Proctor spoke to Marshall High School art classes Thursday, Feb. 25, and provided a drawing demonstration Friday, Feb. 26, and both days included information an aspiring artist could use about art (the creative act) and art (the business).
Questions ranged from tools and techniques, like what kind of markers he prefers, to strategies for getting noticed.
Proctor's main message was simple: Take every opportunity -- to improve as an artist and to get noticed.
"If you're really serious about it, draw every day," he said. "Keep a sketch book handy. Draw anything and everything."
He also recommended art college, noting that classes will force students to stretch as an artist, adding skills and perspectives they might not expect.
"I do recommend it, if you can do it," he said. "They cover such a wide range of things. Things you may not think you'll be using. It covers everything."
He has a degree from Memphis Art College.
Young artists may not have a clear notion about career plans before attending school, he said, noting that he wasn't sure about his career direction at the time.
"All I knew was, I liked to draw. That's the only thing I cared about," he said.
Landing an invitation to contribute original illustrations for Topps trading cards was a big leap forward in his career, but Proctor told students it was important not for the money, but for the exposure.
"It's your foot in the door. You get your name out there," he said. "You get other jobs, whether it be illustrating book covers, magazine illustrations, whatever it is. To put that company on your resume is important. You do what you have to do."
Another thing artists need to do, though it isn't always the most pleasant part of the job, is to learn how to accept criticism.
"I can't stress that enough. Never take it personal," he said, while acknowledging that it may be difficult at times. "You do get that sinking feeling in your stomach. You really want to hear that it's great."
Proctor's parents, who attended the presentation Thursday, said he was a perfectionist even as a young child. They said he would be dissatisfied with drawing that, to them, looked terrific.
Criticism from others is perhaps harder to take, but Proctor explained that it is important both for improving a given piece and for growth as an artist.
"You have to listen to what they are saying and why they are saying it," he said, referring to advice he got from editors and other artists. "They are saying it to make you better."
Criticism may be especially frequent for artists like Proctor who post much of their work on the Internet.
He said when he gets a commission from an online client, he posts versions of the work in progress so the client -- and others -- can see it take shape and offer reactions.
He admitted it could be difficult if a client's preferences conflict with his own vision, but he said in those cases he offers suggestions but ultimately defers to the client -- who is, after all, paying for the final result.
And that was another value of art college, he said. Every project was critiqued by the whole class, giving him a great deal of experience receiving critical comments.
He counseled students to focus on what they can learn from every situation they are in.
"I was actually kind of impatient -- right here in this room," he said. "My instructors said, 'You have to take this step first.' It was so hard for me to see that sometimes."
MHS grad returns to share success story with art students: