Reflections

Recently, we here at the Alliance hit upon a small milestone in our endeavors of passing along our insights and tips on creating webcomics.  We recorded our 50th Workshop Podcast and it not only featured past and present members of the Alliance, it was a ton of fun chatting with all these different comic creators.  But it also was a time for reflection.  Well, at least for me, and I’m sure most of us here at the Alliance.

We started the Alliance with a simple goal: pass on what have learned and share what we continued to learn.  None of us declared ourselves “experts” in creating comics, but rather considered ourselves equals to our readers and tried to present issues that effected us and hoped those issues would bring some light to you as well.  Seems it’s working.

So, being the official old fart of the group, it got me thinking on why I started down the dark path known as Webcomics.  If you apply cold logic as Mr. Spock would, it is a rather painful process we subject ourselves to as we create something then put it out there for judgment by our peers and our readers.  Sometimes it is very painful as our creations bear the weight of both criticism and rejection.  I’ll retrace some of my steps and let you judge if I was crazy or extremely perceptive.

At age 50, in 2007, I decided to take on the challenge of creating a new career by drawing comics.  I did a little research and happened upon “Girls With Slingshots” and went “Okay, this is what I want to do.”  I liked the anti-establishment way Danielle did her comic with characters swearing and taking on topics the Comic Syndicates would NEVER dare take.  I was hooked.  Problem was I drew like shit.  Absolute crap.  The original image of Bud is over there on the left and it was the best I could do at the time.  I’ve come a long way, but considering the poor quality of the drawing, I’m surprised I continued on.

And there’s my point.  Why did I continue?  I took a lot of heat for about 2 years as I slowly improved my craft.  Not only was I learning how to draw again, but I was learning how to draw DIGITALLY.  Talk about teaching an old dog new tricks!  I was fighting an up-hill battle the whole way.  Because not only was I learning, I was displaying my progress for all to see on-line.  I had one Twitter follower just bash me up and down about how terrible I wrote and drew.  Then I went to his website and was not impressed with his work and decided to carry on.  It’s easy to be an arm-chair critic.  My first lesson learned: Ignore the nay-sayers and look for people who will give you constructive criticism.  But be prepared for some harsh truths. Take each one as a motivation to improve and grow.  I did.  You eventually grow “thick skin”.

And I have to say the comic’s community on Twitter is normally a very receptive and sharing bunch of people.  Seek out those who have similar personalities and learn a few things.  Share things you’ve learned, even if you think it’s been done before.  There’s always a new twist to a process.  How one artist does something is not necessarily good for another.  Find what’s comfortable and grow from there.  As we stated in the 50th podcast: get out and draw.

So, if you are on the fence about putting you comic on-line and have some fears of rejection or not being good enough; take it from me, just do it.  By forcing myself to draw comics weekly, I was able to slowly hone my craft.  If I just kept it to myself, my growth would not have been as significant.  By committing to publish your comic, you also test yourself to see if you really have it in your heart to draw and do it on a steady schedule.  Get out and do it.  Find local artists on Twitter and get together for casual “drink and draws” as those few hours of interaction with your peers will give you a ton of motivation as you discover you are not alone in this crazy world we call Webcomics.

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Posted in Featured News, Helpful Hints.

25 Comments

  1. So true, all of this. Byron, meeting you at C2E2 was one of the final nudges I needed to start a webcomic. I’ve been drawing since I could hold a pencil and work professionally as a graphic designer and illustrator, but hadn’t published any of my comics. I’d make them and keep them to myself, or do a little one-pager and never revisit those characters. I was doing it in the dark and didn’t realize that the only way to really improve and grow in this medium is to share your comics. You’re absolutely right in your closing sentence: we’re not alone in this. The creator community on Twitter, at conventions and elsewhere (like this site) is invaluable. I’m not sure I’d have the encouragement and inspiration to do this without such a great group of peers.

    • I remember meeting you and I’m glad I helped you cross over the “Dark Side” of Webcomics! I get a cookie!

      Yeah, there’s nothing worse than sitting in a tiny room drawing all this stuff and not getting any feedback.

      I also love our monthly (or so) drink and draws. They have inspired me to continue growing as I see what each of you guys are doing and want to improve as well.

      Rock on, man. 🙂

    • so inspirational, thanks Jeff! I remember meeting you as well, that was a great convention. I want to return to C2E2 as soon as I can afford the flight/hotel and still make a profit.
      Keep on keepin’ on.

  2. I readily agree with you except on one point, which I want to object to:

    The drawing doesn’t look like crap. Not to me, and I’m sure to a lot of others.

    True, as you improve over time, you become aware of the “problems” with your previous art, and I place “problems” in quotes because art is so subjective that the only fact we can truly articulate is whether we like it or not. Anything that we say to qualify that is just subjective.

    You are a motivation for others in this lonely endeavor. Good luck.

    • Thanks, Neff. I think we artists are own worse critic. Yes, I can see every single wiggly line, the horrible proportions and the really yukky hands. Your point is well taken, and I probably kept going due to the fact I knew I could do better and WANTED to do better as well.

      I’m glad I’ve help others on this ride I’m on. As long as my wheels keep turning, I’ll be crankin’ comics.

      🙂

  3. Whoa, we must be on the same brain frequency right now Byron!! I was making a video on a general thread very similar to this, and I signed on here and was all — “Preach it, brother!” 🙂

    (Also, if you’re going to be in my head, I expect you to pay rent. Unless I’m in your head. In which case, I’m just visiting. 😉 )

    • Our minds are a “no fly zone” so I’ll stay out of yours if you’re out of mine. Have a cookie while you’re in there, by the way. 🙂

  4. In my case, not only enjoy reading 1977 the comic, but also admiring your decision of start following your dreams at 50… I am not your age, but I am no that young either, and I am enjoying a lot this experience of drawing and publishing my cartoons.

    Thanks you and the gang for all the knowledge and inspiration you bring us every time. 🙂

    • I don’t regret switching careers one bit. I’d like to grow my talents faster, but then, I’m impatient.

      Thanks for reading!

  5. I’ve always loved both art and music and sort of strayed from art while things with my band picked up. I really missed art and wanted to figure out how to find my way back to it. I also wanted to learn how to use photoshop so I figured the webcomic was a perfect venue to do both. One of the things I love about webcomics is that they are almost like an art diary, the growth of the artist is right there for everyone to see. It’s fun to click on page 1 to see how far someone has come.

    • That is so true! I cringe at my early works, but they do show a massive progression. Musicians and artists are very nearly identical twins. We have to work hard at creating something near and dear to our hearts, while at the same time working to gather a following of supporters.

      Lots of great bands out there stuck in two-bit bars, but they keep doing it for the love of the music. We comic artists are exactly the same.

      Keep on rockin’, man. 🙂

  6. First year I went online I put out a call for guest toons when I went on vacation. Byron answered the call and I was excited that a real cartoonist found my little blog.

    Btw you still drew hands well back in 2008 when you started

    • I’m not real, I’m only a figment of my imagination. It’s all done with mirrors…

      I was happy to help out back then. I’d do it again if you ever need anything. Just bug me, my attention span is very short these days. 🙂

  7. Byron, you long been an inspiration to me and I thank you for path you took. I know how weird it is to learn to do everything at once: create the webcomic, the characters, the art, learn how to use the software and the digital drawing, learn how to publish online, and look after a website, etc. It was really difficult.

    And then, yeah, I look back at what to me is a pathetic-looking thing I called my online comic and I shudder. Others tell me the story is really good. And I’m on hiatus now but I’m working on getting back to it soon. I’m glad you didn’t give up, because your work shines! You’ve always been encouraging and because you didn’t give up, I’m not giving up either.
    Thanks for this! <3

    • To quote Dory from “Finding Nemo”: “Just keep swimming, swimming.” We just gotta keep digging. From our era, it was “Keep on truckin'” or “Keep on, keeping on”. So true.

      I’m glad I’ve been an inspiration to so many, it makes me warm inside and helps me keep going as well. 🙂

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