Three weeks ago I hit a milestone in my career as a professional comic book artist. Over the past two years, I have created 50 covers for three major comic book companies: Marvel, Valiant and IDW Comics. When I think back to my first job that kicked it off - creating Judge Dredd #23 for IDW - I still find myself in disbelief that I am doing something I have wanted do since I was a small child.
Judge Dredd cover art by NDN Geek Jeffrey Veregge
The years of drawing, reading comics, absorbing everything that one might identify as geeky, helped take me to this place. It was hitting this milestone that gave my editor an idea for my next article: NDN Geek’s 5 Awesome Tips That Got Him To Marvel Comics.
These tips are not necessarily a direct path from A to B and the journey that led me here was long, and at times quite humbling. It involved a lot of hard work, a lot of sleepless nights, tears and sacrifice. But I will tell you all of it was and is, worth it.
You can’t really put a price tag or an expiration date on a dream. Sure you’ll have expenses and timeframes that will be a part of this journey, but the only things you are going to need are courage, heart and talent to guide and keep you on track.
The following are tips, advice from a guy who has spent 4 decades getting to where he wanted to be. I am someone who has stumbled, who has failed and who has doubted himself in spite of his achievements. But it was a result of these roadblocks that made me better artist and allows me to be the comic artist I am today.
NDN Geek’s 5 Awesome Tips That Got Him To Marvel Comics
Tip #1 Draw
The rule every artist should follow is to draw daily — at least 20, 30 minutes a day sketching. Draw everything and anything. Do not limit yourself to things you like. If you want growth as an artist, you need to take chances, draw things you wouldn’t normally draw. Don’t worry about the sketches being perfect as these are exercises that will sharpen you and make you aware of movement, flow, line and shape for the jobs that you will be paid for.
Tip #2 Education
There are not many ways around this one. Art school, college, trade school and universities all provides a needed foundation that will ground you as a professional artist and or designer. I learned at the Art Institute of Seattle more than just skills that helped me draw, paint and sculpt better. I learned ways of solving problems that come up when taking on a job. I learned the value of making a great presentation and most importantly learning and accepting artistic criticism.
(Bonus Tip) Books & materials online
So say you can’t go to school, or you live on a reservation that is not close to a big city. If you are reading this, then I assume you have access to the internet. There are a few solid options that aren’t too expensive that can up your game as an artist. Pick up some of the following books:
- Any of books on the human anatomy. My favorites are Burne Hogarth’s, who has many titles dedicated to making you a better illustrator and can be picked up used for less than 15 bucks on Amazon.
- Any books on perspective drawing. I used a book called Basic Perspective Drawing by John Montague
- Online schools and tricks from the pro’s. A lot of today’s comic artists share on their own through blogs, tips and tricks that they like to employ. Google your favorite artist and see if he or she has ones. Or better yet, tweet at them and ask them.
- Online School: Joe Kubert (one of the all-time great comic artists) has an online, mail-in school designed specifically for people who just want to draw comics. His school has several classes that can be done at your own pace and can be purchased for less $300. The school has some alumni you may be be familiar with as you visit his site:
Tip #3 Grow Thick Skin
As you grow as an artist, you will always have people saying things for good or bad about you work. I can’t lie to you on this one, sometimes people can say something that really pisses you off, so you will fail to hear the underlying message that could help you. The trick is to learn to get past the words that cut and hear the message that will help you for your next attempt at something similar. DO NOT let their words hurt you or put you in a place that makes you question if you are on the right path. The truth is if you are getting feedback, it will be helpful and you if listen to it, you will become a better artist.
Red Wolf cover art by NDN Geek Jeffrey Veregge
Tip #4 Be Social
You are living in the greatest era to be an artist. With the Internet there are so many places for your work to get noticed. Open accounts on Deviant Art, Twitter, Pinterest, an art page of Facebook, Instagram. Don’t be afraid to share your work. Let people see and appreciate your efforts. This will be the greatest way to get noticed. Opportunity lies at every post.
(You can also reach out to me on Twitter via @JeffreyVeregge)
Tip #5 Attend Comic Cons
Getting to a Comic Con could serve as a huge boost to your passion for the art of drawing or becoming a part of the comic book industry. It isn’t always possible to get to the massive events in New York or Los Angeles, but keep an eye out as local Comic Cons are becoming more and more popular every day.
When you plan on attending a Comic Con, look and see what publishers, editors are going to be there. Artists & writers can and will look at you art, but if you want work, you need to go to the company booths, ask for an editor, see if they are accepting submissions. Now before you go, think about how you want to present your work. It should be only your best stuff. Make sure it has a range of images that regardless of style look are different from one another. Make sure you have good copies to leave behind with all the proper contact information for them to get in touch with you. Now there is a chance you may never hear from them, so don’t loose hope, they get hundreds of submissions a day and it is nothing personal.
If an editor is there, and he passes on your work, ask him or her what you need to improve upon, what you are missing. Ask if you can send them updates on your work, so they can see your dedication. Listen to every word they say and apply it. Only send it when you are ready, do not send work in progress or half-ass attempts. Be precise and to the point. Remember they are busy people and only have a minute or 2 to look at what you have. Be respectful of their time.
I have shared five things that have helped me over the years. My path is my own and although many of us comic artists have similar stories, none of us have followed the same path. However we all had the same passions and desires to get us to where we all are today. Passion is the key, listen to you heart, and let it guide you on this journey, as it is the fuel that allows the flame of your talent to be seen by all.