Welcome back to Working with Artists, where we go over the fundamentals on how to collaborate with visual artists on your original world.
In Part 1 we talked about how to convey your vision to potential artists.
Part II covered where to find artists online.
Before we hop into this week's topic, I had one last note on where to find artists that I forgot to mention last time:
Conventions are great places to find artists! Many will be exhibiting their wares and portfolios for you to see. All have created a career in the arts. For me - I tend to stay local as I’m spoiled for choice with conventions out in LA. Here are some of the ones that are great places for meeting artists:
San Diego Comic-Con was this past week and there were artists all over the place! Comic, Anime, and Art Conventions are a great place to meet artists in general. San Diego is a bit less comic focused specifically and more of the pop culture comics have spawned with Hollywood having a big presence every year! You’ll find many working professionals from the entertainment industry roaming or exhibiting in the halls, on panels, and of course Artist’s Alley and Small Press - both of which are application based - but compared to other comic-cons like New York and Emerald City, San Diego tends to be a little bit more pop-culture / entertainment focused.
Anime Expo has a huge artists alley and just a ton of people in general. The lines are an absolute nightmare but there is plenty to see and do once you get in. Anime in general is huge and you’ll find a ton of great artists like Mythopoeia's very own Hamm Liu and Dia Ja here. You can find tons of talented artists influenced or steeped in anime at A/X, so if you're looking to create a project in that style it's a great place to search.
CTN also bears honorable mention as one of the premier gatherings of soon to be art school grads every year. You can find a lot of really talented artists here. It’s pretty crazy in that it’s the best of the best students and makes you realize just how insanely talented people are, and how ubiquitous talent is!
Comic Con LA is an up and coming show which has made major strides since 2019. Previously Stan Lee's Comikaze, they've since shifted from more of a Silver / Golden Age collectible focused show to capturing the zeitgeist of current comics and pop culture as a whole. I'm very bullish on this show and think it'll grow tremendously over the next few years.
EVALUATING ARTISTS' PORTFOLIOS
Okay, back to our regular programming! Now that you know where to find artists, how do you actually evaluate their work? This is a tricky question because we’re not artists ourselves in the sense that we can’t draw or render. We do however have big imaginations and have worked with some pretty incredibly talented artists over the years, almost all of whom we’ve had years long working relationships with.
So with all of that said, the following is just our own opinion about artists and what to look for when evaluating portfolios. Take it or leave it as you will, but it's what we do when on the hunt for talent.
THE SECRET - IT’S INTUITIVE.
You know it when you see it.
Good art captivates you right away. Yes or no. Like or dislike. It’s as simple as that. It’s all subjective, but there are radiants of taste, style, culture, and identity that help us identify the universal we see resonating to those who see.
You know it when you see it.
We’ve always relied on our instinct to determine what we like in artists. Find what matches your vision. The highest form of whatever it is you want it to be. Go from there, and see if you can find an artist that sees.
Bah, Ray! What a wishy washey answer! You know it when you see it?
Okay, fine fine fine you can go all art nerd on this kind of stuff, and it does help bring guidelines to the decision making process. So here's a list of things to look out for, in no particular order:
Anatomy. Proportions. Sketches. We always like seeing sketchbooks because it indicates training and dedication. Mastering the anatomy of our world gives the basis for us to imagine others. Physics!
A study of hands in an artist's sketchbook.
Are things in perspective? Does the horizon vanish? Do the lines line up? Very important when working on the wide detailed shots we’re so fond of, but a difficult and important aspect of an artist’s technique.
An early ink work in progress from Skies of Fire #2 by Pablo Peppino.
What can they do with the mouth or face? Expressions tell the story of emotion. What kind of facial expressions can be expressed by the artist? Is there a variety of feelings?
Expression studies for Myra the Witch done by Anny Maulina.
Capturing kinetic energy on a static image is impossible. Great artists capture the key frame - the moment needed to move the story visually. This is the art of the movement, and also a little bit the art of the cut.
From our upcoming projecting, Wanderer of the Wastes.
How rendered is everything? Rendering is the process of adding detail to a piece. Maximum or minimum detail isn’t necessarily a good or bad thing, but the amount of detail is a consideration.
What style is the artist most comfortable in? How malleable is the artist to style? Is it the style you’re looking for? Can they stretch or blend into something amazIng with the other artists? Is it what you envision for your own project?
Another note on young artists versus developed ones: when an artist is young, their style tends to be more malleable. As they make their way through the freelancing and professional ranks, they tend to either adapt their own style or be molded by the studio or school that they draw for. That's why you can sometimes tell what training an artist has - Art Center students have a certain look, SCAD another, Disney artists have a bit of Disney in all that they do, Riot artists similarly, etc. etc.
An early concept for The Wildsea by Omercan Cirit.
Pinups, or compositions featuring mostly character art, are relatively easy to draw and can be deceptive. That said, cover work is always very important. We need to see more than just pinups in a portfolio. We’re looking for a variety of scenes and landscapes, to see if an artist can visually convey a story.
A variant cover for Glow #5 by Hammond Liang.
As opposed to pinups, scenes involve the interaction of characters within environments. Characters must be placed within the confines of a setting, which may or may not be rendered out with landscapes, architecture, and perspective. Scenes are difficult to master as they require a grasp of all of the previous categories and are the primary reason why sequential art - comics - are one of the most difficult mediums for any artist.
A page from the forthcoming Sansha and Blanco by Vinse Suriantoso.
A whole entire can of worms that warrants its own article. Again, the primary rubric is binary: you know it's good when you see it.
The first color sample of Skies of Fire done by Bryan Valenza.
Like with all things, the study of art can go ever deeper and taxonomize ever further. Use the above categories as a starting point, but remember the fundamental rule: you'll know it when you see it.
Use the rubric to help guide the discussion otherwise. Agree or disagree with the points above? Comment down below!
Until next time,