Last week we all fessed up to our mistakes with the 5 things we’d do differently, and the lessons we’ve learned. So this time we’re taking a moment to recognize that reflection isn’t just for what went wrong, but for what went well! What are 5 things that each of us got right?
5 things I got right….
2. Forced myself to draw things I was not comfortable with. For example: I forced my characters to talk with their hands so I could learn to draw hands. Push your boundaries or you won’t grow.
3. Featured other comic characters in my own comic and let the creators know about it. Grew my audience from other comics. This is how I got to know Danielle Corsetto. “That guy…” (Inside joke there)
4. Forced myself to learn how to edit my own website using WordPress and ComicPress. Hanging with Phil Hofer (Frumph) helped a great deal. This is essential that you have a good looking site to go with your great comic.
5. For my first convention I did a MAJOR one instead of testing the waters with smaller cons. Sometimes it helps to just “jump in feet first” and learn from there. I met a great contact at Lucas Film in the final hour of the first con. Well worth the money and effort, even though I was nervous as hell. AND I did it with fellow artists and that’s how we started the Alliance up. So really worth it!!
1. I wasn’t afraid (then, or now) to look outside the box. In just 7 years with Z&F, I have gone through the newspaper syndication phase, the drunkduck.com phase, the find-a-collective phase, the self-publishing phase, the comic convention circuit phase, the podcasting & “Webcomic Alliance” phase, and continue to grow. If I had stuck to what I knew and ONLY what I read in books, I’d still be sending my comics to syndicates and getting rejected over and over… and my family would be my only readers.
2. I put my all into twitter and got back what I wanted. I only have so much time to devote to social networking (I’m not just talking promoting my comic, but getting INVOLVED) and I seized an opportunity with twitter. It’s still my #1 referrer, and I succeeded so far in getting follower interaction — not because they retweet my comic links, but because I share others work and post helpful material and interact WITH them. I’m not just “Dawn the Cartoonist” on twitter– I am Dawn the cartoonin’, dog-lovin’, geekster, liberal, analytical, helpful, crazy , Cleveland fan… and that’s why it works.
3. I’m SO glad I got an art degree in Graphic Design. Yes, I also majored in Illustration and my professors were a major factor in finding my “style”, but having a solid job to fall back on .. especially in this economy.. is essential. I’m still coming to terms with the probability of never being able to ditch my day job, but I’m grateful as hell for it. Plus, I have utilized my design skills in so many ways for my comic– from the books, to my con table, to the comics themselves.
4. This one is kinda weak, but it’s seriously the best thing I have bought since I started Z&F. I gave up on Apple coming out with their own tablet laptop and got my Gateway convertible tablet to sketch, ink, color, and create comics 100% digitally. Once Windows 7 came out and I could stick a fork in Vista, it was a near-perfect machine for my comics. I am SO glad I jumped on the deal when I saw it. The portability keeps me sane, and the level of sensitivity is perfect for my style of illustration. When this one dies, I’ll be getting another tablet laptop like it, no doubt about it. (and yes, I know of the crazy-expensive Modbook… if you wanna buy it for me, great!)
5. I never quit. Even when I retired my first comic, which was insanely hard to do, I still had the gears turning and the motive to come up with another comic. Despite family, friends, teachers and whomever else along the way giving me the usual “it’s a cute hobby, but when are you gonna give up on this silly dream and just be a designer?” run down, I stuck to comics. I may one day find my passion has dried up for the field, but it’ll be on my OWN terms. Not someone else’s.
1. Jumping in and DOING it – its one thing to enjoy comics as an artist Its another to actually DO IT, rather than talk about doing it. I had a blog where I featured tutorials on making comics but realized I didn’t have one of my own. So I made one. How hard was it to get started? Not hard at all – and I guess that’s why we see so many folks with their own webcomic out there. Low entry barrier, high product selection.
2. Making the switch from a weekly page reveal to a full chapter reveal. Sure, the updates are fewer and further apart – but the quality is higher and the anticipation is bigger, provided you put the time into promotion. For those folks who are doing long-form as a hobby and want to produce the best work to show folks, I highly recommend putting your best effort out there at a pace YOU are comfortable with. Unless you have aspirations of doing this full time all the time, there’s no sense in trying to shoe-horn yourself into that work environment. It actually makes things worse. The minute I stopped worrying about punching a clock, the quality of my work improved ten-fold.
3. Being ‘AT ONE’ with my drawing programs. At first, I started off using Photoshop, flipping over to Illustrator, inking in Flash and then finishing in Illustrator. Once the process was refined enough, I was able to produce a full 6-panel page in 90 minutes. Learn your keyboard shortcuts, create actions and brush presets, and do not be afraid to review every single step and cut out the ones that are redundant. Be a well-oiled machine and your work will improve.
4. Focusing on the production of the comic and less on trying to make the comic profitable. Time spent on advertising, networking and promotion became secondary to the production of the comic. Once I worried less about trying to get out to people WHILE working, I was able to work smarter and then ENJOY promoting it. Think of it this way: if you were an artist creating paintings, would you spend more time trying to promote a show before your work was complete? NO! You’d get yourself into trouble and stress yourself out more! Finish one thing, then move to the next, and you’ll feel a bigger sense of entitlement instead of assuming you can juggle 10 things in the air and keep them there. (Eventually, your arms get tired and the balls drop!)
5. Finding a place to be able to break and walk away from it. I had big plans for my comic, with a long and rich story that was set to span over years and volumes. When I realized it was a fool’s errand to try and pull that off with limited time and funds, I whittled the story down to the essential parts and ended up with something a bit more powerful. It gave me an achievable goal that I was able to reach. It also gave me something to look forward to when I felt the itch to put out a related project/chapter/bonus content after I had completed what I set out to accomplish. Walking away gives you the freedom to pursue a new endeavour, or finish all the aborted projects you abandoned – this happens when you have a sprawling epic and are tethered to it. Give yourself the ‘out clause’ with EVERY project you do. That way you can come back to it in time; give yourself that much needed breather, and give you a goal to meet. Otherwise you’ll always be chasing the goal and the light at the end of the tunnel – if your story is too big to cover, that light may be a locomotive ready to run you over. Be careful.
1. Before the first strip was ever drawn, I took the time to create animation “turn sheets” of the three main characters since I knew I would be drawing those three characters the most. I specifically designed them so they could be very easy and fast to draw.
2. I’m glad I just jumped right in with the first strip instead of having a “This is Marc”, “This is Joey” and “This is Roy” kind of “origin” strip. I figured i would do it like I sometimes used to write short novels… start in the middle and eventually work backwards in some way.
3. I never missed an update or had a filler the first year or so of the strip. Because of that, I was able to take my time and put together a really solid first book of strips that I’m really proud of – not just because of the strips but the whole book design as well. Starting the comic has enabled me to take full advantage of ALL of the skills I have acquired since going to art school and then later to a four year institution for my graphic design degree. Every day with Capes & Babes I’m utilizing some part of my education: drawing, design, all the creative writing classes I took at Radford University, marketing, cartooning, public speaking, drama, theater, photography, color theory, web design, class instruction, book design, newspaper design & illustration… all of those (and more) get utilized every day – and especially at conventions and doing panels.
4. When I was laid off for three months, I’m glad I took the advice of other creators and kept doing the strip. I could have easily quit and it could have easily been the death of Capes & Babes but it wasn’t.
5. I’m glad that I’ve always tried to be very open and genuinely honest with any knowledge I might have and accepting of so many people – otherwise, i never would have met Dawn and Ken in person and built up an online friendship with Drezz and byron like I’m doing right now with Robin. Without that attitude, I don;t think it would have been possible to eventually become a Webcomic Alliancer!
1. Focused on writing. I’ve dedicated a significant amount of study to improving my writing and I’m so excited by the progress I’m making. There’s still a lot that I have yet to master, and skills that are unrefined, but I’m constantly learning something new. It keeps things fresh and exciting for me, because each chapter feels like my best work to date!
2. Branching out. I love hosting my Original Character Tournaments and making videos/articles for WA. My OCTs let me connect with a whole group of creative people that I wouldn’t have otherwise, and many of them have become readers and friends. Judging entries has also been exceptionally beneficial to my own process. Giving critique forces me to specifically identify problems and develop suggestions on how they can be overcome. Often doing that for others helps me identify those same problems in my own work. This is also true for writing articles and making videos. I learn a lot by sharing information with others.
3. Redesigning the site to be comment friendly. About six months into LeyLines it was pointed out to me that part of the reason I was receiving very few comments was because my website design created a barrier to them. I began a comprehensive study of other websites, researched the impact of layout and color, bought books on design, and investigated ways to make the site encourage, rather than discourage, interaction. Overnight, my comments quadrupled, and it’s been very exciting to connect with readers and see the community grow!
4. Research and development phase for conventions before exhibiting at them. I attended lots of different local conventions as an attendee the year before I got a booth at Denver Comic Con. I spent hours interviewing the people exhibiting there, taking detailed notes. I sat in artist alley rooms and just watched traffic flow, seeing what worked and what didn’t. I studied advertisements and displays everywhere. I read books, articles, and blogs on how people respond to advertisements. I also didn’t have a booth until I had something to sell and be excited about. While I continue to learn something new every convention, and not every one is a record breaker, I’m also happy to report that I’ve paid back table and made profit every time.
5. Learning to be open with readers. I used to really struggle with the blog section of my site. I knew it was important, but I thought it had to be a lofty, earth-shattering essay every time. I was fixated on the idea of “adding value” and thought it had to be in a clinical, educational way. I talked about this anxiety at PaperWings and Henrike shared a thought that changed my life: “I think the value is in the relationships you build with your readers.” Suddenly I realized that forming a personal connection was VALUABLE. That I had value! I didn’t have to be a perfect super-woman. It was enough simply to be myself, and share that with others. This immediately removed the pressure of the blog section, and I felt free to talk about silly stories, personal musings, dreams, or my process. I’ve since had multiple people tell me that their favorite part of LeyLines is not the comic itself, but the discussion that goes with it. (Henrike was also the one that clued me in on by poor website design – Thank you Henrike, for helping me make so many positive changes in how I not only presented my work, but how I viewed myself!!)
What about you?
Take a moment to celebrate your own hard work! What are five things you got right?