Comic Con for Artists
  On Location    July 18, 2017     Eric Larkin


San Diego Comic Con is spectacular, from the word “spectacle”. Herein lies the danger for you: the pro or almost-a-pro. In the nooks and crannies of this vast event are opportunities for you to develop your craft and make useful contacts. Yes, we all want to see Daisy Ridley and Mark Hamill run around on stage with plastic lightsabers, but believe me, all the big spectacles will show up on Youtube and all the big announcements will trickle out within minutes. Don’t get poppy-fielded by the hype. Have fun, of course – but balance it with opportunities that could move you closer to being on one of those stages.

Here is a (non-exhaustive) list of very practical panels/workshops that I think could be useful for artists. I have not included all the names of the folks running the programs OR the locations, because (as you may know) these things can change. Make sure you double-check details against the actual Comic Con schedule.


OH, and most importantly, do NOT forget to stop in at the Blood Drive. You can literally save someone’s life. That should be worth 30 minutes of your time.




The Relationship Between Artist and Model – 11:30am

Sure you’ve done your life-drawing classes, but have you ever worked with a model one-on-one? Get pro before they show up on your doorstep, and you just stand there like, “uh…”


ASC Sketch-to-Screen: Bringing Wonder Woman, Pirates and Apes to Life – 2pm

Unless you, for some reason, believe you can make a living just selling paintings or something, you probably need to marry your art skills to some tech savvy. Aaron Sims leads his team from concept sketches to full-on visual effects. This is how you’ll make your living as an artist.


Comic Con How-to: Painting with Sue Dawe – 3pm

Free-hand and masking techniques with airbrush from the artist who does all those dreamy unicorns.


Cosplay Figure Drawing – 3pm

Cosplayers strike poses and you draw them. This is not something you can do every weekend, so take advantage of it while you can. The session is 2 hours, but includes a variety of specific exercises to test/develop your skills. All levels, bring your own supplies. DON’T BLOW IT; GO TO THIS.


Art Heroines: Using Science to Help Create Art – 4:30pm

Have you thought of incorporating the scientific method into your artistic process? It works for these pros. I honestly don’t know what they mean, but I’m insanely curious to find out. (“Heroines” because all panelists are ladies.)


DC Art Masters: Drawing DC – 5pm

They don’t say who specifically, but this is a panel of DC artists. If this is what you’re shooting for, here’s the inside scoop.


Learn to Draw Convincing Backgrounds for Comic Books Panels – 6pm

Again, if you’re an artist, here are some technical skills about designing and rendering that will make you more of a professional. Always helpful if you want to be employed.


Nothing wrong w/ this job, you just don’t wanna stay there forever.


Making a Living Off Your Art – 6:30pm

Whoa – this is all about how to do what you do for money: marketing, pricing, dealing with clients – very practical, all business. It’s the part that bores you, but it’s what will let you quit your job at Hot Dog on a Stick (not that there’s anything wrong with HDoaS. nice hat.)



Artist as Brand: Rise of the Artist Entrepreneur – 7:30pm

Another one about having a career as an artist. Just go, dammit; you gotta learn this stuff. Bring a churro to keep your spirits up. 


That’s just Thursday. Urrf. Onward!




Cartoon Creatives: Woman Power in Animation – 10am

Maybe less on the practical side, but very high on the inspiration side, this panel of female animators looks at the heritage, both famous and less famous, of women working in TV and feature animation.


Comic Con How-To: Advanced Digital Inking Technique – 11:30am

Develop a very specific skill. Just like watching a Youtube video, except you can raise your hand and ask questions. Photoshop, Clip Studio Paint and others.


Illustrating Costumes for Screen – 12pm

Man, when I try to draw, I try to draw things that don’t have folds of cloth (or ellipses), because damn. If you’re gonna be a pro, though, you don’t get to skip the difficult bits. Learn about the fine art of costume illustration from these folks who’ve worked on everything from Guardians of the Galaxy to Black Panther.


Hollywood’s Illustrators: Craft, Pop-Culture and Careers – 2pm

Before they do anything else, someone has to draw it. Could be you. From concept sketches to storyboards, the folks on this panel are the visualizers of everything.


Learn to Draw Expressive Poses for Dynamic Illustration and Sequential Storytelling – 2pm

Those rigid Egyptian paintings were cutting edge in their time, but now we can draw folks so they don’t look like they’re carved from felled oaks. Handy for stories and such. Ron Lemen shows you how, including lots of nitty gritties like lighting, tone and speed.




Save the Bees with Art – 2pm

“…color-along discussion on eco-friendly ways to create art and protect the environment. Coloring pages and door prizes provided.”  Just sounds like fun, and bees are important.


Comic Con How-To: Draw with Adam Hughes – 3pm

Hughes has drawn everything from Tomb Raider to Archie over his 30 year career. This workshop focuses on using grayscale markers (I don’t know what those are, tbh).


The Art of Video Games – 3:30pm

If you weren’t aware of it, video games are a bigger industry than movies. They need artists, so why not head that direction with your art skilllz?? This panel is a peek into that world.


Comic Con How-To: Draw with Jim Lee – 4:30pm

Come on! If you draw, you need to go to this! Jim Lee!


Figure Drawing for Popular Media – 7pm

Here’s a chance to practice turning life/figure drawings into characters. This is both a demonstration and a workshop, so bring your supplies.


Visual Storytelling and Comics Art Fundamentals – 7pm

This is an interesting class that will draw distinctions for comic book drawing, as opposed to storyboarding, illustrations and painting. There are techniques for storytelling that are specific to the comic book form. 




Comic Con How-To: Advanced Computer Graphic Techniques – 11:30am

Brian Haberlin (co-creator of Witchblade) shows you pro-level techniques for Zbrush, Poser, Sketch-Up and other programs. Get with the tech, man. Remember, you can’t quit Hot Dog on a Stick til you can get all these skilllz on your resumé. (I mean, you could. Pretty sure Auntie Anne’s is hiring – but no special hat.) 


The Production Designer: Architect of Imagination – 12pm

There is more than one way to be an artist. Listen, there is nothing wrong with just being in that box, drawing your butt off, BUT it’s possible that your mind’s eye is more of a wide lens, and you’d be happier designing the look and physical environments of films, shows, theme parks and so on. Maybe what you really want to be is a production designer. Give this panel a chance, and think about it.


Comic Con How-To: Draw Your Imagination with Kim Jung Gi – 2pm

Do you sometimes have something in your head that you can’t explain with words, so you try to draw it and it comes out looking like spilled coffee? Maybe I’m the only person who does that. Anyway, Kim Jung Gi will demonstrate his technique for pre-visualizing a drawing, with just pen and paper. I don’t know if this is back-to-basics or super-advanced – but I’m intrigued.


Comic Con How-To: Draw with Copic Markers with Allison Sohn – 3:30pm

Copics are to Sharpies what Jedi are to Tusken Raiders. No comparison. (Though a good Sharpie is pretty damn useful.) Sohn leads this clinic from pencil drawing to full color art, using those exquisite Copic Markers.


The Great Comic Con Kids Draw-Off! – 4pm

This is a fun drawing event for kids, led by folks like Victoria Jamieson and Jarrett Krosoczka. Make sure your kid has a pencil.


The Secrets of Drawing with Science – 5pm

Cool. Dr. Wei Xu is both an artist and a mathematician – this is like, Da Vinci territory here. This is drawing by “identifying, organizing and duplicating shapes”. Technique with a capital T.




Cartooning Snack Shop: Kids Eat (Draw) Free! – 10am

Look, the sooner you teach your kid how to draw at a professional level, the sooner you can get them out earning their keep. This is a fun drawing workshop for kids, using fruits & veggies to make characters. (So yes: healthy snacking. Always a prob in a nerd household.)


Guide to Illustrating Comics – 11am

Pros from ComiXology talk about the ins and outs and ups and downs. Maybe not practical, but probably fun.



Cartoon Art Museum Workshop: Manga Stardom for Beginners – 1pm

Based on Sakura of America’s Manga Start, this is not (obvi) for the pro, but would be a pretty legit way to dip your toe in the water. They provide materials, and you learn some drawing basics. Plus giveaways! Another good one for kids and parents.



Colored Pencil 101 with Melanie Gillman – 2pm

As advertised, a hands-on workshop for the fine art of drawing comics with colored pencils – and again, every medium has its nuances, so don’t be thinking “meh, same diff”. Nope. Different diff.


DC Kids: Sunday Art School – 4pm

Art, Franco, Agnes Garbowska and Dustin Nguyen teach your kid how to draw. Or you could ignore the needs of your creative child and shop for plastic dolls that you shouldn’t be buying anyway cuz you’re a damn grown adult. Your choice.


Make sure you check out the tags on the Comic Con website schedule for things I may have missed.


Here are programs that could be great for both writers and artists.




Comic Book Law School – 10:30am – Thurs, Fri and Sat

Perhaps you don’t write/draw comic books specifically, but I bet this 3-part intro to intellectual property rights could save you a ton of heartache down the line. By following a fictitious case study, learn how to protect yourself and your work, how to commercialize your work and more.


Disney Animation Studios: The Art of Story – 2pm

Whether you’re an artist or a writer, story is everything. Learn from the best.




Artists Who Write: The Art and Craft of Comics – 12pm

This is for double-threats who do the sketching and the scribbling. Word and picture synergy, from idea to story.


Building a Geek Brand (and Getting Paid to Do It!) – 12pm

A bit broad maybe, but if you’re a writer or artist looking to do more than work for someone else, you might check this one out. Hard to imagine there won’t be some universally relevant ideas here.


So You Want to Edit Comics? – 2:30pm

Neither drawing nor writing, editing is possibly the true behind-the-scenes creative force. (It is in film, anyway.) May be an avenue for you to explore.




Maker of Worlds: The Art (and Writing) of World Building – 3pm

How do you build a thing with structure and flexibility that is the background and sandbox of all your storytelling? This panel is presented by both a writer (Andy Schmidt) and an artist (Reilly Brown —>).




Comic Pitch Review #1 – 5pm

EVEN IF you don’t have a comic book, I think this could be an important opportunity. Douglas Neff, in 5 minute slots, will hear your pitch and give you pointers on how to improve. Look, the best idea in the world ain’t going anywhere if you can’t explain it to other people clearly and compellingly. Other than the ability to do your particular craft, this might be the most important skill. It might even be more important, judging from the amount of garbage that gets made.


Comic Creator Connection #1 – 7pm

The Shit. Artists and writers mingle looking for a meeting of the minds. If you’re one in search of the other, go here and be well-groomed. You might find the missing link. It’s organized kinda like speed-dating, so there’s no awkward bumbling into other people’s conversations or forced networking. In other words, it’s safe for us introverts.

(Connection #2 is Sunday at 12pm)


If You Love Something, Make a Book of It – 7:30pm

If your fandom has you bursting at the seams, and you just… wannna…. DOOOO something about it – then April Whitney of Chronicle Books and her pals (including Jeffrey Brown, et al) can point you in the right direction. Who says you can’t riff off your favorite fandoms and maybe even get paid for it? No one. (within reason, of course – note I said “riff” not “rip”)




From Fandom to Creator – 10am

Another take on the “You love this, so why not create your own ____”, this one presented by Black Girls Create, Black Girl Nerds and their pals.


Comics Entrepreneur Secrets – 5pm

Maybe you actually want to step back and be the one in charge? How about starting your own comic book publishing house? Where would you even begin?  Right here, at this panel.




Comic Con How-To: How to Make a Comic – 10am

The comic book creation process from start to finish, with an in-class demonstration, with long-time Disney comic book makers Patrick and Shelly Block


Discover Creating Comics With Kids: An Interactive Workshop – 11am

You and your school-age kid make a comic together, with the gang from BOOM! Studios. Be a good parent and do this with your kid.


Comic Con How-To: Proper Pitching and Self Promotion – 12:30pm

Everyone should probably go to this: interviewing, elevator pitches, body language, opportunity creation – most of us suck at all this. And pretty handy stuff if you’re trying to get someone to greenlight your project.


I know this post is billed for pros or almost-pros, but I’m really stoked there’s so much great stuff for kids. WHO’D THINK THEY’D HAVE STUFF FOR KIDS AT A COMIC BOOK CONVENTION?


Manga Tutorials for Kids – 2pm

eigoManga pros Mino Miyabi and Austin Osueke lead this tutorial for youngsters about storytelling and illustrating manga. What a great way for you to get your kid to put down the Xbox controller for 5 minutes.


Where Do Ideas Come From? – 3pm

Staring at a blank screen/sketch pad is all well and good, but you gotta make a mark at some point. Barbara Randall Kesel shares some ideas for levering your imagination into gear. It’s ok to get stuck; it’s not ok to stay stuck.


Full-Time Creative Work on a Part-Time Schedule – 4pm

All the practicals of time management, working with other human beings (urrf), networking, and so on – especially when it’s not your day-in/day-out gig. This is a great panel with folks who are in the hunt, not just sitting on top of the pile talking about what it used to be like.


So, if you can strike a balance between goofing off and going pro, you can make the most of Comic Con. Don’t forget to bring some art supplies.  Excelsior!


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