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There's a discussion brewing in comics about artists being more diminished as of late--that readers, reviewers, and publishers are focusing too much on writers rather than the artists who draw the book. I agree it's happening, but I'm not sure it's worth sounding an alarm over. I never felt diminished, but maybe I'm part of the exception. Maybe it's because I'm an artist and a writer.

Either way, I do have a few thoughts on what artists can do to pull themselves out from under the rug.

1. DON'T DRAW LIKE A COG.

If you conform to a "house style", then you're at higher risk of being treated like an interchangeable cog in the comics machine. Yes, you're more likely to get consistent work, but you won't stand out as much. Therefor you'll be sought after less by big name writers, you're less likely to make a lasting impression on reviewers and readers, and you'll have a harder time getting raises (12 others draw like you and for less money).

I also suggests inking yourself if it helps. Pencils get covered up, so the key to retaining more distinct personality in your art is through inks (unless you publish pencils). If you're not into that, then work with an inker who will help you BOTH stand out, like JRJR and Klaus Janson.

2. DON'T GET OVERSHADOWED BY BATMAN.

I drew Batman/Scarecrow: Year One in 2005, and then things dried up for a while. You think doing Batman means you've made it? Wrong. More than likely, Batman is the star. Not you.

Around the same time I did Batman, I wrote and drew a book called Off Road. My sales were much lower (only made about 4K that year), but my art started getting recognized more. Most of the projects I've taken since are books that had no history, no fan-base, and no Batman to overshadow me. Joe the Barbarian, American Vampire: SOTF, Punk Rock Jesus and The Wake. And I have two Image books I'll be working on in 2014 (one with Mark Millar), and they're both from scratch. I try and pick stuff where the writer and I are the main event, not the characters.

*I admit I've found weird success by taking on creator-owned books more than mainstream stuff. It's a risky path, for sure. Mathematically, more artists have found success by eventually overcoming the Batmen they're drawing. But things are shifting to creator-owned, and with digital distribution and Kickstarter, this option should be more tempting than ever before. Think about it.

3. FIND BETTER PARTNERS

Currently, I'm drawing The Wake with Scott Snyder. Scott's a great partner, but it's not because he's a top writer at DC. I work with Scott because he's talented, a hard worker, he takes his job seriously, he's available for questions, he asks my opinion on the story, and he writes around stuff that I want to draw. He's also very considerate toward my schedule, my needs, and never does an interview without mentioning me, Matt Hollingsworth, and the other people who work hard on his books.

Some writers don't want to share. They lord over their books and keep artists away from interviews, contracts, and other business affairs in order to maintain control. Which is totally within their right to do--I'm not judging writers who run their books this way. But if you're an artists working for a writer like this, and you're feeling diminished, then find a new writer. And try to do it amicably.

4. AVOID SPORADIC SCHEDULING

Readers need to know where to find you. Rocking Superman for a single issue and doing a mic-drop isn't enough to get attention. The minute you leave, readers will be like, "who the hell was that?" unless you're already a name.

The other thing to avoid is double shipping schedules--where a single title is handled by one writer and multiple artists. That's like trying to get noticed from inside a crowded, revolving door. Yes, you'll be well paid for your talents. And people might buzz about your art. But it's better to be on a title where you're the only artist on a substantial run.

5. CHECK YOURSELF

Here's a quick list of complaints that I hear from artists when it comes to feeling diminished, followed by my response. In my opinion, artist who employ these arguments should look again at the reality of the job they signed up for.

"How come we don't get flown to summit meetings with the writers?"

-Writers plan years ahead with stories. They make blueprints, whereas you're the architect who's brought in later. There's not much point in flying you to a summit meeting so you can sit on your ass for two days going, "Yeah, that would be cool to draw."

"But I have good ideas on what works in comics. I should be included in summit meetings!"

-You have good ideas? So do they. No offense, but your two-cents isn't worth the $400 plane ticket, the $60 in food and the $15 of hotel porn.

"It's a writer's industry. It's not fair for artists"

-Artists ran the show in the 90s, and look how that turned out. You want artists in charge? Because I don't. Somewhere in the middle is best.
-Learn to write. Ever read a comic you thought sucked? Think you can do better? Then do it. Bad books hit the shelves all the time, so there's no reason why you can't write one, too. Or work harder and put out a half-decent one.

"How come I don't do as many interviews?"

-How many books do you draw a month? Just one? And a writer writes 3-4 a month? Then he gets to do 3-4 more times the interviews. Deal with it.

"I don't sign as many autographs as the writer!"
or "How come I don't get as many questions during panel discussions?"
-Story is in our DNA, art is not. Proof? People can do a great job describing what a movie meant to them--the characters, the plot twists, the surprises, the music, the action, and the ending. Send those same people to an art museum and they get much quieter. Why? Some of them don't get art. Some of them like it, but don't know why. Even the ones that loved it can only use limited vocabulary to describe it: neat lines, nice color, good mood, blah blah blah. And that's totally fine--it took you years to learn about art, so ease up on people that don't have your education.
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:iconjt-ford:
jt-ford Featured By Owner Mar 17, 2014  Professional Traditional Artist
"And the $15 of hotel porn" ::facepalm:: Ohhhhh, Sean. 
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:iconisaac1210:
isaac1210 Featured By Owner Mar 16, 2014  Hobbyist Artist
hey man, this got me so pumped to make something new and forge a different path. thanks.
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:iconrichardpace:
RichardPace Featured By Owner Mar 11, 2014  Professional General Artist
As a sort of addendum to #2 & #3 - -don't take work for the wrong reasons.  I ended up killing my love for making comics by taking assignments for the wrong reasons in the 90s.  I really wanted to be a horror/Vertigo Comics artist, but kept having those editors tell me they saw me as a superhero guy.  Of course, most of the superhero editors kept telling me they thought of me as a Vertigo guy, but they were happy enough to give me the work.  Sadly, this was work I didn't really want to do, so I spent years drawing things I wasn't interested in purely because it was the work I was being offered, instead of pursuing the work I wanted to do

Around 2000 I was more than happy to exit the situation I'd put myself in in the industry. I very quickly discovered, being good enough to get consistent comics work meant you were good enough to get work drawing almost everywhere else if you were willing to do a little research and learning and almost every industry pays better than comics.  The lesson I learned;  only take the assignments you really want to do and not for the money or 'exposure'.
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:icondave-wilkins:
Dave-Wilkins Featured By Owner Feb 28, 2014  Professional Digital Artist
Thanks very much for this man a lot of it hit home, especially the Cog and Batman thing- Thank You
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:iconrusscook:
RussCook Featured By Owner Feb 22, 2014
Many thanks, as ever, for publishing your insights - very helpful. mate.
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:iconfrvn-art:
frvn-art Featured By Owner Feb 21, 2014  Professional General Artist
It's always refreshing to read your journals. Now I really have to start practicing on inking my works. Kinda hoping you could also give tips on starting a partnerships with writers? I've recently been given an offer and would like to know what signs to look out for. Perhaps you could do that on your next journal entry?
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:icond4rk0v3r10rd:
D4RK0V3R10RD Featured By Owner Feb 19, 2014  Student General Artist
Thank thee for the pieces of advice,m' friend.
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:iconnuclearconvoy:
NuclearConvoy Featured By Owner Feb 19, 2014
Very interesting read, sir.
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:icondan-gr-fix:
dan-gr-fix Featured By Owner Feb 18, 2014  Professional General Artist
I think an appropriate addendum might be for both artists and writers who are trying to get into the industry to check the ego at the door. We all have to start somewhere, and no one's work is above constructive criticism. We all have to work to make our projects less "our babies" and more work when it comes down to it. Great insight as always man.
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:iconmrsmith:
MrSmith Featured By Owner Feb 18, 2014
excellent!
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:iconhugonicolass:
Hugonicolass Featured By Owner Feb 18, 2014  Hobbyist
Great post, really helpfull. Keep the Awesome Work Sean.  
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:icononikaizer:
Onikaizer Featured By Owner Feb 18, 2014  Professional Digital Artist
I'm constantly asked to draw "superhero style girls" (meaning Mike Deodato or Adam Huges) by some people in the comic book business. I would like to be able to send them the link to my portfolio and yell at them: haven't you seen my portfolio already?. I try not to be a cog, but the engine wouldn't let me adapt. Thanks for your advice!
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:iconneodesignz:
NeoDesignz Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2014  Professional
Much respect for all the insights.
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:iconbalancomics:
BalanComics Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2014  Professional Traditional Artist
Another thing worth adding on to your last point about how artists feel under-appreciate (autographs, etc) is that even the large portion of storytelling that we contribute to the comic requires a great deal of theoretical and practical knowledge to understand and speak about in more terms than just "it was cool" or "it was lame".  Lots of people don't have that - and that's okay.
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:iconadamlumb:
AdamLumb Featured By Owner Feb 16, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Good post. We need better storytelling in comics - however we get there.

Adam
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:iconsanoma:
sanoma Featured By Owner Feb 16, 2014  Professional General Artist
I'm working to move into illustration/comic art full time, and this is a very interesting discussion. As I write as well and I can fully see the draw to work on big name character books, but for me, I want to tell stories, my stories and the big draw, really the only draw for me is creator owned. And that's why u think your statement of 'learn to write' is super important. Sure, not everyone can do it, but nearly all artists have a story in mind when they draw. I say yes, a to work for the big books, but use that as a jumping off point to tell YOUR stories in YOUR worlds.
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:iconandrewhuerta:
Andrewhuerta Featured By Owner Feb 15, 2014  Professional General Artist
good read and I agree with all of it.
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:iconbustermaximus:
bustermaximus Featured By Owner Feb 15, 2014
I disagree with the your last point. Art is definitely part of our DNA. Our desire to draw and look at pictures is a defining point of our humanity and a driving mechanism within our entire social history. Proof? Lascaux caves. The problem is that we are currently part of a culture that is in a state of flux. The visual arts have been the mainstay of conveying information forever, right up until about between WWI and WWII, when suddenly more people became functionally literate. Now we live in a world where 80% of all people alive can read, where less than 100 years ago, pretty much the exact opposite was true. Ours is a culture where a focus on visual literacy -- the ability to read a picture -- has diminished because written literacy is the focus. Yet, we also live in a culture that unrelentingly inundates us with pictures. They are inescapable. So, since understanding art is not taught the way understanding writing is taught, it becomes a matter of intuitive interfacing. It's hard to verbalize the intuitive because it's just something that is.  So, people know art, but they can't talk art. If an artist wants to be able to talk art with those who can't then that artist needs to be able to interface with that sense of intuition in some way that allows a person to be able to put what they feel about what they see into words. It's a challenge, to be sure, but great artists seem to manage to do it all the time. So, it certainly is not impossible.
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:iconseangordonmurphy:
seangordonmurphy Featured By Owner Feb 19, 2014
Writing is MORE a part of our DNA because everyone likes stories and tells stories to some degree. Not everyone cares about art or can draw. That's what i meant. :)
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:iconbustermaximus:
bustermaximus Featured By Owner Feb 19, 2014
I get what you meant, but I still disagree. I won't take up your time carrying on an internet argument with you over it, but I will say this: When people talk about how they love it when Character X punched Character Y's face in and then tore off down the street in his badass X- mobile in pursuit of Character Z, they aren't talking about how that was written. They're talking about how it was shown.
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:iconseangordonmurphy:
seangordonmurphy Featured By Owner Feb 20, 2014
The reason I say that story is in our DNA is because survival and reproduction has never hinged on "art" like it has on "story".

For as long as humans have been alive, story has been with us (we can understand story without language, even). Before the written word it was the best way to exchange information. In order to survive and spread your DNA, one needs to interpret social dynamics, human relationships, motivations, and other clues in order to succeed in the pack. Those attributes are all part of storytelling, fact or fiction. That's why scientists argue that storytelling is in our DNA--people who were successful at social dynamics were more likely to survive and pass on their DNA. People who didn't see the value in story--the ones who ignored the fables about the tiger near the water hole--were more likely to die off (killed by tigers).

Art just doesn't go as deep with us.

Yes, our DNA gives us the software to interpret visuals and reproduce them to some degree, but I think that's a far cry from "art". Like music, art is a byproduct of our DNA. It has its uses, and it's interesting to critique and useful to build a career off of, but life doesn't depend on it.

I think you're unfairly judging what was a very BROAD statement. Plus, the intent wasn't even to discuss DNA and evolution: it was just to show that people are all storytellers while not all people are artists.
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:icondougsirois:
DougSirois Featured By Owner Feb 15, 2014
Makes a lot of sense. Artists just need to be happy they have steady work if they do. The competition is stiff and bars are set high. I don't mind writers taking more credit as you said writing is the DNA. Great art can't make a bad story better just as a good story can make weak art look good.
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:iconbrynjones:
brynjones Featured By Owner Feb 15, 2014
Thanks for that :) your posts are always worth a read
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:iconrexlokus:
RexLokus Featured By Owner Feb 14, 2014  Professional Digital Artist
Great advice,  thanks for sharing,   I'm a colorist  and for a colorist I think is harder to get noticed,  but as you said a good team helps a lot :)
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:iconseangordonmurphy:
seangordonmurphy Featured By Owner Feb 15, 2014
I agree completely. When I have a colorist I like, I try and look out for them.
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:iconrexlokus:
RexLokus Featured By Owner Feb 18, 2014  Professional Digital Artist
Thats nice, the best jobs and rates I had, has been when the artist ask for my color :) 
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:iconangieness:
angieness Featured By Owner Feb 14, 2014  Professional Digital Artist
Agreed! I consider a great book to be one that has great story and art. While you can sometimes get away with so-so art and an amazing story, I think all my favorites have great stories and art.
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:icondruje:
druje Featured By Owner Feb 14, 2014  Professional General Artist
 Great post, Sean! I'm an artist dealing with the same problems/challenges many others do, and that article also got my attention. But your post here widened my view on the topic and helped me see the issue from different angles. Great points, advice and spot-on arguments in sustaining them! Thank you for your input, it was a valuable one and a very acknowledging read for me!
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:iconseangordonmurphy:
seangordonmurphy Featured By Owner Feb 14, 2014
Thanks for checking it out! :)
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:icondruje:
druje Featured By Owner Feb 15, 2014  Professional General Artist
 Glad to have done so, Sean! ;)
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:iconabword:
abword Featured By Owner Feb 14, 2014
Great advice, a good artist is a good story teller and nowhere is that more true than in comics. I agree, having a good give and take a balance if you will with artist and writer on a book is the best way for things to be. This is a collaborative medium meaning people have different responsibilities on the project and so artist shoulders a portion and the writer shoulders a portion. Good analogy with architect comparison, great way to describe what the artist does. Also man your art is inspiring, its different it stands out and you are one of the few artist in this industry that I follow from project to project.
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:icondadicus:
dadicus Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2014
I'm with this guy,..........I mean, I agree about you being one of the few people I actually talk to my wife about...."Can you believe Sean said that!!!"  

You are helping us see the forth wall my friend! 
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:iconseangordonmurphy:
seangordonmurphy Featured By Owner Feb 14, 2014
Thanks! Appreciate the support.
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:iconoagarciacruz:
oagarciacruz Featured By Owner Feb 14, 2014  Hobbyist
This words are solid gold. Is this kind of reading that gives so much to us who want to break in. Thanks a lot Sean for this and your great work.
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:iconmidknight01:
midknight01 Featured By Owner Feb 14, 2014  Professional Artist
Nice post.
You should also add, stay a million miles away from Darren G Davis.
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:iconspicercolor:
SpicerColor Featured By Owner Feb 14, 2014  Professional Digital Artist
Nice post Sean. Relating to myself as a colorist, I find I might not get as many job offers because I have, or try to have, my own style. Challenging, yet rewarding. 
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:iconseangordonmurphy:
seangordonmurphy Featured By Owner Feb 14, 2014
You're getting better each time I see you!
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:iconspicercolor:
SpicerColor Featured By Owner Feb 15, 2014  Professional Digital Artist
Thanks Sean, I appreciate that!
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:icongmartinez:
gmartinez Featured By Owner Feb 14, 2014
Brilliant!
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:iconbclaymoore:
BClayMoore Featured By Owner Feb 14, 2014
Easily your best post, Sean. Very sober observations.
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:iconjk5-inks:
JK5-Inks Featured By Owner Feb 14, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Insightful as always and very to the point.

A collection of these journals of yours could serve to many aspiring artists as a precursor to attempting to establish themselves in this industry; not to deter them, but to establish a baseline of what can be/is/will be expected of them should they attain their personal goals.
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:iconaburtov:
aburtov Featured By Owner Feb 14, 2014
Permission to translate this to spanish, please! As always, you address the topic majestically.
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:iconseangordonmurphy:
seangordonmurphy Featured By Owner Feb 14, 2014
Always, it's no problem. :)
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:iconaburtov:
aburtov Featured By Owner Feb 14, 2014
Thank you very much, Sean!
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:iconaburtov:
aburtov Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2014
Translated to Spanish. aburtov.com/?p=106
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:iconopravdu:
Opravdu Featured By Owner Feb 14, 2014  Student Digital Artist
Very interesting. I've always bought comics based on the art with almost no interest in the story, that's how I found you. To be honest I can name a dozen comic artists and not a single writer. 
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:iconbiggmiggz:
BIGGMIGGZ Featured By Owner Feb 14, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
I was and still buy comics because of the artwork. When I reach back into the memory banks I hardly remember details within a story but I do remember the artwork. This may just be me and you but I see an artist as much more. Without a good artist a writer wouldn't be able to get the drama, suspense, action etc in a scene that he desires. Anyway I'm with you opravdu.
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:iconbrunochiroleu:
BrunoChiroleu Featured By Owner Feb 14, 2014
As always, itīs a pleasure to read your thoughts about the industry. Frankly, you are one of the more reasoning, down to earth voices out there. Keep at it. :thumbsup:
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:iconseangordonmurphy:
seangordonmurphy Featured By Owner Feb 14, 2014
Thanks! I have my speaking flaws, for sure though. :)
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:icongabrielrodriguez:
GabrielRodriguez Featured By Owner Feb 14, 2014  Professional General Artist
Truth upfront. This is awesome, Sean, and I'm sure will be extremely helpful for a lot of people.
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