By D. Lynn Smith
I recently answered some interview questions, and one of them was something like what advice would I give to artists wanting to work for Kymera Press. I talked about getting your work up on sites like Deviant Art and not being shy about displaying your work. But I thought it might be helpful to tell you what I look for when searching for an artist.
Kymera Press is a new publisher and we want to support young artists so they can continue to grow and develop. This does not mean, however, that we are going to hire an artist just because they can draw. Yes, drawing is important. But more important is if you can tell a story with pictures.
My previous entries about the writer made the point that, for the most part, the writer of the comic book is invisible. That’s why I’m not a huge fan of narration. I’m constantly trying to cut back on the number of words that appear on my pages. That’s really difficult, but if you have a good artist, it’s much easier.
When I go to sites like Deviant Art, I’m looking for an artist who has posted more than just illustrations. I want to see sequential pages. I want to see how you arrange your panels, if your art tells a story that flows from one panel to the next, if you left some room for dialog bubbles.
I really like to see artists experiment with panel arrangements. A comic that plays with this is Gotham Academy, written by Becky Cloonan and Brendan Fletcher with art by Karl Kiershl. I’m continually delighted by the creative panel arrangement in this comic. So play with the panels: maybe have a full-page illustration with panels arching across the page from the top left to the bottom right. Or have a two-page spread where the panels go across the top of two pages instead of just one.
Something different and interesting always catches my eye. I’m also looking to see if the artist draws a background. Many young artists draw the action, but forget that the characters are somewhere, not standing in the middle of a cloud of nothing. If they are in a restaurant, are there tables, people, wait staff? Is there food on the table, pictures on the wall?
So if you’d like a job as a penciller or inker on a comic book, post some pages of sequential art. If you don’t have your own story, ask a writer friend, or look for a script online and draw up one of the pages just as a sample. Show me you can tell a story in pictures.
One of my favorite comics is Bitch Planet written by Kelly Sue Deconnick and drawn by Valentina De Landro. In one of the issues, the action is happening in the foreground while a whole different action, the beginning of a prison riot, is happening in the background. It’s absolutely brilliant. And yes, Kelly Sue wrote it that way, but that’s because she also fills in the background, something I’m working on learning to do. The point is, the background can be as important as the foreground.
Many young artists post a lot of fan art. While these are usually interesting to see, it doesn’t show me that these artists are able to conceptualize their own characters. Building a character is a very important part of the storytelling process. I may post reference pictures for a character, but it is the artist who actually brings that character to the page. When I’m searching for an artist, I want to see if they can create original characters. Fan art simply doesn’t do that.
Finally I’m looking for consistency. When I’m doing a series, I expect my character in Issue #30 to look like she looked in Issue #1. Some artists have a problem recreating a face from one panel to the next.
These are the main things I look for in an artist. Of course there are other things as well, like professionalism, price and just plain niceness! Don’t underestimate the value of being easy to work with.