Unnatural Talent

Making Comics is proud to present the first chapter of Jason Brubaker’s book, Unnatural Talent, for all to enjoy! If you’re looking to get into comics, are already pursuing your stories, or looking for some solid resources to add to your already impressive collection of knowledge, then Jason’s book should be at the top of your list! If you like what you see, you can purchase the entire book in ebook or good old paperback forms on Amazon by clicking here!

Unnatural Talent Chapter1


Talent – a natural aptitude or skill (Oxford American Dictionary) 

I’ve had many people come to me asking for advice on how to get into the field of art. I used to get confused when self-proclaimed artists would approach me for advice, but when I asked to see their work, they only had old school assignments from years ago. If they really were artists, I thought, then where was the art? Anyone can be an artist if they love to draw. This person must not love to draw, so why was he asking me for advice on how to become an artist?

I’ve come to believe that these “artists-who-don’t-do-art” are approaching me because they think I have “natural talent” and they think they might also have “natural talent”. Perhaps, in the past, someone told them they were “a natural”. They think art is just super fun and easy for us gifted ones born with the talent to draw. Artists have the good life. It’s all about who you know. You sit back and draw a little here and there. It just flows from you like a river of gold. You can whip up something on a napkin to pay for your meal. Art is easy work.

Ever since I was a little guy scribbling with my crayons, I’ve had people look at my art and say, “You sure are talented. It must be nice to be born with it!”  I’d shyly say thanks and continue with my work.

Aside from my late teens, art has been my only source of income. I’m in my late-30’s now and I’ve had what some might consider a fortunate career as an artist.  It wasn’t until a few years ago that I even started thinking about what talent really was. Contrary to the dictionary definition, this is my opinion:

Talent is created, and it grows when you’re overly passionate about your specific subject.

So passionate that you spend large amounts of free time studying a subject beyond what anyone else could stand. So passionate that you try to decode what others who excel in the craft are doing. So passionate that you will spend hours alone trying to meticulously perfect a nuance that only you will notice. Then, when the moment of focus is over, you’ve gained a small fraction of knowledge that only you were passionate enough to spend the time to understand.

So, what do you obsess over? Most likely this is where you will find your talent.

These days, when someone comes to me for professional advice in the field of art, I always start with this next question.

What do you love to do?

This is a hard question for many people to answer. It’s not really hard, but people make it hard when they replace what they love with what they think they should love. For instance, a friend asked me what computer programs he should learn to help his career. My response was, “Only learn the programs that will help you achieve your personal goals. Don’t learn a random program you have no interest in just because you think it will help your career. But, if a program will help you pursue something you’re passionate about, then it’s worth learning. Nothing launches your career better than a personal project you love.”

In other words, if you love animation, then start animating your film. That’s what I did, and eventually I landed a full-time job at Dreamworks Animation. If you love to draw comics, then start drawing your comic. If you love to make stuffed animals, then make the best stuffed animals you can! You don’t have to wait for permission to start doing something you love. Just get started.

If you love comic art, you will study your favorite comic artists and you will become more talented at drawing comics than the majority. If you love animation, you will closely examine master animators to see what makes them tick, and in turn you will become more talented at animation than the majority. If you love amazing food, you will start to study what makes something taste good and in turn…

Well, I think you get the picture.

None of this is something you’re born with. I don’t believe anyone is born with talent. I will say it again. Nobody is born with talent. Sure, I might have shown early aptitude as an artist, and you know why? Because I loved art! I drooled over it when I saw something I liked. I would stare at it forever until I understood it.


2Do You Love Comics?

 I’m going to assume you have a deep interest in the creative process of sequential art, so let’s get to my next question. But, if you even had to think about the answer for more than a few seconds, I’d encourage you to take a step back and think things through before you continue.


Do You Love to Draw?

Something I’ve never understood is why someone would want to make a comic if they don’t love to draw. It’s extremely important for you to love drawing because the majority of your time creating a comic will be drawing it.

Love of drawing is only half the battle. I honestly believe Malcolm Gladwell’s suggestion in his book, Outliers: The Story of Success, that it takes ten thousand hours to truly master your craft. The more hours you put into something you love, the better your chances are of being successful.  Because graphic novels are a visual medium, it’s important to focus your time on mastering your drawing craft. All too often, creators are so gung-ho about getting their story online, they spend more of the ten thousand hours trying to promote something that isn’t ready to promote. It’s the whole “cart before the horse” theory. Put in those hours on mastering drawing and your great piece of work will be that much easier to promote.


Do You Love to Tell Stories?

Maybe you don’t like the physical process of sitting down to write. For even the most prolific authors, sitting down to write is probably their least favorite part of the whole process. The point is, you may not like the writing process, but it’s important for you to love telling a story. This urge to tell others about a world and characters you have spinning around your head is the main thing you should focus on. Don’t worry if your grammar ain’t to good or if your speling isn’t grate. Don’t get me wrong, grammar and spelling are important, but that’s why we have editors. The point I want to emphasize is that you shouldn’t let it stop you from getting your story out to the world. I never really considered myself a writer, but that didn’t stop me from dreaming up worlds and heroes. It never got in the way of my attempts to tell my stories.

I mentioned that drawing is going to take up most of your time when creating a comic, but that doesn’t mean you should neglect the story. If all you want to do is draw cool action scenes, then maybe you just need to find a job drawing action comics for someone else. Perhaps you could partner with a writer who’s more than happy to write those awesome action scenes for you to draw. Whatever you do, don’t start a graphic novel if you aren’t that into your story. You really need to believe in what you’re writing because you still have hundreds or thousands of hours ahead of you on the drawing board. Remember, if you don’t care about your story, nobody else will either.

Do You Love Publishing?

Love might be too strong a word. What if I go with “really like”? Or just plain “tolerate”? I ask this because once you finish your graphic novel, you’re going to have to publish it. And because you’re reading this book, you’re probably considering going the self-publishing route, which is an enormous undertaking. At this point, many of you haven’t ever published anything before, so you don’t know if you like it or not? But you’ll never know unless you try.

I want to give you a little warning: the publishing industry that we all know and understand is changing dramatically. It’s no longer a matter of getting a few old books on the subject to understand the market. It’s a whole new game now. You have to make your own path if you want to be successful in publishing these days. You need to be both an artist and an entrepreneur. But don’t worry, if you’re creative enough to write and draw a graphic novel, then you’re creative enough to be the kind of entrepreneur you need to be. Publishing comics is all about creativity. In fact, most of you are already publishers without even knowing it. Have you used Facebook, Twitter or blogging platforms? Did you know that all your Tweets are forever archived in the Library of Congress? See I told you that you can be a publisher!

To see more of Jason Brubaker’s work, click here. Also be sure to check out his newest webcomic, Sithrah!



5 Responses to “Unnatural Talent”

  1. Dale Hocomb

    Before I post a comment about your article, I just wanted to say, I love your site. That said, I totally agree with the issue of talent. Talent is something that is separate from the love of something; you can love art, but if you want to be an artist, you have to work at it. Also, although there are more options to get your art out for others to see without occurring the cost of printing and distributing, I’ve found that learning other technological skills such as website development, is as added bonus to getting your work out, especially if you want to add more interactive features to your comics. Anyhow, when it comes to the online comic that I’m in to process of working on (when time allows,) I felt that studying animation, story boarding and film was also just as important as learning how to draw as well. Well, I think that I’m starting to ramble here, so I’ll end this comment by saying that I really enjoy your site, so keep up the good work.

  2. Coach

    I never comment on articles after I read them, but for some reason I’m really feeling the compulsion too. I agreed with 99.9% of the words in this article starting with “Talent is created, and it grows when you’re overly passionate about your specific subject.” I am a grade school art teacher who tells his students everyday that the difference between the student who “sucks” at art and the student with “talent” is passion. Great sports player aren’t born they spend their entire lives working towards their goals, but for some reason everyone thinks when you pick up the pencil you are either an artist, or not depending on your immediate ability. I use this analogy a lot and now my students call me coach.

    Any ways I’m the firm believer in being a doer in your passions and not just an idle observer. I’ve been reading comics for too long now and it just recently hit me that this would be a direction to take my art in that I would never lose passion doing! I stumbled upon this site looking for what sort of pens and ink supplies I should start playing around with and I will now end this by saying thanks for compiling these ideas in one place and Great Read.

  3. 4-h shirt ideas

    First off I want to say terrific blog! I had a quick question which I’d like to
    ask if you don’t mind. I was curious to know how you center yourself and clear your head prior to writing.
    I have had a difficult time clearing my mind in getting my ideas out there.

    I do take pleasure in writing however it just seems like
    the first 10 to 15 minutes are usually lost just trying to figure out how
    to begin. Any suggestions or tips? Kudos!

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    just sum it up what I submitted and say, I’m thoroughly enjoying your blog.
    I as well am an aspiring blog blogger but I’m still new to everything.
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