Every journey starts with a destination in mind. That ultimate outcome is different for everyone depending on their mission, but for us aspiring comic book artists, it's of upmost importance that we've got a clear vision in mind of where we're headed. Why? Because without a compelling reason to follow through on our ambitions it's difficult to stick to our guns. To actually succeed as a comic book artist, you've got to be driven, motivated and determined to the point of insanity in order to break through the many obstacles you'll have to surpass to get where you want to go.
That's why you've got to know where that is. Otherwise your just aimlessly attempting to do something that you may find mildly engaging for the moment. That wears off quick though, especially when you're hit with the reality of what it's going to take to see any real progress. My goal in writing this article, is that by the end of it, you'll have a clear understanding as to what exactly your end destination is. To give you a powerful enough 'why' that'll push you to the limit of what you thought you were capable of, and beyond so that you've got a chance of seeing real success as a comic book creator.
Which Category Do You Fall Into?
Let's start off by talking about what'll happen without a foundational reason for pursuing the path of the lowly comic book artist.
You likely fall into one of these three categories...
1. You have no idea what you want to do with your life, and I have no idea why you'd be here reading a word of what I've got to say. But I'm glad you are anyway.
2. You love the idea of drawing comics, but you also love the idea of doing a lot of other cool stuff too. Maybe it's making video games, action figures, movies, design concepts for characters and environments, 3D modelling or digital sculptures. I'm right there with you. I love all that stuff too!
3. And maybe you can't see yourself doing anything else except making comics!
Now if you fall into the first category, you're precisely missing what this article is all about, which is an end goal for what it is you want to do. You might be at least intrigued by the idea of comic book illustration but you're starting at ground zero.
Without a real reason to start off down this track, the small amount of curiosity that sparked your motivation to read into it this far will evaporate almost instantly. Your big set back isn't motivation. It's not even being motivated to be motivated. But just to humor me, maybe you might want to think just for a moment about where this could all lead if you commit to the warpath of the aspiring comic artisan?
There's a good chance you don't fall into category one if you're here reading this however, and a very probable chance that you in fact fit into category two. The reason for this is that you're a creative person. That doesn't just stop at the output of your creativity, but the mediums in which your ideas will be delivered. It's exciting to think about how we might present our ideas to the world and the form of visual representation they'll ultimately take!
At this point, comic books probably look like one of the best mediums you've come across to share your stories with the world. Learning that medium is going to take practice, hard work and commitment however.
So the question is, how bad do you want it and why? Why comics? Without an answer to that question, the grass is always going to look greener on the other side as you're enticed by all those other cool things you want to do. And when times get tough, it won't take much for you to fold and drop comics altogether.
Lastly we have the category of person who has known they were going to be a comic book artist since the moment they read their first comic book. For them, there's no other option. To live life and die without ever sharing their stories via the comic book vessel is unbearable to even contemplate.
If you fall into that category you can stop reading here.
You're all good to go, there's nothing that's going to stop you. You're rare though, so think real hard if this is actually you. Because it can take a while to become this sure about what you want to commit to for the rest of your life.
Regardless of whatever category you fall into, the one thing that remains a constant is the end destination so that you've got something to point your compass toward.
Taking The Good With The Bad
Oftentimes we love the idea of pursuing something like comics because from the outside it's irresistibly attractive for so many reasons. And it is. Comics have always had a seductive pull on the minds of creators far and wide because they are the holy grail of pure awesomeness. Who wouldn't want to make comics!?
What we leave out of the equation is all the not so fun stuff that comes along with it. Because that kind of puts a dampener on the day dream. The reality is that to create a comic book that's on the same level as the comics that probably gave you the idea of becoming a comic artist in the first place, it's going to take a lot of work.
We don't like hard work. We want all the awesome, without the hard work. We know that the real world just doesn't operate like this though, sad as it may be. Because as a pro comic book creator you've got to learn how to write, draw, ink, color, develop, refine, lay out, compose, publish and promote your book. And within all of those skill sets are sub skill sets that all require their own mastery to become truly competent at them.
This takes a lot of time, energy and determination, with no immediate results. Essentially, the level of up front investment unfairly outweighs what you're going to get out of it, at least for a while. This is why patience is such a mandatory factor in your success as a comic book artist as well, because without it there's very little chance you're going to have the gumption to stick with it.
Our mind loves novelty and reward. When it's putting in a whole lot of effort and getting none of that in return it gets increasingly bored at a faster and faster rate. Which is why the path to being a successful comic book creator is so easy to quit.
It's easy to quit any dream without a worth while 'why'. And that'll eventually come up when things get to breaking point and you actually ask yourself 'why am I doing this'? You'd better have a good, fast come back to that question ready to go too, because if you don't, the supports that were holding up those dreams and ambitions will crumble under the weight of what's required of you to make them a reality.
Finding Your Why
So now you know you need a powerful why to succeed. A compelling enough reason to make comics. But how do you find it?
Well start off by literally asking yourself 'why do you want to make comics'? Then write down five reasons on a piece of note book paper. Give yourself some time to really meditate on this. Sit quietly for a minute or two. There's no judgement here, you can write down whatever reasons you like, as long as they're important to you.
Be honest in answering them too. Don't write down what you think the right answer would be to this question. This is about you and you only. It's personal. Remember, make these answers irresistible compelling, something that you just can't let go of.
Here are three of mine:
"I want to make comics because I find the art form to be incredibly challenging. I feel that by mastering it, what I learn will funnel down into every other art form I could ever think of pursuing and there will never be anything I can't conquer afterwards.
I want to make comics because I've got stories that I want to share with the world. I believe that comic books are a step beyond the traditional story telling medium of a book, bringing to the table sequential imagery that provides an extra level of immersion for the viewer, and clarity on the ideas I'm attempting to get across to them.
I want to make comics because I'm attracted to the art style. There's many comic book artists out there whom I admire for their ability to convey action packed sequences on the page with slick, energetic line work, intricate details and eye catching colors. I'm drawn to the richness and potency of the traditional comic art style for it's contrast, drama and stylization. It goes beyond simply mirroring reality, and exaggerates it into a bigger than life idealization of a universe we could only dream of being a part of."
Next, let's travel through time here and fast forward into the future. Let's say, 10 years from now.
If you pursue your dream of making comics for real, what will that look like? Close your eyes now and picture it for a moment. Hit play and let that scene role. You might be working in that studio you always dreamed of getting into, drawing pages for the stories of your favorite comic book characters. Or maybe you're creating your own comic book. Whatever you see, write it down on that piece of paper and record it in detail.
Have you got that down? Okay great. Now do it again, except this time, fast forward 30 years into the future. Close your eyes again, and try to really picture it. Where are you. What are doing? What does life look like? Are you happy and fulfilled? When you've got a nice sharp snapshot in your mind of what that looks like, hit the play button and watch the scene come to life. Describe on the page what that looks like and how it feels.
Here's an example of mine.
"I've just finished up my third comic book series which have all been very successful. So successful in fact that I've just signed a deal with Netflix to turn my story into a new TV show. Mean while I'm working on a whole new comic book series that I'm super excited about.
I've learned so much throughout my comic book career, having worked with so many talented people while forging incredible connections through the networking I've done. I am truly proud of the work I do. I admire it with the same admiration I had for those who inspired me to create comics in the first place. This keeps me excited and motivated to continue onward. To be grateful for the talent I've cultivated and to use it to create all that I ever dreamed of sharing with the world.
Once a year I do a huge road trip, travelling around to different Comicons throughout Australia, the US and Canada, meeting my fans and seeing the excitement on their faces when they get to meet the creator of the stories they've fallen in love with."
Pretty cool huh?
Try not to let my examples influence your own, just use them as what they're meant for, an example. And reach deep to answer these questions, real deep. Make them as clear in your mind as you can then describe them as comprehensively as possible.
I know that thinking about where you're going to be 10 to 30 years from now is possibly something you never even considered doing till now. It can be overwhelming and intimidating to comprehend. But we've got to know where we're going to give us a solid reason behind the actions we're taking now to get where we want to go.
Alright. So now you know why you're making comics and where (if everything goes to plan) you'll be 10 to 30 years from now. At this point you should have a clear vision of your destination in mind, with a massive amount of motivation behind that ambition.
But lets turn it up a notch.
The final thing I'd like you to write down is what will happen if you give up now and forget your dreams of becoming a comic book artist. It may not seem like it now, but there will come a point where things get tough, and the option to just throw in the towel would be very easy to do.
Would you be happy though? Would you be fulfilled? If you went through your entire life without ever having made that comic book you dreamed of publishing and sharing with the world; would you regret it?
This is a heavy question. But I want you to picture it. Who would you be and what would your life look like if you dropped your dreams now before they ever had a chance to be realized? Write it down. Describe it in vivid detail.
Depending on how you feel right now, the thought of not pursuing that which you're most passionate about in life should scare the living daylights out of you. Hopefully, you're powerfully compelled to steer as far away from that outcome as possible. Because if you don't give this everything you've got, that's what's waiting on the other side for you.
When I answered this question for myself, only one word came to my mind. 'Emptiness'. I would feel so empty and unfulfilled if I weren't able to wake up everyday and work at my craft. I wouldn't be me if I wasn't on the road to realizing my dreams. That's what fills my cup, and makes me look forward to waking up early in the morning, and staying up late at night.
What you've written down on this piece of paper is the 'why' behind your reason for making comics. Put it somewhere you can see it every single day. Whenever you're in doubt, times get tough or you lose faith in yourself, this will keep you on track. It'll remind you of your purpose. I hope you've got a lot of value out of this article and that the advice I've shared with you here will serve you well into the future. I know it's worked wonders for me, and it's something I live by everyday.
Thanks for reading.