SPREY Log #19

With the first half of my mentorship with concept artist Nik Hagialas over and having started to attend Dorian Iten’s The Shading Course as a supplement, I have new insights to share whether mentorships and courses are worth it for us self-taught artists.

The short answer: yes.

The long answer: My mentorship turns out to be a great catalyst for personal and creative growth and moving towards a better art quality. I’d say the two biggest achievements of the mentorship so far are not even teaching me more routine in the design process or doing homework.

Firstly, the mentorship showed me where I really stand, what my current and true skill level is. You could say I crashed and burned in week 2 with studies, that went over my head in complexity and art fundamental knowledge, but I didn’t take damage from this at all. On the contrary. Now I know where I am and what is still missing. That’s also where the Shading Course comes in. I can’t work around missing knowledge in the field of light and shading. And as there’s no time to learn all of this in the mentorship itself, I went out there and was lucky to find Mr Iten’s course. Would recommend to everyone, as it starts at zero knowledge or a completely intuitive person like me. I don’t know how, but I survived on pure intuition on this point. I have tried to read Scott Robertson’s “How to Render” in the past, but it feels like reading a telephone book. I’m asleep after two pages. I recognize there is a lot to be learned from Robertson, but I can’t do it with closed eyes.

As for the second, even bigger benefit of the mentorship, I don’t know how Nik saw it, but he somehow knew a lot of my problems stem from a lack of confidence. And he did not “fix” me or anything, he just gave me a push into the right direction. One of the weirder homeworks was to post on Instagram both in story and the timeline. I don’t see myself as a very beautiful or interesting person, but I complied. And after a couple times of showing my face, I started taking an interest in videocalls, now I will make a videocall whenever I can, with a proper webcam. And I started streaming again just yesterday, now with showing my face and talking to the audience. I am surprised with how many conversations with great people I’m having lately. And I feel well integrated into many groups and some friend circles. Nik did not fix this. I am almost becoming someone else from within myself, much more outgoing and probably better balanced. I also started working on my looks in a modest way. Now that I see myself too all the time I am better motivated to see a more polished version of myself. A lack of confidence is a silent killer. My Manul Zine that I am about to finish right now had a delay of more than six months…and I couldn’t explain why, I just couldn’t finish it. I was just lacking confidence. I wasn’t confident enough to pull that off or believe in it, when the Manul illustrations really are one of my most successful projects. Just so you wait until my mentorship and the Shading Course is over, SPREY should sweat nervously already. I feel like I’m better equipped for it right now already, and in a couple of weeks that will be even better. On the other hand I don’t know whether I will return to SPREY as is or rather tackle something more downscaled.

See you next blog post!

SPREY Log#07 – Plans for the future

This week saw rather inner growth than visible artistic output, but I’m almost sure, it’s legacy will show in future art. A rare occasion of health problems knocked me out for three days while I lost the others to coping with a steep increase in anxiety. Apparently, The War of Art is affecting me more than movies like Event Horizon, and that one affected me. On the other hand there would be no resistance if there wasn’t some great potential for growth for me in it, right? Something I can’t even completely understand from my current perspective, otherwise it wouldn’t scare me.

I stunned myself writing about the mere concept of “things I should have drawn years ago” last time. I nervously avoided thinking about what that would be for me. Thinking about taking action felt even worse. So after all, does it turn out I’m still avoiding the main thing? My actual, real authentic work that is meant to be created? How can this be? I’m making SPREY and that one fights a lot against me already. I wondered whether I got too comfortable and too slow with it. I wondered whether the scope of the thing is just too big for me. But then I remembered myself that looking for flaws will always be successful, because all and everything is flawed, while working on the thing or improving the quality of said thing actually takes effort. I will not give in to any drift away from SPREY. No matter what happens, I have to keep learning with that comic. It will never realize it’s full potential if I don’t go that road until the end. SPREY lead to a myriad of improvements in my art and artistic process already and is hopefully entering a new era soon where things start to become a little bit more consistent.

Growing as an artist is as uncomfortable as something can get. I thought about my recent improvements in understanding of light and color. It would be a nightmare to try to teach that. I would sound like I was rambling about the soul of a piece while I’m actually talking about a complex interconnected system of art fundamentals that will never work out for you if you don’t put in the mileage and personalize it to you. And then you must do this in tandem with reminding yourself of the theory and the works of people you look up to again and again and again, because you will forget a lot. This naked truth of how things go and it doesn’t sound too enticing. I think it’s actually comparable to creating a comic, writing a novel or other projects. Prepare to write and draw several drafts if necessary. I can see why resistance would tell you nah we’re good, don’t attempt to climb that mountain. Especially if there isn’t any guaranteed reward. And there isn’t.

If I wasn’t working on it already, SPREY would definitely be on my “things I should have drawn years ago” list. I am not on the quality level I want to be with it, but at the same time my idea and understanding of that desired quality level is shifting. And no, it doesn’t go up. When I started I wasn’t even sure whether SPREY should be a webcomic, a print comic kept in bookpages or a pseudo interactive light novel. It showed. Chapter 1 is so raw it’s actually awesome again, chapter 2 showed me my limits and actually broke through them, making chapter 3 possible. Chapter 3, again, is an uncomfortable hybrid that has left behind interactivity, but isn’t fully in a webscroll format because it has too many panels in the same row for that, while it doesn’t fully break out into a “proper” printable page size either. What will prevail for the future? I was surprised how simple that was to answer. Apparently big singular panels that are too close to me make me anxious. I don’t want to be that close. Hello printable book as my future standard format then, not only for comics. It would be nice to know my works are kept in a timeless shareable format. The Instagram square is nice and all, but harder to translate away from social media if Instagram once dies for art like it did. Books and zines don’t die like this. And no, I will not rail against their digital counterparts, those are awesome, too. So, books, ebooks, videogames it is.

100 Days of SPREY – 51-54

It went so quick- everything! I died and was reborn on digital canvas over the past days. I discovered that I can live and work at my own pace. Like with all things like these – it sounds obvious but is actually hard to live by.

My next blog entry is about why the new comic script for the next chapter of SPREY broke me and why it lead to what you see below.

Enjoy!

100 Days of SPREY – 31-37

The past days were very tumultuous. I am very exhausted, just like before my winter break, but restless at the same time. My comic work keeps coming. It is not very fun to create at the moment, but I’m doing my best. And my friends tell me they see an improvement in my art, which is great!

I’m a bit sad I cannot express myself that well today. There would be many little things that pile up from day to day work. Exploring the aesthetics of a great old game, reading a good book, having a little insight on a topic while drawing. These small things are what leads to bigger developments “suddenly” taking place later like a new, overall higher level in the quality of one’s art. But the only thing you can do in times like these is trying to keep up and look forward. If ideas that you didn’t write down get lost after a couple of days, they probably weren’t that great.

sidenote: I originally wanted one of my slashers in scene 2 of Street Prey to carry this weapon but realized kusarigama would not be exactly the most practical weapon for a narrow alley where you can’t swing the chain well.
above: an express page of boots when I designed my first two slashers yesterday night against all odds, paying special attention to the boots to present them in detail shots.

Suddenly I find myself interested in values again. I used to despise them as color’s boring and humorless cousin. Scott Robertson’s “How to Render” bored me to tears as well as value exercises tend to do. But now I like to think of values as means to structure my picture. They do not have to be “right” as in realistic, as long as they add to the readability of my shot or deliberately take away from it to evoke a feeling in the viewer.

100 Days – 85

Working on the comic is in full swing. I knew I would need more time than usual for my comic work. In fact, I will probably need a couple of hours per panel for the first days, as my digital process for the comic isn‘t settled in yet and even some design questions for the scene are still up in the air. But I will sort things out and it will get smoother again.

You might not actually see it in the final piece, but I really had to work hard for the chapter cover that I uploaded today. From here on my comic takes place in urban environments at night, with few cyberpunk elements to spice things up. Although I did my best to research this setting over the past days, the competence doesn‘t show up on the canvas yet. It has to be persuaded with more effort and studies. I‘m not really good at environments, and that is okay, as everyone has strengths and weaknesses. But I still have to do the best I can, as a comic has to clearly tell you what is happening where in order to work. I need to get at least passable with environments. Ignoring them entirely out of disinterest was a big mistake. They can add so much to a piece, even if the focus is not the environment itself, but a character.

Other than that I‘m slightly worried about my perspective and lighting game. Those are not strong and that is a big problem. They‘re fundamentals after all. Bad perspective = confusion what is where and not being able to draw what you would want to draw at all. Bad lighting = you have no control over the mood of what you are seeing. A BIG problem for a comic! Oh yeah, and objects seem flat, shapes destroyed or misleading or the light just looks wrong when you expect realism, but the mood! Mood! Mood is everything! You do not entertain or win hearts when you cannot tap into the readers‘ emotions at all. I will try to come up with an emergency training program for the next weeks. I want the best comic experience for my readers and I want to present my story the best way I can, so I‘m better getting active and working on fixing that.