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!
I was tempted to not make a compilation this week. I was brave and started working on my environments in depth. And while I did do quite some work none of it is worth putting it into a compilation by itself. How can this be? Didn‘t I have beautiful studies last week?
I approached these with a painterly approach, now I‘m constructing. With the first I can rely on reference and even just draw what I see when I do not understand what I see. With the latter I have to go into the geometry and from time to time invent when references aren‘t enough…so this is of course worse. But both is necessary for good drawings.
And directly connected to this is the most important thing I learned this week: I have a taste for complex and eccentric environments. I didn‘t know environments were to be treated like characters…and from this viewpoint this makes a lot of sense – that would be my taste for character-characters as well! Complex and eccentric! Unfortunately, my current skills do not match this taste. So I shouldn‘t be surprised I can‘t draw the environments I need or give my characters the visual and writing punch they need. And nothing gets done because building the skills for this might take some time.
Also, I was reminded how important it is to keep learning and to keep reading books. A Pattern Language has a profound influence on my way of thinking already. After yesterday I was quite restless until I came up with more ideas with what to do now. Imagine my situation as follows:
I am climbing a mountain range and was walking on a plateau quite some time. I was just wondering why I never seemed to progress anywhere, especially ahead and upward. Turns out I was walking in a circle all the time. I realized it and now started walking forward again. But now, almost immediately, I find myself before a huge chasm that separates this plateau from the way forward. There is no way to simply jump over it, there is no bridge or any other passageway. If I want to pass this I have to climb down, probably almost until the foot of the mountain and then I have to climb up again on the other side. So of course, I feel conflicted. I will need a lot of time and go through a lot of pain if I do this. But I have to do this! And it is the only way to follow the path I chose! I don‘t want to walk in circles.
For the art it means: I could only ever see the distant, nebulous goal but I was blind to where I am and what I‘m actually doing. I didn‘t see the chasm that built up over time. That chasm is everything I lack to create the things that I want to create in the way I want to create them. I lack some crucial skills and experience to create truly long form comics and any sort of complex game. I could even say the comic scripts I expect myself to write are too much for me. I cannot carry what I would like to carry and what I expected of myself. And while this all sounds damning, in fact I feel relieved. Working on Corvus for 21 days has taught me so much about myself and the true state of my skills, that bad news don‘t have any negative impact on me. They don‘t even make me fall down. This does not mean I‘m ignoring it. On the contrary, I am thinking about how to improve my situation and moving forward all the time and take the bad news as welcomed feedback. Deep down I knew something wasn‘t right all the time, but at the same time, I didn‘t know any better, so I walked in my circles.
Now I have resolved a deep lying misunderstanding I had about the scale and depth of projects. I never had a particularly good feeling for time or workload, but I must admit, I did not expect to find something like this. I find my thinking juvenile and it makes me uneasy. On one side I was always very old on the other hand I still must have relics of a child‘s mind and thoughts in me. How could a concept a child make about the quality of works of fiction survive that far into a lifetime? Go big or go nowhere I thought! It‘s either epic or it‘s nothing. And I tried to act on that all the time, the best I could, now realizing that I might spend a couple of 100 days to get a comic done. That doesn‘t work in reality. And why does the embarassment about it quickly fade? I think I am discovering something very important these days. My voice. I know, I might be talking about Stephen Pressfield a lot lately, but his books really are a helping hand to me. When he was walking through absolute darkness as an unsuccessful creator and didn‘t know what to do of himself, he started paying attention to what he did write on the wayside. For him it was letters to his friends. While I love writing walls of text, too, I mostly blog. And from what I read from my blogs, I am a sort of travelling researcher. I take nothing for granted. I will dissect even mundane things, I will talk about the psyche a lot, invisible worlds within. I am an old child.
Climbing down the chasm would be to cut back on my ambitions to focus on the things that I could actually do…fast. Or at least faster than getting a first feedback on what I‘m doing after twelve years. And build up from a clean new beginning. I stand behind Corvus like I stand behind anything I have ever started. But I‘m seeing the big problem myself. I see Corvus as a „simple“ story and would regard the comic as not the longest thing that I have in my head. But it IS quite long as it turns out. And I‘m not actually making comics right now. I made comics as a child, but something isn‘t right here. I have no problem with working on a thing for a very long time – I make blankets, where I spend around 3 months on a piece. So what is the problem here? A huge gap between skill and ambition – and in consequence, expectation. A lot of charming stubbornness, yet stubbornness nevertheless. Cutting back makes me feel a bit nervous. But who knows what I‘ll find on the ground of the chasm. I can‘t be hopelessly worse than any other creator. But I‘m still not good.
What if I‘m not cut out for comics after all? Wouldn‘t I be absolutely keen on doing them? Are they not the right vessel after all? Was I being stubborn and decided something on a whim that this would be the thing I was doing moving onward? At least I‘m here every day, trying to build something, trying to better myself. I‘m just not actually building. I can‘t wait to get to the bottom of this. And I let you read all of this so that you don‘t make the same mistakes as I did. I would like to spare you going over some cycles on the spot. Starting small means accepting the death of an old version of you that believed in big things happening in a certain way. I do not say that means you lose hope and can‘t do the big things. You can. The way is just a bit longer and probably a bit more winded to get there. I was at times carrying a whole universe in my head, but unfortunately nothing of it ended up on paper/digital canvas. Another thing is, when you get better at your craft, your old grand ideas don‘t seem that good anymore. You should have acted on them earlier. Now they are dying to make room for new things. You should have collected the experience while enjoying them for what they were. But the good thing is, you can still start anew.
I will do my best on this new part of the road. I‘m no longer in the claws of old passions and ambitions. I have actually no idea what I will do tomorrow, but I‘ll sit down and try to actually create. I‘m in shock, a good chunk of me just died as well as probably some future creations. But it happened purely on the inside, so nobody has to worry. Is there a chance that I just snapped from the 100 days of making comics? Actually not, I felt relaxed and well most of the time. And I might have no problem to blog daily into eternity, the quality of the blog entries would just fluctuate. I‘ll try to set up a series of short small projects that I will actually complete. One after another, clean, affordable for my ressources. If you want to, come along!
See you tomorrow!
About the artist
Styxcolor creates freelance concept art and illustrations. She blogs about storytelling and art since 2020.