Tuesday, August 16, 2011


One of the hardest things to deal with when it comes to artwork is advice from others. Partially because it's not easy to have someone criticize something you've poured your heart and soul into. What appears on the paper is a part of an artist's life. It's a piece of him or her. Once it's shown to someone, it's open to the viewer's opinion- and everybody has an opinion. Advice is commonplace in everything, but especially in art. 

I've been drawing long enough to where I've gotten good advice and bad advice. I've had people tell me how terrific my work is and I've had people tell me that I should stop drawing all together. It all goes with the territory. If I feel the advice is good, I will generally think about it and then try to incorporate it into my artwork. 

What I find to be  helpful is when someone has a specific suggestion. The following are two examples of letters that I've gotten back from editors. Both are rejection letters from a couple of years ago, but each tells a different story. The first I'm keeping anonymous:

This type of art is just not something we can use…if you have any other samples showing a different style, send them my way!

My response back:

 What type of style are you looking for?

His response:

Take a look at the site.

Needless to say, this was not a very helpful note. On the other hand, I found the following to be extremely helpful. It's from Mike Carlin, an editor at DC Comics:

Your storytelling seems solid... But draftsmanship (modeling, mass, weight,
textures etc) could use some honing... And the characters' acting and
positioning could be both more realistic and more dynamic (check out the
work of people like Jose Luis Garcia Lopez and of course Jim Lee for what
I'm talking about acting-wise and dynamically speaking)!

Good luck and congrats on all the work you're doing already!

Besides being a really nice letter, Mike's suggestions were very valuable. 

One of the things he mentioned was the way my character's "acted". I didn't really understand what he meant at first. The answer came to me when I was at the gym. I was on the treadmill looking up at the TV that was on- it was broadcasting the show Charmed. I was watching it but listening to music on my ipod when I realized how easy it was to follow the program. Then I figured out why- the way the actors on the show moved- their hand gestures and facial expressions, plus the way they walked and held themselves. Once I saw this, I got what he was trying to tell me. Suddenly I started watching how people on the street moved, and started doing gesture drawings and adding those into the pages I was drawing. 

The other thing that helped was his suggestion that I look at artist Jim Lee. I have to admit, I'm not a big Jim Lee fan. I think he is a fantastic artist, but I don't own a lot of his artwork and wouldn't buy something just because he drew it. That's probably the reason I found this advice so valuable. I listened to him and kept Lee's art in front of me as I've worked on pages. I've learned a lot from it. Studying Jim Lee has changed my artwork for the better. 

Here's a couple of examples - pages of my art before Mike's suggestions and after:

I would  like to note that because of Mike Carlin's advice,  I ended up getting an art job from the the person who wrote the first rejection letter above.

In order to become a better artist it's important not only to practice but also to listen.  My goal is to be the best illustrator that I can . My artwork is personal to me, but without listening to advice from others, or observing things beyond my own work it will not improve. If it doesn't improve, I can not become the artist that I want to be.