How to Find the Perfect Yaoi Artist for Your Graphic Novel

On creator forums, the most common request I see coming from writers is “How do I find an artist to work with me on my graphic novel?” This request is usually followed by a tale of woe about how impossible it seems to be to find such an artist.

Well, I’m here to tell you that with a little perseverance, you can find great artists who will breathe life into your scripts and in this golden age of the internet, it’s actually easier to connect with fellow creators than ever before. You just need to approach it the right way:

Online Classifieds

The easiest way to find artists who might be interested in your project is through a digital want-ad site directed towards artists. The most well known of these is Digital Webbing — and if you carefully craft your posting, you will get a number of responses, even for a niche genre like Yaoi (perhaps especially for Yaoi as it is often a labor of love for all concerned.) My first post on Digital Webbing for a penciler brought me over 100 responses in a month. Other places to consider are conceptart.org and Gutter Zombie which seem to have a more experienced talent pool, Gutter Zombie seeming especially good for finding a colorist. Warren Ellis’ creator forum The Engine also has a running topic for Writers Looking for Artists and has the added benefit of being a brilliant site full of great people and great information. All of these sites have a special posting area for work offers and you would do well to read their guidelines before posting.

In your listing, be sure to include

  • payment terms
  • what work you are looking for the artist to complete (penciling? inks? colors? lettering? all of the above?)
  • how many pages you will need completed
  • what style you are looking for (perhaps citing examples of other artists’ work)
  • and a brief description of what your comic is about.

Be sure to also include

  • your contact information (you should get a separate email address for incoming requests, I recommend GMail)
  • and what samples of work you would need to see.

I feel strongly that any artist you are considering should be able to show you a continuous series of completed comic book pages — sent to you as JPEG files or viewable at an online gallery — and that you should insist on this for your samples of their work. It’s one thing to be able to draw a single picture in isolation well, it’s a separate (and much rarer skill) to be able to tell a compelling and comprehensible story with a series of pictures. You should ask to see at least 5 pages in a row of sequential art (the proper term for comic book pages) — and ideally, you want to see a whole comic that they have completed.

Oh, and you should definitely mention upfront that this is a Yaoi project — no point in falling in love with an artist only to find out that your subject matter squicks them out. 😉

The nice thing about Online Classifieds is that the artists come to you — the downside is that few seem to read your posting carefully to make sure their style and skillset are what you are looking for. Many take a very optimistic attitude in assessing their ability to meet your expectations. And if you are offering upfront pay, there will be quite a number of straight-boy artists who will say that they’d be happy to draw Yaoi for you — just so long as the art doesn’t have to get, y’know, too gay… The point is that it’s just as easy for artists to respond to your ad as it was for you to post it and so there is a ton of noise you have to cut through in order to find someone who would be even a possibility for your project. Out of 130 responses, perhaps 3 were real possibilities for my comic — and it took me following up a number of times with over 70 of the 130 respondents to find those 3. In the end, I did find one artist whom I wound up working with — and that does make the effort worth it for me — but be prepared for a lot of disappointment and time wasted with Online Classifieds.

Online Galleries

There are a number of sites online where artists post their best work for other artists (and the world) to critique and enjoy. The most well-known of these sites (and the one about which you will find the strongest opinions among artists) is DeviantArt. Love it or hate it, it seems that almost every amateur and semi-pro artist in the world (and many a pro artist as well) has a DeviantArt page that they keep updated in one way or another. If you’re looking for a particular style of art — any particular style of art — you’re likely to find it on DeviantArt. And this is especially true of manga-influenced styles. You can surf your way through dozens of artists’ works in a single sitting and contact the ones who impress you — it’s like match.com for visual artists! ;-)(There is also a Classifieds section as well, if you want to take advantage of that.)

Now, there are a large number of Yaoi supporters on DeviantArt, but as this is a mainstream site, you will find an even larger number of Yaoi haters. And that’s the rub — finding an artist whose style you like and who is Yaoi-friendly can be a chore. And not just because of the haters — the sheer number of artists who have a page on DA and the wide range of abilities among them can be very daunting. Typing in “yaoi” in DA’s search engine brings up 41,559 results! (And truth be told, about half of those merely contain some diatribe about how “yaoi sucks.”) It’s exhausting to go through them all (and I know this, because over the course of five days, I did just that…)

Wouldn’t it be nice if there was an online gallery specifically devoted to Yaoi Art?

Well, guess what? There is. It’s called y!Gallery and it’s just what the doctor ordered. Here you will find both Yaoi art and a world-wide community of Yaoi artists. Again, you are faced with a nearly overwhelming number of works to sift through, but at least you know you are among friends! In order to find the most professional work, though, I am going to offer you a tip (which also works at DeviantArt, by the way.) As this site is meant to be a community of artists, each artist is able to bookmark their favorite works of other y!Gallery artists in a section on their y!Gallery homepage called appropriately enough “Favorites.” My suggestion is that once you find an artist whose work you really like and respect, make note of their contact information and start working your way through their Favorites section. By doing that, you will find other artists whom you like and you can similarly mine their Favorites. It’s a form of virtual referral/searching that will save you a lot of time and ensure that your are at least seeing the very best work that an online gallery has to offer.

Once you have compiled your list of possible collaborators, you can go to their y!Gallery homepage to email them with details about your project. When I found an artist I thought would be good for Yaoi 911™, I just sent them a modified version of my Classifieds posting, making sure to include specific references to the individual artist’s work so it didn’t look like I was just spamming a bunch of artists.

One word of warning: Like with many online communities, there can be a fair amount of drama among a minority of vocal members. Recently, there was a strong backlash on y!Gallery against artists who create anthropomorphic art (think Yaoi Disney characters) and that art was banned. As a result of this, many talented artists who also like to create that kind of art have moved on to another site — Fur Affinity. So if anthropomorphic characters figure into your work, you should check that site out as well. And try not to pay too much attention to the drama — in my experience, the vast majority of y!Gallery members are intelligent, sensitive to others’ feelings and professional.

It’s a Small World, After All

Certainly one of the most exciting things about the Internet is how it allows groups of people of similar interests from all around the world to find each other and make connections. And for the daunting task of finding a Yaoi artist, this is a godsend. Using the sites mentioned above, a Yaoi writer from Burlington, Vermont can find and start working with a Yaoi artist in Santiago, Chile with a little research and a few clicks of a mouse — it truly is amazing. And to that end, I would encourage you to be open to working with artists from around the world. Two of the artists on our project are from outside the U.S. and they’ve been a pleasure to work with and have delivered truly outstanding art. My recommendation is to take advantage of the wide net that the Internet offers you and take the time to find an artist who you think would be perfect for your script.

In truth, despite the tales of woe you might read on creator forums, the chance to create truly outstanding Yaoi works through collaboration is easier now than ever before.

Next up: How to Convince the Perfect Yaoi Artist to Work on Your Project

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2 comments

  1. thanks so much for writing this (and the part 2 🙂

    I would LOVE to actually get a yaoi novel (or manga) published one day – definitely bookmarking these 🙂

    and I was wondering – are there any actual yaoi publishers in the states (or in Europe)? Just curious…

    thanks 😀 and keep up the great work 🙂

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