Skills for comics artists
Comments - So I found this page on Google... I was wondering if i really needed to be at college to one day become a comic book artist. I'm dreading school right now, it's not my thing, working with charcoal and paint is fun and all, but not my thing. I thought I needed a degree a diploma or something, but you say I don't, and I want to base my life around it. It comes down to skill and talent, not a piece of paper.
While it's important to have talent, you'll never reach your full potential unless you constantly practice and learn new lessons. I'm a great believer in feedback loops. If you want to improve you need to figure out where to improve.
Art school is a great way to have lots of people tell you where you've gone wrong. You bring in your homework, it gets posted on the chalkboard, and everyone gets to gripe about or praise each piece. It can be brutal but you learn where you might be wrong. You also learn to listen to the occasional idiot without getting worked up.
It's also nice that they teach you new techniques.
If you can find either A) someone very skilled and talented to give you advice, or B) a series of people, of increasing gifts, who can give you advice as you grow, you don't need art school. If you're really honest with yourself and motivated to improve you can keep getting better after you run out of teachers and mentors. At that point it's good to have talented colleagues.
Here are some good skills for comics and other fields where comics artists often drift into:
Color theory (How do a green man and a peach colored man look in blue neon light?)
Perspective (Can you draw a full rotation of a Ford Thunderbird?)
Figure drawing (Can you convincingly draw a mom dressing her 6 yr old?)
Clothing and drapery (Can you draw a woman in a long dress punching an unsuspecting man in a suit?)
Graphics software (One of my weaknesses. Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign. Ooh, and SketchUp)
Pre-press (Another of my weaknesses. Do you know how to submit and proof files for publication?)
Painting (Can you make a full color image of a pitcher of lemonade on a kitchen counter, looking out into a garden?)
Animation (Yet again, something I can't do. LOTS of guys do work for animation studios)
Graphic Design (I used to be good at this but my skills have weakened. Can you design a cool looking cover logo, letters page and other layouts for a comic book?)
Fiction writing (I don't mean the lame memoir and poetry you learn in creative writing classes. Can you write a well structured fictional piece with well motivated characters, a good buildup of suspense and character crisis, and a believable plot?)
Keep in mind that even most art schools won't teach you all of these skills properly. Go to an art school's graduate show and you'll see great variety in both style and accomplishment. Some people teach themselves stuff the school doesn't bother doing.
You don't need all of these skills to break into comics. If you can draw ANYTHING convincingly and have good storytelling you can do fine (Frank Miller can't paint or animate but he can tell a great story involving a guy in a trench coat driving a convertible to a cathedral). But if you want to prepare for a long career in comics and related fields, these skills are a good start.
Best of luck. I'll be at the 2008 Calgary Expo. If you're there, say hi!