Over at Dark Horse’s Blog editor Scott Allie gives some advice for aspiring artists bringing their portfolios to San Diego Comic Con.

Be realistic. You have to believe in your ability to do good work if you’re ever going to get anywhere, but you also have to be realistic about developing the skills to get the work. Does your work compare to the books on the shelves? If not, focus on showing your stuff to fellow artists and writers, who can give you solid advice on craft. Editors might be able to give you some direction on drawing and writing, but mostly we’re just going to tell you you’re not ready. If you’re not nearly ready for professional work, maybe it’s the wrong time to make a first and lasting impression on editors. If your work doesn’t compare to what’s on the stands, it’s unrealistic to focus on getting work, so your focus needs to be on getting better.
Know what you want to do. Quite often the first thing out of my mouth during a portfolio review is to ask the artist simply, What do you want to do? Even when I explain the question—What kind of career are you trying to begin?–they often can’t tell me. These days, comics is a rich landscape, with so many ways to make your mark, and such contrasting directions to go in. Is your priority to make a steady income, or to tell your own stories? It could be that your style or vision won’t easily find a place in the mainstream, and you either have to accept that that’s not a viable starting point for you, or steer your work in that direction. If it’s your dream to do superheroes, you might have to drastically change your style, or do what David Mack, Jeff Smith, and others have done, and make such a name for yourself doing your own thing that they beg you to draw the guys in tights. Or try going the other way around—do the mainstream stuff until you have a readership, then break out on your own. Just make sure that your work lends itself to your plan.
Focus your energy. I see artists aspiring to get their first paying gig, struggling to get control of a crow quill while their basic anatomy is screaming for help. That would be a good time to choose between a focus on developing your pencils or your inks, rather than being held back by inadequacies in both. I’ve also seen artists who could draw pretty well, but then destroyed their pencils with a total lack of finesse in the inks. That should be an easy choice–focus on the pencils and try out for jobs where someone else can do the inks. Show those uninked pencils, which are going to impress an editor a hell of a lot more than the badly inked pages.
To play devil’s advocate, I want to consider something Eric Powell’s said to me. Eric feels he wouldn’t have gotten where he is without being flexible with his work. He never narrowed his options. He made sure he could take any freelance job that came up, whether it was inking someone he’d never met, or doing the full pencils and inks, or squeezing in a rush penciling job under another inker. And the son of a bitch can paint, too. Oils. It’s served him well, and if you have an aptitude for it, you should definitely go down that road. I’m just not sure everyone does.
Educate yourself about publishers. It’ll show that you’re professional, that you’re a part of the industry on some level, if you’re familiar with the work that we put out before you show us your own work, and it will also save you a lot of time, not waiting in line to show Viz your Spider-Man samples, or Marvel your three-hundred-page confessional about your addiction to Hustler.

via Dark Horse’s Blog

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