I spent the last three nights working on this page:
This page is before I do all the normal touch-ups and lettering with Photoshop. Now, it did not take me three nights because this was a George Perez-esque level of quality or detail. It’s pretty straight forward, nothing special. It took three nights because even though I have been drawing ‘Uptown Girl’ for 7 years I’m still learning.
The biggest thing I’ve had to learn is slowing down. The page above went through quite a few revisions. The first revision is because I didn’t spend enough time penciling or inking the page. The second is revision is from when I realized I drew the characters too small. I am going to be printing the original graphic novels at a smaller size (think Scott Pilgrim sized) so I need to draw bigger so the characters aren’t teeny tiny when the book is printed. These revisions could have easily been avoided had I just remembered to slow down.
When I started ‘Uptown Girl’ I was a single guy renting a room in a basement. I had almost zero responsibilities. I drew, and I drew a lot. Of course, when the comic started, I was fueled by youth, arrogance, and energy. In creating the comic and Uptown Girl’s world it was all I could do to keep to keep up with the flow of ideas and the sheer love of creating comics. I was creating comics for myself. I never thought anyone else would ever read them so I couldn’t care less how much time I spent on drawing a story. I still create comics for myself, but now that I am aware other people read them I take the time to not only create comics that meet my level of expectations, but do my best to give Uptown Girl’s fans the best comics I can do.
Which means slowing down.
It’s been a hard process, slowing down. During the 6 years I was drawing the monthly series, I created 75 monthly issues, 6 annuals, and countless specials. Doing a monthly comic meant 4 or 5 pages a day to meet the monthly schedule. It was hard. After my daughter was born I knew it was time to slow down, which meant ending the series. That was an exciting time, to be able to move away from the monthly grind and daily quota and to be able to spend three nights on a page if necessary to meet my level of quality.
The story I am working on now I began about 5 weeks ago, and I am only about 17 pages in. That’s an average of what, 3 pages a week? I work on projects for about an hour a night, but lately that has consisted of drawing for thirty minutes and then the rest of the time scanning and Photoshopping pages.
Lately I’ve been thinking about how much time is reasonable to spend on a page, and mostly my answer is “as long as it takes.” But sometimes it gets put into perspective. Sure, it usually takes an hour and a half per page to write, pencil and ink, but the page takes, what, 20 seconds to read? That’s kind of insane, isn’t it?
But nothing bugs me more to flip through a comic I did and have a panel or a page jump out at me that makes me think that I could have drawn it better.
And that usually meant slowing down.
Drawing is my hobby and my passion and hopefully something I can make a living off of someday. I don’t have many hobbies besides drawing (where would I find the time?) but I do like video games. Gamers will quickly complain when their favorite game gets delayed but I usually don’t mind. When a game gets delayed it’s usually for a good reason, and hopefully that reason is to make the game better. There’s nothing wrong with taking the time to make something better, so long as it is eventually finished. I remind myself of that when I draw. I read an interview with Shigeru Miyamoto, who is the creator of many Nintendo games where he was defending the delay of an anticipated game. He said that a delayed game is eventually good, but a bad game is bad forever. I think the same can apply to creating comics.
So I guess I don’t beat myself up too much if I take too much time on a page, as long as it’s because I am slowing down, not because I am doing revision after revision because I didn’t take the time to make it right the first time. A bad panel is bad forever, after all.