Welcome everyone, to our new series of quick-tips articles, called “The Alliance Weighs In”, where we collectively offer advice or insight on a topical subject in the comic-making industry! This month we’re tackling our “Achilles Heels”…. so the question is:
What do you consider your greatest weakness making comics and how have you overcome it?
When it comes to the comic strip, I really dislike having to do backgrounds. Sometimes, they are absolutely necessary for establishing the settings but for the most part, I really dislike doing them. They take up too much time and, at least for me, they don’t always seem to be a requirement. Again, when I feel a panel or a strip absolutely has to have a background or some kind of establishing shot, I’ll put them in there but if there’s a way I can work without them, I’m perfectly find with that.
Non-comic book related weakness is that I enjoy having a lot on my plate in terms of comic-related work as it keeps me focussed and prevents procrastination. But there is always a fine line between having a lot of work and having TOO much work and right now, I have too much work on my plate right now due to convention commissions, getting behind on the comic strip, moving in to a new studio, my Webcomic Alliance responsibilities as well as trying to maintain a consistent exercise routine. I tend to “wing things” too much so it can sometimes be difficult to know EXACTLY where the right balance is between having just the right amount of work on my plate and having too much work on my plate. Currently, I’m dealing with the latter abut will eventually get everything completed.
I am a terrible planner, which makes for a challenge doing a longform webcomic. Even when I try to make notes or outlines, my eyes often glaze over when they’re too dry or boring. And if I don’t plan at all, I end up just making things up on the spot and contradicting myself later, so getting things written down is something I’m trying to get better about. And if you think about it, it makes sense that a comic creator is also into visually-oriented information. So I use that. I try to pull in my graphic design layout experience to help. If I can draw it or arrange it so that it’s got the visual hierarchy I want, it makes things WAY easier to reprocess and remember for me.
I am actually amidst what I would say is my Achilles heel of creating comics: Getting STARTED.
I don’t know what it is about a new project, why it’s so intimidating …or demotivating… or seems like a steep wall I cannot get over. But, I have issues with diving into it. I’m a OCD planner and I hate doing things twice or having to backtrack, and truth be told, starting a comic project isn’t a cut-and-dry process wherein you can avoid these things. I may have to redraw the first few pages. I may have to redesign a character. I may have to rewrite the story. I hate that but I have to accept it, not as a possible mistake I caused by not planning well enough, but as PART and PARCEL of the process of comic-making. It took me over a year to finally draw my first Zorphbert and Fred comic after I dreamed up the concept… and it’s looking likely that it’ll take a similar amount of time to drag myself kicking and screaming into my next project.
I forget to take breaks. It’s easy for me to do since I have a day job, am married and have young children. I make sure everyone and every project gets the attention they deserve, but I always neglect myself. Over the years I’ve gotten better at spotting when I’m getting burned out. The symptoms usually involve me feeling unreasonably dissatisfied with my life. Suddenly things that were exciting become daunting, my patience wears thin; I then realize I need to step away. I usually take time off of work to regain a few hours for myself. I use that time to read or binge watch the many shows cued on my Netflix account. Just that little time away recharges my creative batteries and I feel like myself again.
My biggest weakness is color. I guess you could say color theory specifically, but also getting a style of coloring down that I like AND can do without it taking hours and hours to do. I think I’m getting better with picking colors that aren’t so eye-blinding in saturation but sometimes I have issues with knowing what colors to use to evoke the mood that I’m trying to achieve in a piece. I’m a work in progress though and I believe this isn’t something that’s impossible to overcome so long as I keep learning and trying!
There are always aspects of the process that really slow everything down because I just don’t enjoy them or know enough to get good at them. My solution is either change my process so I like the task, or accept I can’t be an expert in everything and hire someone who is.
Inking, for example, I used to hate. When I had my Right Tools Revelation I changed the way I inked, swapping brushes for my Microns. It completely transformed the experience, and now inking is one of my favorite parts of making a page.
On the other hand, website design is just something I’m terrible at. I’ve spent many, many hours trying to get better at it, but the greatest level of expertise I’ve managed is to know enough to break my site, but not to fix it. In the time it would take me to create one okay-and-slightly-broken site, I could probably illustrate an entire chapter of content. So instead I save up and hire an expert (or make a trade) for site redesigns. A web designer can produce something gorgeous, clean, and functional in a fraction of the time. Wonderful to behold!
Sometimes the best thing to do about a weakness is just admit that it’s there.