Article originally written by Ryan Closs
Hi, my name is Ryan and I’m a comic art addict. I guess I can trace my addiction back to Fanexpo 2009. I had been to my first comic convention earlier that year (NYCC) and, while awesome, I never even went into Artist Alley. I thought it was intimidating and, really, what was the point? I was there to go to panels and buy some books! However, I then wandered over to the Image booth and saw Jamie McKelvie drawing a sketch for someone and became instantly jealous and as soon as I got home I bought a sketchbook to bring to Fanexpo later on in the year. Click below for all you need to know to start YOUR sketch hunt!
Once I got to Fanexpo, I headed straight for the Alley (since by then I’d heard you have to get to the artists you like early or they’ll fill up). Riley Rossmo (Proof, Cowboy Ninja Viking, Green Wake) was my first ever sketch and I became instantly hooked and went on to get sketches from Karl Kerschl, Leonard Kirk, Wes Craig and a second Rossmo sketch, this time of Cowboy Ninja Viking, over the course of the con. Since then I’ve been to a several more cons and my addiction has broadened to include original comic pages as well.
If you want to leave your next con with a sketch or two, you’ve got to prioritize. You have to go to the person you want most first and try and get on their list (or even better, get to them before there is a list). This is a lot easier if you don’t have a sketchbook, since then you can go from artist to artist, get your name on a few lists and just go pick up your sketches when they’re done. If you’re looking for a big name artist, you might want to try and talk to them before the show (via email, twitter, etc…) and book your sketch beforehand (I know Dale Eaglesham does this), that way you know for sure you’ve got a slot. The sketchbook route is a little trickier: since you have to leave it with the artist, it’s a little harder to coordinate from artist to artist (though one could figure at least an hour per sketch but some could take as long as a day for multi-day cons). The other important thing to note about the quest for con sketches is making sure, especially if you’re requesting a lesser known character, that you have a reference for the artist. Do you really love Hypno Hustler enough to request a sketch of him? If so, be sure to bring a comic with him in it so that the artist has something to work from.
Unfortunately, I can’t really give you any guidance about cost, as it ranges significantly depending on how famous/popular the artist is. I’ve seen sketches go for as little as $20 (or occasionally free) to well into the hundreds of dollars for full body, full color sketches. You can get some absolutely gorgeous stuff if you shop around and find a lesser-known (but talented) artist that’s trying to break in. If you go the sketchbook route, you might also want to consider determining a theme for the sketches going inside it. My current book has no theme, but I know people with a Calvin & Hobbes themed book, a Kaiju themed book and I’m thinking about starting a second book with a Muppet theme. These theme books are nice, and also make for a portable reference since an artist can just look through the book for inspiration.
Now, what if you can’t make it to a con? Lots of artists do accept commissions via email. One paypal transaction later and you can have your own original art piece delivered straight to your door.Sketches aren’t the only way you can get art from your favorite artists though, as some artists sell their original pages as well (while others burn them). If this is your game, you might want to get in on it now as more and more artists are moving to a totally digital workflow (I know McKelvie is doing lots of entirely digital work now). There are several sites out there that you can buy pages from as well. A few of the biggest outlets for original art are Cadence Comic Art (Stegman, Hardman, Norton), Splash Page Art (Ottley, Jock, Templesmith), The Artists Choice (Eaglesham, Huat) and Albert Moy (Conner, Powell, Cooke). That said, there are some things to make sure of when shopping for pages: make sure you know if it’s just the penciled page or the penciled and inked page, since usually inked pages are more expensive (but worth it, in my opinion). The other thing you should know is that usually these pages don’t have lettering on them, since most lettering is done digitally later on.Continued below
I know it might be tempting to invest in that big Captain America splash page, but that’ll be much more expensive for a couple of reasons: 1) Captain America (especially in costume) is a popular character and 2) most people tend to prefer big splash pages when buying art. I’m going to make a suggestion though, and that is if you want to just get a big picture of Captain America, go get a commission. The beauty of comics is the sequential art and the storytelling; so go find a page that tells a story even without the word balloons. It will probably be cheaper because it’s not as flashy. You can also look for lesser-known work from top-tier artists. Sometimes these hidden gems can look just as good as the Marvel or DC books but the pages will be much, much less expensive.
So now that you’ve got your commission or page, what are you going to do with it? To be frank, I’ve been extremely lazy about this myself; I’ve got about 10 loose pages/commissions that I have yet to do something with. First up, I’ve got to get a portfolio book so I can store them properly while waiting to get framed. If you want to go hardcore with your frames, Bill Cole Enterprises have comic-specific frames that are a couple standard sizes and are UV resistant and have acid free boards to help preserve your art for as long as possible. With shipping these are priced a little steep, so shop around your area for the best deals. I’d definitely suggest going for both UV resistant glass and acid free boards if possible though: you don’t want these things yellowing or fading after dropping so much coin on them. From there you just hang and enjoy (and don’t forget to brag profusely about the fact that you have entirely original art on your wall!)