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Hey all! The Kickstarter has been a huge success. We're a short skip away from 50k--when we hit that, we'll be upgrading everyone who bought a softcover book to a HARDCOVER for free!

www.comicsreporter.com/index.p…

We've responded to your demands, and we now have a $20 tier on our Kickstarter that gets you the Café Racer PDF via Comixology! Plus EVERYONE who bought an unleaded tier and above is getting the FREE digital download! Stay tuned for details on the HARDCOVER...

 

www.kickstarter.com/projects/1…

We hit our goal for the Kickstarter! Here's the link if you missed it:

www.kickstarter.com/projects/1…

Within 24 hours, we had about 25k which is more than we wanted. Most of that extra money will be going to the added printing and shipping costs to fulfill the tiers, but we're also using some of that money to add stretch goals. If there's anything else you think I should add, let me know on Twitter or here on dA. We're considering the following:

-a DIGITAL download tier

-extra print tiers by artists like Dave Johnson, Dustin Nguyen and Tommy Lee Edwards (though nothing is verified yet)

-a hardcover tier

-and if we get funding to 50k, we MIGHT upgrade everyone to a hardcover Café Racer!

It's all in a flux now, so bear with us. I just wanted to fill everyone in. Thanks again for your time.

 

SGM

We hit our goal for the Kickstarter! Here's the link if you missed it:

www.kickstarter.com/projects/1…

Within 24 hours, we had about 25k which is more than we wanted. Most of that extra money will be going to the added printing and shipping costs to fulfill the tiers, but we're also using some of that money to add stretch goals. If there's anything else you think I should add, let me know on Twitter or here on dA. We're considering the following:

-a DIGITAL download tier

-extra print tiers by artists like Dave Johnson, Dustin Nguyen and Tommy Lee Edwards (though nothing is verified yet)

-a hardcover tier

-and if we get funding to 50k, we MIGHT upgrade everyone to a hardcover Café Racer!

It's all in a flux now, so bear with us. I just wanted to fill everyone in. Thanks again for your time.

 

SGM

It's finally up! The Kickstarter to help fund the Sean Murphy Apprenticeship up! Any way you all can help spread the word would be REALLY helpful, so here's the link:

www.kickstarter.com/projects/1…

 *We need to charge shipping, so for example, a $20 tier will end up being $27. I hope it's not confusing.

I'm putting together an anthology with 6 students called Café Racer. The Kickstarter will not only help fund the publishing costs, but also to help furnish the house I bought in Portland (Maine) with drawing tables, chairs, art supplies, etc. We're looking for 15k to get started, so if it's something you're interested in supporting, then check it out! Some of the tiers include t shirt, prints, original pages, and Skype hangouts.

Here's a Newsarama interview I did about it: www.newsarama.com/19501-you-re…

 

As always, thank you everyone for your support. I'll be posting more details about the Apprenticeship once we're rolling, so stay tuned!

SGM

I have the best readers of anyone I know.

 

No lie--I really do. Other pros who have sat next to me while I'm signing have, on more than one occasion, told me that they'd gladly trade readers with me. Most everyone who comes up to me feels like someone I would hang out with. Lots of artists, writers, students, and other kind people from all walks of life who make it all worth while.

 

After shows, I'll usually end up drinking at some event. And while everyone is usually cool, once in a while I'll overhear a pro talking about the weirdos in their line, or about how an over zealous fan was rude to him/her about how Batman's utility belt wasn't drawn properly. I've NEVER had that in my line. I drew an absurd "Dark Knight stick" on my Batman statue, and I've NEVER heard any crazed Batman fan get worked up about it! Adding things to Batman without permission will usually cause trouble on some forum SOMEWHERE, but I've never gotten that.

 

Not sure what I've done to deserve you guys, but thanks for being the best readers a guy could ask for. I promise I'll try to continue putting out quality so I don't harm our relationship. :)

 

SGM

Last week I was trying to get a visa for a trip to FIQ--the largest comic art festival in the southern hemisphere. The process was frustrating, so I posted a Tweet. It was soon picked up by a Brazilian newspaper, and that's when the drama started.

"The Brazilian visa process is ridiculous. One more snag and I'm canceling the convention at FIQ." was my Tweet.

A few hours later, the "story" was picked up by a large Brazilian newspaper, seen here: www1.folha.uol.com.br/ilustrad…

Which started a 48 hour session of my Brazilian readers fighting off the hundreds of offended Brazilians (most of whom have no idea who I am) attacking my Tweet. After retweeting the more ridiculous tweets, I finally signed off of Twitter for a few days. I also asked my Twitter followers to halt the conversation because it was just getting worse. Even this morning, I deleted a few threats in my email account. And I've just been notified that the Brazilian embassy is upset.

No, none of this is made up.

Last year I did a comic about a clone of Jesus becoming an atheist, and Brazil remained mostly quiet (you know, the country that built a giant Jesus statue performing a spread eagle over Rio de Janeiro). Who would have thought that of all thing, my stupid Tweet would have started such a storm.

I've been dying to go to FIQ, a huge (and free) comic convention in Brazil for about two years now. The handler is great, his assistants are great, and they've agreed to pay for everything. I have a lot of wonderful Brazilian readers, so I was anxious to go down and say hello. I understood that the visa process wouldn't be easy, but didn't mind. I even took a day from work to create a "The Shadow" piece for a gallery the show was having.

But after spending an accumulative three days trying to get the visa, I was ready to quit. The website for the Brazilian consulate in NYC kept crashing, it has the wrong address listed (that was a fun morning going to the old consulate, which had been moved months ago), and the process to file payment wasn't clear. I got a post office money order twice (they accept no other payment) because the amount was wrong (is it $160 or $180?), and at the end I was told that I had to start over because I needed a visitor visa, not a business visa (as I was previously told).

I was furious, so I did what we all do: I sent out a tweet.

As far as I knew, every person on the planet knows that government bureaucracy is frustrating (in any country), and going through the hoops of international travel can be stressful. The lines are long, the people are mean, and the rules are vague. In the US, criticizing the government is a part of life. And when I criticized the Brazilian visa process, I assumed it would be harmless. After all, I wasn't blaming the entire country of Brazil, just a the politicians who make US/Brazilian travel difficult.

Again, I blame US politicians as well.

Brazil has what's called Reciprocity Laws in place for people looking to enter the country. I'm not an expert, but from what I understand it vaguely means this: whatever hoops the other country puts Brazilian travelers through, Brazil matches with the same hoops. Which makes perfect sense to me, which is why I was willing to go happily through them.

When I angrily left the consulate for the second time that day, I wasn't just annoyed for myself--I was annoyed that Brazilians go through the same confusing process (sometimes it's even worse for them). As far as I know, Brazil and the US are on friendly terms. We've both survived the economic crisis (for now) with Brazil being the 6th largest economy in the world. My hope is that as Brazil continues to rise (and as more business in Brazil continue to boom), politicians on both sides will make it easier for us both to visit one another.

And I know the US makes it hard for most people trying to visit, and for whatever it's worth, I'm sorry it's like that. If I was a politician, I'd look into it. But I'm just a lowly comic artist with a schedule to keep, and it's not my arena.

I have no idea what that article written in Portuguese says about me, but I'm told I was taken out of context. I'm not trying to stoke the flames again, but I do have a right to defend myself.

As far as the show, I'm still not sure if I'm attending. FIQ has generously stepped in to try and help with the process. And with the threats coming in, there's talk of getting me a bodyguard--maybe even some Stormtroopers--which would be awesome. But I'm not sure if it's worth the risk. Stay tuned.

Thanks to those Brazilians who stood up for me! And thanks again to FIQ for your amazing support. Hopefully see you all soon. If not this year, then in the future.

Hey all. Here's where I'll be for the rest of the shows this year. Also, I'm taking SOME commissions. To get on the list, the man to see is Jason@essentialsequential.com  The prices are a bit different per show because of travel costs, but Jason can help you out.


Dublin, Ireland.....September 28-29th
NYCC......October 10-13th
Belo Horizonte, Brazil......Nov 13-17th CANCELLED
Thought Bubble, UK........Nov 23-24th

 

See you there!

Here we go, folks! If you're interested in the Apprenticeship, then read below. At the bottom you'll find a link--just click to download the application WITH your finished pages to Murphy.apprenticeship@gmail.com

---------------------------------------------

SUBMISSION GUIDELINES

1. Submit 5 pages of black and white sequential art (along with application below) to Murphy.Apprenticeship@gmail.com . The pages must be inked, no pencils and no "darkened pencils" using Photoshop. I want students who can do both! Because I use traditional tools (pencil/ink), I'm more capable of teaching students who also use those tools, but I'm happy to accept digital inking as well. However, if you work digitally, be prepared to bring your own computer/wacom/cintiq materials.

2. The pages can be from any genre/character/script you like. Feel free to write your own story, or use a professional one you find online (I don't know where to find them, so don't ask). The 5 pages must all be in sequence and from the same script.

3. The pages must be done recently--either for this submission or in the last year.

4. Send the files as 200dpi b&w jpgs--nothing too huge, please.

5. DO NOT send pencils and DO NOT send the script.

6. DO NOT use Photoshop gray tones or digital effects--I want to see your work bare.

7. DO NOT paste Sketchup models into the pages--I don't care if the industry allows it, I don't.

8. DO NOT send pinups.

9. DO NOT trace photos or Sketchup models.

10. You must be 21 years old to enroll--as long as you're 21 by February 24th, 2014 you're fine!

11. International students welcome.

 

SUBMISSION TIPS

1. Include plenty of backgrounds. Not for every panel, but enough so that the pages don't look empty.

2. Focus on 3-6 panels per page. Stay away from splashes and spreads if you can.

3. Including some sort of tech would be helpful. The script I'll be providing you (for the anthology) will have a car or motorcycle in it, and part of the course will include lessons on handling machined objects.

 

DATES

1. The apprenticeship starts on February 24th and ends on March the 9th, 2014.

2. Along with 5 pages of sequential art, the students will also fill out an application (which we will be provided in the coming week) due by October 1st.

3. I'll choose 10 students by October 15th, then begins Skype interviews for the following week.

4. 5 students will have been chosen by November 1st (it would be a good idea for the students to arrange travel in this month). They will have until December 2nd to sign the contracts (provided later if you're accepted) and submit their nonrefundable $1000 deposit.

5. The remaining balance will be due Friday, January 31st, as well as your flight itinerary. If we do not receive your remaining  of $1000 by January 31st, your spot will be given to an alternate.

6. Students will arrive on Sunday the 23rd at the Portland airport where I'll pick them up. Classes will be in session from February 24th through March 9th. They will depart on March 10th.

7. Food costs will be each student's own responsibility. There is a kitchen to cook in and likely we will dine together as a group and all chip in a little bit of money.

 

THE TWO WEEK BREAKDOWN

The goal is to put together an anthology that I'll be writing. I'll be doing 10 pages, while each student will be expected to complete their 5 pages by the end of the session. So week one will be about preparing for the 5 pages, while week two will be spend completing the pages.

Part of week one will be lessons about storytelling, analyzing movies, going over layouts for the 5 pages, and working on character designs. I'll also be teaching tips on how to handle things like perspective and drawing tech. Discussions about the business of comics will be peppered into each day's work schedule. And as we'll all be spending a lot of time together, I'm sure other tidbits about surviving in comics will likely come up.

Week two will be spent drawing and inking the pages. We'll all be set up in the same room, so I'll be working on my own pages while hovering around students who might need help.

There will also be a guest speaker coming in to talk and work with us during week 2. Temporarily, this person will be the great Klaus Janson (Dark Knight Returns). As a veteran teacher at SVA in New York City (and a good friend), Klaus will be invaluable.

 Once the work is all finished, we'll move forward with printing out the anthologies. And within a few months, students will be able to sell them at conventions to help them recuperate the cost of the Murphy Apprenticeship.

 

CONDUCT

While this will be a lot of fun, it'll also be a lot of work. I want serious, well behaved, and hard working "do-it-yourselfers" who are willing to work late nights for 6 days a week in order to complete their 5 pages if need be. there will be no smoking in the house, and alcohol will be limited on the property. 

Interested? Click the link below and download!

 

www.essentialsequential.com/Se…

I'm thinking about taking on some students for a two week "boot camp" course in comics--based off the classic master/apprentice style of education. But before I move forward with the idea (and begin Kickstarting), I wanted to get your feedback and see if anyone is interested in enrolling this winter. Please pass this along (Twitter/facebook) to anyone you think might be interested.

 

THE FACILITY

I bought a house in Portland, Maine this past weekend. It's a 5 bedroom, 4 bathroom Victorian house that's been newly renovated. The top floor is finished and will become the drawing studio for 5 students. The idea is to furnish the building with tables, chairs, couches, beds, a TV, a library, a photo studio (for taking reference images) and all the other amenities that would create the school.

 

THE PLAN

After selecting the 5 students (I'll take submissions that will be juried later on), we'll all meet in Portland this winter for the two week apprenticeship. The students will live in the house with my wife and me, have their own rooms, their own desk, and will work on the project for 14 days.

 

THE PROJECT

I'm going to write an anthology that the students and I will publish after the apprenticeship is over. For the two weeks, I'll be walking the students through the entire comic book process: character designs, storytelling, layouts, perspective, how to draw tech, penciling, inking, etc. We'll be helping each other with critique sessions, group brainstorming, and taking photo references. Not only will we be drawing together, we'll also have discussion about the business side of comics: contracts, negotiating, branding, and other tricks on how to successfully manage a career.

Not only will the published anthology be used to fulfill Kickstarter incentives, the students will also be able to sell the anthology themselves at future conventions to help recoup some of the cost of the course!

I'll be contributing 10 pages of finished art, while each student will be expected to create 5 by the end of the course. Each student will have his/her own story for the 5 pages, as well as a short bio that will help them stand out to publishers.

 

THE COST

I don't know exactly what the cost would be, but I'm thinking about charging $2000 per student, with perhaps offering a one time discount for the first session. Travel costs to Maine would NOT be covered, nor would food costs. However, I could see us as all chipping in a few bucks and cooking meals together as well. The students would be responsible for bringing their own materials.
 

IS IT WORTH $2000

While I'm not yet accredited to give college credit, this is something we are currently researching to see if there's a way to get the program approved with certain schools. While I can't at this time guarantee college credit, what I can guarantee is a two week crash session that will not only be informative, but also a hell of a lot of fun. As we all know, who you know is just as important as what you know. Not only will the lessons be filled with information, but the relationships you will build with our guest speakers, other interns and myself will be invaluable.

While 2k is a lot of money, you will be getting a lot for it. We will provide you a room in beautiful downtown Portland (it's an amazing city), lessons about every aspect of being a professional in this industry, constructive critiques, at least one guest speaker (likely two) and at the end you'll be published in an anthology with me (that you can sell). Also, I'll give each student character equity in whatever they create (this means you'll own a piece of what you've created, in case a movie should ever come out of it).

People are bugging me ALL THE TIME for a sketchbook and I've never done one. If I put out an anthology with sketches, it'll sell. And anyone buying it to see my art will be seeing your art as well. Editors and publishers included.
 

SOCIAL LIFE

It'll be a lot of work, but a lot of fun. The house is a ten minute walk to Historical Portland--a cool fishing town with great seafood and pubs. I have a car and will be happy to take the students to the beach, the arcade or the grocery store if they need. Also, I'll be hooking up my old NES and Atari so we can all talk shop after hours and hang out at night.

 

WHOM IS THIS FOR?

I'm guessing I'll get mostly college students: either ones on break or ones that have recently graduated. But this course might also be helpful for the artist who's been published once or twice and is having a hard time getting to the next step. I'm happy to take international people as well--keep in mind that travel costs are on you. And I'm looking for people at least 21 years old.

--------------------------------

So that's the plan! Let me know what you think, but also let me know if it's something you'd be interested in attending. If I get enough buzz with this, I'll begin taking submissions!







Here's an old journal from 2010 about storytelling. Because I have a lot more readers these days, I think I'm going to start reposting some of my earlier posts for my newer audience. So for you old timers, feel free to skip.

In full disclosure, I slightly edited this journal to make it a little more balanced (while also fixing a ton of typos).

--------------------------------------

I feel like the word "storytelling" gets thrown around a lot in our industry.  Yet when I look out there at some comics, I don't always see a lot of evidence for it.  

It feels like people in comics pros--myself included--often use the word only because we feel like we're supposed to.  Over the years enough professionals have been accused of being poor storytellers to the degree that everyone is now afraid of being a pinup artist as opposed to a bona fide storyteller.  But it's not enough just to claim you're a storyteller.

Most people reading this probably have a few artists in their heads right now that are probably awful storytellers—some we don't agree on, but some who are so notoriously bad that very few would defend them (it's funny how we train each other to agree on trends).  Even though most artists own books by Will Eisner and Scott McCloud, many don't seem to understand them on that deeper level.

Or maybe they have read them, but they haven't utilized the information.  They're fans of the IDEA of storytelling and they honestly believe that they ARE storytelling, but they're not internalizing it like I think they should. Of course, much of it is subjective--often what successfully emotes one reader will completely lose the next. In other words, there aren't many rules, just guidelines. And because I spend a lot of time thinking about this stuff, I've found it helpful to divide "storytelling" into four categories so it becomes an easier concept to employ.

1.Traversive storytelling


Traversive isn't even a word, so I'm inventing it.  Have you ever climbed a mountain?  Then you've traversed it.  You've gone from the beginning of the trail of the mountain, up the side, to the top, and back down on the other side.  Storytelling works in much the same way.  And your panels should be visually traversing people through the story.  Is it clear where Logan is standing?  Did you introduce that doorway before he walked through it?  Why did that beer he's drinking come out of nowhere?  Where's the bar?  What kind of bar?  What are you drawing that clearly indicates this stuff?  If a reader can't get SOME sense of what's going on without the word balloons, then you're not telling a story.  But this one's a no brainer—even most editors look out for this one.  At least during portfolio reviews.

2.Symbolic storytelling


Remember how Scarface had that cut over his eye?  It wasn't just
there to look cool.  De Palma was also telling us something: Scarface is permanently wounded, scarred, and he can't hide it.  That scar reflects something about that character.  But that's an obvious one.  We often see obvious symbolism through storytelling: rain=sadness, autumn=death, snow=a blanket.  Or a character is drawn really small to show how large and scary his world is.  But some directors push it further.  In THE ROAD TO PERDITION, Mendes linked water with death.  Young Michael witnesses death paired with ice at a funeral, rain at an execution, and a lake when his father is shot at the end (spoiler alert).  Anything can be used as a symbol if you set it up properly.  Symbolism isn't necessary to a story—it's just the gravy.  And the guys who use it stand out, so we should all be using it.

3.Acting

The way you draw you characters acting and interacting is a huge help to the dialog.  A stone-cold Punisher face is awesome, but what else can you add?  How is he moving?  How is he standing?  Are his arms crossed?  Is he ever so slightly rolling his eyes?  Acting is a form of action, so don't get bored in those talking-head scenes.  There's a lot going on that you can play with if you're smart enough to pick up the ball and run with it. Human beings read body language and faces more than they realize, so be mindful of what you're directing your characters to do. If done right, readers will be getting more from your art without being conscious as to why.

4."Awesome" storytelling
     

Ever see that commercial with Michael Bay blowing stuff up while he's saying "I demand everything to be awesome"?  It stands out, doesn't it?  Whatever your opinion of Bay is, I think he's making a valid point: people want to be moved, and excitement is a huge part of comics. 

 One of my favorite movies is T2, and T2 is far from a perfect movie.  But the reason I love it so much is because Arnold is awesome on that motorcycle.  In one scene he pulls out a shotgun from a box of roses—THAT'S awesome.  He lifts John from his dirt bike onto his Fatboy—THAT'S awesome.  He's wearing one leather glove to cover his metal hand. –THAT'S awesome.  So why all this talk about "awesome"?  The more fun you're having in a story, the more invested and emotionally committed you are.  Having something impact you is important—even if it's just cheesily "awesome".  But there's a fine line between being an "awesome pinup" artist and throwing someone an "awesome camera angle" every now and then.  You can be an "awesome" artist and still be all the other things I mentioned.  Sure, drawing the SWAT team in the foreground wasn't in the script--but fuck it because SWAT teams are awesome!  Comics are a visual medium that can't always compete with novels, movies and video games—so there are times when it MUST be about the artwork.  So give the people a bone.  No editor is ever going to make you redraw that SWAT team into the background because you drew it overly awesome.  (Here's a short list of "awesome" things in comics that you should try to draw the fuck out of ever chance you get: guns, cars, leather anything, swords, anything Japanese, explosions, alleyways, bricks, boots, and anything angry.)


For me, these are the tenets of storytelling.  I'm sure I've missed a few, and I know a lot of these overlap.  Storytelling isn't a science and it doesn't happen completely on the page; it mostly happens in the reader's head a thousand miles from where you're standing.  So I make it a goal to do my best and be as clear as possible.  Not that I'm an expert—I make plenty of mistakes and am still learning.  I'm actually hoping to spark some debate so I can hear your thoughts and make my process better.

I know I'm a broken record, but thank you all for the support! Punk Rock Jesus hit the list in its first week at #4 on the list. This makes me hope that we're one step closer to a hardcover edition, as well as an AMC original series (in my wildest fantasies, anyway). Here's the www.nytimes.com/best-sellers-b…
  • Listening to: Beethoven piano sonatas
  • Reading: Attack of the Theocrats
  • Watching: Science Channel
They're available online! Along with PRJ prints and trading cards! Talk to my friend Jason at

www.essentialsequential.com/Li…
  • Listening to: Beethoven piano sonatas
  • Reading: Attack of the Theocrats
  • Watching: Science Channel
You know that green ellipse tool that you bought in art school? Do you know how to use it for something other than oval shapes? Do you know what those "cross-hair" marks are for? And do you know how to use it for technically correct perspective drawings?

TOO many comics artists don't, and it's driving me crazy. So instead of starting a blog that starts showing examples and naming names, I figured it was better to make a quick tutorial. And this isn't just for cars but also for guns, fire hydrants, and millions of other machined objects found in comics.

If you go through this and you're still stuck, please don't write to me. I'm happy to show you at a convention to make it clearer, but within a blog this is the best I can do. Check out "Perspective for Comic Artists by David Chelsea" for more.

TIP #1

Cars are a whole lot easier to draw if you know how to properly use perspective and ellipses. The more familiar you are with the math, the more fun it is to draw cars. Once I figured out the ellipse tool and starting drawing tires that actually looked like they fit the car, I was hooked. A good car drawing is 50% about making the tires look correct. Check out the tutorial I'm posting in my gallery.

TIP #2

Comic artists are usually good at drawing Batman because they care about Batman. Batman resonates with them on a personal level of some kind whether from watching the cartoon, playing a video game, or dressing up like him for holidays. It's easier to draw things when you care about them.

It's my opinion that most artists are bad at drawing cars because they don't really care about them. Sure, they like driving them or maybe they like the engine noise, but they still see them as machines and not as works of art (maybe because most artists are poor, they can't afford a cool one that they would see as a work of art). In other words, they don't care about cars like they care about Batman.

The first car I got good at drawing was my car in high school: a yellow Honda CRX. Because it was mine (and because I had all kinds of memories and feelings wrapped up in it), I found I could draw it better than I could the Batmobile. From then one out, the more I learned about cars, the more interesting I found them, and the better I got at drawing them. Understanding terms like "down-force", "apexing", and "four-on-the-floor" makes me draw better cars because it's using more of my brain to do it. I don't want to JUST draw a Batmobile, I want it to have the correct spoiler and be leaning on the correct wheel as it power-slides through a corner. I want readers to be infected by my love of the Batmobile via my drawing.

As an exercise, find a car that you like and do some research on it. Learn about it's design team, the time in which is was created, and why it was a good or bad car (or pick a plane, a boat or any other machined object). Try to build a connection to it by understanding it's story.

If you're having trouble, here's a link to a Top Gear episode where they did a quick documentary about the history of Saab (it's 12 minutes). I never liked Saabs, but the history of Saab issuch a cool story that it makes me want to draw one. Watch it and see if it does the same for you.

vimeo.com/37524986

It's okay if you're the type who hates drawing cars and will always hate drawing cars. To be honest, I hate drawing poker tables. And it wouldn't matter if I learned about the history of poker tables, I'd still hate it. But I bet it'd still get better at it.

TIP #3

It goes without saying that practice makes perfect. And it's the same for cars. It's hard at first, but the more you draw cars, the more familiar you are with their basic principles and curves. Soon you will be able to quickly sketch a convincing car into the background of a panel without referencing.

Most of all, be patient. Cars are one of the hardest things to draw, I find. But once you get good at them, every other machined object is easy.
  • Listening to: Beethoven piano sonatas
  • Reading: Attack of the Theocrats
  • Watching: Science Channel
It's a long shot, but I was wondering if someone in the Leeds area of the UK would be interested in a trade?

I'm due to fly out for Thought Bubble on November 23rd and plan on driving into Scotland to visit Mark Millar. I wanted to rent an Alfa Romeo or something cool for the road, but the rental places nearby only have basic, boring cars. I'd be willing to trade art with someone who's willing to lend me a cool set of wheels! Or maybe a friend of yours has a cool car and you could steal his keys? If not, then I'll be doomed to a crappy Citroen or something. :)

I know it's a weird request, but I thought I'd give it a try. And YES, I know I've been watching too much Top Gear.

Sean
  • Listening to: Beethoven piano sonatas
  • Reading: Attack of the Theocrats
  • Watching: Science Channel
While I used to see "art sales" simply as bonus money coming in on the side, over the past few years it's become enough of an asset that it justifies an art dealer, record keeping, insurance, and taxes at the end of each year. It's currently 25% of my total income, and that has a lot of impact over my work. And just like storytelling, design and page flow--abstract principles that keep my career afloat daily--art sales also deserve to be studied, theorized, and understood.

These are guidelines, not rules. And while most of them usually work for me, they might not all work for you, so keep in mind that my market might be different than yours. Because not only do we not draw the same, we probably have different sorts of buyers.

1. Don't stay on a book for too long

I find that doing mini series of 4-12 issues is optimal for selling art. If you spend a year doing one-shots or 2-3 issue minis, you'll be hard for buyers to keep track of because it's too infrequent. And it's hard to make an impact on a title or a character with such a brief window. However, if you spend years on something like the Punisher, eventually you'll saturate your own market--people who already have your Punisher pages are less likely to buy your new Punisher pages. But if you do 5 issues of Punisher and 5 of Spider Man, the same buyer will likely want a page from both titles. A career is more stable with long-term projects, but it's not optimal for art sales.

2. 5 second panels

I remember in college hearing my professors say, "don't spend too much time on one panel. People are only going to look at it for 5 seconds." People who say things like that probably never sold a lot of art. In other words, hard work usually pays off in pages. Sure, I've seen Batman pages by name artists who can design their way around not having to draw backgrounds. And some sell for very high. But I think that pages that show patience, hard work and lots of elbow grease usually look better framed on a wall--thus they sell faster and for a higher price. The more you hand letter your street signs and avoid using Photoshop for things like copying-and-pasting panels, the better your chances of selling pages.

3. 6 month window

According to my art dealer, the general guideline is that artists will get their best prices in the first 6 months of the work being released. Within 6 months the art is still fresh, the Punisher storyline the pages portray is still a current event in the series, and buyers have a bit of time before deciding on which pages they'll pull the trigger on. After 6 month, the pages might feel stale, the Punisher storyline has moved on, and the market is saturated with hundreds of other comic pages which have stolen your buyers' attention. After the 6 month period, you'll usually end up dropping your prices. But not always.

4. Stand out

If you have a popular, unique style that's getting a lot of buzz (or a book with a lot of buzz), don't be afraid to charge more. Standing out with a unique style can make it hard to get mainstream monthly superhero titles, but it's great for selling art. Mike Mignola is a perfect example: if you want Mignola styled art, there's only one place to get it, and that's Mike. He even breaks the 6 month guideline--I'm pretty sure Hellboy prices have gone up over the years, as well as anything else he's drawn. He's the kind of artist who's so renowned that when he draws Batman pages, people are likely buying them firstly because of Mike, and secondly because of Batman. It's usually the other way around, of course. Very few artists are bigger than the characters.

5. Know your readers

I drew a Punk Rock Jesus page that included panels of Carl Sagan, Lincoln, and Galileo. It didn't have anything obvious that usually sells a PRJ page: Thomas riding his motorcycle, a sci fi background, or a polar bear. But I knew it would sell because I know my readers from meeting them at conventions, and I know a lot of them are science/history buffs like I am. So I told my dealer to charge $600 for a page he would normally asked $300 for. I think he thought I was being silly, but the page sold in a few days (I probably should have asked for more). Most people tend to think of buyers looking for 2 thing when it comes to comic art: splashes of Batman and girls with big breasts. And while those things might be true, there are many other buyers out there that will purchase "nothing really happening" pages if you know what to include (even if it's not in the script). I have buyers who are nuts for certain cars, insane backgrounds of cities, musical icons, animals, locations close to where they live, plants, you name it. If you've got a talking heads pages, I suggest drawing the characters talking in a 1960s Mustang--you'll easily get twice the money for it.

Other tips:
1. Using higher quality ink and paper is a positive. Markers fade over time.
2. Drawing at the 10x15 size of normal comic paper (or whatever it is) is a positive. Buyer usually don't like small pages, and HUGE pages can also be a problem.
3. Be nice to people at your table at conventions. Sounds obvious, but remember these people aren't just buying your work, they're buying you. Spend time showing them through your work but try not to pressure them too much. If you're an awesome artist (and I know you are), the pages will also sell themselves.
4. Messy pages don't always detract from the value. Mine can be pretty gross, but my buyers like them that way because they can see faded linework that didn't make it to print.
5. If you've got a ton of old stuff that hasn't sold, give it to your high-end buyers next time they make a purchase. They'll love the gift and usually come back for more.
6. Keep the contacts of your high-end buyers. If you've got something that's up their alley, they might be interested in buying some art before the book has even come out (just ask they they don't post them for a few months).
7. Having too many pages for sale on your table is bad--people get overwhelmed and can't make a decision. Better to have your choice pages out and organized in a single book, then keep the rest of it behind the table. If people want something that's not in the book, you can get it for them or invite them to cruise through the pile if they like. Having the bulk of the pages off the table keeps order.
8. Convince as many artists as possible to go digital. The less original art there is, the more money artists like us will make (if Fiona Staples had hand-drawn Saga, I would have sold a lot less PRJ pages, guaranteed).
9. Printing blueline onto the board and then inking it will usually mean lower sales. Better to use pencils (or blue pencil), and then erase completely.
  • Listening to: Beethoven piano sonatas
  • Reading: Attack of the Theocrats
  • Watching: Science Channel

DUBLIN and LEEDS and NEW YORK CONVENTION schedule

Hey all. Here's where I'll be for the rest of the shows this year. Also, I'm taking SOME commissions. To get on the list, the man to see is Jason@essentialsequential.com  The prices are a bit different per show because of travel costs, but Jason can help you out.


Dublin, Ireland.....September 28-29th
NYCC......October 10-13th
Belo Horizonte, Brazil......Nov 13-17th CANCELLED
Thought Bubble, UK........Nov 23-24th

 

See you there!


SEAN

  • Listening to: Beethoven piano sonatas
  • Reading: Attack of the Theocrats
  • Watching: Science Channel
I love doing podcasts, and I always try to be honest and open, but the one I did with Ink Pulp Audio (and my friend Shawn Crystal) is by far the best podcast I've ever done. We sat down in our hotel room at SDCC in 2012, poured a few bourbons and unleashed a raw, honest, and uncompromising conversation about religion, comics, and our history of trying to survive the industry. I wish all podcasts were like this, but few people are equipped to ask the right questions. Because Shawn's an old friend and really gifted SCAD teacher, I think he's easily becoming the Oprah of comics, and I mean that in a good way.

We start chatting about 15 minutes in, but I think the whole thing is worth a listen:

itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/in…
  • Listening to: Beethoven piano sonatas
  • Reading: Attack of the Theocrats
  • Watching: Science Channel
Here's a www.amazon.com/Punk-Rock-Jesus… to the book! There's also a new interview I did with Amazon. I'll post more of the new content for the trade as we get closer to the April.

S
  • Listening to: Beethoven piano sonatas
  • Reading: Attack of the Theocrats
  • Watching: Science Channel
To many people in comics, I only arrived a few years ago with Joe the Barbarian. Then came Hellblazer (completed in 2008 before I began working on Joe), American Vampire: SOTF, and finally Punk Rock Jesus. Once in a while someone will mention Off Road (an OGN I did with Oni back in 2004), but for the most part it seems like I've been published only these last few years when in fact I've been published professionally for a decade now.

This isn't a plea to have everyone go back through my previous work--in fact, I'm glad that a lot of the books I've done over the years aren't on readers' radars. I'm proud of it all, but the books above are a nice, tight group of titles to be associated with. They're all in a similar brand, they're all recent, they all have good creators/publishers associated with them, and the artwork is mostly consistent. Go back further than that, and you'll see artwork that looks nothing like the stuff I'm doing these days. (Although Off Road still holds up to some degree.)

I realized I hit the 10-year-mark only a few days ago, and I wanted to write something about the past 10 years, so here's my list of Top 5 Mistakes

5. Not getting paid

I won't mention the company (I have in the past, and it's not worth more drama)--at this point it would only give them undeserved attention. But when I was still in college, I did 3 issues over a summer and never got paid. I had a contract, but it was written in such an amateur way by the publisher that there was nothing I could do legally. 3 months were wasted when I could have gotten a job at Home Depot to pay my college bills, but I learned a valuable lesson about trusting publishers. I haven't been burned since, and that's because I've become a viper when it comes to paperwork and negotiations. I can be unpleasant and overly suspicious, I'm sure, but it's the only way I know how to protect myself.

I'm not sure how I would have avoided this at the time. Now I'm better at noticing shifty behavior from people and knowing whom to avoid. Back then, I was too young to see it. Oh well, lesson learned.

4. Learning valuable things about art, then ignoring them

At SCAD Savannah (the impressive Atlanta campus didn't exist yet), I'd sometimes have time to do a page in a week, and I would use the time to explore a lot of different techniques, tools, and ways of mark-making. During the latter half of school, I began getting work with Dark Horse on Star Wars Tales, and then on a book called Crush (once I'd graduated). It was the first time I'd been forced to work at a page-per-day, so I stripped away the stuff I'd learned (in and out of class) for a more streamlined look. Instead of using brush, quill and ink, I used Microns and French curves. The art was slick and had lots of movement, but it lacked depth. It was plastic, lazy and unimaginative. For two years I was coasting on cruise control and not challenging myself. The art served the story and nothing more--there was never a panel to drool over. Never anything to hang on a wall. There are guys who have found many ways to effectively use Micron, but I'm not one of them.

It wasn't until I started inking Zach Howard on some unpublished Vertigo pages (this was 2004) when I began to use the brush and quill again. Microns and Rapidographs were taking too long and I couldn't make the tools embrace how dynamic Zach's art was, so I forced myself to pick up the older tools. It was clunky at first, but after a few months it was like rediscovering a limb. And I've never looked back.

To this day, I'm still trying to think of a good reason why I stopped using them in the first place. My career might be 2 years advanced if I'd never done that.


3. Store signings

The one thing I've never gotten over the past ten years is get a line of people at a comic shop signing. And I'm not asking for a killer line, just any line at all.

I'm sure if I did more high profile superhero stuff, it would happen. But with how well things have been going lately with Joe, Vampire, Blazer and PRJ, I would have expected to get a least some kind of showing, especially in NYC. But it never happens. The best one so far has been at Casablanca Comics in Portland, Maine. And even though it was somewhat successful, I had plenty of time to stare at stacks of books that I wasn't signing.

There's a lot to gain by doing store signings, of course. It means a lot to people who can't travel, it gives you time to spend quality time with readers, and it's often a free mini vacation to wherever the store is. But 9 times out of 10, it's usually a disappointment for me and the store owner. And I always apologize to him as I leave the store, my head lowered between my shoulders in shame.

Here's why I think I do so poorly at these things: half my readers are women who don't like going in comic shops. Lots of them brave it out, sure, but most don't because--let's face it--a lot of shops are creepy. I also think that many Vertigo readers prefer to buy the trades in books stores or order stuff online. Or they download in digital.

Whatever the reason, I've decided not to do any more store signings for a while. They're great for keeping an artist humble, but I've found them very depressing.

2. Turning down Assassin's Creed 3

I mentioned this before, but I was offered a chance to work on Assassin's Creed. I was also offered the chance to work with a lot of great writers over the past few years--one was even offering $1000 per page. But I turned them down to do Punk Rock Jesus.

I'm glad I chose to stick with PRJ--great gigs will always be there, but finding a window to do your own stuff is really hard. But every time I drive by an Assassin's Creed billboard, see a commercial or hold an action figure, I feel a tinge of regret. And now that I'm trying to put a down payment on a house in Brooklyn, part of me wishes that I'd taken a script more lucrative than PRJ.

But not really.

1. Insecurity

My thoughts on the psychology of being an artist are always evolving. I'll spare you a drawn out emo-description of what it's like inside an artist's brain, because most people on dA know exactly what I'm talking about. And that's my point--no matter how much we fight it, we can all be overly sensitive, emotional, and very insecure. That's just the price of creativity, I think.

I used to pretend that I wasn't insecure because I thought it put me above the drama and the hen-pecking I see at conventions and online. And you can see all kinds of insecurity playing out if you know what to look for. There's the "quick-to-anger" artist: getting upset so quickly is a defense mechanism to quickly isolate himself and appear alpha in a situation. There's the "emo-hipster" artist: being a comic artist isn't enough, so he decks himself out in some sort of costume complete with leather bracelets, floppy hair, and a b&w artist bio photo. Or there's the "I-don't-care" artist: he claims to not read comics and will go out of his way to act like he's not caring what people think--while constantly checking his Google alerts.

There are a bunch more, and I've inhabited many of these roles over the years. And there's nothing wrong with being any of them, but try not to kid yourself because (chances are) you've got baggage.

The types of creators I'm really drawn to these days are the ones who admit their insecurity in some way. And by no means are these creators above it; they still let bad reviews get to them, they're not above trolling the internet for mention of their name, and they usually keep a list of "I don't like this creator and here's why" on the edge of their tongue. But at the end of the day, these creators do their best to laugh, admit that they're not perfect either, calm down, and try not to take it all so seriously.

I find that doing this for a living requires constant monitoring of your state of mind. Patrolling myself for weirdness, immaturity and other artist-insecurity is part of the daily grind. Of course, focusing too much is its own form of insecurity and egocentrism, so be careful.

And when I fail at this (and it happens a lot), it's always my biggest regret.
  • Listening to: Beethoven piano sonatas
  • Reading: Attack of the Theocrats
  • Watching: Science Channel