(New)SPREY Log #1 – Foundations

It’s time to continue documenting my journey! But before I switch over to discussions of my webcomic and diving into artistic detail problems, I want to take this entry aside and examine the foundations on which I work as an artist. Maybe more of this will follow in the future, but my most important goal stays, working through Street Prey and finishing it.

Okay, so I’m trying to get myself together and off the ground to a new level of quality for my creative work. That’s what I always do. Lately, I felt stuck although I’m rapidly moving forward. I haven’t slacked a day, on some days I just didn’t have the quantity or quality of output that I would have liked. And that is okay.

What is important though was the realization how my expectations are not the same as the reality of what is actually happening. Sometimes an expectation I have in my head and reality just don’t match up ever. There is nothing wrong with striving for the best, the highest ideals, but you must be aware and accepting of where this leaves the realm of reality. Would you want to live by and be measured by a mere fantasy that lives completely outside of what you can actually do and outside of what actually happens in reality? You would always be disappointed.

Fact is, I’m perfectly average and on time with my life, I’m just not fully in control of it yet, as I’m not fully in control of the wild beast yet that is my creativity. Having learned to appreciate what I do have while being patient with figuring out how to bridge the gap helps a lot. What if the secret is the following: Instead of trying to match an ideal state that I can imagine and fantasize about – and never having seen or experienced it, so there is no proof it exists- I can rather look at my personal reality. What is there every day on paper and digital canvas before me? What is good about it already? How can I make it even better?

I’m starting to think my day to day work is everything I will ever see. That will be the stuff that creates everything I want to create, the thing that either makes a fruitful creative career possible or not. No periods of extraordinary almost mystical work. Why did it take some time to get here? The day to day work of most artists is quite mundane. You don’t finish up a big illustration every day. You don’t finish up fancy designs every day. Some days you’re just grinding away trying to solve a problem or worse, count the day as success when you have done the bare minimum to stay fit.

I have tried to force ideal schedules and drawing processes onto myself before. Usually, it does not work. By now I believe the biggest problem with those is that other people made them. Other people with different life and creative experiences, different circumstances, different personalities and usually different preferences, too. Also, when you yourself are inexperienced, you cannot live up to the regular schedule of someone who is ten or more years ahead of you. You are exhausted faster than you are even through enough that would make that daily schedule functional. Same goes for “art styles”. You cannot force it. But of course you can listen to others and see what you can learn from them for yourself. You just cannot hope to just copy them and make no decisions by yourself ever.

I don’t have to have everything figured out in an instant. It’s only about keeping your long-term goals in mind and knowing what the very next step to get there is. I can finally allow myself to relax and just enjoy the journey.

100 Days of SPREY – Days 01, 02

Above: recent panel from my webcomic Street Prey, great as illustration for the rather abstract themes of the following blogpost.

This was not the beginning of the challenge that I expected! Absolutely not! And it is another piece of evidence why your daily form does not matter in the long run.

I slept the whole first day and had five hours to compress the whole day into, then the following night I did not sleep at all and had more hours and freedoms than nature would let me have if I had slept. So I worked through two extremes following one after another and it barely made a difference for my comic or other projects. Everything hit it‘s daily goal. What is my secret?

I have a simple schedule.

I do not have my best self on my best days in mind when I plan my work. Most of my days tend to be average in mood, productivity and external factors that could keep me from drawing. I still plan with my worst days in mind, so that even me at my worst can complete the most important goal of the day. That is working on and releasing at least one panel of my webcomic every day. So if all goes wrong, I am still moving forward. If I have more time, energy and other ressources to spend the day in question I will of course invest in other projects of mine, but never more than 2 or in dire times like right now 3 at the same time. I am already looking forward to putting most of my energy into SPREY instead, maybe just to see how that is. We‘ll get there.

Also, some tasks never get less tedious, boring or annoying. An example – for whatever reason I can‘t stand working on zines, but I never regret it when I finish one and I always do my best to create them with love and care. It can just be very tedious to compile and edit the art and create additional text pages such as the imprint and so on. But it‘s part of creating a zine, too, so I can‘t have only the sugary sweet fruit parts like making the actual art for it and dismiss all other parts of the plant that made it possible to get to the fruit. What makes daily sessions on something you dislike bearable is never doing too much of it in my opinion. Better come again for hundred days and do a little bit every day than using your willpower and then throwing the thing after 14 days because you are fed up or bored beyond any limit without any visible result.

I would do you a disservice if I didn‘t mention one other unsung ingredient to beating resistance and creating your thing: experience. I talk of experience as the sum of things that you did, didn‘t and that happened to you on your journey through life. As an artist I probably have made so many mistakes already throughout the years that some of the simpler to fix mistakes just don‘t occur that often anymore

So: one bad day won‘t throw you off a cliff, one great day won‘t make you grow wings so that you never have to do tedious tasks again. A positive tendency over time is a great result. Think long term and build yourself up, one step at a time. A journey is a sequence of steps. How many steps are you willing to go? And steps back or off the road are also just little steps. It is surprising what effects our small daily decisions can have.

Good luck creating and see you next time!