100 Days of SPREY – 61

There must be a reason why I’m uploading a winter holiday piece in February. I better have a pretty good reason!

I started this piece in December. It looked like this and then I didn’t touch it again:

I was in severe creative crisis mode. I hated everything I did, I was very insecure, especially about how I drew my characters, I hated my inability to create any sensible environment, yet I somehow pushed through the rest of this stretch of chapter 2 of the comic in January and then just collapsed. Not literally, but in my head a door closed, daily comic work was suddenly out of the question. Maybe a reaction like not putting weight on an injured leg.

My will to brush it off and continue was there, a nagging voice in the back of my head to not risk any hiatus, but everything else just intuitively went out into the world to see and try new things and let the overstrained comic muscles heal. Time heals that. And now the period of healing is coming to an end as I finally could finish the christmas piece today in one go. It did not hurt. The enthusiasm for SPREY was back and then some.

In hindsight and only in hindsight this break was the absolute right call. I experienced and learned so so much. I just wish it was somehow less chaotic and didn’t let the readers hang in the air. But I must have been in such a bad shape in January that I wasn’t really capable of doing anything elegant about that. I want to go back into SPREY and finish it with passion. The smallest scope is big enough if burning love can flow into it!

But of course, I can’t have that without obstacles. The decisions of old me led to a situation where I have to finish other tasks first before I can jump back into SPREY with full force. This doesn’t mean that I can’t do anything, it is just an interesting dance to get anything meaningful done. I would love to say I can allocate a reliable time and workload to SPREY within two weeks. I don’t want to go back to the daily upload schedule. Not because I can’t pull it off, but because I think I will not deliver my best work this way. The daily upload scheme leaves little room for editing. My friend Shellpresto (I’m so grateful, thank you so much!) suggested a weekly upload of about 7 panels and I’m starting to like the idea. A lot. Maybe it’s even time to go for comic…pages as I know a lot more about layout and design than even a couple of weeks ago now. Just an idea.

I’ll start by reviewing the new script tomorrow. I feel like my first draft will break under the first stress test like a dry tree twig. The true massacre will not happen in the comic itself but when I try to cut the script down. I tend to want too much, more than the essence of the story would require.

See you next blogpost!

100 Days of SPREY – 60

The struggle continues!

I have this theory that no long term project actually wants to get made. Otherwise most dreams wouldn’t just stay dreams and we would swim in awesome creations! Your long term project will throw any problem, challenge and distraction it can at you to keep you from finishing it, but at some point it will give up resistance.

I have good news today about the future of Street Prey(SPREY). I found a surprising solution for it that honestly sounds like I could have known earlier…but I couldn’t. I needed to fall off a cliff, go on a new path pushing my design skills and draw and 3D model many pages of unrelated concept art to realize something. And I hope sharing this serves as a shortcut for you so that you don’t have to go through that, too.

Like all of my stories so far, SPREY has been conceived in a vacuum. A version of Styxcolor was at work that had no understanding of how expensive time is and that designing a world properly costs a lot of this as does a huge and cool ensemble of characters. You will never catch me saying a single creator cannot do a thing. But some projects would require you to sacrifice your life to one of them alone and work on nothing else ever. This seems to be an unreasonable project scope to me. I found out, what hinders me from just continuing to make SPREY like before is this: I cannot afford to create a comic of SPREY’s original scope by working hours and pay I don’t get for it and also release it for free, at least not right now. People will understand. Concept art pays. But I don’t have to let you hanging. I am downscaling SPREY. I will try to tell the essence of it, close all arcs I opened and deliver a satisfying ending building on what I already established. And I will ideally do so within the next six months. That is my self declared goal.

I started off today already by writing a skeleton script. It’s pretty exciting as most things fell into place without much resistance. I am still a bit critical about the scope. That might still be a bit too many scenes and places to design. You will probably not see much movement with the characters on the other hand. So tomorrow I’ll trim fat or if I’m still clueless I’ll start to thumbnailing around. Maye that will influence and correct a moments or two as well. But hey, at least the script will most likely not get bigger than it is now!

And no, I feel no pain about SPREY. I’m surprised myself. Instead, I feel enthusiasm. As if that thing can overpower me, now that I found a way to break it down into something present me can do. I’m not sorry for everything we will not see in this run of SPREY. It was formless potential so far, so nothing is really lost if it does not come through. It never “existed” in the first place. Who knows what the future will bring. I have learned yet another valuable lesson from SPREY. And after all, it’s not about me. I’m worried about my readers first and foremost and that they have a satisfying finished comic that was worth their time in the end. I might have been so inexperienced that I didn’t even know how to start small and how to operate small. My new definition of that is: If I’m capable of pulling it off with my current skills and ressources (including time). And how do I know what I can do? The script will tell me. The design sheets will tell me. If I literally can’t do it, can’t write down a coherent version of the script, can’t draw the scene, vehicle or environment for the love of everything, it is too big right now.

And this leads me to the spectacular conclusion of this blog entry. Today I realized that a good chunk of my problems came from inexperience, from the faint hope I would pick up all the skills necessary on the road to become someone who can actually pull off what I imagined SPREY should be. I was dealing in I should bes and I should dos. When the truth was before my nose all the time. If I could pull off the script that classic SPREY would need…I would have done it! It is okay! So I didn’t fall out of the sky as a master. I have a much better grip on what current Styxcolor can actually do and move within a week of unrelated fulltime work. And I can and must go from that. I cannot base my works on someone I am not (yet), on skillsets I do not (yet) have. Imagine trying to buy something with money you will maybe make in the future (outside of the stockmarket). I must stay with what I have right now. Just wildly imagining an epic story without any constraints is easy I would say. It is much harder to bring it into a form that you or you and a team can actually make come true. Keep it real. Less is more. Start small. Your personal “small” might grow over time.

I hope the readers of SPREY do not have to wait for too long anymore. I will still do my best not to rush anymore ever and take the time it needs. See you next blog entry!

100 Days of SPREY – 59

Today was a big, beautiful day. How does such a day look like for you? Is it a day where the world can’t bother you in your efforts and good mood, even if it tries? A day where everything goes right? A day where everything goes your way?

For me, it is a day on that I find a solution for a big problem. The same problem could still return to me in a different form in a different cycle of my development later, but I will not be entirely helpless about it, if my solution now has any merit.

I was a bit nervous, asking myself whether I had secretly given up on Street Prey and just couldn’t face it. What if I’m never able to continue making it? What should I do about it? How do I find back into making it like before? Or should I change up the schedule? The style maybe? Everything seems so complex, impossible to solve. But then throughout the day a cascade of beautiful insights dawned upon me. I give credit to Chris Oatley’s storytelling podcast on Youtube for the inspiration. A certain passage really stuck with me. Nobody keeps you from starting to build your giant world today, telling your epic story, you will just struggle tremenduously with…about everything. Why? You have routine in nothing. Everything will be new land and a new problem jumping at you. You are almost bound to make big mistakes and try to build upon them. And even if you force yourself to go through the hell of making the project happen with all your willpower…the result might not be that great.

I very much find myself in that sentiment that I just summarized. I struggled so much. I did everything I could with what I had, but I somehow couldn’t arrive at where I wanted to be.

And here’s what Chris Oatley and the other speakers presented as different way of doing it: Start your big or small project, it does not matter, but start really really small. Solving small problems will be hard enough in the beginning, such as designing an actually GOOD prop for your comic. It is laughable. But it is true. Looking back, Street Prey had no memorable props so far. Until a few weeks ago I didn’t even know what and how important prop design actually was. And if many props constitute an environment (at least partly) and you can’t do props…guess what, then the epic environments in your head won’t happen. Maybe your head stays empty when you think about them. At least to me that used to happen a lot. I would have wished to draw better backgrounds in my comic, but I just had no ideas and did not know how to come up with some. I guess all my works would be talking heads.

So pausing SPREY for the moment was not just a crash or failure, it was a golden opportunity to realize how I was struggling, realize that I can change that and find a more sustainable way to work. Room for self-love.

Look at this small piece of sci-fi hallway I modeled in Blender today, following a tutorial by Alex Senechal. This really doesn’t look like much, but it is an important little step towards a better future for my comic and all my works. Imagine what suddenly is achievable with more practise…

The journey stays exciting!

See you next time!

100 Days of SPREY – 57, 58

This week turned out to be both amazing and absolutely terrifying, pushing me outside of my personal comfort zone in so many ways. My original plan was to dedicate the week to doing concept work for my own comic and start uploading a daily panel beginning next week as we are used to by now. But now I am confronted with a uniquely new situation. I made the jump and signed my first freelance contract as a 2D concept artist.

The first client is the hardest to get, the second client the second hardest one, and so on, so that step is huge no matter what scope the actual project has.

Now at least for the time of the gig I have new responsibilities that clash with the wish to keep working on my comic and general drawing exercises in the same way I was working before. What is more, while going into overdrive with research and focussed work to do my best for the gig I‘m realizing how inefficient my ways were. And I‘m shocked how bad my past art actually is. On the one hand, I was incredibly delusional. On the other hand, the delusion kept me believing I could become a professional artist one day and made me work hard to get there. I just failed to understand why the world didn‘t see my greatness. Now I understand. And it‘s okay. That all is a thing of the past now.

I have finally reached a level where I‘m employable. And now that there is no delusion clouding my perception anymore, I have the chance to actually see my strengths and weaknesses in a balanced way and get really good. I even discovered a direction that I can go with achievable goals on the way there. I will go videogame prop design. I still believe in myself as a great storyteller and I believe in Street Prey, but I also need an income. Street Prey as it is right now cannot provide that and will need much more work until it has reached a level of quality that attracts an audience. I will of course do the work, but I need to adjust my efforts in a way that I don‘t starve on the road. That too is a prerequisite to do your personal work well. I know I can learn a lot working in the art industry. A lot that will help Street Prey and any other personal work in the future.

I need some time to sort my things now and I can‘t make a prediction how long it will take. Not because I do not want to commit, but because that is the first time I am in a situation like this. So thank you for your patience and see you next blog entry!

100 Days of SPREY – 55, 56

Today I want to tell you a creepy story. Let‘s call it the dangers of creativity, but with a wink.

On Monday, the 25th of January, I wrote the revised script for the next chapter of my webcomic „Street Prey“(SPREY). Only after two or three days of misery did I realize I was battling to cope with emotions bigger than me. My own script that is not the best comic script ever written moved me so much that I changed. Usually it‘s the other way around, the comic changes when I learn something new about making art or storytelling. But I guess it is a giving and taking here. By the end of the week even I realized I could not just go back to making the comic like before without at least changing some things up for the future. In the meantime I spent a ridiculous amount of time on gamedev, concept art and learning. And this time something clicked and the quality of my work went up instantly, across the board. My own theory is that I did not make sudden new art gains but rather found ways to put what I already knew in theory down on canvas now.

My perception of life changed, and then my perception of my art and art in general followed, unlocking more that I could observe and do.

You surely know phrases like „Make art for yourself“ or „Live at your own pace“. Both of these are equally scary if you sincerely attempt to live them. I will admit I only very recently could give them a personal meaning for myself.

Making art for myself means making art you wish someone would make for you and others to enjoy and that doesn‘t exist yet in the exact form you want to have it. But then, when you think it through, you run into a huge problem. You have to accept a lot of hard truths. Think about it. If you weren‘t you, would you read your own comic? Would you follow the artist doing your art your way on social media? If you hadn‘t created it yourself, would you like it?

I wouldn‘t follow myself and I wouldn‘t read SPREY. I would hate it to wait for a panel day to day. If it‘s a cinematic experience, why don‘t you give me the whole scene immediately as comic or animatic. And if you need it interactive, give me the branches and have it all drawn out or shut up. That hurts, is incredibly amusing at the same time (you would think you as an adult would have figured something that simple out earlier!), and still hurts a lot, but guess what, artists are problem solvers so it‘s my task to find ways to make that work better. I am cringeing sincerely while writing, but I am also laughing. And the following myself problem is also easy to solve actually. My social media feed would just have to contain what I am attracted to as a viewer myself. Sounds obvious but isn‘t if you have or had a hard time loving or even just accepting yourself.

Now to living at your own pace. I had no idea what my own pace was and I‘m still not entirely sure I have a full grip on it, but it‘s better than before. I‘m under the impression I was constantly driven by fears and unreasonable expectations in the past. When I stopped caring whether I‘m fast or productive enough or whether I‘ll have something to show on social media at the end of the day, I could let my mind go and focus better. And ironically, letting go might help actually getting more things done. Social media…I am ignoring them mostly for now. That is not ideal but contributed to the environment that made me rapidly improve recently. That really makes you think. Also social media is not the devil. Nobody says you have to bend backwards for any attention you can get. I can only just be at so and so many places per day with my mind and focus.

Oh my… what now? I need more time to think about SPREY‘s future while making more prep work for chapter 2A. What a coincidence.

See you next blog entry!

Above: Rich and Willard translated into the new style. It worked surprisingly well, yet the question is, is it sustainable?