Monday, February 25, 2019

Communicating with your Artist

What we got here is a failure to communicate.
Cool Hand Luke (1967)

 No matter how meticulous you are in describing to your artist what you want, you will come to a moment where it feels like that line from Cool Hand Luke-A failure to communicate. When working with an artist on a project be sure to watch what you say.

*According to Peter David a photo or frame of reference can be useful to the illustrator. Photo reference like (Tight shot of the Transamerica Pyramid. Photo reference can be found at the website or a frame of reference such as (You know the stare down between Captain America and the Winter Soldier on the SHIELD helicarrier? That's the intense action I'm aiming for.)

Communication is key when working with an artist; you can give as little to as much information.

Another thing to remember is the reader will never see your script. As a comics writer, only a handful of people in the world will never see your script.

*Comics legend Brain Michael Bendis says your creative team is you and your friend, or someone who you are creatively in sync with, or someone who does everything: full art, coloring, lettering, and all the production work. Bendis also states when working commercially for Marvel or DC, your script will be in the hands of the editor. Comic editors make sure that your script serves its function which is to communicate clear story images, and characters to your artist.

If you work commercially you’ll probably work with someone who’s an inker, colorist, and letterer. The comic script is read by six people: artist, inker, colorist, letterer, editor, and assistant editor.

Screenwriters are similar in the production process. Their work is read by producers and executives, and if filmmakers are lucky enough to go into production, dozens to a couple hundred people will also read the script. They make sure it communicates to the cast and crew.

However Mr. Bendis says every artist has strengths and weaknesses. You must find those things and write to them.

Recalling on communication with the artist, it is a key factor to reach the person through emails and phone calls. Have an open door policy with the team to discuss ideas about the book.

*Over time, you will develop a shorthand with some of your collaborators. Sometimes they develop right away, while the other collaborations can go on for years and the shorthand never really develops. Bendis says it’s because collaborators are developing different voices. As the years pass, you may also find that you are constantly challenging each other in different areas.

In the conclusion of writing for comics and graphic novels, communication builds not just a partnership with collaborators but it builds relationships with them.

Happy Creations!

*Source(s): Writing for Comics & Graphic Novels with Peter David pg. 154

Brian Michael Bendis, Words for Pictures, pg. 73-80


  1. Interesting. I once worked on a comic book together with my brother -- I provided the dialogue, he did the (vastly better) artwork -- but it was easy to communicate; we were kids and lived in the same house. :)

    I ran into a slightly analogous situation when I ended up as head writer for the spring musical in law school. (Lawyers are, after, all, professionally prone to histrionics, and we had a flourishing drama society.) Our group of writers left placeholders for the music -- 'a song about X goes here' -- but we had an entirely different team writing the songs.

    As it happened, I never had a chance to hear the music until opening night -- and I was simply dazzled at how wonderfully the songwriters had picked up the spirit of what the stageplay was trying to do, and embodied it in some dynamite songs!


    1. My turn to say "interesting." lol

      As I write comics I try to keep it 50/50. Describe fifty percent of the action while using a photo reference/frame of reference because I don't want the illustrator to a slave to references, so I describe the action with as much information as possible.

  2. Makes sense. One wants to guide the illustrator, but also give their creativity room to expand; that's the expertise you're taking advantage of.