The first artist I spoke with was Stephen Hickman, a renowned illustrator who has been working in the Sci-Fi/Fantasy field since the 70s. Stephen was the Artist Guest of Honor at this years Dragon Con. I went to Stephen’s table first because he was alone at his booth signing posters, so it seemed like a good opportunity to have an uninterrupted chat.
My wife, Loraine, was with me when I started talking with Stephen. I should note that my wife is a beautiful Filipino woman. As we chatted with Stephen it came out that he had spent a number of years in his childhood living in the Philippines. We ended up talking for at least 30 minuets about the Philippines. Stephen told us stories of his childhood and my wife compared them to her own experiences.
After a while I finally worked up the courage to ask Stephen if he would “look at my portfolio.” Even though I had been preparing for this sort of moment for many months it is still very nerve racking to ask another artist, or anyone for that matter, to look at your stuff. All those feelings of insecurities well up and if you let them can take over. I pushed them back down and moved on. Stephen agreed to look at my work. He asked my to come and sit with him in his booth so he could continue to sign posters as he looked my portfolio over.
Stephen’s first comment was surprise to find out that I worked digitally. As he looked at my catfish piece he chuckled a bit and said that he could see himself in the catfish. When he turned to my dinner joke piece he actually laughed. He looked at me and asked, “What inspired this?” I told him that I’ve read a lot of interviews with artists and most of them say how tired they are at looking at Batman and Spiderman in other artist’s portfolios, and that they would love to see something simple like people eating dinner handled in an interesting way. Stephen smiled and nodded his head. He then said that I was right on. He also thanked me for not having any Star Trek or Star Wars characters in my portfolio. We agreed that your portfolio was an opportunity to be original.
Having looked through my whole book Stephen then offered a few critiques. He said that I had a good understanding of color, but that he could tell when I used references and when I didn’t. He encouraged me to use references for everything, and that my work was clearly much stronger when I did.
At this point we had been talking for over an hour! His booth was getting quite busy. I thanked Stephen for his time, and left. Man did I feel great. I was so worried about a harsh review, and instead I had made one of the illustration greats laugh! From that point on I felt like I could take on any amount of criticism!
Below are my Catfish and Dinner Joke pieces for reference: