Restructuring VI – Just Draw

Have you ever heard about the famous „Just draw“ advice? If things are troubling you in art, you don‘t know where to start building your skill or how to get to where you want to be…well, the two words are always there for you. „Just draw“.

I am someone who took „Just draw“ literally for many years. It keeps you productive, I can‘t complain about that. But frantically doing something and hoping something good will come of it is not a strategy.

In my opinion there comes a point where „Just Draw“ alone doesn‘t carry you anymore. As I keep stating in this blog, a beginner can start anywhere with anything and will be equally successfully average until they have built themselves up to understand what is happening and how to make things happen. That is the realm of „Just Draw“. Get the mileage you need until the muscle memory, visual library and knowledge of the craft have caught up to you. And each time you start learning a field such as anatomy in depth you are back at the beginning, first of all busy getting that mileage.

But then, there is a trap. You may miss the point when you should tackle different challenges than just bring yourself to draw daily. When you are even competent enough to grasp a field, subject or technique fast enough to become at least average quickly. Then you could be everything but aren‘t anything, if you don‘t focus on one thing in order to become proficient enough to be SOMETHING. If you miss that point, you will feel like you are doing everything right but still don‘t get anywhere with it.

What is the remedy? Setting goals and working towards them. Putting something on your to do list is not enough, that is only saying something. You have to do it, even if it is 10 minutes a day. 10 minutes a day compounds over time. That might even help you making your studies more effective. You can adjust studies and explorations towards your goal(s) as well, and that will compound over time, too.

That‘s exactly what I‘m doing with the 100 days of SPREY now. Just doing …something…every day that roughly counts as comicmaking doesn‘t cut it anymore. And we might see more successful attempts to narrow the focus in the future. 100 days ago I would have set truly focussing on one thing is not my strength. But so far I keep going. Even if it is not there from the beginning, it is something that can be learned. You can do it, too. And if you lost your trust in yourself, you can regain it, too.

So far the 100 days of making comics seems like the ultimate „Just Draw“, challenge. And for me, it has been worth it. I‘m grateful I went this path and I‘m excited about what comes next during the 100 days of making Street Prey.

This is the final entry of the restructuring blog post series after the first 100 days of making comics. Now that challenge is truly a thing of the past.

Restructuring V – Mikiko and Resistance

And with this only one further restructuring blog post is left. For me a dream comes true to give the past first round of 100 days of making comics this bit of extra space and deliberation in the six part restructuring blogpost series. Thanks for sticking with me and see you next time!

Restructuring IV – The Failed Meta Comic

The 100 days of SPREY (Street Prey) have started already, but the restructuring blog series isn‘t over yet. In fact, finishing this series of blog posts on my thoughts and new knowledge from the 100 days challenge is part of phase 1 of the new challenge. Making room for new things also implies not only finishing old things but also properly reflect on them.

Today it‘s time to look at the failures in my comicmaking challenge. Two big things strike me immediately. The first one was tackling a much too ambitious comic, Corvus, first.

Wishes, will and skill just didn‘t align at all and I was so inexperienced that I had no chance to see that. Unfortunately I did not learn much from working on Corvus that way, as I never actually got into drawing the comic. The blog comics and having to deal with SPREY daily took over that part. But indirectly, being able to dissect it in retrospect, I can see where the problems were and in some areas still are. My desired environments for this comic are crazily complex! This is something a more skilled future me can attack.

My second big blunder is creating thumbnails for a full chapter of a metacomic. This thing will never actually make it outside of my blog or see full production. Why is that so? That meta comic chapter is the epitome of a bad idea!

It‘s about exploring a meta level of narration somewhere between fiction and reality, where my creation gets a chance to talk to me. It contains some good ideas that worked well woven into other blog entries of mine. But it would be a terrible, self-indulgent comic to read for anyone else!

A reader that is not me has no chance to understand that chapter if they don‘t know my blog and the characters in it. And even then I haven‘t ever introduced all the characters properly. So that thing was a good learning experience as it helped me to create something, maybe even to process some thoughts myself, but a thing like this has no business being out there published.

When in hindsight all the meta comics, not only the thumbnailed chapter, seem like a bad idea, why did I do it in the first place? I think I honestly didn‘t know it better – if you start out with something, you can literally start anywhere and with anything, you will not know what it‘s worth on any metric like monetary or progress at your craft. Another factor was that I was under a lot of pressure and for most of the time had not find my calling with SPREY yet. I had to deliver things daily and on some days Mikiko and making meta comics out of my thoughts probably saved me from dropping the ball. It is impossible to not make mistakes. I do not regret them. Thumbnailing that chapter was another sign that showed me I could finish something. I felt horrible about it, but I grew from the experience.

And I guess this is a great lesson in itself. You don‘t have to publish everything you make. Sometimes you will need 3-4 attempts to get one piece right (or many more! Open end!). I have this with my daily panels sometimes, and you only get to see the winner who made it online that day. And in other cases that means to abandon a project before a stage where you could think about publishing it. While you have to make mistakes, you don‘t have to make obvious mistakes you see and identify as mistakes like a rising sun on the horizon already. What you put out there to the public must be more than a self-indulgent artistic piece. It can even be self-indulgent if it must, but it must give the audience something more than just that in exchange for their time and attention. My metacomics have their place on my blog, but you will most likely never see a direct representation of them outside of it – and that is okay.

100 Days – FINALE

Above: to the left – original first post-it for the challenge, drawn in colored pencil. To the right – redraw done today with same medium reflecting the current state of creator and blog comic team of fictitious characters.

It is done! Today is day 100 of my 100 days of making comics.

Unfortunately I haven‘t gained superpowers or completed a whole graphic novel. Even worse, some of my problems as a comic creator persist while other new problems joined.

But on the other hand there is this:

1. I have stopped doubting whether I CAN make comics at all. Yes, I can do that.

2. I failed at what I originally set out to do. Of course I did. But I was lucky enough to understand the reasons for it after spending weeks on other, smaller projects. So I learned a lot out of it.

3. I have learned how to „start small“ by doing a series of „Mikiko“ shortcomics in this very blog, focussing on the adventures and comments of my virtual assistant Mikiko.

4. I have started an interactive webcomic with a story that means a lot to me. I am more than a chapter in by now – so it‘s past the first bump already.

5. I have a much more grounded, realistic view of my actual skills and means and what to work on. Constantly working on one long term project like a webcomic is A LOT already.

6. I met a lot of great people on the road and appreciate those that were with me already, looking at them through new eyes. Although I can behave quite reclusive, I have learned that even I am not an island. We are connected and help each other and influence each other all the time. Thank you, everyone, and a special thanks to my husband, whose patience had no end.

edit: 7. Editing is important.

Above: I’m currently doing my best to improve my environment drawing skills. I usually fill in a row of 5 thumbnails a day with studies. The first reevaluation is at 200.

Accountability

The blogposts instead of videos worked out fine for me as means to keep myself accountable. They were especially effective in the beginning. Having to make a blog post about the day later might have saved one or two days. In the last days of the challenge I combined a couple of days into one single entry. The daily work got done either way by then. I will most likely not stop the webcomic anytime soon.

And what is next?

I will continue working on my comic with the same schedule as now (at least one panel a day), but other than support my husband with his „Your Land“ videogame as much as I can. It soon will be ready to publish! I hope I have built enough endurance during these 100 days to keep my humor and get things done, no matter what.

Will I ever do this or a similar 100 day challenge again?

Actually yes! If it was not for constraints such as time and other responsibilities, I‘d simply add 100 more days of making comics right away. But it‘s part of the artist‘s toolkit to know when you better take breaks, even if you don‘t feel like it at the first moment. I have some other things to build and maintain right now. I‘ll be back in time with new announcements. It depends on how the game launch will go, honestly. If there is a lot of bugfixing and changes to do within the next weeks that might be my project for the rest of the year.

For now, thanks to all of you. Your company has made my journey even more worthwhile and I hope my documented stumbling through 100 days has given you something, too. See you back on the road soon!

Above: what better way to end this than with an interactive choice in the comic? Quick, go to the respective discords I’m sharing that post with vote buttons or to instagram and cast your vote until tomorrow(23.11.2020). For more context – you can read the whole comic on this website. Check out “PREY”.

100 Days – 99

Only one day to go! I can‘t believe it.

Panel of the day is done and I already am working on the next two. Today I was reminded again about how important it is to make practical choices. Sundays and sometimes even Mondays are notoriously my worst days when it comes to drawing time and vigor. You rarely see it, because I tend to work around them, but I have to be alert and I can make my life easier or harder depending on decisions I make througout the week. Ideally, I get tomorrow‘s panel done today and finish Monday‘s panel tomorrow latest…and have it a panel that doesn‘t require too much work, so ideally no new environment or other big change. But let‘s see how that works out. I would hate to disturb the flow of the scene, OF COURSE a new decision panel is around the corner with a truly unpredictable result, so I can‘t really plan that one ahead. It couldn‘t be any other way, right? But maybe, on the other hand, that would be a great way to celebrate the end of the 100 days of making comics.

On the technical side, today‘s panel painfully reminded me of the rule „Don‘t have shadows in light areas that are as dark as shadows in dark areas“. Plus subsurface scattering. That arm shadow was a great teacher. If it still looks off, it looked much worse before, haha.