“How do I find an artist” or “I can’t find an artist“… I see these two in the forums all the time and get them emailed to me at least once a week.
First, let’s call a spade a spade. NOBODY, and I mean nobody has trouble finding an artist when you have a solid budget. <Actually, that’s not completely true, because even when your budget is good, the best artists are often booked a year or more out…>
And I’m not referring to people new to the comic industry, with a real budget, just beginning their search and reaching out for a professional recommendation.
But the point is, money talks and bullshit walks.
If you’re broke, you’ll have a hard time finding anything… including artists. If you’ve been looking for an artist for a long while with no results, and for some strange reason don’t believe the words I put on screen for you as gospel of Church of our Blessed Six Panels or Less, do the following: Take the next five days and continue searching for artists, but this time tell folks your budget is $300/page for pencils.
Actually don’t do that—I don’t want you wasting people’s time—but trust me, if you did do that, you would get exactly 475,392 email responses of artists extremely motivated to work with you.
There’s no shortage of artists looking for work (keyword there being work: mental or physical activity as a means of earning income).
Ok, I’m not giving you practical advice… don’t get your panties in a bunch their cupcake.
Here are the best ways to find an artist for your project when you’re on a cough-cough, limited budget:
Best way to find a valuable team member in my experience is from a personal recommendation. In order to gain a personal recommendation, you have to actually know someone, which leads me to number 2…
Put the social in social media.
Back in the old days before drones and smartphones, this was called networking.
It goes like this… MEET PEOPLE.
Make professional “friends”.
I’ll tell you right now, artists LOVE likes, shares and comments on their social media posts. (writers too, whistle-whistle-looking up at the ceiling). Doing that consistently, aka, supporting them, is a great ice breaker.
TIP: If you want to ask something of someone on social media, don’t friend them, and them BAM! DUDE, QUICK, WHAT BLOOD TYPE ARE YOU!! Don’t do that. Instead, friend them, follow them for a few weeks, like, share, comment and GOD FORBID, engage them in actual conversation. Tell them you love their work, appreciate their posts, ask them how they like their coffee…I dunno… then, once they at least know you exist… THEN, mention you could “use their help”.
TIP #2: I have about 5000 friends on Facebook. I can literally count the folks who actually message me consistently just to say “hey” on both hands… and you know what… even though I don’t know those folks personally, really, I ACTUALLY DO KNOW THEIR NAMES… hmmm imagine that. Coincidentally, none of you folks have asked me for favors, you’re awesome! 😀
Being social, also includes, actual human contact offline. An excellent place to do this, is at conventions. Tip #3: Artists (and writers) tabling at cons get hit with tons of requests to work at projects. Don’t use the opportunity as a pitch, you’ll get your stuff thrown into a slush pile, instead use the opportunity to introduce yourself and start a potential relationship. Buying something is a great way to support and help get you remembered. (yeah the artist is unlikely to remember the 500 people who bought his prints, but he is more likely to remember the guy who bought a print, talked shop for 15 minutes, and mentioned he’d be in touch.)
Look Right in Front of your Face.
And by this I mean, the comic sitting on your desk.
Yeah that opening splash page, the one with all the credits on there… (or even the cover) Those are the actual names of the people who created the comic! Go figure. A smart chap looking to connect with an artist, might take the name of an artist they like and turn to the interwebs for a bit of detective work (sometimes contact emails will even actually be in the issue, but that makes it too easy if you ask me).
Granted, this will only have a chance of working if you’ve got an indie comic in front of you. Odds are Greg Capullo won’t even look at your script. Famous folks and artists under big contracts have legal binders that limit their interaction with noob writers like yourself.
But you may find artists from the smaller shops much more approachable. Just don’t forget to focus on building a relationship with them, not simply asking them for favors.
https://www.reddit.com/r/ComicBookCollabs/ (there are others on reddit)
Comic artists lurk in abundance in all three places (and others).
Go there. Support. Reach out to folks. Tip: This is a really crazy, guerilla tactic… but if you find an artist you admire and may want to work with, shoot them a message and say something like… “Hey man, your work got me through 2 divorces and a very expensive drug habit. If I can ever repay the favor and help promote any of your projects, let me know!” I don’t know if it’ll work, but what do you have to lose… besides, in my experience artist are generally sympathetic to expensive drug habits. Wait, what?… ok, moving on.
Some of these sites may require you to make accounts and you might not be able to post immediately—some forums put new users in a probationary period… If the idea of spending time and effort on these sites in order to look for an artist scares you, pack your bags and pick another industry. Finding an artist is likely to be a lot of work, no matter how you crack it.
Split IP Rights
Also no matter how you crack it, comics are expensive.
Be prepared for this reality and realize the effort and value an artist brings to the table. Understand above all else, if an artist is spending 8 hours pencilling a page for your book, they’re NOT pencilling for some other client paying their normal rate.
While looking for an artist to work on your project with a limited budget, realize any talented artist (someone who’s work will actually sell commercially) will not work for free or even a highly reduced fee, just because they like you, or your project.
They may decide to reduce their upfront fee, deferring their payment until later on, OR, exchanging their upfront fee for a different type of compensation. This could be a trade of some kind, say for example you own a Porche dealership on the side, or are a stone mason and they need their stone chimney fixed… but most likely, compensation exchanged in this manner will be swapped out for ownership of the IP.
There are no hard and fast rules here, you’ll have to research contract negotiations and talk to people to see what kind of deals are reasonable. My advice here is to have a crystal clear understanding of what value the artist brings to the table based on their Work For Hire Rate. If their standard rate is $100/page and your script is for a 64 page graphic novel, they’re bringing $6,400 of value to the table (intangible things like name recognition withstanding).
KISS // Keep it
Simple SMALL Stupid
Another thing to keep in mind when you’re actively seeking an artist for your project of limited budget, is to keep it small–this is especially relevant if you’re a completely unknown writer with no track record in producing or selling comics properties.
If you insist on developing your 200 page graphic novel or ongoing series, focus on a well put together pitch package of no more than 6-8 pages.
Remember, crossing the finish line with less is much better then never starting the race with a monstrous beast in hand.▪
About the Author —
Nick Macari is a full-time freelance story consultant, developmental editor and writer, working primarily in the independent gaming and comic markets. His first published comic appeared on shelves via Diamond in the late 90’s. Today you can find his comic work on comixology, amazon and in select stores around the U.S. Visit NickMacari.com for social media contacts and news on his latest releases.