I am of the opinion that all webtoonist wannabes could greatly improve their skills if only they took ONE stroll up and down the aisles of the San Diego Comic-Con’s Artists’ Alley.
Seriously. The majority of artists who are dedicated enough to put down some of their own coin for a tiny little table space in a section that gets only minimal-to-moderate attention by the general masses of Con-goers are GOOD. I mean, verging on the PROFESSIONAL good. They are people who have skills that should get them some sort of entry-level position at most of the pro arthouses in the industry. And some of them DO get the odd job or two.
Have I mentioned that they are GOOD?
They have clearly been working at their craft for YEARS, and, as one can deduce by the copious packing boxes filled with inked bristol boards and colorful canvasses that they desperately try to hawk to a mass of mostly-uninterested passers-by, these artists work at it CONSTANTLY. As you flip through their stacks, you can’t help but compare some of the art to anyone from a Curt Swan to a Terry Moore to a Jim Lee to a Frazetti. Sure, they may not be perfect under the scrutiny of an experienced eye â€“ a tiny perspective skew here, an awkward panel composition there, but to an untrained pair of people peekers, or to your average young comics reader, you’d swear that these guys were the big guns themselves.
Place their work next to the output of your average webcomic artist, however, and suddenly even your least-trained fanboy eye will be able to see a chasm of difference between the two. I wonâ€™t lie to you â€“ most of these craftspeople would make about 97% of webcomic artists collectively lower their heads in shame and embarrassment.
These convention ground-pounders â€“ the infantry of the art world army â€“ may make it one day, and there are always tales of the one or two who started out as an Artists’ Alley Anonypuss one year only to be discovered and rocket to fame and pseudo-fortune (we all KNOW that riches and comics are NOT synonymous) the next. Still, most of them are just lovers of the craft, and continue working away at it, despite already knowing that their chances of "making it big" are as remote as seeing Alex Ross sitting in Artists’ Alley anytime soon. They get the little gigs as inkers or colorists, or collectible card game artists and so on, but they never get that prestige, that celebrity.
And yet they are GOOD.
Meanwhile, most of us webcomickers, having only dabbled for a few years with pen and paper and wacom and MS-Paint, sit here and whine and wonder why we’re not famous and popular already. And we fool ourselves into thinking that our chosen art is DELIBERATELY â€œunpolishedâ€ because it is our â€œsignature style,â€ our artist’s stylistic prerogative.
As opposed to just admitting that we are NOT good. At least not yet.
This is not meant to be a rant saying that all webcomics suck, or that all webtoonists are lazy and unprofessional. I am definitely NOT saying that everyone’s art should look like Lee’s or Ross’ or Moore’s. This is simply an observation, based on what I see constantly being posted on message boards and in chat rooms, and felt each of the three years I walked down Artists’ Alley in San Diego.
I, at least, was humbled each time.
If can you walk through Artists’ Alley and then look me in the eye and say that you still donâ€™t need to work on your skills in one way or another, then you are either Alex Ross or Terry Moore.
Or you’re grossly delusional.
Instead of trying to make it by expecting the rest of the world to come to accept OUR terms, we have to realize that a professional is more than someone who just slaps together a few doodles, puts them on the web, and waits for the micro-money to roll in. Or, to rephrase that slightly: while we SHOULD want to make it on OUR terms, we first have to reach a certain level of adeptness and skill that shows the world that we arenâ€™t just drawing different ’cause we donâ€™t KNOW any better.
We have to look at these weathered vets of the Alley, those who may sell only a few hundred dollars’ worth of stuff at each convention they attend â€“ barely enough to cover the costs of their table, food and lodging at the same convention. Those who refuse to give up year after year, because they are GENUINELY obsessed with their art, with their chosen medium of expression. Those who are GOOD because they have WORKED at being good. Those who may one day be GREAT.
We have to look at what Artists’ Alley has to show us, to teach us.
If only to show us how to take a good long hard look at what WE are producing by comparison, and what we COULD produce, if only we too worked hard enough at it. And I mean REALLY hard at it, not just doodling something a few times a week.
If only to teach us an invaluable skill, indeed:
Damonk is the Editor in Chief and the Executive Editor for Reviews.