One of the challenges when it comes to creating comics, graphic novels and books of any kind in the modern marketplace is where to find the resources or how to learn all of the information you need to know on how to use all of these devices, software and techniques in order to make good comics. In this article I hope to give you some insight to answer some of those questions.
Self-studying [a.k.a. hermiting]
One of my best methods of learning the skills that I don’t have has been my own motivation and drive for lifelong learning. It started when I was a kid, before I was even in school. At the age of four, I began to discover my love for fiction and comics and by five, while I was in kindergarten, I was already drawing and writing my own stories. I’ve spent my entire life seeking out knowledge and learning it. Before I ever did my first really big coloring gig for a professional client, I spent two weeks locked in a room with me, a computer and Photoshop. I had other experiences, I’ve seen guides, I do use different things, I had colored my own comics, but now this was the big time. I needed to know my shit. So if I wasn’t sleeping or eating, I was at the computer experimenting with every function and filter of Photoshop. I made amazing pages and downloaded amazing work by other people and I pulled it apart layer by layer, color by color, piece by piece. I digitally ripped apart and destroyed artwork in ways that would make you cry. I made sure that I learned how to screw up every possible way and how to fix it. That way when it came to the point where I had to focus and do the actual work for a major publisher, I had the confidence that I could handle anything that came my way or improvise during the process. Study the books. All of the knowledge you need is out there for the taking. Just put some effort into looking for it. There are many books at the library that will give you the information you’ve been searching for. Make use of the library. If you can’t find it at the library, look online on Amazon.com or at your local book retailer. You may be able to find very affordable digital versions of informative books available for in-store purchase right on your phone that you can read on the train on your way to work or when you’re relaxing on your lunch break or between classes.
A growing industry, online education and learning allows you to complete a course at your own pace at an affordable price and it’s becoming a very well-known and standard method of learning. Remember how I told you that the Internet was necessary? This is just one more example that proves it. You can get online learning courses that range anywhere from $50–$500 and they may be the key to fitting learning into your busy schedule around work, family, kids and needing to have the time to make your awesome comics. There are a number of options out there available. There are many established websites such as Udemy.com and Lynda.com that offer program packages with various levels of support. There are a number of other online education websites that work in the same vein as the two examples above. They all have sales on a regular basis and if you join their mailing lists you’ll find out when they have the course you want to take on sale at a reduced rate, sometimes as low as $10. Many established real life colleges and universities are now offering online learning programs as well. You can even join in on government-sponsored online learning initiatives that help people upgrade their skills for employment. Do a little research about your geographic area and find out what’s available to you. For example, if you’re a resident of Ontario, Canada, like I am, you can go to ontariolearn.com.
Might I also suggest you visit my own educational website at www.gagnonwrites.com? You’ll find a wealth of free resources there as well as information on things like private lessons and group workshops and seminars that I teach. You didn’t think I was going to put this book out without at least one free plug, did you?
There’s always another option. Go to your local conventions and meet comic creators that inspire you. Talk them up. Find out what they’re interested in and what they are fans of. Find those creators that have similar interests as you and create a dialogue. Share stories about your mutual appreciation for things like old monster movies or horrible 80s VHS sci-fi. You may just be able to find a real friend in the industry and someone who is willing to mentor you and share some of their professional knowledge with you. Don’t be fake about it. Don’t use people. There’s nothing I find worse than someone kissing my butt and trying to push a friendship on me because they think that they can use my friendship to improve their lives. Be genuine. Don’t fake interest in something that you don’t like or have no knowledge on. That’s just one way to approach a professional. Look up their website, you might find out they are teaching and running workshops or offering free online video tutorials. At the very least you may find out that they’re offering group or private lessons in their area. There are so many people working in that type of industry now that it is likely that there are some comic professionals in your area. I have worked with comic professionals located all over the world. In North America alone, you can find comic professionals living everywhere from the southern tip of Florida to northern Alaska. We are everywhere! The reason you don’t know it is because we are generally shy, we like to keep a low profile, we’re always very modest and we have to be careful. There is a very small but frightening percentage of obsessive fans that ruin it for everybody else. So don’t be offended If your favorite comic creator is a little nervous or hesitant when you come walking quickly over to them waving and shouting their name. Just keep it low-key and respectful and you will be well on your way to building up connections in the comic book industry. Do a simple web search for your city plus the words “art lessons” or “comic book lessons” and you should come up with something. If you and Google haven’t really built a relationship yet, then you’re probably the kind of person who has the Yellow Pages still around. If you’ve got that big old giant brick of a book, flip through it, and chances are you will find an art studio that offers lessons or a full-fledged art school somewhere in there.