what you see then pledge and help us reach our funding goal!
- Be prepared to offer co-creator credit.
- Be prepared to pay money.
- Use r/ComicBookCollabs to try and find an artist.
- Finding an artist can take time, be patient.
- Make sure you can work together.
- Make an amazing comic and share it with the world!