100 Days of SPREY – 10, 11, 12

One of my reasons to start art blogging at all was to document my own journey towards „making it“ as an artist.

My original idea of this was, that all the successful artists – artists that have a large following and are successful and beloved – have one thing in common. There must have been a point, where they turned from a havenot and wannabe to a sort of cultural hero that actually gets jobs without effort instead of having to struggle for the smallest things and not getting ahead.

And I didn‘t want to be like those artists about it, who give you some vague hints but never actually talk about that one point.

Over time I found out that this point either doesn‘t exist because it is a point and a constant process at the same time, just like light is a particle AND a wave at the same time, or the point is so laughably small and subtle that the artists might forget about it themselves. Something made them all turn around. The closest to a talk about this one point was a story concept artist Alexander Mandradjiev told on his livestream at the Lightbox Expo 2020. He found himself in a situation where he was the worst player on an art team and just got canned again. All his friends were more successful and nobody could tell him why he was not or help him out of there. He was envious and stubborn, and then this night of being fired again, he said he let go off everything and just did what everyone else was doing…photobashing, which he had been resisting to do all the time before. He sent the art director who just fired him a nice meaty zombie as goodbye card. And the man replied by hiring him again with something the like of „Oh hey, you actually can do something!“. I do not read this as a tale of how photobashing is the future. I am more interested in the change that happened in the artist. I understood Mandradjiev that he always kept something from the calm of that night and never had problems to find work again. The struggle was internal and ended.

I am a stubborn person, too, so I am especially interested in stories like these. Not all people are super open or ever will be, but I can always strive to at least be more balanced with it. Does that mean I have to photobash? It can‘t be that easy or everyone who photobashes would be an instant success. But it is absolutely my responsibility to adapt to cutting edge techniques in my respective field such as using 3D models to prop up my shot constructions and overall quality of forms. Even if I should find that is not for me, I have to have seriously given it a try and then never stop to reasearch and improve on what works for me.

Also, I must not lose sight of why I‘m doing what I‘m doing. That might be another thing why it is hard to tell other artists what to do to be successful. Everyone of us has a different life story, a different way to perceive and interpret things and plainly different things they enjoy. My why and how might not work for you like other people‘s whys and hows have not worked for me. This time of the 100 days of making the Street Prey(SPREY) comic is extremely important to me as it is a period of important changes. And apparently the most important ones happen in my mind. My why is that I‘m here to tell a bunch of stories. I don‘t even question it, it just is that way. And because I‘m a very visual person this will most likely happen within visual media. It is also important to me that I achieve a certain visual quality that seems right and likeable to me. Striving for finger licking realism is out the window already, but I also can‘t fall back on a single proven stylized style. Something is always missing, but I‘m researching already. And this time around it‘s not shocking to me that this might take some time. A webcomic also seems like a great how. You’re forced to draw a a lot and solve storytelling problems a lot.

See you again later today with the repord card for the week!

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.)