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Artist’s Corner 1

I’m starting another regular posting to the blog which will come in the form of an “artist’s corner” kind of thing.  Most times.   But that name conjures an image of Commander Mark in a bookstore alcove teaching kids about perspective.  My posts will be more like a street corner where the light is out, and a guy with wild hair and supersoaker full of coffee is talking to himself so loud that you can’t help but overhear him.  I’d really like for it to be eloquent and organized, but I haven’t been writing for a while, so you’re going to get crazy stream-of-consciousness stuff sometimes.  Excited?  Okay, let’s go!

I started the King Sheep website right around the same time I found out I was a finalist in the Illustrators of the Future contest, and that’s a great benchmark because it signifies my transition from amateur to professional artist.

To be fair, I enjoyed some small notoriety in college for “Simon,” at that time a thrice weekly comic strip that appeared in the campus newspaper.  There’s even a story that I was impersonated at a bar in order to pick up a girl.  I wasn’t there to see it, but witnesses are adamant.  The difference between “Simon” and the Illustrators contest is the difference between a line cook and a hitman: one has a paycheck, the other has a contract.

To me, a paycheck is nothing special.  I’ve been getting them since I was 16, and the thrill has kind of worn off.  Ah, but a contract is something else entirely.  It represents a departure from the grind of a traditional job, an ascension to a higher level of employment where people are paid according to expertise instead of bureaucratic maneuvering.

Galaxy Press gave me my first contract and my first national publication.  At the week-long workshop for the Writers and Illustrators of the Future was where I met Kevin J. Anderson who prompted me to hit up our mutual friend, Pat Rothfuss, who needed a world map for his upcoming book.  That was my second publication.  The workshop was also where I was paired up with Blake Hutchins, Writers finalist and “Tribes 2” scribe, who I’m now working with on a graphic novel.

So that explains the pivotal juncture the contest held for me, and also leads to the first topic: becoming a professional artist.  This isn’t meant to be a guideline for others to follow (despite my frequent use of the word “you”) but rather a list of the things I’ve learned in my own rocky journey.

The first point is networking.  Everyone stresses networking because it’s the single most important thing for an artist to have.  Even more important than artistic talent.  I used to sit on my scavenged hide-a-bed couch reading comic books and wondering why some sloppy hack had a job and not me, and it took a long time for me to realize the obvious answer: no one knew me.

So I became more outgoing, made friends, hung out with writers and other artists, because no one wants to hire the guy who can’t talk to anyone.  I joined web communities and forums where I commented alot.  I learned the key to being liked in web forums is never say too much, never put yourself down, and never flame.

Actually…that works for regular conversation too.

The next most important thing: a body of work.  I won’t say “portfolio” because an obsessive, single-minded artist might focus on trying to make four or five pieces so perfect that they absolutely personify his style and range, and he never actually produces anything on a regular basis.  Yeah, I’m talking about myself.  It’s far better to have a nice plump body of work from which to liposuction choice pieces for a portfolio.

The last thing I have to say about becoming a professional artist is a phrase that made my blood boil for years.  “Figure out what you want to do, and do it.”  Those words were said by my brother’s father-in-law, and the reason I hated it was because I wanted to be a concept artist for a game publisher at the time, yet no one would hire me.  So how could I be a concept artist if I couldn’t get any work as one?  I toiled for years, applying to companies with a portfolio that was woefully irrelevant because I was more focused on getting a job than doing the work to prove I could already do the job.

The fatal flaw was that I believed my future depended on getting work so that I could be an artist.  In actuality, if you do what you love, work will find you.

So, that’s all I’ve got for today.  I hope you enjoyed it, and if you tune in next week for another installment, I promise there will be pictures.  Funny ones.

Nate

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One Response

  1. I look forward to funny pictures, but so far I enjoyed reading your reflections. I remember really liking your artistic commentary on previous CD strips. Perhaps you could blog about your favorite webcomics, or any attention you get from muses.

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