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!

Restructuring I – Interactive choices and heroism

It is no surprise we are back at it again with a new blog post. First of all blogging is a solid daily habit by now. Also the brain doesn‘t stop grinding, just because you don‘t actively think about something for a change. I immediately had some more blog post ideas when putting my 100 days of making comics materials to the side. I guess I will have to go through all of them over the next weeks to reflect and to make sure I‘m understanding what actually happened and what didn‘t.

I have a really interesting topic for you today. Yesterday I posted a comic panel that offered a choice to make to the readers. The situation: Rich, the protagonist, has spotted three dangerous or at least unpredictable looking men he does not know. He can then decide to either look for a way around them or stay on the main road, standing his ground against them so to speak.

It is a simple situation. But that one must have struck something, as many readers left long comments why they chose which option. What also came up repeatedly was the philosophical trope of the illusion of safety. The readers were aware that potential danger could lurk on both paths down the line, even if Rich chose the ‚safer‘ way to circumvent the strangers. Most chose to send Rich towards the strangers.

And I was deeply fascinated with the vigor with which most of the readers sent him there. I myself would avoid the situation. I would take the ‚cowardly‘ choice and I take the freedom to assume that at least some of the readers who want Rich to stay his ground would act like me as well in the same situation. Then it struck me. It is not about just simulating our reality here. They want Rich to be a hero.

If I think about it, this is the first moment where Rich is in a shred of trouble. And should this really be the moment he completely falters already before even being actually attacked or opposed in any other way and leaves the scene to the back alleys? I can see why the readers would instinctively dislike that, while you could see it as a smart move. We seem attracted to people who display confidence, people who take risks and walk straight into trouble and towards the unknown. And then, another irony of the matter is, that cowards like us tend to survive those situations – and must have survived them since thousands of years – but then we tell stories about people like Rich to each other and hold this up as an ideal.

I am not criticizing my readers here, no, I want to thank them for sharing their instinct and collective wisdom and leading me down this train of thoughts. Only now do I begin to understand and really feel what a „hero“ as opposed to an everyday person actually is. Hero… That word gets thrown around a lot when talking about story structure and can at times seem like an empty hull or just synonym for main character. Your main character could be anyone. A hero is an idealized version of this anyone who displays or represents one or more higher values, much to our liking. Most heroes seem unattainable by us in their ways…but being a hero by walking towards three strangers…really? That counts already? Apparently it does! And you don’t even have to do it free of fear. You can be scared but do it anyways. And not everyone can or must be a supernatural power wielding superhero.

And then it got even more interesting. My own comic got me thinking about myself and with what knee jerk reaction I would have disappeared from the scene. I should strive to be more confident. In the long run, I must. Living only to survive and stay in relative „safety“ as much as I can might lead to a very miserable existance, where a lot of things have the power to kick me around, just because I would run on sight. Does that mean I should walk towards any dangerous looking situation in future? Probably not. It is rarely as simple as always yes, always no, and nothing in between. Yet, I have to take risk to move within the void outside of proven ways. I take risks daily when creating new panels. They could always go terribly wrong and I could run out of time and then not deliver. Or they could look horrible. Also the project could run into the sand and never amount to anything. I could never find success as an artist. But so far, I‘m not failing, at least not totally. And at least the falling movement seems to go forward.

Am I …finding out what stories ought to do? Give me just a little bit more than just entertainment for my time without getting on the nose preachy? I was told nothing of that by the comic. I am very glad and grateful for this experience today.

(Voting results: 27 votes were cast in total, 10 on Instagram, 17 on Discord. The winning option got 19 of 27 votes, 70% of votes in total. Instagram was a bit more mild with only 60% of votes for “walk on”. The discords went with “walk on” for 76% of all votes.)