Heads up, an impromptu three-part series on comic illustration coming your way! You asked, we delivered. Today we’ll be sitting down with Tatiana Gill, who has over twenty years of experience drawing comics for a living. So sit tight and let’s get schooled together.
What does your typical client look like?
There’s quite a few but my main source of client work are private commissions. This encompasses clients from bloggers wanting content for their brand to the odd family looking for a portrait. I sometimes even get to help state funded non-profits looking for visual material.
To this day, private commissions remain to be one of my favorites as you really get to engage on a personal level with the client. The overall projects tend to be far more customized instead of having to cater towards a larger brand and demographic.
Do you think you can charge more for personalized commissions or commercial work?
You’re definitely working with a bigger budget in commercial work as opposed to a private client who’s ultimately summing up your rate alongside their groceries and phone bill. Dina and Tatiana do discuss, however, the perceived value of commissioned work, and that it can be tricky territory to navigate between private and commercial value.
Commercial may have the bigger budget, but private commission still demand an investment in time and resources on a project that isn’t necessarily going to be featuring you on an already established platform. The bottom line being, private commissions could mean less eyes on you and your work, therefore a raise in your rates might be something to consider.
It really comes down to staying afloat financially and creatively. You don’t want to burn out on the more mass-produced commercial projects, but private clients aren’t always the right avenue to market your work either.
How’d you first get introduced to the whole comic book/illustration scene?
From a young age, I was a comic book junkie. I’d draw them for my own amusement as much as for those around me. So when college came around and adulting was looming on the horizon, that’s when I decided to get serious on getting my work out there and being published.
Pulling inspiration from my mom, who, at one point self-published a comic as a personal project, and seeing people in college publishing zines were the first real eye openers that this was also an option for me. This led to being published in my college newspaper and gaining recognition among my fellow peers!
Are there any female comic book artists that inspire you?
By way of female autobiographies back in high school, I started to intentionally seek out more female artists within the comic book world other than the highly popular male voices.We’re talking late 90’s so I mainly just had anthologies available to me, whereas today most of my main inspirations are, proudly, women writers and artists.
Just to name drop a few we have Jen Bartel, Gabrielle Bell and Noelle Stevenson. I really feel that, using these ladies as examples, women are really carving out paths for themselves, coming into their own and just shaking things up!
How do you pitch a comic?
Taking my class, “The Business of Comics”, as an example, I had my students write out a pitch. This pitch would ultimately be sent out to a web publisher of comics, but initially, it’s the action of pinpointing one thing to apply for and focus on seeing that through. Don’t get too stuck in your head and overwhelm yourself with what you could or should be doing. That’s just counterproductive and you’ll shut yourself down before you even begin.
Comic-wise, you don’t even necessarily need a finished product to pitch either. As long as you’ve got a concept and a few visual samples to back that up, there’s really nothing stopping you!
Find an opportunity to put yourself out there whether that be applying to competitions, posting on social media or pitching a certain platform and be consistent. You already have a “no”, now keep pushing till you get that “yes”. And once you receive that initial validation on your artwork from someone other than your mum, that’ll really stoke the fire to keep things going.
The ingredients for a good pitch are visual samples, and why it would appeal to whomever you’re addressing in relation to the demographics behind their publication.Don’t be afraid to spice things up a little. After all, it is your work, and if you’re confident in your vision, someone else will eventually see the value in it too.
Are their comic illustration day jobs?
So Marvel and DC obviously come to mind and we definitely want to be the last people to crush anyone’s dreams, but think, “It’s possible but improbable”. That’s not to say there aren’t other jobs equal to that of Marvel’s and DC’s or that one day you’ll end up with them nonetheless. But we’re not going to lie, it’s tough.
Even the smaller companies that could use someone in-house, outsource to other countries with a lower cost of living so they don’t need to pay such high rates. For the most part, it’s not nine to five, it’s twenty-four seven.
How do I make a living as a full-time comic artist?
Honestly, make yourself the brand. Referencing back to some of the previous episodes here on Women of Illustration, create diverse revenue streams, set up a Patreon as a way to be supported by your audience, put yourself out there consistently, and be resourceful. Don’t feel entitled to a such-and-such path and become blind to potential opportunities outside of the box you’ve been putting yourself in.
We’ve got all these platforms at our disposal to connect with people from all over the world, and for the most part, they’re free. So start sharing a little, or a whole lot, of yourself, and do so continuously. There’ll always be an audience for whatever it is you want to do.