The Indie Creator Sketchbook Conundrum

sketchbookThe past few years I have started taking a sketchbook to various conventions.  It is a good way to get original art from some of my favorite creators without paying an arm and a leg for published pages. While that has solved some of the financial problems, it has opened up its own can of worms.

Given all that has happened involving creators such as Gary Friedrich in the past year, I am no longer comfortable just asking creators to draw a corporate-owned character in my sketchbook.  It is time to start allowing creators to make money on their own creations, not on the creations or multi-billion dollar corporate entities.

There are many independent creators who have established a character of their own.  Matt Wagner has Mage and Grendel.  Jeff Lemire has the Underwater Welder.  Terry Moore has Francine, Katchoo, Rachel, and a host of others.  Jeff Smith has RASL and Bone.  Any of those characters would be more than welcome in my sketchbook.

But what about the other creators?  What about the creators who either do auto-bio comics, or who do ensemble casts which work well together, but not so much parted out? Erika Moen, Julia Wertz, Jeffrey Brown, Danielle Corsetto.  I would love to have art from each of these creators (and, actually do have strips by most of them), but would struggle when it comes to asking them for a sketch.

Sure, I could ask them to sketch in my corporate hero-themed book (a Danielle Corsetto Powerman and Iron Fist sketch featuring Hazel and Jamie would rock!) but it would kind of defeat the purpose of having independent creators doing sketches. Why ask an independent creator to draw a corporate character?  But, dropping an open-themed book in their laps and saying, “draw me something,” doesn’t work so well either.

So what is the independent fan to do?

Plan ahead.

1. First thing to do is contact the creators ahead of time and make sure that they are going to be doing sketches at the show.   Many creators take pre-orders of sketches ahead of conventions.  They ill either do the work before the show and then deliver it there or will only have a set number of sketches they will do at a show.  Get on their radar before the show begins.

2.  Be specific.  Instead of just asking for a sketch, be specific about what you want.  Do you want a character they have created?  Do you want a pop-culture drawing (actors, tv shows, movies)?  Do you want their take on Wolverine?  Make sure you are clear what you want.

3.  Be creative.  It is pretty boring drawing the same thing over and over again.  Mix it up and give the creator a challenge (within reason).  Have the character doing something or holding something.  A well-placed pineapple can add all kinds of excitement for the creator (translating to a great piece for you).

4.  Make your own jam piece.  Give the creator one side of the sketchbook and then have another creator take the other side.  See if you can have the second creator make his or her drawing interact with the first.  This works best if you discuss it with the creators ahead of time so they are aware that they are creating half of a larger piece (be sure to show the first creator the finished product!!!)

This year I am looking ahead to several shows where there will be plenty of independent creators and I plan on taking my sketchbook…and a plan.

For Emerald City Comic Con there are two creators who I am excited about having in the same place at the same time.  Jim Mahfood and Brandon Graham will both be in attendance.  Is it just me, or is that the perfect time to get a jam piece of Mahfood’s Carl the Cat the Makes Peanut Butter Sandwiches (and his bi-sexual nymphomaniac girlfriend) teaming up with Brandon Graham’s Earthling J. J. Cattingworth (and the Cat Master, Joe)?

At Stumptown Comics Fest, Erika Moen, Faith Erin Hicks, and Chynna Clugston Flores will all be in attendance.  I happen to know all of them are incredibly busy and will have limited time.  So there is only a slim chance I will be able to get a jam piece from them.  But, it will be worth it if I can get a picture with Erika Moen’s Gyp (from Bucko) Faith Erin Hicks’ Superhero Girl, and Chynna Clugston Flores’ Scooter Girl.

Every show offers opportunities like this.   A person with a plan, a bit of forethought, and some gumption has an opportunity to end up with a piece of art that is unique, supports independent creators, and will be worth bragging about.  What could be a better experience from a convention?

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