“I’ve been writing all along and I’ve been doing it in pictures.” –Jack Kirby
Creating comics has drastically changed since its infancy in the 1930’s. At the beginning of comic legend Jack Kirby’s career, comic animation was not taught in schools so he learned to draw by tracing the characters in other comics.
Today artists have many tools and resources at their disposal that didn’t exist when the first Superman comic debuted in 1938. The Internet and technological advancements over the past 70+ years have not only given artists new techniques for self-expression but also opened access to a global market. In that time, artists have adapted to better meet these new market opportunities by creating online portfolios.
Of course, the main pillars of creating classic graphic art still hold true. A great artist has to be able to draw exceptionally well, requiring extensive practice with various mediums and an intimate knowledge of human anatomy and muscle movements. Another tried and true skill is typography. Font can subtly communicate an emotional state and help readers connect with characters. Finally, an exemplary artist also needs a keen eye for design and layout. An eye-catching page with pleasing colors can build reader’s anticipation for the next chapter.
Modern artists need to build on the basic blocks mentioned above by incorporating a technology-focused skill set. For example, knowing how to use computer animation software can help streamline time consuming tasks, repetitive character movements and allows errors to be easily corrected. Effective use of online social media, marketing and brand building opportunities can result in a wide and active fan following. Finally, an artist’s project management ability can help ensure regular production of work and keep the artist engaged with their online community.
Becoming a great comic artist requires not only creativity, but also a talent for design, typography and emotional engagement. It doesn’t end there either; knowledge of marketing, brand development and networking are critical to success. Today’s professional artist has the challenging task of acquiring a multi-faceted skill set along with the opportunity to speak to the world, without backing from industry giants.
So, while it is important to remember that the tools, mediums and technology may have changed, the essence of comics remains the same. Comic art is about storytelling - through engaging dialogue and captivating images.
Did we miss anything? What do you think makes a great comic artist?
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