Make Comics Forever!!

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Wednesday, November 16, 2005

15 Minutes

I was getting really pissed off at myself for not working on my comic book, PHASE 7. I am only 10 pages away from having #006 totally done, yet I have basically stopped working on it. And it's been more than a YEAR since the last issue came out. Granted, my life is INSANELY busy right now. I'm living in NEW YORK, which is stressful and hard in its own way, plus I'm going to school full time (taking EIGHT classes at Pratt Intstitute this semester). That means I have A LOT of homework, plus I have a healthy stack of side projects and freelance work that I need to keep up on. (Also trying to budget some time for friends, etc. to stay SANE!)

So here is my new idea: I WILL work on my comic book a BARE MINIMUM of 15 minutes per day, EVERY DAY, NO MATTER WHAT, until it is done. I've been at it for about a week now and it has been going pretty well. Usually I have been doing it at the very end of my day, after I've brushed my teeth and right before I get into bed. Because really, what is 15 minutes? (Nothing!) There is no ammount of sleep I'm going to get that I wouldn't give up 15 minutes of it to work on my self-published comic book (read: THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN MY LIFE RIGHT NOW). And twice this week, I got 4 hours and 45 minutes of sleep instead of 5 hours, and it was totally worth it. There is something to be said for just "checking in" with my story once every day, even if it's just to touch the page, tape it down, draw a figure, erase it and then draw it again. Every four nights is another hour of work done!

Anyways, I thought that might be helpful for some people who are SUPER BUSY like me, and are getting frustrated that they never work on their Comics. Taking a small step each day will get you there eventually!


At 10:08 PM, Blogger CamChes said...

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At 10:17 PM, Blogger Peter said...

(my first post here)
15 minutes a day is a great idea. I've just started doing comics again (after 7 years of nothing!) and I find that spending just a little time each day on it is incredibly rewarding. Today I spent 24 minutes doing a comic (24 panels in 24 minutes) which is now up on my blog. It is horrible (from an art point of view) but actually has a bit of storytelling that I like and a few lines here and there that I like.
Keep going. I wish I had 7 years of crap comics instead of 7 years of absolutely nothing.

At 9:08 AM, Blogger CamChes said...

Totally what I needed to hear Alec! I'm one of those guys struggling with time. Too much going on at once. It makes sense. Even if its only 15 minutes-- it is still SO MUCH better than nothin'

At 2:01 AM, Anonymous Aaron said...

I agree... even if the fifteen minutes feel wasted. Even if at the end you erase everything and end up with nothing... you have to touch your paper and get something out of you. that way you can go back the next day and not make that same mistake again.

At 10:36 AM, Blogger Mal Jones said...

A basic rule that got pounded in my head when I started drawing as a kid was "Draw Draw Draw, Everyday."

Good ol' Commander Mark.

The same rule should apply to comic making, and it's interesting that when we're really busy, comic art is the first thing to go, which is crazy backwards.

At 2:38 PM, Blogger Metahari said...

This is a great exercise for both writers and artists. And sometimes, you may find those 15 min stretch into a bit longer. The hardest part for me, often, is just getting myself to sit still long enough to do art.

At 8:32 PM, Blogger Matthew said...

Actually, I love stickinotes for just this reason.

When I'm between assignments at work, or waiting for a call (or any of the thousand incremental slices of nothing in a work day), I'll sketch something on them. Either an emotion a song evokes, a face, pose, an object, sometimes when a particular frame has me stuck I'll roll around ways to get it to work.

I ususally have a gallery page of stickies art in my minis (helps with page counts). I keep meaning to try & improv a narrative for them one day. They keep me cartooning!

At 8:33 PM, Blogger Matthew said...

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At 11:09 AM, Blogger gee tee said...

Hello everyone,

I'm Grace and a senior English major at Macalester College. I've been making comics here and there since I was about 12 or 13, but it was not until recently that I've been more serious about it. As such, 15 minutes a day is terrific advice. I stumbled upon this blog just yesterday, and I am infinitely grateful that it exists. Several questions:

1. I write a weekly comic for the school paper (I just started this semester because I finally feel comfortable sharing my work), and the feedback I've received is somewhat mixed. Those who know me find the comic enjoyable, but those who do not know me find it plot-less and humor-less (so I've been told). This is a problem--while I don't think comics need to be FUNNY, they certainly need some sort of plot, right? I think the limited space presents itself as a problem. How do you reconcile the personal and the public, or more importantly, how do you combine the two? And how do you succinctly squeeze a bunch of "plot" into a small space?

2. Next semester, as an independent study, I'm turning one of my short stories into a comic book. I've never done this before--mostly I just make little slice-of-life comics that I keep in sketchbooks--so where do I begin? What are imperative steps in the planning process? Is it more productive to work in a linear fashion--that is, linear within the narrative of the story? Please, tell me of your trials and triumphs.

and finally...
3. I've spent the past four years reading, writing and breathing literature and theory. I know the elements necessary in a good poem and a good novel, etc., but I'm interested in the theoretical aspect of comics. I've read a whole lot of comics in my lifetime, so I know what makes a comic good for me specifically. But is there something out there that deals with the elements which are necessary to make a comic good? (This worries me because my drawing is mediocre but I have faith in my ability to construct a story...)

This was longer than I thought, and perhaps somewhat convoluted. Many thanks!

At 12:20 PM, Blogger Matthew said...

1.) Grace, I also was a stripper (to use Berkley Breathed’s term) in college. First off, be glad you got feedback from anywhere. It’s rare… and opinions besides your friends’ especially so.

Plot: I think you’re right that a comic doesn’t have to be funny, but each one has to be complete: a complete thought, a complete story beat. I tried to do a big multi-part saga, and I found out that almost nobody got it. Plot inertia was hard to keep up when there’s 7 days between four-panel episodes. My readers weren’t cutting and collecting each strip like I was (loving my own work as I did), and each week they lost the story to the mists of time, came back and went “Huh?”

I guess you have to condense each story into the basic, most universal elements. Try collecting some test audience subjects to try stories out on. Just show them a rough sketch with dialogue and see how they take it.
Is a joke funny? Does a scene portrayed make them think?

2.)Lots of places to begin.
I suggest thinking of specific scenes that are important in the story, how you’d like to show them. Take them out of your story, see what’s left, and use that to connect them. I don’t think you have to draw in a linear fashion, especially if your story is already done and you’re just adapting.
VERY IMPORTANT STEP: do a scrappy layout version first. It’s the rough draft of your comic. I use a couple sheets of printer paper, make a rectangle of the comic page, and draw my panels freehand, stick-figure characters, and leave lots of room on the sides of the paper for notes about perspective, angles, anything important… sometimes I write the word balloons out to get a feel for how big they’ll be.
I’m currently fictionalizing a chunk of my own life in three parts. The first part I did on the page as I went. I knew that part of the story, drew it as I went, and filled in word balloons along the way. With parts 2 and 3, I’m sketching out before I start drawing, and it makes the whole thing so much easier and flow so much better, and now there’s bits of pt 1 that’ll have to be redrawn to fit in with the rest.

3.)Scott McCloud’s book “Understanding Comics” is one of those books that gets tossed around a lot. It can tell you TONS about how graphic narratives work.
There’s also Will Eisner’s “Comics and Sequential Art” which I have yet to find a copy of, but everyone tells me its one of the bibles of the tools of how to make comics.
Oh, and also, there's always "Wally Wood's 22 Panels That Always Work" (
Good luck on your project, welcome to the blog!

At 1:22 PM, Anonymous nate beaty said...

Great advice as always Alec. It is sad that comics getting reduced to FIFTEEN MINUTES a day above all of life's other trivial elements (eating? bah!), is something to strive for. But I'm right there, and I'll take this advice to heart.

I might toss in writing for 15 minutes, too, since it's another neglected area in my creative output that needs daily attention lest it get a dull edge.


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