Chris is one of the most respected and sought-after colorists in the comic book industry, with credits from Marvel, DC, Image, Humanoids and more. He’s worked on The Avengers, Supreme Power/Squadron Supreme, Spider-Man and other A-list titles. We spoke with him about his experiences with and plans for the class.
Comics Experience: What are some common misunderstandings about coloring? What is something you wish more creators and readers knew about coloring?
Chris Sotomayor: Although the advent of technology has made the process “easier” to execute, it’s still a process. And it’s a process rooted in art, not technology. You can (and must) apply the same thinking and understanding of color and painting that you would for a traditional painting, as you would on something created digitally. It’s the same principles, but with different, and more versatile, tools. And the ability to undo is nice. That’s a bonus. But there’s still the knowledge of the craft that makes the difference. It’s not a lot of button pushing. It’s art.
CE: What is something that novice colorists overlook that you think they need to learn?
CS: Well, this goes back to my first response, about the process of art and understanding the foundation that you’re building on. No short cuts. No magic bullet. Learn to paint and draw. You don’t even have to be amazing at it, but a basic understanding is usually enough to get a good start. You also have to be willing to get better at it too. That helps a lot, and will just make you a better artist.
Aside from that, I think a lot of novice colorists tend to focus on the wrong things. I get a lot of the same questions about coloring: “How many pages do you do in a day?” or “What’s a good page rate?”
Those are perfectly good and valid questions. But too many people are skipping the part where they become good artists. First, worry about being good enough to get hired. Work on the skills that will allow you to maintain a career with real longevity. Once you have those down (or at least a basic enough understanding to get your foot through a good door), then start worrying about some of those other questions. That stuff will fall into place. If you worry about how much you’re getting paid, or constantly think you’re underpaid, but you don’t have the skills to back it up, you’re not really going to get very far.
CE: How has your time with Comics Experience helped you grow as a colorist?
CS: Wow, I have to tell you, I really love teaching my class for a few reasons. One of which is that it keeps me very mindful about what I do and helps me reinforce the basics in my own work. As an artist, you never stop learning and honing your craft. And a lot of that has to do with relearning the basics from time to time. Teaching the class forces me to review the basics a few times a year, and that just makes my foundation stronger. Since I also show examples of my work in class, I have to make sure they’re good examples that adhere to the principles that I teach. That keeps my skills tight, and also breeds trust in my students, because they can see that I know what I’m talking about and can apply the things I’m teaching.
CE: How did you develop your curriculum for your Comics Experience courses? How has it changed over the years?
CS: When Andy Schmidt and I first started discussing what the class would be I approached it as, “I wish this was around when I was starting out.” I remember starting out and just wishing there was any kind of information available. So I took a look at what I learned and started piecing together all the important stuff. I discussed it with other colorists who I respect a lot and put together what I think is a very comprehensive class. This is everything you need to learn in order to color effectively. This is the class the pros take.
And while I’m very fortunate to have had quite a few professionals take the class (Dave Finch, Jamal Igle, Rachelle Rosenberg, Sean Chen, just to name a few), I think I take the most pride in teaching the students who have no prior knowledge of coloring, digital or otherwise, and get them to a place where they feel comfortable coloring professional comic book artwork. That’s a pretty rewarding feeling. And although I have a pretty strict curriculum I follow, there’s plenty of room to adjust the class based on the skill level of the students, their eagerness to challenge themselves, the artwork that’s used in the assignments or just through their basic feedback. It keeps the class interesting for them and me. That way I’m not bored teaching the class and I can pack in as much information as possible. More bang for your buck.
CE: What are some of your favorite stories from your Comics Experience courses?
CS: I think the best moments of the class have come from the students and the guest speakers. When the students get into a groove and are really enthusiastic, we tend to have a lot of fun. It keeps things light and loose.
I’ve been fortunate enough to have some really great guest speakers, like Marte Gracia, Laura Martin, Justin Ponser, Paul Mounts, Alex Sinclair, John Rauch, Richard Isanove, Dean White, Jordie Bellaire… just so many great people. And each of them have been so amazingly generous with their time and knowledge. Classes are usually 2 hours for each session, but I’ve had crazy marathon session with Justin Ponser and Matthew Wilson. I think we went on for 4 hours (or maybe more) with Justin, and Matthew probably the same. And I think I had to cut Matthew off just because we were running so long. I’d love to have them back again because they’re such fantastic talents and so forthcoming. Then, Dean White and Richard Isanove were also amazing! They each actually came back for a bonus night, so we wound up having them each for two nights instead of just the one. You can’t beat that.
You can sign up for the upcoming Introduction to Comic Book Coloring course here.
If you want to make comics, write, draw, letter, and color comics, or improve as a comics creator, you’ll find like-minded friends and colleagues in our online workshops and courses. We hope to see you there!
Posted by Meredith Nudo