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Sunday, August 06, 2006

Hitting the Home Stretch

My wrist aches. My ink rag needs replacing. I have denied invitations from others to socialize. Diagnosis? HOME STRETCH.

I always get this way when I’m getting to the last quarter of a book. I spend almost all my time drawing and inking (and the only reason I’m not doing either of those right now is because my forearm and wrist are useless after a full day’s inking – my cross hatching has started to resemble that of an 80-year-old). It’s both the most difficult and the most exciting part of drawing a comic. It’s like the moment right before you kiss someone – the feeling of anticipation. However, once I’m done, well… I’m done! Until the next issue, of course, but I have production and other projects to keep me busy until I start the next one.

Alec posted some great tips below that everyone should check out, but I just wanted to add a few of my own:

1)Don’t do anything to damage or unnecessarily strain your drawing arm, especially when you are trying to keep to a schedule. Last night, I went to a concert and pumped my right arm in the air so much I had trouble finishing the inking I wanted to finish today.

2)PODCASTS, PODCASTS, PODCASTS! I can’t believe I never thought of this before. I get bored with the same old music on my iTunes, and I have one or two podcasts I regularly listen to, but for some reason I never thought of subscribing to more. I couldn’t think of something better to listen to whilst inking! Plus, it makes me feel less lonely, all holed up in my studio for days at a time.

3)Instant Messenger – a blessing and a curse. It’s great to have friends at my fingertips when I get lonely in the aforementioned studio, especially when I have a quick question or just want to share a minor frustration I’ve encountered. On the other hand, the chatting can get out of hand if you get into a heated discussion. That’s when it’s time to turn off your instant messenger and get back to work.

4)Breaks without guilt. I know this has been discussed before, but we cartoonist types tend towards the obsessive compulsive and it’s easy to be hard on oneself, as odd as that may sound. Schedule your breaks, or say to yourself “I will finish this panel in the next half hour and then I will treat myself to a banana.” I have been amazed by the results when I tell myself I will finish something in a given amount of time.

5)Rewards!! This kind of goes into what I mentioned above. A friend of mine suggested to me, when I was stuck in an unproductive rut, that he used to tell himself that once he finished a panel, he’d give himself a whole bag of M&M’s as a reward. Usually, after finishing that panel, he’d end up doing the whole page anyway, plus he’d get M&M’s, so it all worked out. I usually reward myself with a piece of fruit and a 15-minute internet break after each page penciled or inked.

6)Don’t forget about life! Outside of my day job and my comicking, I force myself to do at least one social thing a week, even if I’m in HOME STRECH mode as I am right now. You need it even if you think you don’t.

7)I find this little snippet from Dave Sim super inspirational and I read it whenever I feel like I'm trying too hard to be "perfect." I'm not fond of Sim's rampant misogyny, but his thoughts on comics and self-publishing are borderline genius.

Okay, well I’ve rambled on for way too long already, so I’ll stop here and go to bed. Happy comicking everyone!


At 10:18 PM, Blogger Colin Tedford said...

On drawing arm care, reducing computer use when you're working intensively will both reduce arm strain and remove a distraction! Unless you make comics on the computer, in which case I guess it's more cutting back other computer uses. Anyway.

I definitely second the need for socializing, though I'm not always great at practicing it (I did go out last night, though, and now some of my comics are travelling to Iowa with one of the bands...).

I like the idea of working in a "studio" set-up, having the creative energy of a bunch of people working in the same room, the chance to socialize with them during breaks. Not practical on a frequent basis where I live, but someday...

At 10:14 AM, Anonymous Rick said...

Great tips.

Not to sidetrack too much, but the Dave Sim comment threw me for a second -- I've never read much Cerebus, and I guess I'm just out of the loop on that sort of thing. But there you go: google "dave sim +misogyny" and you get The Dave Sim Misogyny Page.

Learn something new every day.

At 10:43 AM, Blogger Troy Little said...

(Continuing the sidetrack but a moment...)

I'm probably one of the few people left around to freely admit to being a huge Cerebus fan.

Sim's personal views do infect the work in the latter half of the epic but no one can deny it is THE most fascinating and controversial sustained narrative in comics ever.

I find a lot of inspiration in reading Cerebus and marveling at the artwork. Enjoy the work and ignore the rabble.

At 10:51 AM, Blogger Alec said...

Great suggestions Liz! (Good luck with the home stretch!!!)

WORD to Pod-Casts (I miss them so much with my crappy dial-up connection... ) I also do a lot of audiobooks. I think Robyn also has a subscription to Anyone else using that?

Another tip I have about drawing-hand care, is to USE YOUR OTHER HAND FOR NON-DRAWING TASKS!!! The big ones for me (which I have now been doing with my LEFT hand for a year) are 1) Brushing my teeth (takes about a week to get used to) and 2) Using my computer mouse (took about 2 days to get used to). You can't imagine how much this saved my drawing hand when I started going to art school. You can read my manifesto on the subject on my blog: I also have a LEFT hand

And Rick, if you can find a copy, track down Dave Sim's "Cerebus Guide to Self-Publishing." It's a giant text-only comic book, filled with inspirational and instructional essays like the one Liz printed (most of the material being printed BEFORE he went all mysogynistic and started offending everyone). It's one of the books that really got me into self-publishing!

At 12:28 PM, Blogger Colin Tedford said...

I'll have to try this lefty path out; I got tendonitis at a factory job before college, and it's better now but I've never totally shaken it.

I just picked up & read the Cerebus Guide... a month ago & dug it. I think if you go to the archive for the link Liz provided you can read a lot of the stuff that went into it (scroll down to "Notes on how to become a cartooning self-publisher" / issue 168).

Troy: I know people who are repelled by Sim's beliefs but still recommend Cerebus as an amazing comic.

At 2:40 PM, Blogger Liz (Baillie) said...

Alec -

I don't know why I haven't thought of switching my mouse to my left hand at work! I think that will save me a lot of wrist anguish. Actually, I just finished moving it to the left side of my desk. The two things I'm most afraid of in life are going blind and my wrist going out, so hopefully this will keep at least one of those at bay.

At 10:14 PM, Blogger jorge f. muñoz said...

About Cerebus, everybody should do himself a favor and get the Cerebus Guide To Self Publishing, the first part of the book is the most inspirational piece of text I have ever read, trust me on this one.

At 2:48 PM, Blogger Greg said...

Liz (Baillie) wrote:
"...Sim's rampant misogyny..."

Which misogyny do mean?

Alec wrote, on Sim:

"...he went all mysogynistic.."

There is no evidence that Sim is misogynistic.


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