New arc for this blog

This is a special blog entry.
When you see bigger bumps or gaps on my blog, that can mean one of two things. Either I’m in a creative crisis and barely functional (this is absolutely normal for creatives, it’s a natural ebb and flood cycle), or working on something so big and captivating that it absolutely derailed me from writing. Sometimes both overlap.

I’m doing well lately. I’m keeping my head down and focussing on getting my day to day work done, almost unaffected by whatever else happens. I had an insight or two while drawing and in the breaks between, so today I will touch on the very foundations of this blog again.

I started this blog to document my art journey towards “making it”, leaving records behind of how exactly I did it, what worked, what didn’t work, and what pitfalls to avoid to save yourselves some time.
I have changed since starting the blog. I think when I started I was convinced most pros had some or the same secret they weren’t telling us, even when they were pretending to tell us their full success story of how they “made it”. There was always this very real gap between them, their ranks, and me and my fellow aspiring artist colleagues who still hadn’t yet joined those ranks. We could do whatever we wanted, follow all the steps, at the end of the day we wouldn’t get in. Now with more experience under my belt I’m seeing things differently.

“Making it” turns out to be a surprisingly personal thing. I set my goals, I decide what I’m doing to get there and – of course – I have to actually do these things. And whatever I share with you here on this blog is not and never was universal advice that would work for anyone for every “making it” goal. There is no universal “making it” advice, unless it is so vague that is loses it’s substance again. So the pros did not have one secret. It is more likely that most couldn’t tell you what “their” secret actually was if not a combination of hard work, luck and connections. And the ratio of these things is different for everyone again as are their personal unique circumstances.

So if I want to do you the best service I can I must focus on the personal in my personal journey for the future instead of looking out for the universal. Although I will confidently state I’m a painfully average person anytime, I recognize that the circumstances of my journey are unique – as are yours. We are all beautiful unique remixes of the spark that gives humanity art if this makes sense.

What follows is really hard to write for me, but it is necessary. You must know who is writing this blog, you must know how this person is looking at the world and what the “making it” goals are, so that you can assess how to interpret what I say and what you can use. I am an unworldly dreamer that seeks comfort. That is not a criticism, that is a type. But what keeps me going is that at the same time I’m a hard worker that doesn’t accept giving up or whatever else is identified as defeat. It actually makes perfect sense. That’s two worlds colliding in the same person all the time, creating a lot of creative energy from that friction. Whatever I am, I am not bored, I am always on the lookout to do things to make the pain stop. This can either be a powerful feedback spiral to relentlessly following the dream and working hard to make it come true – or it can lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms such as eating for short-term comfort, literally to feel better. And just to reiterate, I am not the only person who is like this, this is a type, although from what I understand one that is rarer in the spotlight or expressing themselves as this.

Dreamers have to be careful with their goals. If it’s too unworldly, it might never come true, because it can’t be done. But what if you can still get it done? Then we end up with innovation which pushes what people thought was possible and is good for everyone.

I might have mentioned it before, but my dream is to tell a couple of stories. I have a list with exact names and summaries. And guess what, SPREY is one of them. I must realize them either as comics or as videogames(most likely RPG-ish) to keep things in a scope a single creator can manage. This dream never changed at it’s core. I love the craft(s) more than anything, so with some things I literally can’t be motivated with money. That is the dreamer’s curse and privilege. But I still must exist in this world, so money is still a thing. I have humbly and without much fanfare started to learn how to code. Whatever my creative ambitions are, I must live with certain realities. I embrace art commissions and freelance work though, of course, but I try to be as responsible as possible just in case there is another long drought that can happen at the beginning of any career. There’s zero drama in this, no bitterness. Others have done this before me.

Rereading this I can’t even tell you what is so special about my stories. I have never asked myself this question. It just is. I came into the world with it. Let’s uncover the qualities of my works together on the journey as I’m learning more about myself and my creations. I realized that I have to change. It is my nature to seek comfort, but I have to be an inverse version of myself if I want to succeed. Everyone struggles with something after all. And I will admit, I’m already curious how I will do it.

See you next blogpost!

Restructuring VI – Just Draw

Have you ever heard about the famous „Just draw“ advice? If things are troubling you in art, you don‘t know where to start building your skill or how to get to where you want to be…well, the two words are always there for you. „Just draw“.

I am someone who took „Just draw“ literally for many years. It keeps you productive, I can‘t complain about that. But frantically doing something and hoping something good will come of it is not a strategy.

In my opinion there comes a point where „Just Draw“ alone doesn‘t carry you anymore. As I keep stating in this blog, a beginner can start anywhere with anything and will be equally successfully average until they have built themselves up to understand what is happening and how to make things happen. That is the realm of „Just Draw“. Get the mileage you need until the muscle memory, visual library and knowledge of the craft have caught up to you. And each time you start learning a field such as anatomy in depth you are back at the beginning, first of all busy getting that mileage.

But then, there is a trap. You may miss the point when you should tackle different challenges than just bring yourself to draw daily. When you are even competent enough to grasp a field, subject or technique fast enough to become at least average quickly. Then you could be everything but aren‘t anything, if you don‘t focus on one thing in order to become proficient enough to be SOMETHING. If you miss that point, you will feel like you are doing everything right but still don‘t get anywhere with it.

What is the remedy? Setting goals and working towards them. Putting something on your to do list is not enough, that is only saying something. You have to do it, even if it is 10 minutes a day. 10 minutes a day compounds over time. That might even help you making your studies more effective. You can adjust studies and explorations towards your goal(s) as well, and that will compound over time, too.

That‘s exactly what I‘m doing with the 100 days of SPREY now. Just doing …something…every day that roughly counts as comicmaking doesn‘t cut it anymore. And we might see more successful attempts to narrow the focus in the future. 100 days ago I would have set truly focussing on one thing is not my strength. But so far I keep going. Even if it is not there from the beginning, it is something that can be learned. You can do it, too. And if you lost your trust in yourself, you can regain it, too.

So far the 100 days of making comics seems like the ultimate „Just Draw“, challenge. And for me, it has been worth it. I‘m grateful I went this path and I‘m excited about what comes next during the 100 days of making Street Prey.

This is the final entry of the restructuring blog post series after the first 100 days of making comics. Now that challenge is truly a thing of the past.

Restructuring V – Mikiko and Resistance

And with this only one further restructuring blog post is left. For me a dream comes true to give the past first round of 100 days of making comics this bit of extra space and deliberation in the six part restructuring blogpost series. Thanks for sticking with me and see you next time!

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!

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.)