Ask the Art Prof: Where is a Good Place to Start to Create Graphic Novels?


Robert Crumb, Book of Genesis

“I want to get into graphic novels/comic books but I have nowhere near the experience to do it. Where is a good place to start? How can I get people to notice my stories?”

If you’re completely starting from the scratch, I would begin with purchasing Scott McCloud’s book “Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art”. This book is the quintessential book about comics. The book itself is a graphic novel, and it talks about the history of comics, as well as techniques and approaches to making graphic novels which you can follow to help you get started. After you’ve done that, look at the big guns:  Robert CrumbArt SpiegelmanWill Eisner. Nothing substitutes taking the time to understand and analyze what makes a strong work effective.


Scott McCloud,  “Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art”

I don’t have hugely extensive expertise in terms of technically making graphic novels, but I do know that having one solid story that you can focus on is essential to the process of getting started. It’s great to have multiple stories and ideas floating around in your head, but if you really want to make concrete progress, I would recommend focusing on writing one story that you can pursue in great depth. Keep the story short and simple, so you can get more complex and involved with the actual telling of the story.  Make sure that you can sum up your story in a single sentence.  If you find that you can’t sum it up in a single sentence, your story is too complicated and needs to be boiled down further.

Be prepared to do a monstrous amount of preliminary sketches which address panels and layout for each page of the novel. The composition of each panel and the positioning of the figures in space is critical in a graphic novel.  Be sure to keep the compositions for each panel visually dynamic so the viewer is engaged at all times.  Read this article I wrote about how to create an effective composition.

Another aspect to consider is what kind of stylistic choices you want to make for the graphic novel. Visual consistency is key for a graphic novel to look cohesive.  Every time I start a new project, I always assign a set of “rules” for the visual look of the work.  Ask yourself, what are the visual “rules” for your project? Write down that list of rules and follow them throughout the entire making of the project.

In terms of getting people to notice your stories, it’s essential to have your work online.  Read this article I wrote about how to get your artwork noticed online. Many artists are also self-publishing hard copies of their graphic novels through platforms like Lulu and CreateSpace, which they then promote online. Self-publishing is significantly more involved than simply exhibiting your work online.

For this reason, I would recommend starting with building your online presence first, and then looking into self-publishing once you get more established and experienced. In fact, many artists are now bypassing self-publishing hard copies altogether and opting to keeping their work entirely on the Internet.

ART PROF is a free, online educational platform for visual arts for people of all ages and means. features video courses, art critiques, an encyclopedia of art supplies, and more.

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ASK THE ART PROF was a written column in the Huffington Post from about art related topics. Visit our Pro Development page.

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