How Do I Find An Artist?

In previous tutorial posts I’ve talked about my comic writing methods and helpful tips on pitching original stories to comic publishers. This time I’m going to talk about a subject every creator-owned comic writer has wracked their brains over: How do I find a good artist to work with?

Believe me, there’s no easy answer. I could just say “persistence and luck”, and those two elements definitely factor into it, but there are some tips I can give that might improve your chances.

First things first, I know you want to find an incredibly skilled artist, a diamond in the rough who’s been winding away their time doodling top notch pro quality pages just waiting for the right comic story to sink their teeth into. But, before you start that search, you need to make sure you are the kind of writer they’ll want to work with.

Just like I suggested with the pitch tutorial, you need to think like you’re on the other side:
If you were an artist, what would convince you to get on board the project you’re pitching?

MONEY: This is the easy one. If you’re independently wealthy and can afford a professional page rate, you’ll be able to convince a much larger pool of artists to work with you, even if your story sucks. Freelance artists, even great ones, go through slow periods. If your money is good they’ll take on the commission if they’re available. Since that’s probably not the case, you’re definitely gonna need to be…

PROFESSIONAL: You need to present yourself in a professional and courteous way. Your pitch should be clear and catchy. You’ll need to be flexible to their schedule and fair with sharing ownership of the final work. Your communication should be straight forward, your ideas should be easy to understand and your attitude should be upbeat and friendly. Don’t trash your own work and don’t come across as cocky and egotistical.

If you get a chance to send a potential artist your story concepts, make sure they’re tightly written, engaging and, for the love of all that’s holy, grammar and spell-checked. You’re asking someone to slave over your story for little/no pay out of the blue. That’s a ballsy thing to do and if they have any doubts about your ability to deliver on that, it’s going to sour the working relationship really fast. Even if you do everything right it’s still going to be a grueling…

SEARCH: When you’re just starting out you need to initiate contact with potential artists. There are far more people who believe they’re writers than there are great artists to draw their stories, so the onus is on you to find a good fit for your project. Online art communities like deviantART, The Drawing Board, Penciljack, Digital Webbing, ConceptArt or the forums of comic publishers and fan sites are a good place to start. Exploring Artist’s Alley at a convention and making face-to-face contact is even better.

I find deviantART particularly useful because each artist there has a Favorites gallery (here’s mine). This means when you find one good artist they’ve inevitably favorite-ed pieces by other good artists, which lead to other good artists, and their favorites, and so on, and so on. I’ll go on Favorite searching binges, bookmarking artist pages based on style, tone and skill level. That’s how I found Andrew Huerta, who I ended up recommending to Dynamite for the Pathfinder comic series we worked on together.

Once you find an artist whose work has potential, dig deeper. Find out about them, read their blog posts, get to know a bit about who they are, how they feel about their own art and what they’re currently working on. Approaching an artist who’s already working professionally in comics or who complains a lot about their inability to finish things they start is almost guaranteed to go nowhere. Approaching a professional working artist with your very first comic story is an almost impossible uphill battle. You’re going to have a lot better chance with a talented student or recent art school graduate. Do your research and you’ll save yourself a lot of rejection and hassle. Once you start narrowing things down, your next step is to make…

CONTACT: Just as I suggested with approaching specific publishers with your pitch, I recommend approaching an artist directly with a personalized message. It’s far more engaging than a Want-Ad style post on an art forum where you’re hoping someone great comes along and contacts you. In my experience sending a personalized message comes across way better and elicits a much, much higher percentage of responses. Even if they turn you down, there’s communication and a connection established, which could be helpful later on. A “no” now could become a “yes” down the road.

It’s okay to have certain bits of your introduction letter pre-written in advance, especially the parts about yourself or your story concept, but make sure you write a personalized section about the artist – what you see in their work that appeals to you and why you think they’d be a good match for your project. Sending a generic form letter doesn’t make anyone feel special or wanted.

I recommend not sending your pitch or writing samples to the artist in this introduction email. You don’t want to come across as pushy or demanding. It’s just a short request asking about their availability and interest, just an…

INTRODUCTION: Here’s an example of an intro email I’ve sent in the past, with the artist’s name and some of the specifics removed:


Hi (artist),

Comics Alliance has a weekly column called ‘Best Art Ever’ where they post up pin-ups, old and new. This week’s article had a link to a (describes the artist’s pin-up) you did a while back and it immediately grabbed my attention. Finding your art blog and searching through the archives, I discovered more of your work – expressive characters, detailed backgrounds and great storytelling. Awesome stuff!

My name is Jim Zubkavich (friends and colleagues call me ‘Zub’) and, in and among other things, I’m writing a comic series being published at Image called ‘Skullkickers‘. Boiled down to its essence, Skullkickers is a buddy cop film slammed into Conan-style sword and sorcery. The book has been doing quite well for an indy comic launching in this market and it’s starting to get a bit of media attention, which is thrilling and scary at the same time. While things are going well I want to make sure I utilize the momentum, so I’m on the hunt for artists to collaborate with on new comics – mini-series or something more involved.

If you’d like to give Skullkickers a read I can send you links to review PDFs or mail you a set of issues if you give me your mailing address. I’m developing a variety of concepts with different tones and subject matter, but reading Skullkickers will give you a solid idea about how I work.

I don’t know what your current work slate is like or if you’d be interested in doing creator-owned comic work, but I did want to let you know I was blown away by your quality and would be ecstatic to develop something with you any time.

However it goes, keep creating beautiful art and comics.

Sincerely,
Jim


Without trying to sound too cold and analytical about the above, what I’m doing with this letter is complimenting the artist, establishing my credentials and then checking to see if they might be open to talking about future projects. It’s short, professional and friendly.

I’m in a position now where I have a professionally published comic I can reference, which definitely gives me an edge. Although I can’t 100% guarantee my next creator-owned project will be published, having a track record makes it a heck of a lot more likely. Assuming you’re not in that situation, then you’re going to have to make up for it at first with enthusiasm and really great story concepts to get over the hump. It’s not easy, believe me.

Although you may have a specific project in mind, I think it’s always good to leave the field open at first. If you receive a positive response you can see if they have a particular genre/style they’re excited about pursuing or you can mention a specific story concept you want to collaborate with them on. I’d rather create a new story that excites an artist rather than try to force them to draw something they’re not clicking with.

The search can be long. It requires persistence and patience. You can send out a ton of introduction messages before you get a positive response and, even when you do, the initial contact might not lead to a successful collaboration. Even with quite a few projects under my belt I still find it hard to connect with new artists who are both high quality and dependable. The creative commercial arts can be as exhausting as they are invigorating. Welcome to the business.

Starting a work relationship with an artist is similar to dating – you want to make a really strong first impression and showcase qualities that’ll convince them you’re the right person to move to the next stage with. Think carefully about how you’re presenting yourself and your work to make sure you’re an “attractive” creative collaborator.

Once you start working with an artist, make sure you have a clear agreement in place so everyone knows what’s expected of them. Charles Soule (the wonderful writer of 27 and Strange Attractors) has a great tutorial series on his site called Agree to Agree (parts one, two, three and four) all about creator-owned contracts you should really check out.

If you found this post helpful, feel free to let me know here (or on Twitter) and share the post with your friends. By telling you about how I find artists to work with I’m limiting my own potential artist pool, so please take pity on me and consider buying some of my comics or donating to my Patreon to staunch the bleeding wound I’m inflicting on myself here by telling you my secrets. 😛

Leave a comment ?

34 Comments.

  1. I am glad you take the time out to do this. Thanks for the info.

  2. Great stuff!
    Thanks

  3. VERY helpful and giving of you to post this — realizing, of course, that you’re in the same boat. It’s generosity like this that makes the comics industry feel different than others. You’re really an example AND inspiration. May all your books be GIANT SUCCESSES. (And may we appreciatve readers ride slightly on your tails — or should that be tales?).

  4. Hey Jim,
    as an artist, could you make a tutorial on how to do it the other way round. How to find an author?
    Thx!

    • Maybe i should elaborate a bit further why i would be interested in such a “how to”.
      1.I know of no writing showcase community equivalent to what deviantart.com is for artists.
      2. Few authors (published or unpublished) make sample stories available on their website. Rarely you find a full story. If you’re lucky you’ll find a 2 page comic script excerpt. Or even a 100+page novel “exposition” (who will find the time to read that?)
      3. I have turned my ears to podcasts in my search – because i can work while listening. Quite often those podcasts read material from the public domain, sometimes from authors submissions. If the author is not credited with a link and the author doesn’t state his contribution to the podcast on his own website, doesn’t even lists the title of the story as work he has produced, how am i to google-find him?
      4. On many author websites it states something like: Public social dog walking servant programmer earn money job doer by day – author by night. Does that mean you pursue writing only as a hobby? Do you even take on “commisioned” work?
      And so on. I know that usually it’s the author searching for artists. But there are i guess artists and other people silently looking for authors. And it can be damned hard to find them.

    • Go on any comic forum, post something that says “Artist Looking for Writer” and you can pretty much take your pick.

  5. Hi, I found your post very helpful. In fact, I have read all your other blogs about the creative process and I would be very happy if you would continue writing more. Also, please write more comics, its fun to read 🙂 Gonna buy the collected Skullkickers for Xmas, have to support creator owned comics. Thank you!

  6. I’m so glad I ran across this post. Lots of insightful and obvious 😀 suggestions. Hopefully I can apply these tips successfully.

  7. My son is 20, and he is deaf. He’s an amazing artist. He’d love to get into the world of drawing comics. How can he go about doing this??

  8. All very good points, I usually click away when I read pitches that make promises that No one is sure they can keep,”this will be huge, “guaranteed to make money”, you will get 50% of the revenue” yada yada yada. I would respect a more truthful down to earth approach.

    Another point I’d like to make is that if you find an unknown artist online, chances are he/she has a regular 9-5 job to pay the bills and put food onthe table, so your project will most likely be worked on part time.

    Some of the things you have to consider are will you be needing concept/character, environmental designs? That is an entirely different project all its own and one that has to be factored into the time and money. Will it be pencils only? Or ink and color as well? I do pencils only, ink so-so,colors I do at a grade school level. Although, I do see s trend were artists are expected to do it all nowadays.

    I have read some scripts from many different writers and although some are tempting,the only ones I consider are solo characters meaning staying away from team books because it will take me forever to complete it with my day job and all.

  9. The problem with this industry and the reason why artists are working 9 to 5 is because they want to much money, with 50% on the back end. They want 3000$ for a 22 page book, plus 50% in the back end. Once you beat them down to 1500$ with 50% on the back end, they produce shit and worst of all complain the entire process like unprofessional man baby’s. Meaning if the book becomes a hit ( sells between 3000-5000 units) the writer, loses money. Plus the chances of the book becoming a hit is low to no chance, so either way the only one making money is the artist. And they still have the gull to complain. Let’s get something straight here, the writer is the mastermind of everything, they created EVERYTHING. The arist is not sitting there with his pencil to his head wondering what to draw next. NO! Everything is layer out in great detail with these people. On top of creating everything we pay for EVERYTHING!. Artists have ruined this industry. Good luck finding a writer ,we are moved on to tv and movies.

    • Professional Illustrator Michael

      Hi Mike,

      Unfortunately, I believe you have a thoroughly incorrect view of the professions in the Arts.

      In business, you contract an artist to fulfill a role in your project. Normally, and from my standpoint as a professional illustrator, a deal is reached that benefits both parties and is then fulfilled.

      It is possible that your views and antagonism towards other professionals may hinder any progress on your project. I would highly recommend paying professionals their dues for their professional services, and being willing to work with others to achieve goals mutually beneficial to both of you.

      In this way, you will reach a rate or budget that you find reasonable, and will have a better reputation at the end of the project. Most artists would love to work on comic projects and are very happy to work with someone on a good project.

      A word of warning as well, Mike. Any vein of the art industry is like a small pond. If you anger too many people, or make too many waves, you may soon find that no professional is willing to work with you.

      Also, *too *back-end *worst of all, complain during *man-babies *gall *pay for. (added punctuation) *we have moved on to

    • Have you ever tried drawing? Do you know how long it can take for someone to draw a single page? Do you have any idea how hard it is for an artist to work with a writer who doesn’t play on their strengths?
      Making a comic book is teamwork, if you treat the artist the way you’ve just implied writers should, then you are a failure as a comics writer.
      You do have to consider that they do a larger amount of work than the writer as well, I don’t say this to diminish the role of the writer, but paying them well for all the hours they spend on each page is only fair.

    • Mike,

      With that level of writing, it is hardly likely that you “are moved on” to anything involving TV or movies. I don’t know many artists that will work a 10 hour day to create a page at less than $7 and hour. I don’t know many people that would accept that, at any job, creative or anything else.

      And I’m guessing that if and when you get there, you expect to be paid the lion’s share of the profits as opposed to the actors, directors, and anyone else involved in the process, because, as you say, the writer created EVERYTHING.

      I would work on my writing skills, if I were you, before applying to tv or movie jobs, as it seems you haven’t mastered your craft yet, and that might be seen as a deal-breaker.

      Good luck with that.

    • You, sir, are a shithead who needs to pull his head out of his own ass before you have any business hiring an artist.

    • Um, no Mike.

      As a dyslexic artist who’s killed himself nearly, both learning to overcome my dyslexia, and get comics drawn over the years often for little or no real profit, putting in many times the hours my collaborators did. Frequently working from scripts I should have gotten a co-writing credit on for all the gaffs I had to fix for my mastermind, er excuse me, writer. I’m very unpersuaded of my ungrateful man baby status when the claim comes from a one who rants, and then does not check their text for typos?

      So reminiscent in fact of many scripts I’ve read.

      Many layers laid out before us in this exemplary lack of mindfulness. Jim thanks you I’m sure for the pitch perfect note of entitlement to exploit in sharing his post. 😉

    • Of course they’re going to produce less. You’re only paying half for their skills and profession. When you demand a discounted price, you get the discounted professionalism and talent. Who are you to think you deserve a good deal? If you couldn’t afford the artist, save up the rest of the $1500 or shut your mouth. You’re the one crying on a public forum on how you were too cheap to afford professional services, so you begged and begged and begged this professional artist to accommodate your broke @ss.

      People like YOU have ruined the industry. Not the artists. Artists are professionals who deserve to be paid for their work AND be paid an amount to cover their pills. You think exposure and $100 covers the cost of their labor? Get out of here with that dramatic mindset man. It’s incredibly sad people like you are abusing artists and thinking they owe you the world.

      You absolutely get what you pay for. Quit crying, be a man, and save the money up. If that’s too much to ask, stop writing.

    • Hi Mike. I hope you take this in a constructive way: You’re an idiot. If you one day manage to learn proper grammar -you may want to try some math! Find out for yourself just how long it takes to draw one of your visually “masterminded” pages. Hint: It takes anywhere from a day to two days. Color? Add a day. You want to pay someone how much? How is the artist going to pay his rent/mortgage/living expenses making less than minimum wage? Run off to the movies [ I hear tickets cost $10-15.00 – find a seat quick! ]

    • Artist who does not work with dicks

      Feel free to draw your own art.

    • Dear Mike,

      I’ve just read your comment and i find it quite insulting that you think every single artist is like this.

      There maybe the odd one or two artists who think like this; but to be honest, that’s a VERY small amount; at least 98% are the complete opposite.

      A majority of artists i’ve dealt with via commission have been nothing more than polite and enjoyed drawing the characters i’ve designed for my own personal project.

      We talk about what’s needed in said commissioned piece(s) through emails; which counts as a legally binding contract, then discussed commission prices and then sealed the deal when i pay them either half of the total and pay the rest once the piece is finished or pay up in front.

      I’m an artist myself (self taught since i was 10/11 years old); so reading this has somewhat hurt me, but your words have not hurt me that much…they’ve only made me stronger to prove you wrong.

      Artists spend many hours working on various art pieces for others to enjoy or for their own profession.

      So i seriously think you need to rethink what you’ve just said here, because i can tell you now-any artists who sees your comment is going to either blacklist you or avoid you at all costs.

      Good day to you.

    • Mike, I suspect the real reason you can’t find an artist is the heady brew of ignorance and arrogance on display here.

    • Mike, maybe you would get a better artist if you combined your low-ball offer with promises of “great exposure” Artists love to work for $1.50 and hour so long as the potential for future work is there.

    • Mike, do you refuse to pay the dry cleaner who pressed your clothes for the job interview based on the fact that you haven’t gotten the job or made any money from the job yet? Furthermore, Mike, I just spent 50 hours on a painting, and someone like you expects me to get paid… what… $50, which means I’m getting paid about $1 an hour (and that’s not even factoring in the cost of supplies). Because you’re so brilliant and you deserve it, and I’m just a greedy a-hole? Well, boo-freaking-hoo. I’m an artist as well as a writer, so I can see both perspectives. The work I do isn’t suitable for my writing, so I’m planning to hire an artist, and will gladly pay whatever their rates are, because I KNOW what it takes to create a piece of art. You don’t. Oh, and I suggest you read this: http://www.nospec.com/i-wish-i-had-written-this

    • Can illustrate your post for free$ ?I will do it ull for the price I listed their. Free$, with 25% on the back end to feed my baby’s. I have a feeling this post will become a hit.

    • Hello Mike,

      Take a deep breath…exhale…

      Like you (and many others) I also want to have my stories published in four-colored glory but unfortunately I don’t have artistic talent, hence looking to COLLABORATE with an artist that would be interested in the idea. Not only that, it is also healthy for the artist/writer relationship the give her/him the freedom of the input in the story on which both of you are trying to conceive.

      While contacting an Artist; if her/him replies, well that is simply, a blessing.

      If an artist say yes to a mutual COLLABORATION, that is magnanimous.

      To have someone else interested in working on something you feel deeply devoted is more than a blessing, it is a magic and or alchemy so embrace it.

      No! Writers are not the masterminds of everything! Every aspect of the story should come down to equal input and choice-making COLLABORATION, there I used the C-word again.

      I am lucky enough to have the experience of collaborating with artists and every time I send a pitch, I don’t stop to think damn that art looks like crap, what I am is grateful that an artist took time from her/his life to COLLABORATE in an idea that maybe you sparked but it was brought to life together.

      As a person who teaches at a University and works in TV and Film guess what? All aspects of them are part of a collaborative process. You will go to TV and Film well, you need a producer, a director, a cinematographer, an editor, actor(s), grips, gaffers, production assistants, assistant directors, camera operators, financiers, craft service, even a person making coffee is important on a set. Without these people time is lost and time equals money.

      AND IF THEY ARE COLLABORATING WITH YOU on a creator-owned project, GUESS WHAT?…THEY NEED TO HAVE 50% OWNERSHIP, you should also give shares to the colorist, flatter, letterer, designer and editor if you so decide. Simple as that.

      Artist are not ruining the industry. Without them there is no comic book industry, it would be the book industry.

      Every time I sent a pitch and it doesn’t work, I don’t blame the artist or the choices of the artist. I blame myself and just hope that the failed book at least gives the artist a chance to get a job. That makes me happier.

      So maybe learn to COLLABORATE be HUMBLE and then try it again.

      Breathe in… Breathe out.

    • The writer is indeed the mastermind of everything in his comic…if he writes it, pencils it, inks it, letters it, prints it, self-publishes it, and promotes it.

      Now, given the content of your post, I take it you don’t do this. As such, you are embarrassingly wrong, embarrassingly arrogant, and embarrassingly selfish.

      Good luck finding other creative production-houses that are willing to put up with your attitude.

    • Mark, this is beyond idiotic. I’m a writer, I’ve worked with artists for many projects. The percentage of dicks to decent people who are artists is the same as any other field – including, as you so graphically show, the field of writers.
      Luckily I’ve never had any problem working with an artist. You just use the secret that pretty much everyone else seems to know but you – treat them like people, not a lower species born to slave for you.

      A writer is asking an artist to work for them. In ANY profession you PAY people for their work. You pay them in recompense for their work and in appreciation of their work (bonuses?).

      You on the other hand seem to be asking people to invest in your work and “reap the benefits” that the artist has no guarantee will come. An investor doesn’t treat the people investing money in him (time = money) like shit. You ask nicely. If they agree then you are appreciative – because there is no law saying they have to do what you want.

      I always pay my artists, sometimes only for their art, but often they provide great ideas and insight as well. Artists are afterall creatives just like writers. They have great ideas too and often see a better way to show your concept to the reader.

      $3000 is not alot. Comic book illustration takes longer than writing a script. And yes, they should get back end as it’s their art which will first draw a reader in, not your script – people don’t pay to read scripts. Comic book readers pay to see a visual tale. Respect artists because they are awesome and if you pay them well they will usually give you their everything.

  10. Okay, I realize it’s an old article, but I want to give my 2 cents.
    As a comic artist, I get approached A LOT by writers wanting me to work with them and there are certain things that I’d like to add that help. All your stuff is 10% true, also:
    -Pay attention to their workload. You mentioned avoiding professional comic artists, but I’m not a professional. Still, I work on two personal ongoing comics and it annoys the shit out of me to have people bug me to also work on their stuff. If the artist you’re approaching looks busy, they probably are.
    -Be open about the pay. I always appreciated the writers who were upfront about the fact that they couldn’t pay me, because it showed that they knew I deserved compensation for my work. Even though I had to turn them down, it meant a lot to see them be honest with me.

    Still, wonderful article and one I’ll spread around.

  11. Mike is a comedy genius 😉

  12. Hi Jim, great post. I just so happen to be a writer (with some artist talent as well) looking for an artist to work with. I wrote a sci-fi fantasy that I’m interested in turning into a comic book series. I agree that the process may be difficult in finding someone that you can work with at a price that everyone can live with, but I believe that the key is patience and being up front with the artist. It is time consuming and every artist, writer or illustrator, wants his/her work to be respected. If anyone wants more information about my project

Leave a Comment


NOTE - You can use these HTML tags and attributes:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>