Finding an Artist

Finding an artist for your comic book is, by turns, exhilarating and crushing. You see somebody you like … they’re unavailable. You are overwhelmed by incredible artists. On another day, in a different place, you might be underwhelmed by bad-fit or mediocre artists.

There are three phases to finding your artist: first, working out what you can or are comfortable paying your artist; second, knowing where to look for great artists; and finally, choosing just one. Finally, once you’ve found an artist, there’s the contract.

 

How Much Should You Pay Your Artist?

Everybody (hopefully!) agrees that comic book creators or writers should be paying their artists a fair page rate, but what is that rate?

How much comic book artists are paid is widely variable. It depends on their lifestyle, their experience, their skill, and about ten thousand other things. The closest I could find to a rate listing was this post on The Straight Dope. In it, astro lists acceptable page rates thusly:

Newcomers

  1. Penciler: $10-60
  2. Inker: $10-25
  3. Colourist: $5-20
  4. Cover Penciler: $40-75
  5. Cover inker: $25-50
  6. Cover colourist: $75-250

Seasoned Artists

  1. Penciler: $50-120
  2. Inker: $25-60
  3. Colourist: $25-60
  4. Cover Penciler: $100-200
  5. Cover inker: $75-100
  6. Cover colourist: $250-700

Pros

  1. Penciler: $100+
  2. Inker: $60+
  3. Colourist: $60+
  4. Cover Penciler: $200+
  5. Cover inker: $100+
  6. Cover colourist: $1,000+

Bear in mind that this post was from 2005, so rates may have changed since then (upwards due to inflation and cost of living increases, or even downwards due to the GFC/global downturn). Also, probably practically no artists have read that list, so they may very well feel more comfortable with higher or with lower rates.

The most important thing, I think, is to work out the absolute maximum you can afford to pay your artist, and then offer them that. Your artist is your partner in realising your vision for your comic book, and nobody wants a sub-standard partner.

 

Finding Artists

If you happen to have a lot of suitable artists in your acquaintance, congratulations. But for most people, they have to venture a bit further from home to find the right person.

The four most commonly recommended places to look for an artist are: local art schools/universities; the Digital Webbing forums; the Penciljack forums; and DeviantArt.

Local Art Schools/Universities

I did not hit up my local art schools/universities, but the idea behind this is that it’s here you are most likely to find an artist with the talent but not necessarily the price tag of an established artist. This is also an excellent option if you want a more unique style, especially something experimental.

PencilJack Forums

PencilJack is one of the two major comics creators’ forums. They have a fairly strong collection of talented artists, many of whom are looking for work. I received quite a lot of responses to my ad.

Digital Webbing

In my experience, Digital Webbing has the highest calibre of artists. I received about 50 responses to my ad, all of which were at least promising. This is where I found my artist. Another unique thing about the Digital Webbing forums it that they have a “Paid Help Wanted” section and a “Collaborators” section. So if you are looking for an artist-collaborator (to be paid all or mostly on the back-end), there is also a place for you at Digital Webbing.

Deviant Art

Are there any freelance online-based artists anymore who don’t have a DeviantArt profile? There are some incredible artists on there. The only problem with DeviantArt is that there are so many artists it can be difficult to even really know where to begin looking. I searched for “comic art” and “sequential art” and found a number of very talented artists. If you are going to use DeviantArt, and especially if you are looking for a collaborator, you should become involved in the community. Comment on Deviations and establish relationships with the artists, even those who you don’t feel necessarily fit your vision for your current story. This is good networking, for one thing, but more importantly: it’s just good manners to establish dialogue with people before you start asking them for favours or talking business.

Choosing an Artist

Once you have found, hopefully, an incredible smorgasbord of talented, responsive artists, comes the second step: choosing just one. There are four key issues in choosing an artist:

  1. No matter how talented, it is fundamentally important that your artist have sequential storytelling experience, or at least have examples in their portfolio. Although a talented artist is likely to be a talented sequential storyteller once they have learned the form, there is a learning curve. Also, an artist experienced in sequential storytelling will have a better idea of what’s possible and probably better turnaround time.
  2. Apart from their style being inspiringly clean, evocative or even curiously abstract, does this style fit your story? If not, the art, no matter how beautiful, will detract from your story. It is a zero-sum game.
  3. How reliable and professional is your artist? Can you rely on them to get pages to you by your deadlines? Can you rely on a consistently high quality of work from them? This is difficult to establish from their portfolio, but certainly something worth bearing in mind as you interact with them.
  4. Finally, and most importantly: how much are they worth, and how much can you afford?

How you balance those factors is up to you. I personally got lucky with my artist and only had to balance the last option by stretching my budget to its utmost so that I didn’t feel as if I was ripping him off.

Once You’ve Found an Artist

Once you’ve found an artist, it’s a good idea to negotiate a contract. My friend Stanley Chou linked me to this great template contract from DeviantArt.

 

And that is how you find, and choose, your artist. There are of course many other methods than I’ve outlined here. You might serendipitously bump into an artist on the street, knocking their portfolio from their hands, and spilling their stellar sequential art all over the street. Actually, that’s an interesting idea for a mini-meta-comic…

 

Edit: DigiWombat (via Reddit) adds, “And if there’s one thing I forgot this morning that I think is important for writers to take note is, keep in mind that while you should pay a fair price for the work the artists are putting in, you’re also paying for just about everything else. That won’t mean much to most artists, but some of them realize writers are human beings and will work more with you if they understand the whole story a bit better. Beyond that, it’s a good thing to keep in mind for your own personal budgeting as well.”

 

In creative diligence,
Yvette

1 Comment Finding an Artist

  1. Digiwombat (from Reddit)

    This is a great little article for people looking for realistically find artists to work on projects for them.

    There are a few little addendums I would put in for my experience (I’ve hired… seven artists now?).

    The first! About page rate: The rates in the article are pretty spot on in general. Though, artists have this idea that $10/page is highway robbery even if they aren’t that good. And fair enough, it’s a lot of work. A friend of mine working for Oni Press was getting $10/page + back end, so… you know… not that weird of a rate.

    Otherwise, keep the rate in mind for what you’re getting vs. what you’re doing. If they aren’t published AT ALL, they are more of a draw than you, name-wise, so pay them fairly but if they have ideas of grandeur lurking in their page rates (I have been told $85/page for a guy who drew like a 12 year old.) then often times it is best to just move on rather than negotiate page rates.

    The “seasoned artist” money to me is someone who has been published AT LEAST twice by companies you’ve heard of. Image. Marvel. DC. Arcana. Boom. Don’t go giving some guy $75/page because he got one issue of a mini published with Shiny Jim’s Comic Emporium Anthology from the Houston Comic Collective or whatever. Again, that’s up to you, but think about what YOUR goals are with the comic (shelf ready? self-pub?) and what THEY bring to that goal beyond their art.

    PAY ATTENTION to the advice Yvette gives about finding the right art for your project. It couldn’t be more true. And to go one further, find a project the artist actually likes. This will make them happier to work on stuff with you and should make it go smoother.

    Set a deadline. A hard deadline. Set it up front. Make it longer than you expect they need and if they break it, have consequences. You want to have fun doing this, but your money (and your comic) will fly away whether you want it to or not if you just let things hang in the wind.

    A smaller tip, I find that setting a flat rate for smaller projects will help a lot in finding a middle ground. I want a pitch packet? Okay, I’ve got $300-400. Try to make that work with the artist’s needs as best you can as far as what you ask for. And make sure you SET EXPECTATIONS UP FRONT. Are they doing just pencils? Inks and colors?

    OKAY LAST ONE! Speaking of colors… colorists have lost their minds on the prices they are asking for lately. Absolutely lost their minds. I’ve seen it become common that colorists with okay abilities charging $100/page without being published or having solid work (you can’t bring that up to them, or any artist, as a reason for not paying, but IT MATTERS.)

    Now, before I continue about colorists, both they and inkers are going to put effort in and get no back-end even if the artist does. So paying them more than the artist if they are amazing is acceptable.

    OKAY, back to the point. They’ve gone insane. So in the interests of saving yourself a bit of money on a colorist, find a flatter. Flatters will slap flat color on your image, usually pretty cheap. This make the colorists job about 500 times easier and it’s sort of an entry level coloring job. Then when you go find your colorist, tell them they are coloring flatted images and ask them what their rates are in that respect.

    I think that’s about it. OH! And check out the Job Offers section on DeviantArt. Posting your paying project up there will garner responses. I’ve found that 90% of the replies will be crazy people who draw buckets on top of mops, but there are some REAL golden eggs in the bunch.

    Sorry. This was a bit scattershot. I’m on like three hours of sleep and I have work in… 5 minutes ago. So have fun! Great post Yvette! :D

    From Reddit

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


+ nine = fourteen

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