John C. Kirk (johnckirk) wrote,
John C. Kirk

Inspiration for improving my art

Every so often, people post links to motivational comics/articles. I've gathered some of my favourites, in the hope that I can apply them to my drawing. As I've mentioned before, I aspire towards creating my own comics, but I seem to spend more time talking about than actually doing it. I have a folder full of notes, varying from rough ideas to full-blown scripts, but I haven't got very far at actually drawing them, mainly because I find that a lot harder to do (well) than writing.

The first issue is procrastination. For instance, I could sit down and do some drawing, or I could watch the Thundercats theme tune for the nth time. Wait But Why has a couple of insightful articles about this: Why Procrastinators Procrastinate and How to Beat Procrastination. One idea there is to break down a big job into a series of much smaller tasks. That makes sense, based on other projects that I've completed. For instance, when I made chainmail, I literally started out by closing a single ring, and I had to do that thousands of times to make the complete vest. I kept chipping away at it, and I could see that I was gradually making progress towards my goal. The same principle applied when I was paying off my credit card debts a few years ago: I didn't have enough spare cash to do it all at once, but I got there (after a few false starts) by committing to a budget so that I'd make an overpayment every month.

On a lighter note, My Writing Life: An Adventure is quite funny. It's a story about trying to get things done despite distractions, told in the style of a text adventure game. If you actually want to play a game like that then there's Violet: the goal is to sit down and write your thesis before your girlfriend leaves you. (I played it for a while before I got distracted; I'm not sure whether that's irony, or whether it's progress that I'm at least back to procrastinating about my own projects rather than a fictional character's work.)

The second issue is that I'm well aware that I'm not very good at drawing. I have a clear picture in my head of exactly how I want the comics to look, but then when I actually put pen to paper (or stylus to tablet), it doesn't match what I had in mind. Zen Pencils did a very good comic which illustrated this: Advice for beginners. Similarly, Doodle Alley produced Be Friends with Failure. In both cases, the basic advice is to keep practicing until you get better. That makes sense, and I've seen examples in various webcomics. (TV Tropes refer to this as Art Evolution.)

However, I think there's also an important distinction between this and some other goals. When I wanted to make chainmail, I mostly knew what to do. I had to do a bit of fiddling at the start, but then I just kept repeating the same steps over and over again to make bigger sections of mail. Similarly, I remember when I got back into cycling (in 2008): there's a hill near my office, and initially I had to get off and walk because I couldn't ride up it. However, I kept trying, and gradually I was able to get a bit further up the hill before I had to stop. Eventually I made it all the way to the top, and nowadays it's not particularly significant. So, I definitely got stronger with that practice, but I wasn't really doing anything differently (in terms of technique): I just kept pedalling until I had to stop. However, if I repeat the same bad drawing hundreds of times I don't think it's suddenly going to turn into a good drawing; I may get faster at drawing it, but that's about all.

So, I think the extra point here is that I need to analyse what I'm doing. If I look back at some of my old blog posts (I've been on LiveJournal for 12 years!), I can definitely see an improvement in my writing style. I think that's because I make an effort to proof-read, and I sometimes go through a few iterations before I actually get the post into a form that I'm happy with. With that in mind, I've been reading various books about creating comics. This fits in with my general strategy, i.e. learning from other people's experience rather than re-discovering everything myself. However, I don't know whether I'm actually being more efficient, or whether this is simply another form of procrastination. Another Zen Pencils comic is Someday; if I keep putting things off until I'm really ready then will I ever get started?

Last year (Jan 2013), I took part in the Cold Water Swimming Championships. Quoting what I wrote then:

I had the slowest time for my group in both categories. [..] That said, I didn't actually come last. There were 3 people ranked below me in my group, with "DNS" next to their names. I assume that stands for "Did Not Start", because I know that there were a few empty lanes during the races. So, I think there's some kind of truism here: the people who turn up will always do better than the people who don't (within this specific context). John Kovalic wrote something similar about creating art (The Finish Line): "And all this while? Other folks are finishing up their pieces. They may not be as good as you, but they don't have to be. They finished. And they may have made a sale." I'm hardly Aquaman, but if I'd wimped out yesterday then I would have been even further down in the rankings.

So, I think I need to do both: turn some of my existing scripts into actual comics, while also continuing to read books, watch videos, etc. in an attempt to improve. With that in mind, my goal for the rest of this year (starting in April) is to make at least 1 comic per month, either single-page or multi-page. I think that's achievable, then I can review this at the end of the year and see whether I've improved at all.

I'll end with a few other comics from Zen Pencils. I think these are the equivalent of the Rocky IV soundtrack; rather than offering specific advice, they just act as general motivation.
* The life of art
* Make good art
* Ask yourself

Edit: (11-Apr-2014) I just came across a very interesting article on a similar topic - How Not To Make A Graphic Novel.
Tags: comics, drawing

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