On Color

I thought it was time to talk about something that is so important to me that I even carry it in my name. Let’s talk about colors today and my difficult relationship with them.

What happened?

When you have a drive to draw as a beginner, you don’t question it. You just follow your intuition. That’s what I did as a child and throughout my teens. Sometimes I achieved astounding results this way. I wouldn’t have been able to tell you what I had done or to replicate it but some of my early pieces had no business of being as good as they were for the circumstances. I had no control though, so sometimes, on days where my intuition just didn’t work, I couldn’t achieve anything. But looking at my good pieces I had an expectation to be at least that good all the time. I was mercifully unaware what the Dunning Kruger effect is and that it all probably wasn’t that good in the first place because I didn’t know enough to properly judge it. But it was nothing short of perfect in my own head. I was very surprised when other people didn’t see it that way and so I desperately tried to get better so that I would get the recognition I deserved. I iterate – I was a teen thinking and behaving like a teen. And what always came back, again and again, was people complimenting me for my colors, so I thought that was the thing I was best at.

My earlier art training

From what I know about art and training art today I then took a very very difficult path from there and throughout my twens. And I’m not talking about something like training in an inefficient way or not working through the best courses. It is true that I never had or could find a mentor when it probably would have mattered. Time could have been saved, but ultimately it doesn’t matter. One way or the other you get to a point where you know enough to be your own mentor.

My big problem was that I destroyed myself with the rebuilding taking over a decade. I’m talking about a metaphorical destruction. If you take a “talented” young person and teach them how wrong they are and how art actually works, you have a good chance of “destroying” their old confident art self. It is a necessary destruction as alas, the art fundamentals do not care, they just are and they are not tolerant of quirks that hinder their execution. On an ideal learning path the person then struggles for 2-3 maybe 4 years to get all the fundies in and then is free to return to their own self in the process maybe even throwing some of the fundamentals out of the window again. I needed roughly a decade, maybe more, because I couldn’t just train 4 years in peace, didn’t immediately know how to train and why and wasn’t exactly uninterrupted. And now imagine the agony of that time. You are robbed of your confidence. Now that you don’t trust your intuition anymore, nothing works when you draw for yourself, the amount of things you don’t know to use but have to train is overwhelming and the practise pieces do not look good either. You work hard and have nothing to show for it. If you expected results fast, you are very disappointed. And then of course, you will have other things in life that require that you tend to them, too. A day job. There are far too many opportunities for distraction. It is understandable that many quit, try to be sensible or just don’t want to suffer so much. Can an art school bring you through that time better? Maybe. It depends on what your art goals are and what courses and teachers you get. Nothing is ever guaranteed. I can’t complain about the self-teaching experience once I learned how to learn and train and that execution and practise will trump pure theory anytime.

So now I am competent enough, have enough control that I can predict what I will do and how to get to a certain outcome in art or how to research and practise to do that. The learning and developing will never stop, but I’m good enough to solve most problems thrown at me to take money for it, which my clients agree on. Now it is time for me to return to my natural state, too. I have avoided dealing with colors on a deeper level so far for the fear of pain, even more pain than with all the other things. Color is emotion and strong emotions still scare me. I already told you how I had to sometimes turn emotion completely off to get through university and lawyer training. No wonder I couldn’t just go home and create awesome emotional and colorful art in the evenings. I could have done a lot of things better back then, even law could have been easier, but that is just the wisdom of hindsight. I’m glad I came through and didn’t give up on art or myself. It is almost a miracle, but I never questioned that I should do art, that I should tell stories and that that’s what I’m here for. I sometimes just would have wished it was something more respectable or a less adventurous and insecure thing and I’m not sure whether these are my own doubts or just doubts instilled by society and education.

How I will train color now

I have watched color theory videos before. Apparently you can learn anything there is to know about the theoretical use of color in under an hour. Then you know how to construct your color schemes. Add some knowledge about how light behaves and the psychological color meaning chart of your choice and you should be good. Well, then you ought to experiment for years until you actually can make use of all of this intuitively. That’s a grim prospect. It rings true though. You don’t fall from the sky with intuition AND control AND a personal style that you cultivated over years. 2021 is a year in which I look into things I have avoided for a long time and finally bring them to an end. Usually, even if I encounter strong pain or shame, it is never as bad or lethal as my brain imagined it to be. My pride has received a couple of lethal wounds already, but even my pride and ego didn’t die from it. I am surprised how I suddenly can admit to myself how I feel and how I felt. It is ironic that I called myself Styxcolor when color is the one problematic fundie that I needlessly feared most for a long time. Maybe I also thought going back to color was the big treat at the end of the road, finally allowed to be myself again, without even understanding the implications of this.

So this time around when dealing with color I have a chance to do everything better. Let’s see how it goes. I’ll keep you updated on things once a first ruleset has crystalized out of unrelated ideas and requirements and problems found while doing work. I will deliberately not create a training regiment, as I actually do not have time for extra training right now that does not serve projects, but I can train while problemsolving within projects. That’s a big change and I wonder whether it will help me. I kind of “graduated” from just drawing practise pieces without a context. You never graduate from training itself, but I guess you don’t train to high jump if you actually compete in sprint next week.

Announcement – 100 Days of STREET PREY

edit: I have just decided to change the working title of my webcomic from just “PREY” to “STREET PREY” to distance it better from the awesome videogame series it has nothing to do with. The new nickname of the project is SPREY, a word that apparently doesn’t exist. Well, now it does.

I have an announcement to make! I will embark on a new 100 days challenge tomorrow! One of my favorite options was simply adding another 100 days of making comics on top of the previous ones. If something seems to work, why change it? But then I found a way to slightly pivot this into a more personal direction. Fellow artists Grant Roberts (his IG: grantrobertsart) suggested I could focus on my webcomic. First I was surprised…how to focus more on it? I was doing SPREY since weeks already!

But then it dawned upon me – was I really doing everything I could do in my power? No! Not in the slightest! Other friends keep calling me out on that, too, (and I‘m endlessly grateful for it, thank you all), but what kept me from acting differently in the past was that I simply didn‘t have more time and energy that I could invest into SPREY. I already did what I could.

And why was that?

SPREY had to share my attention with other projects such as the Manul Project and constant worries and confusion about where to go, what to do, what to commit to as a creator. The confusion was so bad that I was barely moving forward at times. I must have been quite unfocussed in the past and sneakily changed during the 100 days challenge. Working on SPREY daily has become my nature enough that I find it harder and harder to divert myself into working on more than a maximum of one thing on the side per day. I must have done that in the past a lot! A lot of hopping all over the place. And then being unhappy that I wasn‘t getting exceptionally good at anything or even…finishing things. And now I couldn‘t imagine being like that. I will admit, I still feel the echo of it though, whenever I turn another opportunity or new challenge down. I cannot do everything that sparks my curiosity for SPREY‘s sake. I feel, with this project I finally have the chance to go my personal path and I should not risk losing it again.

RULES

The 100 Days of SPREY is my very personal continuation of the original 100 days of making comics challenge and not connected to the challenge or it‘s official rules anymore.

But in order for it to be a challenge or a similar vehicle for transformation over time like the original 100 days, it must have rules.

1. I will continue updating SPREY daily, one panel at a time.

One panel a day seems like a working formula that I should not disturb.

2. I will blogpost at least once a week about it, Sundays, with a filled out report card.

While I love to blog and hold myself accountable over it, I might not have exciting things to say every day. So I will not blog and ramble just for blogging‘s sake. I also feel that sharing my daily panel is not that newsworthy anymore after it‘s working since more than two months now. My daily warm-ups are even less interesting unless I make a big technical discovery. They happen like a force of nature.

I have created a report card for the challenge using my experience from the first 100 days, where I can tick off the daily comic panel and other tasks related to my journey every day. You will meet it for the first time this Sunday and I will also share a blank with you so you can use the report card for your own projects if you like it.

3. Sunday itself is a compulsory rest day where the only art related work allowed is a single panel update on the SPREY comic.

This might sound like a stupid rule to you, but makes a lot of sense for me. I am a workaholic and no, that is not a cute quirk, that leads to long term problems, if left untreated. My sleep problems of recent might be a result of working seven days a week and never resting, not a bit. It is very important to relax and practise relaxation. You need breaks and that is not only for having new ideas when you allow yourself to disengange with work. I want to create all my life, so I need to stay as healthy and balanced as I can. In my opinion, a rest day like this is a great idea for a start.

4. The first phase of my challenge is to continue narrowing my focus on SPREY – „breathing out“ (approx. 30 days)

I will finish still running unrelated projects such as the Manul Project and not start or continue things on the side. Only exceptions are continuing the work and support on „Your Land“ and my freelance gigs. I hope to take no longer than a month (30 days) for this phase.

5. The second phase of my challenge is to actively grow SPREY – „breathing in“

I have a wishlist of things to try, look at, build and develop here, but this comes into play once I have created the room for it after working through phase 1.

See you tomorrow!