C.B. Cebulski on Comics - Artists

"As I'm lazy, I would prefer that some enterprising comic site or blogger does an FAQ for me and I can tweet the link & send them traffic. :)"

That's a tweet from C.B. Cebulski, writer and editor over at Marvel Comics. He's constantly harangued on Twitter about how to break into comics. He's very good about offering his advice when he can, but it can get lost in his other tweets about food, travel and life in general. Because of that, he wanted someone to create an online FAQ including all of his sage advice. Omnicomic has taken the initiative to create three such FAQS, one for artists, one for writers and one for creators. This one is the one for artists and the latter two will run later today.

After the jump is every tweet CB posted pertaining to breaking in as an artist, going all the way back to August 2009. I tried to keep them as intact as possible, so there will be the obvious typos here and there (don't fault CB though). I also grouped them together into categories as best as possible as well for relatively easy tracking. Check out creators and writers as well. Enjoy!

Too many covers are rushed for Previews, given to subpar colorists to turn around overnight (or in a few hours!) & are never fix for print.

In all seriousness, y'know what kills more covers? It's not bad composition or art, it's bad coloring! ALWAYS put your best guys on covers!

RT @robertliefeld: "gotta say that there are some crap covers from both big companies." Agreed. But so many more from one of them... :)

You wanna know why we don't give you more cover work? Honestly? Because you're not a good cover artist. (Some artists need to accept it.)

Re: yesterday's cover thread: "Great bookseller saying, "While you can't judge a book by its cover, you can sell one." (via @@McCannJames)

These are simple, basic cover "rules", I know, but I'm always surprised how often they're forgotten. Especially by the bigger publishers.

Don't get overly-complicated or designy. Don't overthink your cover. Don't get too cerebral. Simply give readers a taste of what's inside.

You need a simple, bold, striking piece that should immediately standout & distinguish your book from the rest of the comics surrounding it.

This is even more true for indy/self/small press comics as you don't have recognizable characters to grab a reader's attention on the shelf.

A cover is the most important piece of art you'll create for your comic. It's what will sell the book. Especially in today's direct market.

Editors always want iconic covers that reflact the story inside their books. But sometimes, given production schedules, it's not possible.

People still harp on the "pin-up" cover era of years ago, but most covers these days are storytelling covers. ASM, Uncanny, Hulk, DD, FF...

RT @_waki_: "as long as that single image tells some of the story from inside. Not just a pinup image" Agreed. There's a way to do both.

Not every good comic book artist is a good cover artist. Some of the best storytellers can't do strong, iconic single images.

I love it when you offer an artist a cover gig and they accept by sending you cover concepts a few hours later.

It totally distracted the eye from the actual cover art. Come on, guys, tone it down. Let your art and talent speak for itself sometimes.

Looked at three covers this week where I think the artists purposely left blank space in order to add their signatures as big as can be.

I have no problem with and fully support cover artists signing their work, but please do it tastefully and tactfully.

RT @mikechoi: "Sequential art is storytelling FIRST. It applies to covers too."
Breaking In

All it really takes is one editor willing to give a new artist a shot and then having that artist really knock the story out of the park.

It still amazes me how a penciler who once had trouble finding work can suddenly become every editor's "must have" artist almost overnight.

Had lunch with an artist today who explained how he worked on sample pages for 9 years before breaking into comics! Never gave up the dream.

Don't set unrealistic goals for yourself. You work your way up to Marvel & DC, you don't break in with them. Think smaller publishers first.

Love it when I send the Marvel editors the work of a new artist and @JoeQuesada responds, "Ladies and gents, we have a new star! WOW!"

It's better to just be straight about past problems you've had than to try & hide/avoid them. Chances are whoever you contact already knows.

Dear artists, comics is a small industry. All editors talk and your reputation follows you, no matter what company you move to/from.

And yes, we account for the fact people have day jobs, paying work & a life to live. There is no deadline for doing Marvel sample pages.

You'd be surprised. If I had to guess, I'd say I don't hear back from 30% of new artists again. I attribute it to artistic stage fright.

My tweet in regards to sample scripts was actually about how many artists DON'T turn in test pages. They get scripts & we never hear back.

I'm interested in running the stats on how many new artists we send samples scripts to vs. how many people actually draw & send pages back.

When submitting sequential samples, they do not have to be of Marvel characters. They can be of any characters really. Just tell a story.

For the 1000th time, ALWAYS include a 3 to 4 page sequential sequence in your portfolio. Minimally! We're most concerned with storytelling.

Looked at this kid's work. While not half bad, big problems in presentation: it's a major colllection of pin-ups with few sequential pages.

As for submissions vs. actual artist hires, I'd estimate we reviewed over 4000 portfolios & submissions vs. the hundred artists we hired.

Too many new artists still sending over only designs & sketches for us to look at. We NEED to see sequantial pages you're wasting our time.

I think many artists now working in comics need to retake a storytelling class to shake off the bad habits they picked up working in comics.

Also, work-for-hire done for any of the major publishers legally must be paid, so " work for free" is not a consideration for us.

Hey aspiring artists, never make the offer that you're happy to work for free. Even if you mean it, it won't help & looks desperate.

@coffeemike "What's the usual tenure of an artist working on a title"? No set answer here. There are so many factors that come into play.

Did something I almost never do yesterday... hired an artist on the spot. He was THAT good!!

Can't tell you how many times this week I've told new artists: "You're going in too tight. Pull your camera back. Open up your panels!"

That's why we start with short stories, to test their ability to produce. Can they replicate their same style.quality under a deadline?

Could have been page a day, could have been page a month. We ask, but how many artists are ever truly honest about their speed? :)

The biggest factor working against new artists is time. We usually hire based on impressive sample pages, not knowing how long they took.

Seriously though... We usually talk to the artist, go through their pages, comment on them, work with them and try to help them improve.

If we give an artist a shot but decide they're not ready to be working for us yet, what do we do with them? Send them to DC, of course! :)

Going to be assessing the finished work of several of the new artists Marvel's hired recently and determining if they're ready for more.

I will, however, encourage artistic experimention. More personal creativity & boundary-pushing lead to growth and growth is good in comics.

I'll never encourage an artist to work in a particular way or style. It's all about however they're comfortable and can get the job done.

A request I got from an editor looking for an artist today: "We need someone who can draw a good car."

And in this case I was reinforcing an artistic critique I've been harping on: artists getting lazy & cropping in too tight to draw less.

Just read a Marvel comic where a talented artist did a full-page splash of a pissed-off Wolverine... but cropped out his claws?! Come on.

I hate watching young artists devolve.

Editors and readers alike are not stupid. We can all notice the difference between
"artistic choices" and "cheating". Please don't be lazy.

Continue to notice the disturbing and disappointing trend of too many new AND established artists overusing close-ups and cropping too much.

RT @MykeNorten: "Not drawing backgrounds is like admitting you can't draw anything but people. Acting in front of a greenscreen."

RT @skottieyoung: "back grounds are not just filler, they can be complete characters in a story. Treat them like your characters."

I'd love it if all you pro artists out there chime in on this. Always fun when the folks actually drawing comics talk add their tricks/tips.

You need to find a balance by separating the foreground & background elements to place your characters clearly and naturally in each panel.

Sometimes overdrawing your backgrounds, adding in too much detail, can be just as distracting. You can lose the characters in the panels.

Backgrounds not just window dressing. They help give the characters, and thereby the reader, a sense of place in the scene and on the page.

Be it lack of technical skill or laziness, you'd be surprised how many up-n-coming artists just leave their backgrounds blank.

...either a severe lack or gross overabundance of backgrounds. "You need to draw backgrounds." is probably the piece of advice I give most.

Back to some overdue comic advice... today's topic: backgrounds. Lots of new artists' samples I've reviewed recently have shown... (cont.)

RT @mikechoi: "2nd best art tip I got: if it looks right, even if it's wrong, it's right. if it looks wrong, even if it's right, it's wrong"

On that note, it amazed me to learn Kei Kobayashi inked Spider-Man Fairy Tales #3 with disposable wooden chopsticks.

RT @cameronmstewart: There are no "correct" tools 4 drawing, comics or otherwise.Only the final product matters.Use whatever u like to draw.

I just think they're being overused, lead to "cheating", and too much art, especially characters' heads/bodies/powers, gets cropped out.

Widescreen panels are a very cool tool for pencilers to have in their artistic arsenal... when used properly.

Random comics observation... too many artists stacking those page-wide panels these days. And often being used for the wrong reasons.

RT @Alejandrobot: Yet I can't tell you how many times I've said "This shot is unnecessarily wide. Punch in closer for more clarity & drama."

Embrace any and every characters' design, costume & powers. Use their given visual attributes to better tell your story in interesting ways!

Don't crop out a character's defining visual traits: Wolverine's claws, Daredevil's horns/billy club, Spidey's hands/webs, Cap's shield..

You can't always blame bad coloring on deadlines. Sometimes, yes. But there are many
colorists who are bad no matter what the deadlines are.

To quell fears & questions... Are the colorists in question on Twitter and reading? Maybe. I don't know. Are they working at Marvel? No.

Unfrotunately, a lot of colorists are hired simply for their speed, not ability. And since they deliver, they get more work. A bad cycle.

Just because you know Photoshop, that doesn't make you a colorist. Just because you know Illustrator, that doesn't make you a letterer.

Every artist always asks for the same 7 colorists, but there are some amazing new colorists doing phenomenal worked that get overloooked.

And in the spirit of honesty, I will embarrassingly admit that Marvel had two of the very worst colored comics in recent memory this month.

Modern coloring techniques should make comics look better than ever. So why do so many comics still have such shitty coloring?!

@DaveMcCaig Sometimes, yes. But not always. There are bad schedules but also bad colorists.

RT @Perazza: "RE: Submissions. Remember we're a business not a school. We don't OWE
you an art review/critique. We owe you a response" Amen!

And if you get an out-of-office reply that they're gone for 2 weeks, don't continue sending daily samples, wasting expensive int'l data!

Reminder to new artists: Never mass e-mail samples to editors at numerous publishers. It's tacky & unprofessional. Take time & personalize.

Just a reminder to artists/writers sending in samples... There's NO NEED to FedEx or express mail in your work. You're just wasting your $$.

Want a comics' "do"? Always include a cover letter with your samples. Keep it short and simple, polite and professional.

Dear new artists, there's no need to flag your e-mails with your samples as important. And remember, send files as JPEGs under 300K.

If someone sends me their Marvel samples to my Marvel account, isn't it reasonable to assume they want to work for Marvel?

And for new artists, please don't send me or any other editors a blank e-mail with just a piece of art attached. A note explaining it helps.

Hey new artists, any e-mail that starts "Dear Editor" and is cc'ed to every editor at every comic company usually gets immediately deleted.

@KevinArt A lot of artwork is sent in electronically these days, but some still ship us the actual art. It's up to the artist to decide.

Reminder: There's never any need to FedEx or Express Mail me your samples. It's a waste of your money. It maybe weeks before I open them.

If you're an artist I don't know, please include words like COMIC, ART or SAMPLES in your e-mail title. Everything else gets deleted.

And of course, NYCC is still a comic heavy show and, although pretty big, is a great
one to hit. I'll judge #C2E2 first myself next week.

Like ECCC, which is perfect for this, Heroes Con, FanExpo Toronto & Baltimore Comic Con. All better, more personal places to show your work.

Don't get me wrong, I love SDCC & the folks that run it! It's just such a multi-media event now that new artists get lost in the shuffle.

Don't ever bring your portfolio to the bar after the con. When the show ends, work ends, and the creators & editors just want to unwind.

Don't make excuses for your artwork while your portfolio's being reviewed. Take responsibility for what you put on the page. Listen & learn.

Don't lurk if the editor you want to talk to is talking/reviewing with someone else. Leave and come back later. (This is my big pet peeve.)

Don't feel you have to talk to just editors. Assistant & associate editors also control their own books and are often better to get to know.

Don't approch an editor you don't know at a con with sketchbook/mini/samples in hand. Start a conversation first then ask if they'll look.

No set portfolio reviews at @emeraldcitycon, but I'll have a table there and will be happy to look at peoples' work. Artists only though.

I recommend new artists hit smaller, comic book focused cons where editors and other artists will have time to give you a review... (cont.)

Hard truth time: San Diego is an amazing con, but it's no longer a good con to go to for artists trying to show their portfolios & get work.

I consider "Why can't I get work when I can ink an entire issue in a five days?" a rhetorical question.

I just read an issue where a talented, up-and-coming artist had her biggest book yet suffer due to mismatched styles of 4 different inkers.

Too many people seem to think fast inking is good inking these days. Wrong! There's skill involved in properly matching pencilers & inkers.

One artistic discipline many editors need to learn more about is inking. Inking is an artform and should not simply be an after-thought.

The hard truth is that nobody has it harder than inkers in comics these days. There are so many talented pro inkers looking for work.

Advice for inkers? It's not about impressing just editors, it helps finding a penciler who likes your work and having them push you as well.

When inkers have downtime, I always recommend they do samples over as many different pencilers as possible. They should also... (cont.)

...to the editors to hire them for projects, but more importantly to the pencilers, many of who have a say in the decision these days.

There are a ton of talented inkers looking for work right now. Inkers have it hardest as they have to sell themselves not only... (cont.)

Balloons are key to storytelling and should help guide the reader's eye to where you
want them to go across and down the page.

Be smart when choosing fonts. They can make all the difference in the reading experience. And balloon placement is of utmost importance.

Reading comics isn't easy for many people. Following the flow can be hard enough as is. The lettering is for dialog but also guides the eye.

Also, I think the fact that there's a Twilight GN is a good thing for comics. Any mainstream expusure is good. The lettering hurts though.

RT @TheJohnBarber: "The lettering in the Twilight comic is the worst lettering I've ever seen in a professional comic." Couldn't agree more!

Also, be it pin-ups or sequenitals, even if you ink yourself, I always want to see
the pencils. You will not always be your own best inker.

Holiday note to new artists, if you're working from a Marvel sample script, PLEASE send us your pencils for comment before going to inks.

...keep in direct touch with pencilers, talk to them & find out how they like to be inked & show them how good they are to work with. Bond!

Many pencilers thinks it's boring", I know, but clean storytelling is the best way to impress an editor and get work."

Note to artist's agent: "Going forward I would recommend he sticks to a grid, no more crazy panel layouts, & also includes panel borders."

One of the best parts of working with a new penciler is seeing their work fully realized with great inking and coloring! I'll share soon.

The FF and X-Men are often good for this given their range of characters & powers. Plus we can see how he handles a team dynamic in his art.

...so now I'll ask him to pencil a few non-armored, more action-oriented characters. And a few female heroes to show how he handles women.

So in a case like this, I will ask him to do a few new sample pages with different characters. He's already done pages with Iron Man (cont.)

End of the day update: the new artists did not get an immediate new gig, but many editors liked his work & want to see more from him.

So now it's my job to get his pencils into every editors' hands and find him a new penciling gig before another publisher snaps him up.

A big part of being a pro penciler/inker/colorist is knowing when enough's enough &
it's time to put the page behind you & move to the next.

My thought was that some people need to be less concerned with ego & money and think more about bigger picture/better stories/greater good.

@javisoperandu Just as unacceptable. And if it happened to you at Marvel, pls let me know privately. Loved your Strange story, by the way!

If an artist gets a better offer from another company, I'll never begrudge them taking it. As long as they finish what they commited to!

Professionalism & respect for the job, as well as the editors, is just as important as talent, which some artists will learn the hard way.

Shiny Penny Pt.2 = They think they can accept gigs but then quit whenever a job they like better comes along, with no worry of reprecussion.

Shiny Penny Syndrome = an affliction new artists suffer from where they get big egos after doing little work and think they call the shots.

Some so-called "professional" artists can be anything but sometimes. Especially newer artists. They suffer from "shiny penny syndrome". Boo!

Artist Lee Ferguson just made a great point: "The one thing I've learned is that every page you draw (paid or not) is an opportunity."

As much as I don't like them not work for us, it's kinda cool seeing artists who broke in at Marvel get noticed & hired by other publishers.

I never name new artists. DC spies are everywhere & they're gonna need more artists then ever given their supposed summer publishing plans.

..."If you have to say it, then no, you're not good enough.". But there are links here with his work for other publishers, so let's go see.

Just got one of those classic "I know my work's good enough" e-mails from a new penciler. Rookie mistake. My 1st reaction's always... (cont)

DeviantArt is a tool, just like blogs or photo galleries are. And artists should use every tool in the box to get their artwork seen.

I'm not arguing the pros & cons of DeviantArt here. Just offering my advice on improving your chances of getting your work seen by editors.

@skottieyoung @NixonArt Yeah, I've been to some DA portfolio sites and they're better. But it's still DA and most editors won't click over.

RT @AdamTracey: "Artists should treat Deviant Art like they treat MySpace/Facebook. It's more personal than professional." I second that.

But DA's not place to create a professional work portfolio you want to show around to sell yourself as an artist to potential employers.

Anywhere you can showcase your art, you should. The DA community is a great way to get more exposure, to build a fan base & to network.

RT @laurbits: "DA's good for socializing with other artists & other fun things. Just don't send prospective employers to it." Agreed!

RT @AdamTracey: "That's not to say they shouldn't use DeviantArt at all, right? Just not their main source of portfolio materials?" Right!

Flickr has the same problem, too many click-thrus to view pages. A blog is one click where you can easily scroll down chronologically.

....which is why I tell new artists not to use Deviant Art. It's too slow & tedious. Start a blog to showcase your art in just one click.

A note I just got from an editor up here: "I hate Deviant Art so much it hurts my face. It took me 5 minutes to see two images..." (cont.)

RT @mikechoi: "Best art tip I ever got: you're not as good as you think you are."

Good question... no, none of their art was anything special and all three were far
from being ready to draw professionally.

RT @mohaps: "height of hubris would be to skip the mail, and just tweet you to "hire" and a link to a portfolio :P" It's happened. Really.

Dear new artists, there's a difference between between being confident in your artistic abilities and being cocky. Know where the line is.

Not every artist, not matter how good they are, is right for every comic and/or character.

Even the best of actors have to often audition for movie roles to see if they're "the right fit" for movie roles. Same with comics.

Yes, it sucks he has to go back & do free samples after a paying gig, but it's part of the way this biz work. Many artists have to do it.

The 2 editors he worked with have nothing ready. So now it's a matter of getting the other Marvel editors to check him out and bite on him.

His work & work ethic really impressed me & his 2 editors. Enough so that we want to give him more work. But here's where the problem is...

He listened to comments on his layouts, made the requested adjustments, penciled a page a day, made a few tweaks & hit all his deadlines.

Visiting the Kubert School today for portfolio reviews and Q&A. Can't believe it's
the first time I've ever been here!

@onegemini Yes, we still visit the Kubert School on a regular basis.

Suggested art courses? SVA, SCAD, MCAD and the Academy of Art SF all have great
comics' programs that Marvel visits and keeps an eye on.

Sorry, folks, but our Artist Training Program is invite only for Marvel exclusives. It's our way of investing in the future of our talent.

We're in our third year now and have had great success with past classes. Guys like @davidlafuente & @MikeChoi are "graduates".

Marvel's Artist Training Program is where we invite up-n-coming artists to NYC to be mentored by Marvel pros in layouts, storytelling, etc.

...serve as a new guide on how to break into Marvel, running down all our policies and expectations and what we look for in new artists.

Also, Marvel Comics Breakout will begin in March and will now not only spotlight the work of the ChesterQuest finalists, but also... (cont.)

At MCAD for morning portfolio review sessions. Bumped into shojo manga artist Tomoko Taniguchi in the elevator, who's also here to speak.