So we begin another year. I like that there is a New Years day. I like that there is a cut off from one period of time from another. I like the idea of being able to, in a sense, start over. Or starting or stopping something. 2016 was a rough year for a lot of reasons and I have to say that besides he-who-must-not-be-named getting elected, the worst thing about 2016 was losing Darwyn Cooke.
2016 was supposed to be the year that I finished Uptown Girl – The Lazarus Heart. And I didn’t. I started penciling this book in February 2015 and I never thought that almost two years later I’d still be working on it. There’s a good reason for it, though. I simply didn’t have time. In December 2015 I found out I was getting laid off in the spring of 2016. I knew I’d need another job because I wasn’t sure if Cartoon Network would contact me before then to develop The Retros into an animated series. They still haven’t. At any rate, there were a few things I needed to do. I had to buy a suit for interviews, I had to update my resume and I had to finish college. After high school, I was about halfway towards an associate degree before I, well, let’s be honest, dropped out. I had gotten by without a degree for a long time but I’d be applying for jobs and I knew at a minimum I’d need some sort of degree. I started part time online classes again in January of 2016 and worked very hard to complete my degree just a few weeks ago.
I was stunned at how much I spent doing homework and studying. I had no idea it would take up that much of my day, weekend and life. Almost every night I was doing homework or working on assignments. I barely drew in 2016 and that was really depressing for me. I kept up on The Retros but in the last half of the year hardly any work was done on Uptown Girl. But I learned a lot by going to college. Not only did I learn about permutations and event horizons, I learned how to work. I pushed myself to write a paper better than I would have in the past. I learned how to research, I learned how to pace myself…I learned how to fail, learn from that and then improve. I threw myself into my studies and when it was all over, I felt like I was rejoining my life after being away from it for a year.
So, now what? In some ways I felt I was going to be a better artist after going through this. Earlier this year I wrote about my job search and how I did a lot of research and learned how to write cover letters, send emails and interview. I knew that when it was time to start shopping a project to a publisher or whatever I’d benefit from that experience. What college taught me was how to work, work and work some more to get something right. If I pencil a panel and I don’t like it or I know I can do better, just start over. Try again. Try ten times if I need to. Spend 45 minutes if I must to ink something the right way. Of course, most cartoonists know this, but I was impatient. I’d settle too quickly and would want to keep moving forward. There’s something to be said about not spending too much on something but that is not a problem I have. Yesterday I spent an hour and a half penciling and inking three pages of The Retros and later that afternoon I spent the same amount of time redoing those same pages. The pages are better now. I’ve written before how often I knew something was good enough and moved on and I’ve also written about how I wasn’t going to settle for that but it was obvious I didn’t mean it. Or forgot. Or chose to forget.
Last year I did Inktober and drew a lot of things I normally wouldn’t draw and really pushed myself to try new things. I had a blast and after over a decade of over 90% of my creative output was Uptown Girl I was really energized to do more illustration and cartooning that wasn’t comics. With Uptown Girl wrapping up, I will have more time to do stuff like this. I have a few projects that I’ll be doing but I’ll also just be drawing a lot more and posting different stuff too. I’m going to teach myself how to paint, I’m going to do more small, colorful drawings, similar to the art I do for my daughter’s lunch note each day.
I’ve committed to doing a drawing like this each day, whether it is with Copic marker, ink or even watercolor. I’ll be posting these drawings to my long neglected Tumblr page as well as Facebook. Today’s drawing is Superman and was inspired by art by Chris Jones.
I am excited to see what this year brings. I am excited to draw and draw some more. I am excited to finish The Lazarus Heart. I did ten pages of the book last month and I think I am about 30 pages until it’s all over. I should have no problem having it completed by the end of February and out in May. I also plan on publishing the first Retros collection sometime this year. This summer, I think.
Anyway, thank you for your patience while I finished college and kind of dropped off the planet for much of the year. I’ll be better. In a lot of ways.