These notes are filtered through my perspective and interpretation, what I personally took away as a listener. I do not claim to cover the complete talk. Also, my views are not necessarily the views of the speakers.
(continuation of part 3)
You have the permission to be as niche as you can, doing what you love and are strongest in. There is a market for everything, sometimes your market just needs a while to find you. If you are really as weird and outlandish as you think you are people should have no trouble remembering you.
Keeping an audience
By this point, you most likely have a fanbase to cater to. Do not just leave older collectors and fans behind when you switch styles or subjects. You are absolutely allowed to grow and change, but don’t just cut people off. Try to find connections between the new and the old in your work, bring your contradicting interests together even and integrate them into what you are already known for. This way you can keep your work fresh and interesting, while still being consistent. For some artists splitting up into two pen names can be necessary but it should rather be the exception. Most people are strongest when they can focus on one thing.
It’s time to continue documenting my journey! But before I switch over to discussions of my webcomic and diving into artistic detail problems, I want to take this entry aside and examine the foundations on which I work as an artist. Maybe more of this will follow in the future, but my most important goal stays, working through Street Prey and finishing it.
Okay, so I’m trying to get myself together and off the ground to a new level of quality for my creative work. That’s what I always do. Lately, I felt stuck although I’m rapidly moving forward. I haven’t slacked a day, on some days I just didn’t have the quantity or quality of output that I would have liked. And that is okay.
What is important though was the realization how my expectations are not the same as the reality of what is actually happening. Sometimes an expectation I have in my head and reality just don’t match up ever. There is nothing wrong with striving for the best, the highest ideals, but you must be aware and accepting of where this leaves the realm of reality. Would you want to live by and be measured by a mere fantasy that lives completely outside of what you can actually do and outside of what actually happens in reality? You would always be disappointed.
Fact is, I’m perfectly average and on time with my life, I’m just not fully in control of it yet, as I’m not fully in control of the wild beast yet that is my creativity. Having learned to appreciate what I do have while being patient with figuring out how to bridge the gap helps a lot. What if the secret is the following: Instead of trying to match an ideal state that I can imagine and fantasize about – and never having seen or experienced it, so there is no proof it exists- I can rather look at my personal reality. What is there every day on paper and digital canvas before me? What is good about it already? How can I make it even better?
I’m starting to think my day to day work is everything I will ever see. That will be the stuff that creates everything I want to create, the thing that either makes a fruitful creative career possible or not. No periods of extraordinary almost mystical work. Why did it take some time to get here? The day to day work of most artists is quite mundane. You don’t finish up a big illustration every day. You don’t finish up fancy designs every day. Some days you’re just grinding away trying to solve a problem or worse, count the day as success when you have done the bare minimum to stay fit.
I have tried to force ideal schedules and drawing processes onto myself before. Usually, it does not work. By now I believe the biggest problem with those is that other people made them. Other people with different life and creative experiences, different circumstances, different personalities and usually different preferences, too. Also, when you yourself are inexperienced, you cannot live up to the regular schedule of someone who is ten or more years ahead of you. You are exhausted faster than you are even through enough that would make that daily schedule functional. Same goes for “art styles”. You cannot force it. But of course you can listen to others and see what you can learn from them for yourself. You just cannot hope to just copy them and make no decisions by yourself ever.
I don’t have to have everything figured out in an instant. It’s only about keeping your long-term goals in mind and knowing what the very next step to get there is. I can finally allow myself to relax and just enjoy the journey.
The 100 days of making Street Prey (SPREY) made an interesting turn this week.
I was about to say, on the outside nothing changed or will change, I‘m just doing business as usual with SPREY for another week, every day – but then with the last possible panel of the week a dramatic change took place.
My black outlines and soft airbrush coloring coexisted for a while. Suddenly, black inky shadows appeared. They felt so natural, it was as if I was just uncovering more of the picture as it was meant to be. It‘s not wrong. I love dramatic black shadows and chiaroscuro (which will undoubtedly be the endgame of this). I was just not expecting it would shift now.
In a way this is exactly how the black colored pencil foundation snuck in towards the end of chapter 1. I appreciate it when I can „kill“ most of the lighting decisions with the decision black or not black. Mastering this simplicity is not easy and you should definitely aim for at least a 3 value system in the long run I have heard…but for now, why actually not? SPREY is gritty unless Rich and Willard have a romantic moment. Also, why don‘t I just make the jump and adopt that style for my other works, too, to get better at it? Or is this the last rebellion of the chrome effect brush that I will sacrifice when I change to Clip Studio Paint for a while to see whether this helps me to do a better job?
My performance this week feels not as good as last week, my exhausted Thursday and Saturday cost me dearly, but did not throw me out of schedule. The concept art gig needs only one more session until I deliver to the client again. It would be great if the Manul Zine would be finished the upcoming week, so after the concept art is out, this one gets priority.
Today I thought something that I have never thought before: „No, you won‘t do 5 more environment thumbnails right now. You already did five and you are tired. You would rush them and not learn a thing. Come back tomorrow“ And I could not argue with that. Is that …the reprimanding voice of experience?
Today was a day where quite a few non-art things interfered with my endeavours. Some were necessary and unavoidable, some were distractions. Usually I‘d say you can be productive at any time of the day. But today I really noticed how few energy I had left for my work on the comic. Even with channeling my willpower I couldn‘t do my best work – the victim and the culprit of this is the same person, me.
And then I understood another puzzle piece in the riddle why my comics aren‘t out there yet.
Measured against the goal of making progress on my comic I have chosen my activities poorly. They have in sum cost more of my ressources(energy, time etc.) than I should and would have given them had I seen this coming.
Revelation one : I never see it coming.
Revelation two: My habits have worked against me today.
Revelation three: My current habits do not align with my comic making goal.
Nobody sets out to waste a precious day with a lot of time for doing meaningful work. I am realizing that I‘m still carrying a lot of baggage with me from my past that still influences my decisions and probably still informs the current habits.
How do you learn things that keep you back? In my case, I‘m coming from a place of a lot of anxiety. That feeds impulses to procrastinate. Fighting them or following them both drains my energy. The results are disappointing working sessions once I get to work. That feeds anxiety again, because I don‘t have made the stellar progress I wished or hoped for, and then the circle continues.
What puzzles me as well is that I seem to have no concept of my daily time and energy budget. If it does not come naturally, then I will cultivate it. And again, the 100 days of making comics challenge is a great opportunity to do that. It makes it easier to set goals and prioritize the things to measure.
What I have done for the comic today
Luckily I read into my script which seems even more lacking to me than before. I decided to ignore my sentiment and still work out a list of what I have to design.
5 main characters,
6 side characters
a nonspecific number of background characters such as guards, zombies and peasants.
3 important props, one of them done already.
one huge one with 3 large subenvironments(rural area where most of the story takes place),
one big one (the academy) and
a really small urban one for a character introduction.
The good news, I will not need that much new stuff for the following acts. What I do here covers a lot of the story already. But I might have overdone it with the characters. If that is so, that will be a lesson for future comics.
A question of style
In making today‘s fake panel I realized that there are technical reasons to not work at the size you will upload your comic to the web. Working bigger and then making it small for presentation works well. Other than that I‘m at the brink of breaking my own heart. I fell in love with Clip Studio Paint instantly but I‘m not feeling the brushes. I keep going back to Krita for my favourite brushes, but I still love how otherwise comfortably CSP is to work in.
I suspect that the problem might be me, or more precise my style. I seem to have an aversion for clean linework. I like my brushstrokes gritty. But then I can‘t complain when I just don‘t get that clean, quick comic look that I‘m trying to achieve. Wasn‘t I just saying „just draw“ is a bad strategy yesterday? But it seems like I have some style confusion to clear up if I want to get my comic done. I should look up different styles, try to recreate them and see what sticks. I would bet on a chiaroscuro related question to decide the battle. I find myself as weird hybrid of Western and manga styles and I admire both worlds. Chiaroscuro is the question and the answer to the future as it seems to be incompatible with a classical manga style. You cannot stress and not stress light over lines. What will get to dominate my works?
What I have to add to my to do list:
Track your times
estimate your energy expenditure on activities you do (that will probably not be precise but anything is better than not doing anything at all)
find ways to change your habits, especially change your mornings where you should have most of your energy to spend
End your style confusion by making one of the hardest decisions in your life so far
See you tomorrow!
About the artist
Styxcolor creates freelance concept art and illustrations. She blogs about storytelling and art since 2020.