SPREY Log #10 – Rebuild Rewire

You should have seen me! I told you I would read on and practise my writing. I breezed through the pages like a tornado, stopping only to think about what I had just read, what I had just written, what it meant and what I still don’t see. I feel like a new human. A new creator. I can basically go back and read all books I have ever read before again, this time checking for theme(s), implications and other invisible armatures.

My prediction about my old writing turned out to be true, too. Most of it does not pass a simple theme test, few characters don’t even pass a transformation test when they are meant to go through their personal hell and transform into a better version of themselves. The more I wrote and looked into things, the more I destroyed, as I unveiled the flawed concepts for what they were. And the most miraculous thing about it was that it didn’t even make me sad or upset. I was just thinking good that I realized it now and not even later. I owe it to my creations that I make them the best I can. I will still create them flawed, because I’m human and I have limitations, but maybe it’s not going to be as flawed as before and much more interesting to experience as a viewer and reader. Also, I’m sure I will find ways to use and reuse a lot of my old material or parts of it. So it’s not lost, it’s transforming.

SPREY is only moderately broken. It just lacks a theme so far. I’m almost sure I will rather cut things from it that were interesting but are not compatible under one theme than having to come up with new things.

I was relieved and amused to find that my main characters have pretty standard arcs. Relieved because it can’t be too hard to craft them well when they are so well known and rich with examples. Rich can’t let go off the past and thereby endangers his present and future. Also, he is not a team player and guess what he has to do to survive. Willard has a typical “an honest cop” arc where he seemingly has nothing but disadvantages first for sticking to his principles and then finds himself on the criminal side. The last thing he would want to do.

But before I talk too much about it, a character arc makes no theme. That one is still missing, but I’m working on it!

See you next blog post!

SPREY goes into Repair Clinic!

(SPREY Log #08)

Dear readers!

I might have mentioned it already, I had to divert much of last week to my health and other art unrelated things. Now that I’m easing in into my work again I come back with fresh eyes, like after a long needed break. And I see things that seem obvious now but absolutely haven’t been before, because I was too close to them!

SPREY needs an emergency reconstruction hiatus starting immediately. It is so ironic! Making this comic has taught me so much about comicmaking that it’s impossible to continue working on it like I was working on it so far. SPREY 1st draft offed itself because it was actually successful. It was successful in teaching me the basics. And I first had to understand that I need to take this hard step and that I must change and keep changing.

This does not mean SPREY is over though. SPREY does not go to the backburner, not for a single minute. I am working on it like before, you will just not see new pages for a while, which might look like inactivity from the outside.

Here’s what’s happening in that time:

Today(16.August 2021) – 16. December 2021

  • Writing a new, proper and complete script for SPREY
  • The set and definitive format is a printed comic
  • I cannot tell whether everything fits neatly into one volume yet, but I don’t want to go beyond a maximum of two to three.
  • I will still later upload the finished pages on my website and possibly other webcomic sharing pages
  • The lore DOES NOT CHANGE. What you read in the webcomic so far stays in and is canon, it will just receive a visual upgrade and might just have some more context added or have it’s place in the narration changed depending on what the new script says.

1. January 2022 – 1. August 2022

  • Making a dummy. I will draw the whole comic in thumbnail form, all the pages from start to finish, doctoring on visual storytelling and pacing, color keys unless I decide to leave the comic black and white (I prefer finishing it during my lifetime) and whatever else comes up.

2. August 2022 – 16. December 2022

  • making the final designs for all characters, environments, props etc. in the comic,
  • if necessary figuring out a style bible

And then?

The next phase is drawing the final pages and I honestly can’t make any prediction at all how long that will take, as I haven’t drawn like this before. But my guess is you will read all and any edits to this plan in this blog as soon as they fall.

Why are the announced times so ridiculously long?

I read if you are inexperienced with something, it will take you four times longer than you think it will take. Now look at my numbers again and see what I hoped it would take. For some things I do have actual evidence from my own experience working on SPREY so far. For example, I wasn’t able to just draw my way into a consistent visual style or actually finish designing any character looks or environment on the fly between drawing pages, that doesn’t seem to work (at least right now).

Of course I do not intend to work as inefficiently as possible, but I will probably only know what is efficient and what isn’t afterwards. Also, there is more stuff than SPREY going on in my life, I have accounted for that in the numbers, too.

If there are changes to the schedule(and there will always be changes) for example if I finish a thing a month faster or need an additional month, I will update you about it on my blog.

Last words

Finally, this blog will not shut up. Far from it. I might provide you with regular reports on how things are going, possibly also tossing in some sketches from time to time. I stopped being scared, now my projects should be scared of me.

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.

SPREY Log #06 – You Vs You

I had a blast last week, this week is more of a pain. What’s the difference? I took an extended weekend off and therefore lost all momentum. Now I’m fighting strong resistance to spend another lazy day every morning. It happens to all of us. Sometimes that voice is louder, sometimes you’re faster at your desk working before the thing even had it’s morning coffee and could try to dissuade you from starting. That is a great place to be in, a great amount of momentum. Obviously I can’t get back to me from last week but I can get my momentum back through doing the work. Also nobody is above breaks, we need them to process things or take care of matters that do not revolve around the craft.

The War of Art

I’m rereading Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art right now and probably heavily influenced by it right now. Just by quantity it must be my favorite book. I’m reading it the third or fourth time now and I’m amazed how I still find new things that are relevant to me right now and weren’t before or how I could forget so many important points since the last reading. It teaches you the mindset how you actually get to write the book of your dreams, paint what you know you should have been painting years ago and so on. It can’t do the work for you though, that’s on you. What The War of Art can do really well is remind you that you are your worst enemy if you let your inner resistance get the better of you. Resistance almost becomes a mystical villain entity in the description of it’s nature and it’s ways, but maybe that is exactly the playful approach needed to cope with it. After all, if you are a creative, how do you like the prospect of lifelong anxiety and struggling and knowing it’s you that does that to yourself? And it will never go away. With discipline and experience you’ll just get better at distinguishing actual fatigue, actual important tasks that can’t wait from anything that broadly falls under comfortseeking and procrastination. Give The War of Art a chance, if you are interested in this cluster of topics. Steven Pressfield even gives a part of The War of Art away for free as a series of videos you receive when you subscribe to his newsletter.

Approval

And now I’m expanding on a nugget of wisdom from The War of Art that moves me a lot at the moment. Do not hope for things to become a success. Do not seek support or followers for support’s or followers’ sake. It is true that no one is waiting for your unproven creations with open arms, but you also do not need any approval by anyone to start making them. Seeking support and followers are open invitations for yourself to distract yourself instead of doing the work. This rings so true to me as it resonates with the experiences I’ve made over the years. I had my share of ambitiously trying to build a following on social media. To be fair, back then I had no clue what I was doing in general and how to get anywhere, so I’m excused. But other than that I never had success with anything of that sort. First I thought that was bad and that I maybe wasn’t born to be a successful independent artist if no one would ever validate me and no audience would ever show up. My opinion on this has been changing over the years though. I do have an audience. It is just not the stadium filling audience of a rock star. And it’s not in your hand whether someone likes your work, they do or they don’t. You can make everything right to please the highest amount of people in theory…and they might still be indifferent. Of course you can put effort into how you present your works and how you interact with other people, but you are not entitled to anything. Pressfield reminded me that the first task of the artist is not to garner a following or support before they even start creating, the task is to create the art. Not any art, but the art that the artist knows they truly want and should be creating if they are honest to themselves. While to some people this sounds obvious, it is usually the thing the artist is afraid of the most and has the strongest fears of getting hurt when it flops.

I have been also very confused in the past as I couldn’t give a simple statement about what type I am and how I would fit in into the art world. Trying to fit in probably is a waste of time, too, but you do want to have a direction you can work with. Therefore I was also confused what I am supposed to make. But as I like to say, mileage is the remedy. This time around good old mileage, the state and process of having drawn hundreds of pieces, hundreds of pages of it, is slowly giving me the answers I was craving.

I’m scared of concept art, therefore I should keep doing it

I was scrambling to become anything and of all things I became a concept artist. Funny enough, I’m apparently repeatedly telling my friends that I don’t think I have what it takes to be one, but I keep getting paid work in that field. I think what irks me about concept art is that it takes the design of things as one of the natural phases of creating art and declares that a finished thing. Other people give you briefs, tell you what you should do, and again, a group of other people, actually interpret your ideas and make the actual “assets” out of them and someone else got the last word of what makes it into the final product. I know a group of people can create bigger and more complex things than a solo creator, just because there are more man hours and more experts of various fields at work at the same time. But still, it feels unnatural to me to just generate ideas and not actually create, at least from the place of limited experience that I have right now. Maybe I will understand more after I have shipped a couple of games myself and worked on more projects. Also don’t get me wrong, concept design is an amazing and incredibly helpful field. My comic profits anytime I learn how to design things better. I guess my concept artist would take the work off my shoulders to have to design the costumes for the scenes, how the locations look like and what has to be there for it to look believable, what fixed light and color schemes I have for the scene, shot thumbnails and so on… but then I would draw the comic and people would just see that. Maybe I am making the same mistake, with a remnant of looking at things through the eyes of the audience, in awe about the vision that looks so consistent, focussing on the story told, not the nuts and bolts of what makes it work and how it does that.

Thinking about it, what if my past and current approach to SPREY is too complicated as it tries to follow the rules of a “professional” process usually undertaken by a team? Not trying to rationalize anything, just a thought. Maybe it is just a natural, flowing development. As I learn more about design, art fundamentals or anything, I’m eager to apply it to my work. Then things first blow out of proportion, take too long, frustrate me a lot, but once I’m used to it, I relax and things deflate again, now richer for a trick or two that I don’t have to look up every time when I want to use them and that keep influencing future work.

Back to defining myself though, I crave to release new zines. The Manul one and the Lickbook 2 one for example. It would feel so satisfying to have those finished and out. Not making the mistake to “hope” for a big breakthrough, it is for real about creating them, just as with SPREY. I’m happy if people enjoy them, but they don’t owe me.

SPREY Log #02 – Observations

It’s time to share some observations I have made on the journey recently.

1) Reading…helps.

First of all, having taken up reading as a daily task pays off and keeps paying off every day. You may wonder whether it is worth it sometimes. After all you might have to read a (nonfiction) book for four hours to get to what feels like ten minutes or less of bits that are relevant and actually have the power to change your way of thinking. But sometimes it’s more parts of the book that are like this and you never know beforehand.

2) Accepting Intuition

At the moment, I feel especially inspired by Jonathan Haidt’s “The Righteous Mind”. I’m far from finished having read the book, but even the first part had a huge impact on me already. Haidt claims – based on his own research – that we are actually rather driven by our intuitions and feelings in the first place and tend to rationalize afterwards why it was the right thing that we did or chose to feel and think.

In Haidt’s example, imagine yourself as a rider on an elephant. The elephant is subconscious and doesn’t give a damn about your rational opinions. The rider has some ideas where the elephant should go and what is right, but ultimately it’s up to the elephant what happens in actuality. And changing the elephant’s way or the elephant’s environment is hard. The rider can’t ride without the elephant, but without a rider the elephant has no direction, so there is power and merit in the rational rider as well.

Now there are people like me who tend to completely live in their head and constantly train their rational rider, believing he has somehow more impact on the elephant that way. He doesn’t. Example – I will still choose my colors intuitively and afterwards fabricate a lie why this color was the best choice by color psychology or for compositorial reasons. With more training my lies and justifications will get much better and my color choices possibly a much smaller bit, too.

I bet some people like me would absolutely rail against the idea that they are analytical as whatnot but still controlled by intuitions. I don’t. I don’t even view this as battle because I know what involuntary mood swings are, pain and desperation, envy, serenity and so many more emotions we humans tend to feel. No rational thinking can do away with that and that you will lose control sometimes. That is life. The elephant tends to win, and yet you can serve him and yourself well if you are a good rider that suggests him a great course throughout many small decisions, every day.

3) Immediate Reflections

But this also opens up a new questions and perspectives immediately. Are we artists secretly absolutely dominated by our own tastes outside of the realm of what we can rationally explain? There are still visual problems to solve that require knowledge of art fundamentals and that can be very technical and rational. But there will always be several ways to solve a problem and we will choose what our elephant likes most, whether we like our personal elephant or not.

I was complaining I had no identity from time to time. Nah, I’m fine. I’m quite average actually. I was just oblivious about the huge elephant I’m sitting on. It happens. Just turns out neither me nor the world are as complicated as I thought, they’re objectively complex still, but manageable.

My blog so far was oftentimes a rider wondering why some detail things aren’t working or wondering why they do work. I was missing the bigger picture.

4) Conclusions for Comic Work

And what does this all have to do with SPREY? Everything. If you change the person creating it, the comic will change. My prediction is that the story will not change much and also not in parts that you would know already, but the art style will either go through another shaky period or we will find ourselves in another Back to Black phase where heavy black ink will dominate the panels. I feel this is some part of the later Styx cycle where I always always return to that.

I had an interesting idea while browsing through a book on character design yesterday night. Instead of adding even more influences to my art I should reduce the influences I go by, at least for my current workflow. At no time in history could people access all the world’s styles, art instructions and process demonstrations as easily as it is today. Back then they had like…one teacher and were stuck with them and everything they were lucky enough to find on their journeys throughout their lives. Today’s situation on the other hand creates the opportunity for fantastic and bizarre mixtures of influences, but it can also lead to an information overload. How should you know what works best for you? How should you know you aren’t missing out on the best thing for you if you don’t keep digging? When is it time to settle and is settling bad? I’m happy and sad that I’m quite versatile. I can make a lot of things work pretty quickly. But the cost is I’m not particularly good at anything, not in a specialized manner. I have the suspicion that a 2D outline heavy comic and animation workflow could be my thing as I have trained that intensively since a while. Designing in that style is no problem either. But I would have to put more emotions into my lines and risk messing them up here and there for the sake of the raw emotion that must be slumbering somewhere in me.

The best thing is, I don’t have to change much about what I’m doing with SPREY already.

Let’s see where this is going!