This is a repost of something I wrote some time ago on the topic of how to break into comics as an artist.
First of all, practice the heck out of drawing. Don’t just copy other comics and animation art, even if that’s what you’d eventually like to produce. Look at the real world. Look at photography. Take Life Drawing classes if that’s an option. You can always learn later how to simplify and stylize that into a cartoon or comic book style, but you have to have a good handle on the real thing first.
Don’t just draw figures. If you want to be an illustrator or comic book artist, you’ll have to be able to draw your characters in various settings and interacting with props. That means you’ll need to learn to draw loose-fitting clothing, furniture, architecture, landscapes, vehicles, etc. Even if you ideally want to draw fantasy or sci-fi stories, you won’t get far if you can’t draw the real world.
If you want to draw comic book stories, you’ll need to learn to compose a page and tell a story visually. You can’t just fill your portfolio with pin-ups. There are some great books out there talking about sequential art and storytelling. Here are a couple:
Will Eisner’s Comics and Sequential Art
Scott McCloud’s Making Comics
Next up, start making comics! Don’t just wait to get good enough to “make it” professionally. Start making comics for yourself. For fun. For practice. When you think you’re ready, start soliciting feedback on your work, whether it be showing it to people in person or online in venues like Deviant Art. Take any feedback (especially online feedback) with a grain of salt. Most feedback is going to be at one of the extremes (“Your stuff is awesome”/”Your stuff sucks”), and the constructive criticism in the middle will be harder to come by. And don’t put TOO much stock into what any one person says. Art is a subjective thing and you never know what an individuals personal tastes are. But if you show your work to 10 different people and 9 of the 10 make the same observation - they may be on to something.
The big question is how to break in, right? You want to get your work seen. You want to get paid. You want to work with existing characters you love or create characters of your own and have them seen by an audience. You have to start small. Your first published work will likely be on the web or for a small publisher and done for little or no money. The comics industry is all about networking, and having a proven track record of work for a smaller publisher is a much better way of getting hired by a larger publisher than having the best looking portfolio in the world. Published work demonstrates consistency and professionalism and the ability to complete a project on a schedule in a way that a portfolio doesn’t. Plus, work for any publisher helps you start building the relationships with editors, publishers, and other creators that a career is built on. It’s through those connections that you’ll hear about an editor looking to be pitched a new project, or a book that needs a writer, penciler, inker, colorist, or letterer. That’s how you get jobs in this business. You ask around. You network and build relationships. You try to increase the number of people that might think of your name when they have an opening.
Does that sound like a lot of work? It is. I wish there was a silver bullet, shortcut, easy answer to how to break into comics. There isn’t. It’s a lot of work and it takes a long time and if that’s going to stop you, you can save yourself a lot of time, effort and heartache by finding different ambitions. Because this is what it takes.
I hope this helps.