Sunday, March 04, 2012

Comic Art Forum- Savannah- Friday Morning Panel

This weekend, SCAD-vannah celebrated Comic Art Forum, a yearly event held every winter quarter, where the Sequential Art Department invites a variety of artists to hold workshops, participate in panels, and lead portfolio reviews.  This year had more variety in the types of comic artists featured, with a little something for almost everyone (but still no children's comic artists).  The festivities began on Friday, with a panel led by Skottie Young, Spike Trotman, and Jonathan Luna about creator owned comics.  The focus was on publishing creator owned work, with Spike talking about webcomics, and Jonathan Luna and Skottie Young talking about working existing properties into something more original.

I didn't record this panel (out of respect for the panelists), but I did take notes, which I don't mind sharing.

All three artists talked about publishing original work, though not necessarily through self publishing.  Skottie and Jonathan have both worked on existing properties in the past, and the good thing about that is you are working with an established audience that you can possibly sell your original work to.  While working on this established, non-creator owned property, you can be putting out artbooks to sell at conventions and online, and people will buy because they already know your work.    All three artists pointed out that there's no shame in working a crappy day job or moving back in with your parents, and that we should accept the comic magic won't happen immediately.  Obscurity is ok.

Even established artists have to deal with jealousy and depression, and even successful webcomic artists are broke.  The key is to keep trying, persistence and productivity are your greatest allies.  It's ok to get discouraged, everyone does, just don't quit.  According to Skottie, some artists put out one graphic novel a year, and build up a library of titles, instead of working on just one property.  Divesification is not giving up.  Something we should all keep in mind these days is that getting work does not get you rich. 


For Spike, creator of Templar Arizona, a longform webcomic, she spends more time doing logistics than she does drawing.  This is a reality for most fairly successful webcomic artists, unless you have a partner who is willing to take care of that.

Most important to an artist who wants to do creator owned work is PASSION.  You should be creating art while you work  your day job, even if you are dead tired, you should keep pushing.

Something unexpected that came from the panel was that all three artists encouraged the audience to not talk about our stories with others.  I assumed they meant 'don't just talk, do', but they pointed out that when you tell your stories to others, even if it's just working out kinks, you've already satisfied your need to tell that story, and you wont feel motivated to complete it.

So what's the next step after you've completed your book?  Do you shop it around, looking to get optioned?  Nope.  You start that second book.  Use your momentum to kickstart your career.  It shouldn't matter if your work gets big, because there's always more work to be done.  It's ok if it doesnt take off right away, as some ideas need more time to click.

Skottie Young advised that we make our careers as interesting as our stories, including taking more risks, because without risk, there is no reward.

Spike's advice for building a webcomic fanbase was to update a lot.  The most popular comics are the daily updating gag-a-day strips.  The internet has a short memory, and the gagstrip is more internet friendly for raw hits alone, and that's what makes advertising dollars.  For those wishing to tell storybased stories, frequency is key.  You should strive to reach the point when you can say 'ok, that's good enough', page quality-wise, and post that.  You should strive to be consistent and frequent.  Her advice for utilizing Project Wonderful was to find someone who's style is like yours but popular, and invest in ads on those sites, and to consider a multifaceted revenue stream, where you're not just focusing on ad dollars, but selling merchandise and books.