100 Days of SPREY – 16, 17

Today is a great day to remind myself why change and being open and willing to adapt is so very very important. Change is something that happens. Nobody can ignore or rectract the invention of the internet or the smartphone for example. Both has permeated our lives. And then it is the question in what ways we want or can adapt to that. But you as a creator, you can also change from within.

I‘m having a great time studying Yoji Shinkawa‘s works the past days. I hope they help me to free myself up from the tyranny of mindless (out)lines. I‘m telling myself to think about the form first like Robert Henri suggested in his book – and light, color and everything else such as wisely chosen important lines are means to define and show the form. This takes a lot of uncertainty away from my process, because the goal is clearer and the priorities are, too. So far I really like this new „game“ of art. Colors and light aren‘t that beast of a thousand hydra heads anymore, when you treat form as more important than nailing a certain color or making the values perfect. You will still want to nail everything in the process of showing form well, but you might make your decisions faster and with more confidence, when everything is a means to a different, possibly higher yet simpler end.

There‘s trouble on the horizon with Street Prey (SPREY) on Instagram. There was a vote yesterday and Instagram amassed to only 3 votes cast in total. That is incedibly low. I am speaking to my readers there and don‘t think they are tired of the comic. I am rather shadowbanned or otherwise not treated favorably by Instagram‘s current algorithm. Even people who would have wanted to vote did not see the new post. Instagram is not to blame for my luck of success, though. Assuming thousands of people would be exposed to my work…can I really know they will love it? I can‘t. I can‘t control the reception of my work apart from doing my best to create it well and otherwise make it pallatable. But failures with big marketing budgets show us that you just can‘t buy something becoming a hit.

On another note it is absolutely normal that interest for a longer comic vanes. If you cannot enjoy it in only one sitting in full, there will always be a slight and growing resistance to look into it again on a different day. It is the same with books. Reading doesn‘t give you the fastest dopamine for your engagement and there are many other worthwhile activities to compete with it. But can you blame the reader for not trying hard enough to work through your creation no matter what? Wouldn‘t you equally have to blame the creator for not captivating the reader enough with superb craft, and hardly measurable qualities like heart and soul and subjective entertainment value in the work? In the end it would be blaming each other for being flawed and shaking fists at entropy.

I have been learning and am learning so many valuable lessons while making „Street Prey“. I would still be making that comic, even if nobody was watching except my two eyes. It is flawed like every first of it‘s kind is, but it is also fresh and has already seen a couple of transformations already alongside with me.

I could whine about Instagram, my misunderstood genius and insist on my current way of working and sharing the comic. I could choose to ignore it completely as a non-problem. Or I could stop for a moment, think, and wonder whether I can improve in any direction. In my understanding, Instagram, Twitter and alternative platforms aren‘t meant or optimized to share a long form comic on. Gone are the times where people had the leisure to check out a whole account. They might take a glimpse on recent works and then move on again. Places like Webtoons have become the go-to for reading and sharing webcomics. People will not expect them in other places except for personal or dedicated websites maybe. At least in theory sharing a comic in other places is not the dumbest idea though, as you can get drowned out by other comics easily if everyone jumps on few platforms like Webtoons. I don‘t worry too much about that at the moment, as I‘m a comic beginner. My work is not at risk to compete with that of seasoned creators yet, but I‘m learning. A beginner has the freedom to start anywhere with anything and I have taken a lot of advantage of this. But there comes the moment when anything anywhere stops working and it‘s time to specialize, focus or otherwise adapt, either to changes from within or those of the environment.

I would not do myself a favor if I threw SPREY as it is onto Webtoons. Something like medium shifts cannot be explained or sold to an audience that is used to a wholly different level of consistency. Also, SPREY operates in a fringe area where you can almost call it a prototype for a simple RPG or visual novel rather than a comic. I have a UI instead of speech bubbles. I have one panel per page which you can read as single screenshots. I have choices the reader has to make and that influence the story and it‘s outcome. Was/am I a gamedev all along? I should mention that I‘m pumping hours and design work like crazy right now into the„Your Land“ videogame towards our next update and having a blast.

I will need more time to think about what to do next. Things are in a flow in a very interesting way right now.

See you next blogpost!

Restructuring IV – The Failed Meta Comic

The 100 days of SPREY (Street Prey) have started already, but the restructuring blog series isn‘t over yet. In fact, finishing this series of blog posts on my thoughts and new knowledge from the 100 days challenge is part of phase 1 of the new challenge. Making room for new things also implies not only finishing old things but also properly reflect on them.

Today it‘s time to look at the failures in my comicmaking challenge. Two big things strike me immediately. The first one was tackling a much too ambitious comic, Corvus, first.

Wishes, will and skill just didn‘t align at all and I was so inexperienced that I had no chance to see that. Unfortunately I did not learn much from working on Corvus that way, as I never actually got into drawing the comic. The blog comics and having to deal with SPREY daily took over that part. But indirectly, being able to dissect it in retrospect, I can see where the problems were and in some areas still are. My desired environments for this comic are crazily complex! This is something a more skilled future me can attack.

My second big blunder is creating thumbnails for a full chapter of a metacomic. This thing will never actually make it outside of my blog or see full production. Why is that so? That meta comic chapter is the epitome of a bad idea!

It‘s about exploring a meta level of narration somewhere between fiction and reality, where my creation gets a chance to talk to me. It contains some good ideas that worked well woven into other blog entries of mine. But it would be a terrible, self-indulgent comic to read for anyone else!

A reader that is not me has no chance to understand that chapter if they don‘t know my blog and the characters in it. And even then I haven‘t ever introduced all the characters properly. So that thing was a good learning experience as it helped me to create something, maybe even to process some thoughts myself, but a thing like this has no business being out there published.

When in hindsight all the meta comics, not only the thumbnailed chapter, seem like a bad idea, why did I do it in the first place? I think I honestly didn‘t know it better – if you start out with something, you can literally start anywhere and with anything, you will not know what it‘s worth on any metric like monetary or progress at your craft. Another factor was that I was under a lot of pressure and for most of the time had not find my calling with SPREY yet. I had to deliver things daily and on some days Mikiko and making meta comics out of my thoughts probably saved me from dropping the ball. It is impossible to not make mistakes. I do not regret them. Thumbnailing that chapter was another sign that showed me I could finish something. I felt horrible about it, but I grew from the experience.

And I guess this is a great lesson in itself. You don‘t have to publish everything you make. Sometimes you will need 3-4 attempts to get one piece right (or many more! Open end!). I have this with my daily panels sometimes, and you only get to see the winner who made it online that day. And in other cases that means to abandon a project before a stage where you could think about publishing it. While you have to make mistakes, you don‘t have to make obvious mistakes you see and identify as mistakes like a rising sun on the horizon already. What you put out there to the public must be more than a self-indulgent artistic piece. It can even be self-indulgent if it must, but it must give the audience something more than just that in exchange for their time and attention. My metacomics have their place on my blog, but you will most likely never see a direct representation of them outside of it – and that is okay.

Restructuring II – Flatting and Perfectionism

Reflecting on my process and how it‘s developing I came across an interesting thing.

Shouldn‘t flatting be something relaxing by it‘s very concept? Flatting is the process of filling in shapes separated by linework with single flat colors in digital art to have an easier time playing with the rendering on top. The uninitiated would compare it to painting by numbers. Yet, flatting is unforgiving. If you leave out any small patch of pixels, it creates a bright hole and look worse with every filter and layer of paint you apply on top. So it is something that is simple and relaxing by concept but unforgiving in execution. Some tasks in art making are like that.

I‘m always stressed out about the flatting mistakes I make, but what if that is how it should be? Mistakes aren‘t a possibility, but a reality. They WILL happen. To anybody who ever wrote a text – the first draft is never perfect. No matter what, you can always correct or cut something afterwards. Why should it be different with flatting or art in general?

Why should my number one goal be perfect flatting in one go? Isn‘t what wins the day my hard earned ability to find and eradicate the mistakes I make before proceeding into parts of the process where my flatting errors are multiplied and can only be solved by a general correction layer slapped on top of the panel? And does anybody care for my works in progress at all when the result is alright for it‘s purpose? Of course, a good process gives you a better time getting there, but it‘s not everything.

I think that is the part of perfectionist thinking that robs you of energy, always a little bit. „I couldn‘t avoid mistakes today“. And then you are more tired than you would have to be, even if you have avoided risky, playful and experimental decisions that would have most likely lead to mistakes or failure, too, but also given the opportunity for greater rewards? So if you can‘t escape it, why not embrace it and learn to trust yourself that you will fight your way out to a great final result again?

As for today‘s voting results –

75% of you want Rich to greet the guys. On Instagram this was quite the close call – 4:3 votes. On the eligible discords on the other hand things looked quite different. Only 4 of 22 votes would have preferred that Rich minds his own business. As always, thank you very much for voting!

So you want Rich to tackle life full front, even if he himself isn’t the most extroverted guy. Well, he does his best to comply!

100 Days – 93, 94, 95

Another joint blog entry for three days. While I didn‘t stop drawing and creating ever, a short but intense migraine kept me from blogging properly the last days. The training with those environment thumbnails is hard, but it seems to pay off already. Creating the new panels was definitely last pain than last week, or let‘s say different pain as I‘m noticing different things to fix or improve on. Especially building in good-looking details into the environment seems like a distant goal. But I will be patient. So far, that strategy has paid off.

I have multiple days behind me where I was fortunate enough to create more than one panel for the comic per day. Roughly a hundred days ago I could not have dreamed of even having a running webcomic. I might have been a different person, in any case a different creative. And I‘m determined to make PREY happen. There are many firsts in terms of problems that have to be solved on the road coming my way. This weekend was particularly dense with them. For the first time, I have drawn several panel variations …that failed. So I have drawn even more panels for the comic than those that you see here, but they were failures, so I put them aside and either edited them the next day or drew new ones. That really never happened to me before. I know that it is good practise to have several options in thumbnails and even work out several of them roughly if it is necessary to unveil the best version of a shot. And you have to be prepared to make cuts.

Then a new idea hit me. For a very long time I was aware of quite some rules and best practises without ever being able to put them into use. The world of my mind and the world on canvas stayed separate. And for a very long time I had no idea why. Apparently, I just didn‘t have the skills to translate it. And I count the trainable parts of my endurance and focus towards those skills as well. I must have wanted too much, just like every other inexperienced beginner. Last Monday‘s environment catastrophe was a blessing in disguise as I actually got a hold of my personal limits and am now in touch with them and building on them every day. That should be this way. Everyone could tell you that this is how you train. It is just hard to actually pull it off like with many other simple things. So the failed panels showed me that I must have improved indeed as the speed of failures accelerates alongside everything else.

As I‘m not in the best state today (but as long as it is enough to hold the tablet pen and at least draw the dailies), I‘ll leave it at this for today. That could be the first summary of my 100 days of making comics experience: I found out where I‘m really at with my skills, found a way of making comics that works for me and grew as a creative in the process.