I’ve illustrated only a few graphic novels. There are cartoonists that can produce an astonishing amount of pages every year. On the flipside there are cartoonists who take a decade to produce their magnum graphic novel opus. I’m not the fastest, but I’m also not the slowest. Speaking from experience, I’ll add that having a child can slow you down your productivity a bit. The most important thing to do when you’re working on a graphic novel is to simply finish it.
There was an interview in The Comics Journal years ago with Aaron Renier – I’m paraphrasing of course, but he was talking to a fellow cartoonist, the talented Craig Thompson. He was offering advice while Aaron struggled with his debut graphic novel, Spiral-Bound.
I can tell you from experience, It’s difficult, grueling and daunting. The sheer amount of work is overwhelming. Craig Thompson worked on many comics that he abandoned before finishing his breakthrough, Goodbye, Chunky Rice. He realized that the most important part is to finish things. You have to see it through. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. There may be weeks where you get nothing done, or days you lose because you realize the storytelling didn’t make sense. Even though you may like the drawing itself, you’ve gotta throw out the page and start over.
To have a finished book, to hold it in your hands – it’s like crossing that finish line. You, can’t get there, however, if you don’t stick with it. If you’re a flake, if you don’t commit to the work, you can never finish. You simply have to chug along, do the work. See it through.
To find out more about my new book, PRIDE OF THE DECENT MAN, including how to order a copy, go here.
It’s a common occurrence for illustrators to be uninspired. Some call it Artist’s Block, some refer to it as a rut. These are all describing a similar situation. From experience, I can tell you it’s not fun.
I’ve gone for extended periods thinking what little work I’ve created is terrible, and well beneath the standards I’ve set.
Comparing your work to others’ is something that only makes it worse. “I’ll never be as good as _______!”
There’s one thing I’ve found that can provide quite a boost in self esteem, and that’s revisiting and re-creating old artwork.
Surely I’m better than my 20-year-old self at this point.
Every once in a while, I’ve been taking old pieces of mine from my art school days ( give or take a few years ), and redrawing them. I have a folder on my desktop computer with older files I like to revisit, and it’s not difficult to find awkward art that could benefit from some tweaking. It’s great for self-esteem, and generally a lot of fun. It’s my favorite way to break out of any kind of funk or drawing rut.
Here are a few examples…
Thanks for reading!
To find out more about my upcoming graphic novel, PRIDE OF THE DECENT MAN, go here.
“Where did the inspiration for PRIDE OF THE DECENT MAN come from?”
I’ve gotten this question quite a bit since I started working on it.
I would say it came primarily out of wanting to tell a small scale, human story. Ask a lot of cartoonists why they make the books they make, and you’ll hear the same answer over and over – they make the books they would like to see in the world. They make the books they want to read.
Many of my favorite films have the element of basic human struggles – relationships, work, poverty… so it’s not surprising to me that the story I’ve ended up telling contained some of these elements.
I love the film American Beauty, and A lesser known independent film called Wendy And Lucy. Both feature small town life, and characters who are desperately trying to find their place in the world.
My favorite novels and comics also share these qualities. Catcher In The Rye, David Boring, Perks Of Being A Wallfower…
PRIDE OF THE DECENT MAN is simply my first longform attempt to tell a story/comic I’d want to read.
For information on how to order PRIDE, go here.
PRIDE OF THE DECENT MAN is also in the Previews catalog in your favorite local comic shop this month. Tell them to order with code JUL172009.
Ideas for books come and go, but I’ve learned that if you don’t write them down, they’ll fly away out of your head pretty quickly. If you don’t write it down, it just doesn’t exist.
Every idea I’ve had for a comic, I first wrote down in a small, simple notebook.
My favorite place to exhibit ( and buy ) comics is the Small Press Expo in Bethesda, Maryland. I like to have something new every time I go – to be excited about showing people your new work is a great feeling. When it came time to exhibit in 2014, I wrote and illustrated a small eight page quarter-size mini comic called TURNPIKE. It featured a nameless ‘homeless guy’ and a lonely teenager named Julie. The story evolved from those few scribbled down notes into a story.
I received a lot of good feedback about that minicomic. One cartoonist I respect a great deal told me it was very good and ‘indicative of a larger story.’
That got my wheels turning in the weeks afterward, and in 2015 I put together a proposal for a graphic novel called NEVER FORGET TO REMEMBER.
It connected the two main characters in TURNPIKE and expanded on some of the themes and visual elements. I included the first ten finished pages of the book, as well as a synopsis, character descriptions, character designs, and a cover mockup.
It all started as a few hastily-scribbled sentences in a notebook, and soon evolved into a real project. NBM responded favorably and the title was eventually changed to PRIDE OF THE DECENT MAN.
It’s Pentecost Sunday today, the Christian feast of the descent of the Holy Spirit – but what does that even mean? Here’s a comic I did a few years ago (for Dutch spiritual magazine Speling) about what spirit and inspiration means to me:
In my upcoming book Religion: a Discovery in Comics I list what I think is the core of each world religion – for Christianity I chose the holy communion as significant ritual. But personally, in the eclectic way I experience my own spirituality, I feel much more for this feast that celebrates inspiration, exhilaration and communication.