As kids, many of us draw. Whether we’re at kindergarten or at home, we’re busy putting crayons and markers to paper, creating childish works of art for the galleries on our family refrigerators. It’s both an escape from the dull realities of grownup life, as well as a gateway to the unlimited worlds of imagination.
Some of us never stop illustrating and imagining new people and worlds. Then, it happens: Drawing and dreaming give way to the wide world of comic books. This is how a childhood pastime promises an exciting career. A select few may go on to become famous comic book artists and creators.
Cameron Stewart was one such kid who loved reading and drawing comics all his life. With a combination of hard work and restless creativity, he managed to turn his passion into a career.
“For me, drawing never lost the magic to instantly create characters and put them inside the story of a scene,” explains Cameron Stewart.
Today, he’s an award-winner on the international comic book scene, having worked on everything from the famous Catwoman to several of his own original comic book series. These include the supernatural noir Sin Titulo and the Vietnam-War story The Other Side.
For those interested in the choices and strategies an artist like Caemron Stewart might have for the budding comic book artist, here are a few tips:
Draw all the time:
This might sound obvious, but it’s the crucial first step. Furthermore, you should definitely draw freehand to start. Carry around a sketchbook and pull that out instead of your phone when waiting around. Learn those skills before testing out graphic software.
Don’t only focus on your own style:
All artists train by trying to copy the works of others. It doesn’t have to be exact replications. Try and simply get a feel for someone’s overall style and apply it to your own original ideas. This is one way to learn new techniques.
Go to Comic Cons:
“The San Diego Comic Con is where, you might say, my career started to really take off,” recounts Cameron Stewart. “I went down there with my portfolio and showed it to as many people as possible.” Now, you might not be able to get to the massive San Diego Comic Con. But there are always plenty of local events you may be able to attend.
Never forget the story:
Comic books are a special kind of art that bring the reader inside the flow of both a visual and textual narrative. “There’s so much information you can convey with a facial expression, or even just with framing and shadows,” says Stewart on the importance of visual story-telling.
Create your own comics first:
You might think the best approach is to hire yourself out to a team, but that’s not likely going to happen. Build a portfolio that demonstrates both your illustration technique as well as your character creation and plot development.
Along the way as you begin to get work, you’ll meet others who will help you develop both creatively and with respect to the business side of comics. Try and work with the same inspiring people continuously. Cameron Stewart talks about being fortunate to work several times with the likes of Ed Brubaker and Darwyn Cooke. He fondly describes Cooke as having “a tremendous influence on me,” going on to say that Cooke “taught me so much of what I know, and instilled a lot of my values as an artist and a professional.”
Find inspiration outside comics:
Movies are an excellent place to start to expand your visual universe. But everything from fine Renaissance tableaus to print advertisements of the 1950s can spark some new idea or style.
Do your homework:
If you get to the point where you’re hired to draw for someone else’s character, make sure you’ve done a deep dig into the backstory. Stewart explains, “I really take the established characters or worlds seriously when I get to work on somebody else’s creation.”
You should too.
Finally, never stop drawing:
That’s sort of a restatement of the first tip. But if you manage to reach some level of success, don’t assume you still can’t grow as an artist and storyteller. “You might think you’re on top of your game, but you have no idea what kind of new talent is rushing up behind you,” says Stewart.
There’s just no room for resting on your laurels in the comic book industry.