I’ve just finished my work on the monthly book from BOOM!, Thomas Alsop. This video is about some of the lessons I learned working on that book – hopefully there is some value in it for you too!
What is the best method for working on a story? Digging in and camly solving every problem as you come upon them? Or just jump to the next project and find energy in the constant creative flow?
For many years I suffered from the delussion that “real” writers worked from page 1 until the book was finished. This resulted in many a stranded story for me. When I finally gave myself permission to go ahead and skip to the ending or the middle, if I had an idea for that, my creative juices really started flowing.
These days I’ve also allowed myself the luxury of jumping from one project to the other, and I find it works the same way for me. Instead of standing still, I go in another direction, keeping the forward momentum.
Every project is a learning experience, every story brings new ideas. I can skip from one story to another, using what I just learned for something else, perhaps as a way to get unstuck on a story problem or motivational issue.
The downside of working on multiple things at once, is that you can get the feeling you’re not going anywhere. That you are just spinning wheels when in fact you are moving forward.
The need to focus in certain phases can be neccessary
Jumping around is fun, but to finish something, you need some crunch time. I always seem to forget that stories and projects don’t push themselves into my work day. I have to put them there, block out time to work on them. If I wait until I get some free time or get “inspired”, I will take all these projects with me to my grave. Unfinished.
As Stephen King once says in his book On Writing:
Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.
My method of jumping from one project to another might not be for you. But as long as you finish them eventually, (see this post on finishing) I see no problem with working on five things at once. It might just spark that creative energy that keeps the creativity flowing instead of running dry…
Do you work best with one thing at a time or are you a scatterbrain like me? Let’s hear your story!
A lot of us struggle finding the time to make comics. There just aren’t enough hours in the day!
Though some of us are richer or more talented than others, there is one area were we are all equal: we all have the same 24 hours in day. Here are a few tips on how to make your comics hours count.
Get up earlier.
An hour a day can really make a world of difference. Small steps towards your goal is better than none.
Before you go to sleep at night, decide what piece of the big picture (page, panel, scene, character) you will be working on the next day – Or whenever you get a time slot. Oftentimes small breaks pop up during the day, which we end up wasting on Twitter or goofing around. Have something ready that you can just pick up and work on whenever the opportunity arises.
Focus on one little step at a time.
When we think of our comics as a whole, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the amount of work that lies ahead; outlining, scripting, thumbnails, rough sketches, research, more sketches, character design, pencils, inks, color, lettering, promotion… Arrgh!
Stop, take a deep breath and focus. One thing at a time.
Just say no.
If we all have the same amount of hours in the day, how come some people get more done than others? My guess: They either have enough money that they don’t have to spend all their time shovelling coal. Or: they prioritize. If you really want to make comics, you will probably have to sacrifice some things to clear your schedule. If you can’t cut down on working hours, maybe cut down on the hours you spend playing videogames or watching tv.
What are your tips for making more of the time you have available? Please share!
Related podcast: Getting Stuff Done
As told in this article on Muddy Colors, artists Lauren Panepinto and Marc Sheff are putting together a book for freelance artists called Make Art Work – in their own words: “a guide that gives artists the most specific information in the simplest language possible”. The two held an Art Business Bootcamp at Spectrum Live and some pretty valuable info came out of that, as these two one-sheets will tell.
“There’s not one absolute rule that works for everyone, but these one sheets present a good place to start, and a general consensus on a lot of the questions that we Art Directors hear repeated from con, to con, to panel, to email, etc.”
I agree completely! And hereby present you with the two PDF’s for your convenience:
Do your comics panels lie flat on the page? Struggle to make your characters more dynamic and your backgrounds more authentic? Here are 5 quick tips to making your comics come alive!
Yes, wind! We often forget the weather when we are making comics, but this is just another case of a little going a long way. A puddle or a snowdrift can give off the same effect and help us determine where and when we are.
Put something in the foreground of your frame will make it look like there is an actual world around your characters.
If all your lines run parallel with the borders, you run risk of confusing and/or boring your reader. Tilt the image, make it seem more dynamic.
Put some paper scraps, dead leaves or cigarette butts in your frames to make them seem more lived in. A cracked pavement, a grafitti or some peeled paint gives the same feeling: The world exists outside this one, static image!
For more quick tips and art hacks like this, sign up to our newsletter!
I got a really good question in an email the other day. A subscriber in Nigeria (Hello, Africa!) asked me about conceptualizing: “How do you see each drawing before you actually put pen to paper?”
My gut response was: Well, it just pops into my head.
I realize that’s not very helpful – although it’s very close to the truth! The whole truth is of course more nuanced.
The reason why these images just pop into my head on a very intuitive level is because I’ve put them there. Not on purpose, not by design. But by watching a whole lotta stuff over the years. Comics, painting, movies, real life – all of the things I’ve seen with my eyes, my brain remembers. All right, maybe not ALL the things I’ve seen. But you get the idea. The more you look at images, the more likely you are able to remember and replicate an image.
But again that’s not the whole truth.
Drawing these images vastly improves your ability to remember and replicate them. The more life drawing, the more copying you do, the more images you solidify in your subconsciousness.
The images that pop into my head probably do so, because I’ve seen them or drawn them before. Not that exact image, but something similar.
A few exercises:
- Watch movies. Pause the dvd, draw the image on the screen. As fast as you can. Study the composition, the lighting. Save your sketch for later. Steal from yourself.
- Read comics. No, in fact just pick a few comic books off the shelf and flip through them before you start your work. Put some images in your head (but don’t copy them!)
- Sketch. A lot. Try out several versions of the same image, different angles. Do thumbnail versions of your pages and be conscious about varying the sizes of the panels, shift between close ups, tilted shots, silhouettes – whatever you can do to shake things up.
The image the Nigerian subscriber mentioned as a reference was this one.:
I can see why it looks seducingly easy, like I’m some comics genius. But I probably made half dozen versions of this image before landing on this one. At least in my head. That’s where the images usually come from, as I’m writing the script.
It’s not easy. But it get’s easier. The more images I see, the more images I draw, the more I have to replicate from.
And you know that feeling of having an image inside your head and not being able to get it down on paper? Yeah, I get that too. But I’ve learned to ignore it. The image in my head washes away and is replaced with whatever is on the page, and that’s OK. It’s just one drawing out of hundreds, thousands. I get less attached the more I draw. I feel like that’s the secret to making comics in some weird way. Not caring so much for the individual image but caring about the flow of the story.
Hope the longer answer is more helpful!
Related podcast: Drawing Every Day