A few weeks ago, when Alisha came to me and asked me if I'd be willing to offer some feedback and critique to amateur comic book artists, I, of course, said yes. I really liked the idea of helping others out, because I myself was helped quite a bit by some really generous pros that were kind enough to take some time out to give me advice. It went a long way toward my own artistic improvement. Pay it forward and all that.
So, Moviepilot ran a contest and selected three winners. Here's my feedback for each.
Gerardo Preciado & Daniel Bayliss - Batman: The Deal
NOTE: If you want to see all of Gerardo Preciado and Daniel Bayliss' Batman: The Deal, you can read it in its entirety HERE.
First off, let me just say that you guys hardly need much of a critique from me. The level of work here is quite high and I think that what you both have done is rather astounding. Seeing that I'm critiquing art, though, I'll keep my comments strictly to the visuals. I decided to go with the Batman story, seeing as that just appeals to my sensibilities more.
First impressions: Always important. You want to hit an editor right away with something striking that sets the stage for what's to come and intrigues him/her enough to keep looking. I'd say you do that in spades here. The coloring is particularly effective and tasteful. Your opening splash page has great composition and the way you integrate the title 'The Deal' with the artwork is inventive. I can tell right away you like Paul Pope, and you wear the influence a bit too strongly on your sleeve, but the talent on display here reassured me that you'll be able to tweak your style enough to blaze your own trail with a bit more experience.
A few particulars: Page 3. Lovely image of the blimp, here, but I can't help but be distracted by the bad tangent created by the bottom of the blimp and the horizon line of the city. The two are so closely aligned it almost looks as if the blimp is resting on the city, which undermines your attempt to create a strong sense of space. Just by simply moving the blimp up a bit (or the city down, you could have left a nice bit of solid black there to effectively separate the two. Not a totally disastrous mistake but one that takes me out of the story a bit, which you never want to do.
By the time I got to page 4, I hadn't quite noticed that Batman was chained up, so it was a bit confusing when he breaks the chain on his ankles. Might have been nice to establish this a bit better earlier on. I see that he has the chains on the opening page but you don't see that they're attached to him. They simply disappear under the cape. I'm always a fan of clarity, and seeing as this is an important moment early on in the story, it would be nice to have seen this played up more.
Your Joker: Fucking fabulous!!! I really love the interpretation. Almost every shot with him in it is dead on. Bravo sir. Also, LOVE the panel of their feet as Batman lifts the Joker up. Very nice touch.
The storytelling: Apart from the chains bit at the beginning I found the storytelling to be fluid and exciting. Particularly the bit where Batman punches the Joker in the blimp controls. The weakest page in the entire story, I thought, was the splash page extreme close up of Joker's head. The drawing seemed to get a bit muddy there, and some of Joker's features float a bit too much on his face. It also feels like the Joker is standing on something instead of hanging out into the air. Maybe push the angle here a bit more like you did on the previous page?
Little details: SO important. There is so much personality in the drawing here. The small costume details are particularly appreciated and I would recommend continuing to push this in your work. Little things like stitching on clothing or the fact that you gave Batman lace-up boots can go a long way towards grounding work that may be a little more expressionistic.
Final thoughts: You will get work, if you haven't already. Obviously, your style makes it slightly more difficult to work in the mainstream superhero market but don't ever let that stop you from pushing your own style and sensibilities. It becomes something people will eventually WANT to see from you, if not already. With work at this level, it's honestly just about tweaking things here and there. We all search for perfection that will never come, but your sculpture has a wonderful foundation. Now it's just about tidying up the particulars and you're off to the races.
I look forward to seeing your future work.
Guillermo Lizarán Moraga - Miscellaneous Art
NOTE: In his submission, Guillermo also asked me about what publishers might be most interested in his style, so I addressed that, too.
I totally appreciate you also asking a question about where you might fit best within the industry, and I'll keep my humble opinion on the matter for later. First I'd like to tackle your artwork, which I must say is delightfully expressive and shows a very interesting style in the midst of creation. I feel like you're at a point in your work where a breakthrough could happen at any moment, and that is a very exciting place to be for any artist. Why do I say this: There comes a point in any artist's progression when the work matures to a point where the rough edges dissipate and a PERSONALITY starts to come through. It often happens, in its chrysalis, right before some corner is turned and that personality begins to mature as well.
Out of the pieces you sent, the Pepino Mascote page seems to me like your work at its most comfortable. The Batman piece, while quite nice, is a bit humdrum in its composition and execution. Not to say it's not done well, it just doesn't seem as though your artistic personality is coming through as much. Pepino Mascote seems like a fully formed thought, and its execution seems very fluid and effortless. Your use of greys is nice, especially with that nice green that really pops in the last panel. Very effective.
Page 3 seems unfinished to me. Am I wrong? Personally, I wouldn't have presented this page. When showing work to an editor, you want to always show complete work. I've seen plenty of people show me their sketchbook, and as nice as the drawing may be, it doesn't give an editor a good idea of what they'll get from you if they give you a job. Make sure they know what they're getting. The drawing itself on this page is great, and I love the acting going on. Just curious as to why it seems like the lettering layer is taken way down in opacity.
To get to your question about where you might submit, I would always suggest showing your work to as many people possible in as many places as possible without too much thought as to whether or not someone will respond. These days, the industry seems more and more accepting of diversity, and I also think there is something to be said for getting a wide variety of opinions. When showing my work around, I went table to table in Artist Alley one year at SDCC just to see what people thought. It really ran the gamut of responses and offered some great 'meat' to chew' on going forward.
At this point, the best thing you can do is keep your head down and work hard. That corner I talked about will be turned and that may be the key to getting work. Best of luck to you.
Justin Taylor - Character Pin-Ups
First off, let me just say that the drawings you've presented here look very polished and consistent with their styles within each individual piece. I'll address the style changes in a minute, but I think that at first glance, I can tell you have a good eye for detail and your anatomy seems fairly solid with a few exceptions. It's obvious you're not a novice.
My first question to you, and I'm sure you're asking yourself this, is, "What do you want to do: draw comics? Do cover work? Illustrations?". I ask because since you've presented only pin-ups, it doesn't seem like sequential work interests you but maybe that's not the case. When showing work to comic book editors, most of them will want to see some storytelling unless you specifically say you're looking for cover work. Now, if you ARE looking for cover/illustration work, be aware that it's a tough road because you will be competing against some notable and amazing cover artists already working, so the quality of your work has to be very high. I don't see that here just yet. I see some good drawing skills and obviously a LOT of talent, but we're missing a few things that are essential:
1. I don't see any backgrounds on your pieces. You indicate a bit of rubble underneath Batman's foot and have a graphic 'X' element behind your Hugh Jackman piece, but an editor will definitely want to know that you can do more than just draw a polished figure. Maybe try to start playing around with placing your figures in environments more and see what the results are.
2. Editors will want to know what they are going to get from you. What I mean by that is, they will want to know if you're going to turn in work in the line art style you have or the pencil rendered style. It's great that you can do both, but consistency, ESPECIALLY early on, is key. After you're an established professional it's far easier to play around with different styles and techniques. I suffered from this exact same thing when starting out. I didn't know what my style was, so I experimented with a lot of different things. All I can say is that, while it's always great to try different things, only time and experience help one to figure out their own style. You just have to draw constantly and it will eventually come.
3. I see you used some photo reference for your Hugh Jackman piece. I use reference as well and think it can be an excellent tool for any artist in the right hands. The important thing to remember is to not be a slave to the reference. Photographically, things happen that sometimes can look strange in a drawing. For example, heads can look too big and hands too small. The best piece of advice I can give is to start the drawing out with you OWN under drawing, breaking down the anatomy and form how you would do it without the photo. Then bring the photo in to do some final detailing work. This way you avoid the 'I copied a photo' look and maintain some personality in the drawing.
You have a great start here, and with some hard work and dedication you're going to mold your stuff into something quite interesting. The first step might be to figure out what you want to do professionally, storytelling or cover work, and use that to steer you where you need to go. Keep at it, man!!!
Lee Bermejo is a renowned comic book artist and writer whose works have included 'Batman: Noël', 'Before Watchmen: Rorschach', 'Joker', 'Lex Luthor: Man of Steel', and 'Wednesday Comics'. Volumes #1-2 of Vertigo series 'Suiciders', which he wrote and drew, is currently in stores. In June, his artwork will be seen in DC's upcoming 'We Are Robin' series which will bring together all of the characters to ever take up Robin's mantle.
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