With convention season on hiatus for 2020, publishers are seeking alternatives to their usual in-person plans. When it comes to portfolio reviews for potential new talent, Valiant Entertainment is going online with the Valiant Virtual Portfolio Review. Submissions are open now for aspiring interior artists, cover artists, colorists, and letterers. Selected applicants will participate in a 10-minute interview sessions that will take place on July 9 or 10 via Google Meet with Senior Editors Heather Antos and Lysa Hawkins, who took the time to answer a few questions for WWAC about this new process.
Describe what in-person review sessions typically would look like at a convention.
Antos: Depending on the convention set up, we might have artists drop off portfolios to be selected and vetted for limited one-on-one reviews much like we’re doing digitally. Others we’ll announce what time we’ll be doing reviews at the booth and allow artists to line up until it’s capped for time. My process typically is asking the artist a couple of questions about their artistic background, goals, and philosophies while I look through their work and pick a few things to discuss. It’s all about constructive criticism — this is what you’re doing well, but have you ever considered trying this? Etc.
Hawkins: I love doing portfolio reviews. Typically, there is a line either wrapped around the booth or pouring out of a convention room. One by one, an artist would sit beside me and we would go over their work. I would say about five to ten minutes per person.
Obviously this change in format has come about due to the pandemic, but is it something you might continue doing even after conventions are able to run again?
Antos: Absolutely — it’s something we’ve discussed since the beginning. Being able to attend a convention (skip work, travel, afford a hotel, etc) is a privilege in and of itself. We want to remove as many hurdles as possible for those looking to get facetime with editors — and making these reviews available to anyone with an internet connection was a big step in the right direction.
Hawkins: We are entering uncharted territory. Who knows what’s going to become the “norm,” but sure, I think we are providing a valuable service so I would like to see it continued, if not in person then online.
In what ways do you think this format will improve upon the typical in-person review session?
Antos: Accessibility, hands down. Literally anyone from anywhere can submit so long as they are available for the digital review from the comforts up their own home!
Hawkins: Having the opportunity to look at the art prior to speaking with the artist will allow me to have my thoughts in place and to really utilize the 10 minutes we have the most efficiently.
What drawbacks do you anticipate having to deal with, technical or otherwise?
Antos: No one’s internet connection is perfect 100% of the time — it’s impossible to say exactly if there will be any issues until day of. Beyond that, usually I’ll have the artist sitting next to me with their portfolio between us so I can point to specific examples on the page in front of them. Of course, there is the “screen sharing” option where hopefully we can adapt to do the same.
Hawkins: We’ve never done this before…I’m sure there will be “bugs” in the system, so to speak, but with any luck, it will run smoothly and aren’t we all pros on video meetings now?
Who are some of the recent talents you have found during these sessions?
Antos: Most recently in Heroes Con Madrid I discovered Pedro Andreo’s portfolio and gave him a review. I asked if he would be interested in ever doing any sample scripts to please email me (this is a TEST, artists — if an editor tells you to email them, DO IT), he did and I shared his work with the rest of editorial. The timing couldn’t have been any better as it was right around that time Lysa snatched him right up!
Hawkins: I find new talent all the time. I hired Davide Tinto, from his NYCC portfolio review and he did some recent work on Visitor. He is slated for an upcoming, not to be named yet book. Also, Heather found Pedro Andreo in Spain last year and he is currently working on some Bloodshot for me. So not only do we find great new talent. We share!
What kinds of elements really make a submission shine?
Antos: Obviously there are specific details that we look for depending on what discipline, but ultimately I think flexibility and variety is key no matter the discipline. In comics it’s important for artists to be able to draw, color, ink, letter anything and everything — no matter how minuscule or innocuous. Robots, humans, anthropomorphized animals…cars, fire hydrants, stairs…daytime, nighttime, dusktime…different points of history…you name it! Is the person only submitting the same type of work over and over? Are there no backgrounds? No hands or feet? The same font? Obviously creators should submit their best work and shouldn’t throw in a half-assed piece just because it’s “different”, but they should show they are prepared for any challenge that comics can throw them.
Hawkins: Someone who has clearly done their homework. Full figures (including feet!) in engaging action. City scenes, buses, animals, I am looking for someone who wants to show me they aren’t afraid to draw outside of their comfort zones.
Not everyone will be selected for a review session due to your limitations on time and other factors. What words of encouragement can you offer those who do not get a chance to chat with you this time around?
Antos: The fact of the matter is being we are opening submissions to the internet, and we have a very limited time frame, it’s just impossible to talk with EVERYONE. But never fear — even if you aren’t selected doesn’t mean you’re not “good enough” or that we didn’t like you — in fact, I can say from the portfolios that have already been submitted that there is an INSANE amount of untapped talent out there. There are artists who submit their work that I like and think are already at professional quality so I hold on to their samples and contact info in case I have a good fit for them — they don’t need the facetime, they’re ready for work. The folks who I tend to give facetime to are those who I believe are right around the corner from being “ready” and could really benefit from a couple of pushes in the right direction. I do remember those who submit to various reviews over time and follow their progress as they grow — it’s great to watch! I think the key thing for artists to keep in mind is just because you weren’t selected for one of the reviews doesn’t mean we didn’t like you or take a look at your portfolio. We go through EVERY SUBMISSION sent to us. I have them all saved (thank the internet gods for the Cloud!).
Hawkins: Don’t give up! Try again. We have over three hundred submissions already. Only 20 people will get picked in total this week.
What words of encouragement can you offer to those who may not have considered doing something like this before?
Antos: You never know what might happen unless you try! But PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE read the submission guidelines closely and make sure you follow them — I can’t tell you how many artists I’ve had drop off their portfolios with no name or contact information attached 🙃
Hawkins: You have nothing to lose and possibly something great to gain. If your dream is to create comics. This is your step! Seize the day!