For the past few months I have had the privilege of working out of The Royal Academy of Illustration and Design, or RAID studios. For those of you who don’t know, RAID studios is a collective of artists based in Toronto. The collective is currently composed of Francis Manapul, Jason Laudadio, Kalman Andrasofszky, Ken Lashley, Marcus To, Ramón K Pérez, Scott Hepburn and Willow Dawson. I have been overwhelmed by their kindness and encouragement and I would urge all of you to check out their work, purchase their books, and support great Canadian talent.

My little space in the studio has allowed me to see if my own work improves while creativity surrounds me (I like to think so, but you be the judge), but it has also given me a unique perspective about this wonderful medium that we love.

Drawing a comic book is hard work. I know that statement won’t come as a surprise to some of my readers, but I also think that many people feel that skill at drawing is something that you are innately good at; that is, you don’t really need to work hard at it. Either you are good at drawing and the job is easy, or you can’t draw and therefore don’t get into the business in the first place.

But drawing is hard work. And hours and hours worth of work. Have you ever tried drawing a comic book? I want you all to go home and try to copy a single page from your favourite comic. And then I want you trace over that in black marker. It probably took a while right? And yours stinks. Imaging doing that from scratch 22 times every month.

If you can pencil and ink a page per day that is fast. That is great. But in a regular work month you actually need to do a couple of pages better than that. And that’s if you only have one book. Or if you have no other responsibilities that month. If you are attending a convention (of which there are a tonne) you need to work ahead. If you want to take a week’s vacation you need to work ahead. If you get sick you need to work like crazy to catch up. Because the comic book needs to come out each month.

The RAID collective consistently puts long hours in at the studio. I tend to spend about 2 hours in the studio when I am working. I come in, work, and then leave. Ramón jokingly refers to it as me breezing in and out. But you don’t win an Eisner putting in a hour or two here and there. And there isn’t a single one of them who has not been at the studio until the wee hours of the morning putting the finishing touches on some work.

I also notice that it is a physically demanding job. Hours upon hours spent hunched over a desk or drawing board is not an easy task. Now they aren’t pouring concrete or pulling steel, but it also isn’t as cushy of a job as one might think.

I didn’t write this article to make you think that artists are hard done by: they would be the first to tell you they love their job, but I wanted you to know and understand better the work that goes into that comic book you are reading. It is easy to discount the work of a creative industry. That their job is fun, and people would kill for that job, so we shouldn’t appreciate it as difficult. I think that it is easy for fans to appreciate the skill and craftsmanship that goes into a comic, but I don’t think that fans intuitively appreciate the hard work that goes into producing a comic book.

The skill of storytelling comes through, the amazing panel layout, the surprise twist ending, all of these things fans love and appreciate when they pick up their favourite books, but I’ve seen the things that you don’t get to see. I’ve seen the long hours, the late night coffee runs, the sore backs and strained wrists. These are what goes into creating art.

I have always  had great respect for those who create this medium that I know and love, but seeing dedication first hand has only strengthened my support for the industry and the promotion of comic books as a viable and legitimate art form.

So at Fan Expo this week stop by and say hello to the artists of the RAID Studios and let them know how much you enjoy their work.