After reading Sean Murphey’s 5 Year Plan journal, I felt compelled to put my feelings and opinions into words regarding some common misconceptions that I feel most freelance artists have.
Feel free not to read this, or agree with it. I don’t rant often but I feel it could be of some use around here. If it comes off as preachy or heated, I apologize.
One thing that is sad with any industry or workplace is the lack of communication. There are some things you need to know (and a lot of things people don’t tell others) in order to survive as a freelance illustrator/comic book artist, especially in todays economy…
If you think you can sit around and expect work to come flowing in just because you’re talented and have a website up: YOU ARE WRONG. Instead of asking yourself "Why am I not getting work? I don’t get it!" Ask yourself "What can I do to get more work? Which editors or art directors can I contact?" In any industry, you need to constantly be looking for work! You have to get out there and network, go to conventions (even if they suck sometimes), meet editors, exchange emails, follow up, look for the next job, always look for ways to improve. If you don’t do this you are dead in the water. Sitting on your couch doesn’t do any of that. Your computer doesn’t get jobs for you. There is no get rich quick scheme for this industry and if that’s what you’re looking for, then this isn’t the industry for you.
It is said that in comics, an artist can be 2 of 3 things: Talented, good with deadlines, and nice. If you are talented and nice but don’t hit your deadlines chances are an editor could care less about working with you. Let’s say you’ve had a couple paying jobs, maybe even some published work, but if it takes you 3 months to finish one commission, then are you aren’t worth contacting for more work. These people are paying you to draw them something, they are giving you work!
Be grateful for it, and be honest. If you think it’s going to take you 3 months because of your schedule, tell them that, or maybe you shouldn’t agree to it in the first place.
Just because you have finally been published or worked for some sort of payment does not mean you are ready to charge hundreds of dollars on each project. Sure, you may think your work is worth X amount but everyone has to start somewhere and chances are you won’t start at Leinil Yu’s income (or talent), especially if you’re making indie books. You need to know who your dealing with and when to charge more. An independent writer most likely can’t afford to pay you $100 a page, while Marvel can and will most likely pay you $300+ per page. You can’t charge a garage band $500 for their album artwork but you could get away with that with a more established band. You get the point. If it’s money you want, go to Marvel or DC. But you’d better have the beans to do it.
If you have the talent but talk shit on other artists and don’t deliver on time then you need work on your attitude or your work ethic. And if you want more work, a better work ethic generally helps.
On a somewhat separate note in regards to growing as an artist….
I’d also like to add that to become complacent with you work (to me at the very least) is to die and to fail as an artist. Even if you are Jim Lee and you make tons of money because of your branded style, it doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement. There isn’t a bar you hit that says "Well, you’ve become as good as you can get" That’s just pathetic backwards thinking. To be artistic is the exact opposite of that, it’s to explore experiment and to grow. I’ve always tried to apply Ryu’s mentality, from Street Fighter, to my own work “I fight to become stronger.”
That is my disjointed rant. Take it or leave it, hopefully you take something from it.