A common theme in most comics is conflict between good and evil. Whether Batman is fighting the Joker (or Superman, I guess) there’s almost always two forces working against each other. Sometimes this is true when it comes to even just creating the comic. I think many cartoonists have something they need to overcome to be as good as they want to be, or as good as they can be. Last week I wrote about what I could do if I wasn’t always working on a timeline. I think I can draw better than what most people usually see when I take my time and slow down. That’s not to say deadlines are all bad. Sometimes they help keep someone on track and motivated and actually finish something. It’s too easy to put things off if you don’t have a deadline to finish a project…even if it’s a deadline you set yourself. One of the few joys in self-publishing is not having a publisher breathing down my neck wondering when the book is done, but you’re also responsible for everything else. And of course, if you take too long between projects, readers might forget you exist and might not be there or even care when you eventually finish something.
I like having deadlines and schedules. It is a lot of work right now doing a webcomic that updates five times a week while trying to finish 15 pages for a graphic novel each month while working full time and raising a family. I am looking forward to finishing Uptown Girl – The Lazarus Heart (it SHOULD be this year) and having more time for other art projects.
The problem, depending on how you look at it, is that I am very excited about drawing stuff. And when I do something I am excited about, I tend to do it quickly. If I am drawing something for fun that doesn’t need to be done at a particular time I still have a tendency to go too fast. The enemy I struggle with is actually myself. I draw too fast and I don’t know when to slow down or even take a break. Sometimes it’s because I am having fun and I don’t want to stop. The problem with that is eventually I’ll get tired, my hand gets tired and when this happens, I don’t do my best work. I get lazy, I get sloppy. There comes a point in some drawing where you know you need to take a break because you start making tiny, careless mistakes and of course this can lead to bigger mistakes and then the drawing is ruined. You’ve got to know when to slow down, you’ve got to know when to take a break.
So, I am trying to overcome this enemy. I am trying to slow down and take breaks. Last week I showed a drawing that featured a character I created a few months ago. I had a ton of fun drawing it and I thought it’d be fun to do another. I penciled out a new scene and had a blast doing it. I have forgotten how fun it is to just pencil and play in a new world. Usually when I pencil comics it tends to be more gestured lines and simple layouts but this was different. It was one of those drawings where you’re penciling it and you keep thinking how fun it’s going to be to ink. After I penciled it I let it rest (and myself too) to give myself time to look it over. Doing this can give me a chance to throw something new into the drawing or a new idea I hadn’t come up with. After a day or so, it was time to ink.
Starting the inking process can be stressful. If the first few moments of inking don’t work out right, it can set a tone for the rest of the drawing. If you hate the first inked lines, it can turn into a very frustrating project. But when it clicks, man, it’s the greatest thing in the world. It’s like, I love the first line, I love the next and it just rolls on from there. Soon you have a whole character inked and you love it and you move onto the next thing and you love that too.
Of course, the opposite is true. If you hate something, you might work harder on the next thing and if you let the frustration get to you, you’ll likely continue to do poor work. So the key is, at least for me, is to slow down and be careful. Some people like the inking to be spontaneous and I do too, especially when I work on comics, but for a drawing this large and this detailed, I need to take it slow as it is a lot bigger and starting over is not as easy as redoing one panel.
So, here’s how it all shook out. I started to ink and I did this for about 45 minutes and took a step back. The work was going well, my hand felt good and I was energized by the drawing. Normally I would’ve kept going and ride the momentum but I didn’t want to sabotage myself so it was time to take a break for a while.
Again, I don’t have a scanner large enough for the drawing (it’s 11×17) but the iPhone does a halfway decent job of getting the job done for the purpose of the blog. I started on the big stuff, the stuff that people need to notice. The stuff that needs to be good because if the girl or the monster look kind of crummy, then no matter how good the background is, the big stuff looks terrible and dominates the drawing. I was happy with the drawing, I was walking away feeling good about it as opposed to not liking it and hoping I could right the ship the next time I was back at the drawing table. But this was good, I liked it and was excited to pick up where I left off.
I took a few hours off and came back to it. After an hour or so, it was time to take a break and quit while I was ahead.
So, the trees are coming along, I have a weird sea-monster inked and the bridge is done. It’s coming along nicely. But again, leave the party when it’s roaring.
A couple days later I did more.
The drawing is progressing nicely and moving it’s way towards the right side of the page. I got the hard stuff out of the way, I just need to do a little more with the background. Now, this is kind of a trap because part of my brain is telling me that all I have left are some stupid trees so I should just plow through and wrap this up. I normally listen to this but I also knew that would be a bad idea. I don’t want to plow through anything. So I put the pen down and decided to wrap it up the next day.
And I did!
I like it. I think it’s a good companion piece to the drawing I posted last week. I had a lot of fun doing it and I think I want to do three more like it. There’s a whole story I have in my mind for this character and what’s happening but I am trying not to think of this as a series or a new project. Like I said last week, I want to avoid some big projects and new books and new series for a while.
I also like this drawing because I feel like I overcame my biggest obstacle when it comes to drawing by slowing down and taking my time and listening to my instincts. In your face, me.