Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Five Things I've Learned in the Last Two Years

It's anniversary time. I started this blog two years ago, so time for some reflection. Here is a list of things I've learned about the practice of making comics.

(I was going to write "Two Things I've learned in Two Years", but that wouldn't be much of a list, would it?)

#1 Everything takes longer than you think it will
On the project level, this is pretty obvious; it's hard to judge how long a given project will take unless you've done a lot of projects like it. Even if you've completed a similar project before, your mind remembers it taking much less time than it actually did.

This also applies to the overall project of building a following. When I started this blog two years ago, I figured by the first couple months in, I'd have dozens, if not hundreds of followers (Stop laughing). After two years, I have a whole eleven followers on this blog (and I love each and every one of you!). Yeah, this is taking a lot longer.

I think the sub-lesson here is that the amount of completed work is more important than just random blog posts. People are more attracted to things you have completed rather than talking about your process (Which is mostly what I've done up to this point).

#2 Finishing things is important
Finished work is what gets you attention, not sketches or doodles. I look at my body of work online, and I don't know that it really shows what I'm capable of. It doesn't present me as the artist I aspire to be.

Also, I've learned more from projects that I have actually completed. The lessons learned doing my first zine for CAKE 2012 directly applied to my mini-zine, "Orbital Plumber". I'm using lessons learned from that on my next project, "Stories from this Solar System".

I draw everyday, even if it's just a doodle, but that is no substitute for putting my nose to the grindstone and finishing something from  beginning to end.


#3 You're allowed to abandon things
I realized lesson #2  pretty early on, which made me vow to never give up on a project. I intended to stick to it no matter how flawed or underdeveloped. While admirable, this attitude might not always be beneficial.

I have two examples of this. 

The first is "Bone Dog". When I first started drawing Bone Dog, I envisioned it lasting years and years and hundreds of pages. I had a story lines sketched out that I knew could keep me busy for years. 

Then I changed. When I started Bone Dog, my biggest inspirations were George Herriman (Krazy Kat), Winsor McCay (Little Nemo in Slumberland), and Sergio Aragones (Groo the Wanderer). I still love all those artists, but I've also been  exposed to so many great new artists that influenced me: Brandon Graham and the whole Prophet Crew, Farel Dalrymple, Ken Garing, Morgan Jeske, James Stokoe. There are also the "New to Me" artists: Moebius, Enki Bilal, Miyazaki (Specifically, Nausicaa).

All these artists opened my mind to more things that comics could do or be. Not that I was limiting myself, it just didn't occur to me that I could do the kind of stuff they were doing. After that, I just didn't want to do Bone Dog anymore.

The other example of me abandoning a comic was "Phantom Kangaroo". The problem with this one was that it started as an interesting idea without knowing where I was going with it. I drew the first three pages (and an incomplete fourth) and wrote some scripts for the rest. Some versions of the story went 5 more pages, some went 10 more pages and I think I even  had a 35 page version.

The problem was I had no idea where it was going when I started it. I thought the germ of an idea would be enough to grow it into a fully realized story. I should have worked the idea a while more before I even started.

#4 No one is paying attention and that's a good thing
For as long as I've had this blog, I bemoaned the fact that I had a hard time building a following. I mean, that's the point of this blog, right? 

When think about it, it's actually a pretty good thing. If I had garnered a lot of fans quickly, there would be pressure to keep them happy. I've changed a lot in the last two years, and no one has really noticed. If I did have a "core audience", I'd be at risk of losing them.

Right now I have the freedom to figure out what I want to do without a lot of people watching and potentially being disappointed.

#5 Progress is upward, but not straight.
There are days when drawing is easy. I picture something, put my pen to paper, and it more or less comes out. Then there are days when drawing is hard. Really hard. Those are days I feel like the last two years have been for nothing. Then the next day, I bang out something that I never imagined I could do, ever.

Doing art is just like that, I guess.

That's it for now, class. I'll be making some changes to the blog int he next couple weeks, so stay tuned.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Can Someone Explain This to Me?

I liked the Image series "Debris" that came out last year. It was a little heavy on the hero's journey/ Mono-myth stuff for my taste, but it was fun and the art was really good. I even did fan art for it!

The four issues of "Debris" were recently collected into a trade paperback. I was surprised to see how differently the lead female character was portrayed on the cover of the paperback as compared to the comics.

Here's what I mean: Here is the cover of the first issue featuring the protagonist, Maya:

And here is the cover of the trade:

Can we see that one more time? (this time with the cover of issue #3):

The cover artist for the trade is not the same artist for the book. OK, fine.

But I thought the depiction of women* in the book was pretty respectful. Maya was young and attractive, and sure, wore tight clothing, but she was at least drawn realistically.

I was happy to see a more realistic portrayal of a female character. It's a little sad now to see that character all sex-potted up. Fishnets and a flowy evening dress are not practical for fighting giant robots!

Also, she's straddling a penis-shaped pipe! Seriously!?

*(There was actually more than one woman! This is what we call progress in comic books.)

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Workspace Upgrade!!

So here is my desk/ workspace as I last posted it (around October of last year):

And here is my desk now:

Getting that cork board changed my life.

Not really. But it is nice to have somewhere to put things. I was tired of taping things to the wall.

Also, my wife painted the bedroom. No more gross yellow.

Plus! I have a new computer. My last computer was purchased back in 2005, so I was overdue. I mounted the monitor and stored the CPU under the desk so I could keep my drawing board. Not pictured is the Wacom tablet I also bought. I'm pretty happy with the whole set up, but it's given me a lot of new tools to learn (Including Manga Studio 5) 

Anyway, I'm still working a with traditional media. Here are a couple sketchbook pictures:
Astronaut looking over alien landscape.

Astronaut looked terrified and amazed.
Both of these are studies for a new comic I'm working on at the same time as I finish my Mars one.

In other news, my lovely wife has taken up blogging. You can now find her at Projectophile! I've been blogging for a long time, but she is already blowing me out of the water with her blogging proficiency (It probably has something to do with the fact that she's a way better writer than I am).  This one about mid-century modern houses that will kill your children has been particularly popular.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Mars Story, First Three Pages

I still have a bit of work to do on these, but I had such a positive response when I posted the first page that I figured I'd post what I have done so far. I have about 5 more pages to do on this story.


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Orbital Plumber

NOTES: I made this for the Middle Coast Zine fest here in Chicago a couple weeks back. It's a micro-mini, meaning that it's 4.25" x 5.5" (Basically one sheet of paper folded twice). This is why the lettering looks so big now.

This is based on a true story, apart from the space aspect of it. One of my childhood friends is a plumber and this actually happened to him. Instead of stale sanitation crystals, it was a dried trap letting sewer smells in the house.

Also, I finished this, photocopying and all in about three days, which is some kind of record for me.

Friday, November 30, 2012

A Study in Style

(Or: What I Did Over Did Over Thanksgiving Break)

I've been thinking a lot about personal style lately.

Whenever I practice draw (i.e. Not for a finished piece), I always prefer to draw from real life (or more often, photographs) rather than copy another person's work. There are a lot of artist I respect, but I don't want to have their style, I want my own style. I assumed that if I just keep drawing what I see, eventually, my personal style will just magically form (Like Venus from ocean foam).

I'm starting to rethink this ridged method and came up with a little drawing exercise (I'm can't be the first person to think of this). I drew a page from a published comic, but I tried to emulate another artist's style.

Two of my favorite artists are Sergio Aragones and Katsuhiro Otomo (Akira, at least), so I decided to do Akira in the style of Sergio Aragones.

I picked a page out of Akira at random (I just googled image searched "Akira pages" and picked out one of the first ones that came up).

Here's the original:

And here is mine:

I did this while traveling to St. Louis, so I didn't have much in the way of Sergio reference material. I think it ended up looking more like something by Roberta Gregory (which isn't a bad thing) or maybe Jim Davis (which is bad).
Also, the perspective in panel #3 is way fucked up.
I'm not sure what I learned about my style. I was a fun exercise. I enjoyed it. I stretched my drawing muscles in ways I never had before. I think I'll do it again but different artists. Why not?
Last Minute Edit: I just remembered I did something like this before.
Speaking of St, Louis, I dropped off some mini-comics at Star Clipper. If you live in St. Louis and want a copy of King Crow Comics #1 (for only $1!), head down there.