Top Drawer: Comic book illustrator Jay Fosgitt carves out creative career

Professional illustrator Jay Fosgitt is one of those fortunate people who, for a living, gets to do what he loves and loves what he does. 
Fosgitt is the creator and illustrator behind the graphic novel Dead Duck (now an ongoing Web comic), the single-panel comic Necronomicomics and an all-ages comic book, Bodie Troll. Fosgitt not only draws for a living, but creates characters and worlds on paper that reach an audience so varied, his work is enjoyed by everyone from young children to grown adults. 
"I was 5 years old when I said that when I grew up, I wanted to draw," Fosgitt says. "I had an aptitude for it, I always worked at it. I entered art competitions and did all of that. I practiced hard at my craft."
It looks as if the hard work has paid off. For the last six years (after 13 years of working full-time in a community Parks and Recreation Department), Fosgitt's day job has been the stuff of many creatives' dreams; working full-time as a comic illustrator and artist.
Fosgitt has quite a body of work that he has either created or on which he has assisted, in the form of lettering and other contributed artwork. Most notably, he is the creator behind Dead Duck, a graphic novel about a zombie duck and its sassy sidekick that evolved into an ongoing Web comic. 
Another of his works, Necronomicomics is a single-panel comic that parodies the horror film genre. And last but not least, Bodie Troll, an all-ages comic book published by Red 5 Comics, is the story of a grouchy troll who, despite his best efforts at being scary, is earnestly very adorable and lovable. Fosgitt says it wasn't his intent to reach the all-ages demographic; it just happened to work out that way.
"I found some old artwork in my grandma's attic and that's what led to Bodie Troll," Fosgitt says. "With Bodie, I didn't write it specifically for kids, but a comic for everyone. I wanted to create something fun, funny and heartwarming."
Fosgitt grew up in the small mid-Michigan town of Shields, graduating from Swan Valley High School. He started creating characters at age 6 and by high school, his work was getting noticed. He was hired to draw caricatures at several corporate functions, began creating comic books after college (Delta College and Central Michigan University) and began taking concepts to publishers. After living in Ann Arbor for several years, he and his wife moved to Plymouth, where they currently live. So, why didn't he pack up and move to a bigger comics market like L.A. or New York?
"I really like this small town," Fosgitt says. "I've always loved Plymouth."
His resume is also dotted with lettering and other comic content work, including illustrations for DreamWorks Animation Magazine, writing and art for a Sesame Street comic book; all-ages comics Little Green Men, Dino Duck and Old McMonster's Haunted Farm.
He has contributed artwork for widely recognizable companies like Topps Entertainment (Star Wars Galaxy 5) and Marvel (Dangerous Divas, Marvel Universe 2011 and Marvel: Bronze Age), among others. He's not slowing down in that regard either; he will be the letterer on comic creator Guy Davis' upcoming comic, The Marquis and the Midwife, to be published by Dark Horse Comics.
For Fosgitt, his path to working full-time as an illustrator is rooted in one basic, but sometimes overlooked principle; networking. And he caught that bug early, reaching out to Sesame Street creator, the late Jim Henson, when Fosgitt was in the fifth grade. The two opened a line of communication and even had arrangements for Fosgitt to do some work for Henson after Fosgitt got out of school. Henson's death in 1990 curtailed those plans. 
Still, Fosgitt kept networking, reaching out to other professional illustrators and working the convention circuit to not only generate exposure for his own work but to learn from those who were doing so professionally, on a full-time basis. 
"My whole career is based on networking," he says. "My advice is to meet at least one person who makes a difference in your career. You may end up being that person for someone else someday."

John Horn has been a journalist for nearly 20 years, including 12 as a freelance writer. He has covered city government, crime, real estate and sports for both community newspapers and large, metro dailies. He has written extensively about dining and drinking in and around Detroit for numerous clients, locally, nationally and internationally. He loves the city. He loves up north. He loves his wife Kerry, their toddler daughter Maeve, their 80-pound Labradoodle, Lamont, and the Detroit Tigers. In that order.
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