by Scott Rosema
Scott Rosema is a comic penciller who has worked on Space Ghost for Archie Comics, Solar — Man Of The Atom for Valiant, X-Men Adventures for Marvel, Tiny Toons for DC, and his own August published through Arrow Comics. He has worked for the Big Two, and his pencils and inks have touched just about every character large and small during his long career.
So many artists try to work into the comic book business, companies have set up a simple system of checks to weed out the inexperienced. You can shave off valuable time with this list of tips of what the pros are looking for in your artwork.
• Always keep borders straight and clean.
• The space between panels (called the gutter) is 3/16 inch. Always keep these even and straight and consistent.
• Always have corners meet precisely on panel outlines.
• On submissions do not use fancy border shapes or odd shaped panels. Keep it simple. You'll get the chance to experiment when you are hired.
• Neatness counts; clean pages show professionalism. Keep your penciling very neat and clean; no fingerprints, pencil smudges, catsup stains, etc.
• Always use a variety of images in your submissions; i.e. normal people, superheroes, machines, buildings, organic images (plants, trees, etc.), street scenes, interiors, everyday objects (phones, lamps, chairs, etc.), as well as fantastic imagery (space ships, high tech gadgets, fancy costumes, etc.)
• Make a habit of reading as often and as varied of subject matter as you can; as well as collect visual references. You will find it next to impossible to illustrate something if you know nothing about it. Educate yourself!
• Use perspective shots, close-ups, far shots, medium shots, bird's eye view, worm's eye view, and interesting angles, but not so fancy that you lose the storytelling.
• Always allow room for written text (Word balloons, narration boxes, sound effects).
• When dialogue accompanies the script make sure the characters are drawn in the proper order so when the dialogue is read (or spoken by the characters) it makes sense.
• When pencilling, every line and every filled in area should exhibit the same even gray shade.
• Draw what you mean; for submissions there are no short cuts. EXAMPLES: Stubble on the chin should look like stubble, not scratches; bullets should not look like grains of rice; ivy on the wall is not a squiggle on the wall; wrinkles on clothing should not look like wrinkles on the skin, etc.
• Learn to draw facial expressions, not just muscles. And the expressions should be more then just a grimace.
• Pages: paper size, make, texture, color, and weight should ALWAYS be consistent.
• Do not submit your work to companies that don't produce the kind of books you want to work on. Pick your subject matter and direct your work towards that. Example: if you like superheroes, draw superheroes; if you like Disney, draw Disney; if you like detective stories, draw detective stories, etc.
• Every detail is important; from corners on the borders to cuticles on a fingernail to the length of the Silver Surfer's board. GET IT RIGHT!
• Every detail you put in a panel should have a reason for being there or don't put it in.
• Submit work to the submissions editor. Include a brief cover letter introducing yourself and your intentions. Be polite and to the point. Don't gush or beg.
• Always include a business size S.A.S.E. (self addressed stamped envelope) for their reply to you.
• DO NOT phone the companies as they are very busy. They will answer you by mail.
• CHECK your spelling on EVERYTHING! Especially people's names. One mistyped name can blow your chances and your artwork can end up filed in the trash. If you don't care enough to get the editor's name right he's not going to care enough to look at your work.
• BE PATIENT.
• Do your research, not just on your drawing but also on the companies you want to work for (any and all information). If you get the chance to speak to someone from that company you want to sound intelligent and prepared. Also, being informed about who you want to work for helps show that you really want to work for them.
• When you receive a response from any company listen to what they say and learn from it so it will show in your next submission. They want to see you are taking the time to learn so don't feel you have to submit every week. Three to six months between submissions is fine. Again, be patient.
They will come! They are not personal! They do not mean the end of the world! They do not mean your work is wrong! They simply mean you are not ready. Everybody gets them (at least nine or 10 and many times a lot more). Learn from them, work through them, pick yourself up and submit again. THIS WILL HAPPEN! And you must be prepared to deal with rejection when it happens.
If you are not prepared to deal with rejection, you will get the rejection letters in the mail and you will, at some point, stop submitting, possibly after the first one. Maybe after the third or fourth. But eventually you will stop working on your submissions. You may think that you will start again but you won't. And your dream of drawing comics will die. You must be prepared to deal with rejection!
You must not stop working on your skills! If you want to work in professional comics you must be willing to accept rejection letters as part of the process and not as the end result. Your dream of doing comics is too important not to. Use rejection letters as a way to get better and you will succeed in comic books.
Above, Scott Rosema's page 9 of Solar, Man of the Atom, Issue 43, Valient. Inked by Ricardo Villagran.
Comments on our can be referred to Gary at gary -at- comicartistsdirect -dot- com. All artwork copyright © by its respective artists and publishers.
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