Using Original Art for Self-Validation

By | Tuesday, July 06, 2021 Leave a Comment
Ethan Young recently posted several new pieces of original art for sale on his site, and I was able to score a few for myself. (See the accompanying image here.) But once they arrived, I realized I don't have anywhere to put them! It turns out the portfolios I have for original art are already full, as all are the frames I've got around my personal library. And I'm trying to figure out how/when I wound up with a reasonably sized collection of original art.

I got my first page of art back in 2000. It was a piece by Salvador Larocca, who was drawing Fantastic Four at the time. I had talked to Larocca, and it was my first "professional" comics interview and I bought the piece to commemorate that. It was still early enough in the history of the interwebs that I saw a preview image of an upcoming issue and was able to contact Larroca's agent to reserve the piece before anyone else. (The agent hadn't even seen the page yet!)

I won a dozen other pages in a contest a few years later. Nothing particularly high profile, but they were originals nonetheless, and that really started me actively looking for original comic art. With my graphic design background, I really like examining original pages to study the production process. I'm looking less for "a really cool picture of some character" and more "insight into the production process of making comics."

I would still mostly focus on artists whose work I found interesting, or characters/stories I especially liked. And, in general, I try to score bargains when I can. The vast majority of pieces I have cost less than $150, and at least half were less than $100. Not cheap, to be sure, but not unobtainably expensive either. I've got pages from several friends I've made in the industry; I've got pages that I was drawn into; I've got pages by many of my favorites creators; I've got pages that stood out as particularly memorable years ago when I first encountered them in the comics themselves.

Several of the pieces in my collection are not-quite-but-very-nearly-Grail pages for me. An almost random page from Fantastic Four Annual #22 that I always felt was a little empty, and seeing the original showed that artist Tom Morgan had drawn more, but that part wasn't inked and those pencils erased! I've got a page from Jimmy Olsen #162 which is fairly unremarkable other than being the earliest page I ever saw where a character's action was so powerful, they broke the confines of the panel! (It's not even remotely the first time any artist did that, of course; it was just the first time I had seen it.) I've got a two-page sequence drawn in the aftermath of 9/11 that impressed me as being one of the few comic pieces I saw that put into words why telling silly comic book stories about talking monkeys and mad scientists was not only okay, but necessary. It was also the ONLY comic piece in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 that specifically took advantage of comic book's unique method of storytelling.

I don't have any universally acknowledged milestone type pieces. Even the pages I have from bigger name folks are works that most people don't know about. But I like all the pages I do have. They mean something to me, whether because of the story it's from, the background behind it, or the art techniques used. And I just picked them up as I found them, if I had the available disposable income on hand.

And somehow, in the past twenty years, I've got a collection that takes up more than three binders. That's not a whole lot, in terms of collectors of original comic art, but it's far more than I ever thought I might wind up with. Even back in the '80s, before prices got really out of control, the notion of collecting original art pages was so far beyond what I ever thought I'd be able to manage.

I had someone ask me recently if I was successful. Since I'm almost always looking toward the next plateau, it often doesn't feel like it. But it's hard to argue in the negative objectively. And I suppose that's the point of this post: to remind myself that, regardless of how frequently or deeply I feel I'm not doing enough, I am actually doing pretty well. I've already blasted so far past whatever dreams I may have had as a kid that a teenage me would literally not believe anything I might tell him about my life. I've exceeded any dreams I had about being in the comic industry, and I don't even work in it! Helpful to remind myself of that sometimes.
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