So after a long and deliberate process I am very happy to announce the artist who will be working on the art of De Profundis (even if it is only a few pages to add to the pitch, which I’ll talk about at a later date).
But I’m very pleased to be working with the immensely talented Craig Howes. I’ll be posting some of his art at a later date as well.
But for now I wanted to share the process that led me to choose Craig and hopefully aspiring comic writers and artists alike will learn something from this entry.
The relationship between a writer and an artist is very much like a marriage. In one way I am marrying my words to his art. It’s a weird notion but hear me out. If you don’t like your spouse, the marriage will collapse, if you don’t like you creative partner, the work will suffer for it too. With Craig I found a guy who was willing to invest not only time and effort, but himself in the project. This wasn’t just “a job” for him, he sees this as an opportunity to launch himself into new territory and challenge himself as an artist. Given that I had a limited budget as a lot of writers do you can’t afford to shell out a lot for each page. I mean, no one paid me for the script. (Which is another way Craig endeared himself to me. I firmly believe that the artists should be paid well considering the amount of work that goes into their end and should the comic get picked up I will be more than happy to pay a rate befitting his talent.)
But this is exactly what a writer wants to hear because in the end, the writer is handing over their work to someone with a totally different vision of the world. An artist has the power to show other people their vision through their art. A writer on the other hand can only prompt the reader to imagine their vision which will ultimately be viewed through their own personal lens. So when the script passes to an artist the writer must realise that it is impossible that it will be his vision. Instead it will be a combination of two visions coming together. So when you get on well with the artist and find your styles complimenting each other, there is a better chance that the combination of visions transcends the individual vision of the artist and writer alike.
So how do you strike partnership gold like I did?
First of all, have a decent bit of work DONE. Don’t write a synopsis then go out looking for an artist. If you do, then you’ll end up rushing your work to give to your new-found artist and will ultimately just hand over a poor script which will then most likely turn into a poor representation of your vision. You’ll blame the artists, the artist will blame. Divorce.
So first of all make sure you are ready to go before an artist gets involved. I finished the final script for the run on Percy Nobleman months before the first issue was published. The writing and editing processes are long and hard with many agonising hours in between inception and completion so give yourself that time before moving forward.
When you are ready to go check out your local scene, being able to meet your artist face to face would be a pleasant bonus (and one I have not experienced to date) but it is not essential, especially in this day and age where websites like “freelancer” and “Upwork” specialise in connecting people from around the globe on projects. So I put up an ad that said “Established writer seeking artists for newest comic” which instantly puts artists on the alert. The term “established” isn’t untrue; I was working on ‘Percy’ and ‘Uptown’ at the time and finding success with them, but I’m no Grant Morrison.
Anyway, applications came thick and fast and from all different sources. So the first thing I had to do was go through each of the profiles and portfolios looking at their style. Some had a style that didn’t suit the vision in my head so straight away they were messaged with a polite decline and thanks. Give everyone the respect they deserve, you never know what the future might bring and building positive relationships even with passing acquaintances could reap rewards in the future.
Now here is where it gets good, after I had narrowed the list down to my favourites, I gave each of them a page of the script and asked for a sketch of it. This would help me gauge their style, script accuracy and panel placement in relation to my work. I will publish that part of the script here so you can all see what everyone else saw…
PAGE TWO (SEVEN PANELS)
The perspective is now from the ground looking up from a non-descript footpath somewhere on the mountain range. There are Fir trees and the side of a rock face towering over us on the right side of the panel. The upper left side of the panel should be the sky. In the sky the Jet is flying low overhead leaving a white trail from the bottom centre of the panel to the top left.
Humanity dances on the tips of the flames. Each empire rising from the ashes of the last.
COMMANDER (on headset) (OP):
Good luck soldier –-
COMMANDER (on headset) (OP):
— and may God have mercy on our souls.
Same shot only the Jet has passed, its vapours dispersing quickly in the wind. From the right of the panel Death appears as if either following or waiting for the Jet to pass. We are about chest height looking up to give him a greater sense of presence. His head is covered by a hood which is keeping his face in shadow for now. From the neck down he is wearing armour that looks like it would be more appropriate to see in ancient times. The armour is worn as if in a battle and seen some action. Death’s right arm is on panel and we can see the gloved hand holding the slender wooden handle of a tall walking stick. The very top of the stick is broken as if something was there but has been snapped off. The majority of the panel should be hidden behind his black cloak fluttering around in the wind. The sky should not be covered which will mean little now but in the greater context of the story that comes later it will.
But now they will fall.
The exposed ribs of an animal rise up from the bottom of the panel in the foreground. Steam rises off it showing it is a fresh kill. Two mountain lions tear at it in an almost frenzied state. One is pulling a stubborn piece of meat from the bone while the other chews a hunk that hangs out its mouth. Their faces red with blood.
Hunger and desperation drives them on.
Same shot but the lions are now both looking to the right of the panel and bearing their teeth at something off panel. Their heads are low, red slobber drips from their jaws, ears pinned back against their head.
CAP: They challenge me, they resist me, and they curse me. But deep down they know–
Same shot only the savageness has gone from their faces as they realise on a deep primal level that they have crossed a line. They have raised their heads and their ears are pricked up. Teeth are no longer being shown. The ribs should be shaped to look like points of a crown to represent both aspects of the dialogue.
–as even the lowliest beasts–
Same shot only from the right Death is walking onto the panel behind the exposed ribs. We can only see him from the waist down, his black robes thrashing about in the wind like a creature alive with its own agenda. The lions have turned tail and ran as we can see in the opposite side of the panel. They both have their backs to us.
–to the mightiest of kings know–
We can see in the foreground the two lions as they run towards us, if fear can be portrayed on their faces without it looking cartoonish then fantastic, otherwise leave it. In the background we can see Death but he is distant so we still cannot make out any features. At his feet lies the carcass of the Elk.
They can never outrun Death.
Ok, so now that you have read it, let’s look at some of the art that came back to me and I will show you their strengths and weaknesses. I’ve left out some of the more prolific artists because mainly they were all great but too expensive and perhaps by mentioning these artists here I will promote them. These sketches are not indicative of their final product but shows the foundations that they would have built on.
Artist #1 – Vivian Truong
Miss Truong was an early front-runner, she ticked all the boxes in terms of what was asked in the script, her panel placement was good and her washed style worked well with the tone of the comic. The only problem I had with it was the angle of the character in panel 2. He had his back to us as opposed to facing us. No biggie, you have to let artists work on their own and they have every right to tinker with the script to benefit the artistic representation of your words.
Artist #2 – Gabriele Schiavoni
The quality of the art here was already of a high standard but there were quite a few problems. For example, the stream behind the jet acts as a time indicator. In the first panel it should be solid because it is just made, but in the second panel the vapour trail should be dispersing somewhat to show that a period of time has passed. The fact that it is solid here removes any sense of time and subtly throws off the time framing.
Secondly however we have a big one. The lions. Now they are well drawn, there’s no doubt about it. But the fact the script says “Mountain” lions means he has drawn a completely different animal and has in fact thrown the setting of the story off completely because if we see lions like above then we can assume the story is set in Africa, which it is not.
So I had to cut this prom the running because it was clear he hadn’t read the script carefully enough and that set off alarm bells in my head. Could it be a language barrier? I’m not sure, but you can’t deny that even though he did some things wrong, he done them so right! Quality art here straight from the get go.
Artist #3 – Marc Olivent
This one was also a serious contender. The quality of the art is good, the panel placement is excellent and everything that was in the script is here. Even the main character looks awesome. They even added the special font in the CAP boxes which was a very nice touch. What held me back was the cost. My meager budget would not get me far. In the end I couldn’t have even got 3 pages of art, and when pitching a comic, 3 pages is not enough (some specify a minimum of 5 pages). So the more art the better.
Artist 4# – Stefan Sepic
Now I’ve seen this guy’s work and he has a very Mike Mignola style which I love. Plus he was willing to invest himself in the project as well, easing the financial burden from my side. I was set on Stefan before Craig came in and stole the show but I can imagine myself working with him in the future and indeed I will be providing some editing work for his own solo project. Remember what I said about treating everyone with respect and the future benefits that could reap?
So there you have it, how I came to find my artist. There were many great examples who haven’t gotten a mention but they are out there and just waiting to bring your vision to life.