The Business of Being an Artist – The Phantom of the Opera

Part of being a commercial artist is running a business. While there are aspects of this that I’m horrible at and procrastinate on (accounting, marketing) and parts that I very much enjoy (comic book conventions, book fairs, meeting fans and showcasing my latest books, and art), I still have to do all of them. This series of my process blog will talk about different aspects of the business.

Whew! I finally finished The Phantom of the Opera. Compared to The Invisible Man, this illustration was more of a struggle. I did everything that I normally do in preparation for a print. I worked out the composition in regards to creating basic shapes and making sure it flowed well before I started into the finished piece. Colour was also something I had a very strong idea about going into this illustration. Each print I do for a new series has to work as strong as it can by itself but I also want it to have a similar feel to the other two prints. In choosing which monster to do I think about the colour scheme so that I’m not repeating too closely with each one. Therefore a lot of decisions are made before I even start drawing.


Except by the time I got to the colours for The Phantom, I wasn’t happy with what I chose. When I go into creating something, often times it’s like putting a puzzle together. Sometimes I look at all the pieces and see how they could fit in different ways and it often works out pretty quickly. This time I couldn’t figure out what piece was missing, only that I didn’t like how the puzzle was fitting. Normally I try to work through it over a few hours. However since I had another project on the run, and the print series has a bit of wiggle room in regards to a timeline, I decided to let it go for about a week with the intention of getting some distance from it.

For me this takes some self control because when something isn’t working for me, I’m like a dog with a bone and don’t want to let go of it. I actually surprised myself at how easily I was able to walk away from the illustration this time. Boy, am I glad I did, because when I reopened the digital file about a week later, I was able to view it with more objective fresh eyes. Realizing that once it was rendered, the original colour scheme would probably work itself out and in this case I was right. Years of experience and trusting instinct helped me through the beginning of the rendering and as I got more involved with it, my excitement level started to increase. By the end, I was extremely happy with the results and realized that my initial thoughts on colour were correct, I had doubted myself for no reason.

So I guess the lesson here, is that no matter how many years you are an artist, and no matter how carefully you plan something, those carefully laid plans don’t always work out. Sometimes it’s just because you’re not in the right state of mind. That’s why it’s important to take stock of the tools that you’ve acquired in your tool belt and go through them until you find something that will work for a specific situation. In this case the ability to walk away from a problem with the intention of coming back to it with eyes that are objective. Next up is Baba Yaga!