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Meaty message-

"Hey man, I thought perhaps you might be able to shed some light on something;

Where does one start with getting into your world? illustration? Animation? General fine art? I’m 28 and looking at rebooting my life by advancing my favourite lifelong hobby into (hopefully) a better job, but to risk 3 years of my life and upwards of £30k, I don’t want to go in the wrong direction right at the start.

I know you’re USA and I’m UK, but what course did you do? What’s your origin story, and your advice to someone who wants to follow a similar path?

Cheers bro, really appreciate the time you take to read this meaty message.”

  First off, sorry for the late reply. I let messages build up and answer when I can. I wonder if you’ve already made some decisions about your direction toward comics and this response is way too late! But regardless, I’ll answer anyway! I’m up in the middle of the night unable to sleep, so you get my long winded reply.

  If you want to get into comics, I wouldn’t recommend college. I know, parents hate hearing that. (And probably colleges too) But accruing that kind of debt for schooling that you could learn on your own might not be the best start for your comics career. And really, if you don’t already have a talent in drawing, schooling won’t help you much. Ask anyone that went to an art school, you will see plenty of students that lack talent and took school to make them better. And guess what, it didn’t work. But then there are those that were already talented that took schooling and they used that time and the assignments to get even better. Well, you can do this on your own. There isn’t tons of secrets to good drawing. It’s talent plus skill. And skill can be learned by doing.

My path went a little something like this.

  Drawing comics was a dream job since I was 15 and I always drew and practiced, and after a few years I heard about Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art but couldn’t afford it. I forget how old I was (maybe 20?) but I did a correspondence course from them, they sent me a book which I drew in and did assignments and then they’d do corrections over them, (much cheaper than going to the school! About 200-300 I think?) But it was very helpful since I couldn’t find many books on sequential art. But at the same time it made me realize that I didn’t need to spend thousands for schooling. I think a big reason I wanted School was to be around other artists like me, since I knew zero artists. But the learning part, I can do that one on my own with all the art books around.

So I schooled myself with large doses of Burne Hogarth, George Bridgeman, and later Andrew Loomis. (All great artists with an emphasis on anatomy, not comics) Sure I didn’t get that correspondence like I got with Joe Kubert courses, but after a while I found online forums and got feedback there, more on that in a second! Now I always drew but I did it slowly, I gave up the dream of comics due to low confidence and even lower confidence after submitting to a few companies and was rejected. I still drew but slowly and with less intent. But after being fired at the age of 26 from a warehouse job I decided to try again. This time I tried harder. I was hungry for work and to learn. My personal schooling was back to anatomy books, but also, I did free short stories with writers for anthologies and webcomics. I figured studying anatomy was good but I needed to do actual sequential storytelling. I didn’t worry about getting paid, these anthologies and things didn’t make any money anyway.

I looked at this free work like it was my schooling! I basically pretended I got a scholarship and was doing school for FREE! I had a great time! I did inking for a couple comics because I thought maybe my pencilling wasn’t good enough. But the online forums were huge for me, I got that correspondence that is invaluable by posting art. Other artists commented on the posts and let me know what they felt was off or on about it. My confidence went up because the reaction from other artists was that I am good enough. (, But at the same time my bank account was looking terrible haha! I was three years married to my very supportive wife Erin who always told me to not worry about money and keep pushing for my dream job, even when we had to move into her Moms basement. It was nice getting help so I could concentrate fully on my “schooling”! But very difficult battling others advice of getting a job and stopping what I’m doing. And battling my own worries if what I was doing was worth it or not. It was quite the struggle for sure. I was pretty sure I could get work I just needed to keep pushing. And then Robert Kirkman contacted me on a private message on forums asking if I wanted to work with him. I was 28. Thats when I started Invincible. And that’s really when most of the learning started. By reading Invincible you can see my growth in the last ten years. And I’m still learning and growing and evolving. 

  So my suggestion for getting into comics? Work for it, find your own way in. You might have to write for yourself, give yourself assignments. Fill up sketchbooks. Study artists, draw from life, collaborate on forums. It might be a hobby for a long while. So getting a job in the meantime will probably be necessary. You don’t need to follow my way or anyone’s way to get into comics. Do it your way. I was always told that the only way to get into comics was by submitting. I stumbled upon a different way, many artists have. And now mail submissions are a thing of the past. It doesn’t happen. Go online. Go to cons. Make friends. Enjoy it, dammit. Hopefully my middle of the night rambling was coherent enough to understand. Thank you.


  • Listening to: pantera
  • Reading: Akira
  • Watching: Silicon Valley
  • Playing: Halo
  • Eating: Pho
  • Drinking: GALLONS a month
Add a Comment:
artyvicky Featured By Owner Jun 27, 2015  Student Digital Artist
This is the best advice any artist could get.
CammageChan Featured By Owner May 23, 2015  Student Traditional Artist
Thanks for posting this great advice! I'm putting on hold those books at my local library now! :D
coneida Featured By Owner Feb 1, 2015
KainMaxi Featured By Owner Dec 17, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Awesome answer. I always enjoyed your art on Invincible immensely, but I was especially heartened to read this response. You've gained a watcher! : ) 
walternonames Featured By Owner Nov 23, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
StevenMillage Featured By Owner Nov 5, 2014
An awesome read! I always get panicked that I hadn't started early enough. But it's cool to see an artist I look to so often have a story not so different then my own current situation. I love your work Ryan, keep drawing books and I'll keep spending what money I can on them.
mavrick755 Featured By Owner Nov 1, 2014  Hobbyist Artist
Thank you for sharing!
Benw2021 Featured By Owner Oct 25, 2014  Professional General Artist
This is by far the best advice I've gotten.

Thanks to Ryan for answering, and I'd like to thank whoever asked the question. 
JosephLSilver Featured By Owner Oct 24, 2014  Professional Traditional Artist
Profound on many levels. Thanks for sharing Ryan.
jbrenthill Featured By Owner Oct 23, 2014  Professional Traditional Artist
Wonderful advice! I had a booth close to yours at SLC comic con, but I didn't have a chance to talk to you. I love your work, and I have a similar story (minus the success part!). I am pushing forward and working on a comic that my friend writes. Hearing your story is encouraging and I'll have to meet you in person at the next comic con! I'm so glad Invincible found you!
stupidness19 Featured By Owner Oct 23, 2014
"enjoy it, dammit!"
Dylanio21 Featured By Owner Oct 23, 2014  Professional Traditional Artist
Wonderful story, I really enjoyed it.
ninjai Featured By Owner Oct 22, 2014  Professional Digital Artist
I remember when Ryan posted his work on DWeb and PJ. It's amazing how far he's come and still stayed humble. (super rare in this industry).

You can ask all the artists camped out in Artists Alley at SDCC and they'll all say "you don't do comics for the money but for the love of it".
rentnarb Featured By Owner Oct 22, 2014
Great read!  I like that "You might have to write for yourself, give yourself assignments."  That's how I discovered I REALLY like writting!
Bensaret Featured By Owner Oct 22, 2014  Professional Filmographer
I found the part where you said "pretend you got a scholarship and are going to school for free!" to be really poignant, what a great mindset to have!!! Thanks for the advice and information, Ryan :D!
iamericbass Featured By Owner Oct 22, 2014
DAMN good advice!!
MiltonTeruel Featured By Owner Oct 22, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Great advice.  I don't think it can be stressed enough-- draw as much as you can, and don't let early failure stop you.  I think an old rule of thumb was that you didn't really find yourself as an artist until you'd completed 2,000 pages.  The idea is not to count how many pages you've done!  It's to look at your craft as a learning process that never ends.  Which isn't bad, since it means you'll always be improving and that your best work is always ahead of you.

The other important thing is to find people who support you, and your suggestion of online forums is the most practical (having a supportive wife is a lot better, but not everyone is so lucky!).  Seek out the people who give practical advice.  "That looks great!" is good for the ego, but not much more constructive than "that sucks!"  Comic conventions, if within reach, are a great place for that as well.  It never hurts to find a particular creator (or better yet, editor) year after year and keep showing him your stuff.  He can see that you are improving, and more importantly he can see that you want it badly enough to persist year after year!  Draw a lot.  Persist a lot.  Don't quit.
lukesparrow Featured By Owner Oct 21, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
This meant a lot to me, thanks! I hope to break in eventually.
Sora-Kun-AR Featured By Owner Oct 21, 2014
Wow, i think this is actually my message that i sent months ago. I'm impressed you got around to it! And thank you for the advice!
RyanOttley Featured By Owner Oct 22, 2014  Professional Artist
Awesome! Yeah I read your message a while ago but hadn't made the time for it. It took a little insomnia to answer! ;)
Sora-Kun-AR Featured By Owner Oct 26, 2014
Haha hey, im just grateful ;) sent you another note in response for preparation for your next night of insomnia
anthonywong33 Featured By Owner Edited Oct 21, 2014  Professional Digital Artist
Inspirational message!
nautShell Featured By Owner Oct 21, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
As responsibilities in life become more of a give and take then a juggle, this advice was really great to read. Thank you for taking the time to respond openly, it means a lot to many of us and it really made my day.
MisterBZD Featured By Owner Oct 21, 2014  Hobbyist
Thanks for posting this response publicly!
jetdog-art Featured By Owner Oct 21, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Which Pantera?  :D
EricGravel Featured By Owner Oct 21, 2014  Professional General Artist
Great message, Ryan!
BlackKusanagi Featured By Owner Oct 21, 2014  Student General Artist
Thank you so much for the advice sir!
paco850 Featured By Owner Oct 21, 2014
Hi Ryan,
I'm at  the other end of that spectrum and I totally agree with you.  I went to a state school and studied graphic design for the practicality of it.  Got my bachelors, took a teaching job, and then earned a Masters in Education, before returning to get a Masters in Fine Arts in Graphic Design.  I'm a month away from graduating with my M.F.A. a terminal degree.  I don't have much to show for it except an epic level of frustration and a hulk sized rage.  I also have  100 K in debt which pretty much precludes me from every being free enough to go 100% freelance in an industry that demands it.  I also have a complete disenchantment with fine arts and academia.  I've been bullied by subjective arrogant frauds who have fewer professional accomplishments than I do and,  I've pissed away 15 years collectively of my life in various phases of my education and aside from possibly teaching college, my degree will do me very little good.  And at some point, probably after I started teaching, I lost my hunger to work in comics, quit drawing pages and settled for dipping my toe into the industry every now and then rather than actually accomplishing the dreams and goals that I set for my self 23 years ago.

 The only thing I can say that was worth the investment, was my discovery of the elements and principles of design, which I discovered after I graduated with my bachelors,  which I feel are equally important to being able to draw competently, as they inform everything from page composition, to storytelling, to character design.  If I had it to do over again, I'd probably still go to college but I'd study something more practical, with a certification test at the end of it,  just to give myself the slight edge that still comes with having a degree. I was lucky enough to find a mentor who helped me grow considerably, and I've made a point of seeking out good design centered artists like Brian Stelfreeze to help me understand the craft of storytelling and design.  At all costs,  I'd avoid paying some second rate pseudo-academic professor to tell me how great he or she is, while barely glancing at my work.  In most cases, these people have no industry experience and took teaching jobs because they couldn't cut it in the industry.  Academia is safe and if you are fortunate enough to get tenure, you are set for life which of course leads to apathy and stagnation.

Worst case, take some drawing classes and some two-d design classes that you pay for up front and learn to apply it to your discipline.  And find a way to stay hungry, because above anything else, I've discovered that hunger motivates us to work every day and prioritize our future over all the distractions that stop talented people from accomplishing their goals.

Now, I've gotta go drink a big glass of practice what you preach.

I really Dig your work man! Keep going.

nautShell Featured By Owner Oct 21, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
JW, appreciate your honesty. I hope you are able to keep at it and make the best of your situation.
paco850 Featured By Owner Oct 21, 2014
Thank You. I am doing fine, but the road not taken looks good when you are frustrated. Ryan's post hit a nerve is all.  Thanks for the comment and good wishes and for adding me to your watch.  Keep in touch.
lethe-gray Featured By Owner Oct 21, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Excellent advice. I think it's probably much easier today than it was 20 years ago to become more or less 'self educated' (in as much as 'you are actually getting an education, solely based on your own effort finding resources). I know all too many people who have gone to art school and basically learned nothing, and got nothing but debt. I don't know how it is over in the UK for the guy asking the question, but overall I would imagine it's not terribly dissimilar.

The only thing I'd personally stress about actual "comics" art, is "don't learn from redrawing comics". Because ... the only times I've seen that is when people choose *the wrong comics* to 'learn' from. Gotta start with the basics and those are in fact as you said, found *everywhere*. Libraries, book stores, online sources, everywhere. Anatomy, perspective, light and shadow, they're all available to be put together.
MadisonHRW Featured By Owner Oct 21, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Awesome message Ryan.
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