Make Comics Forever!!

Make Comics Forever is a forum for cartoonists dedicated to improving their productivity. This is not a forum for wimps! This is not a forum for flakes! We are here to share tips and techniques on how to produce more work and better work. Become a comic-making machine! Join the discussion now! To become a member, email a request to robyn @ un-pop.com

Monday, January 30, 2006

Trees & Hills Comics Party at CCS

On Saturday, February 4th the Trees & Hills Comics Group, in conjunction with AWP North East will be holding an informal cartooning get-together at the Center for Cartoon Studies. Please drop by to draw and help strengthen the comics community in New England.
The Trees & Hills Comics Group is a collective of cartoonists from New Hampshire, Vermont, and Massachusetts. Several of their members are part of the Keene Comics Group, which has weekly meeting and puts out a free monthly anthology.
All local cartoonists, CCS students, and curious others are welcome to join us for a day of drawing. Bring your drawing tools and a snack to share. Drawing starts at 1pm and goes till 7pm. Local "pro" wrestling to follow.
RSVP required. Contact Robyn Chapman at chapman@cartoonstudies.org.

Some of the visiting artists:
Colin Tedford - http://artforest.org/colin/
Marek Bennett
Tim Hulsizer - http://ignatz.brinkster.net/daily.html
Bill Couture - http://artforest.org/colin/b-bop/
Blake Parker
Daniel Barrow - www.livejournal.com/users/danielbarlow/
Efraim Siounis - http://f-ram.net/

Friday, January 27, 2006

Chris Ware and Seth Comics process

Greg sent me a link to this great Comics version of a talk given by Chris Ware and Seth which has a lot of in-depth information about how they work and the schedules they keep for drawing Comics. I thought there was some good information in there (as well as being a really neat comic!) so I thought I'd share.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

go the distance


Tonight I watched Rocky for the first time ever.
OMG, maybe I'm an idiot but I think this is one of my favorite movies ever.

What you need to do is:
Watch Rocky. Watch the training sequence twice.
Download "Gonna Fly Now" and Eye of the Tiger" (which I can't really remember being played in the movie?!)
Draw.

GO THE DISTANCE. 15 ROUNDS!

Everything I've learned over the past 5 years....

Being a comic artist with a fairly constant output while still having a crappy day job I believe I can impart some advice to others.

Not everything I say will apply to your technique or production methods but try and stop me:

-Impose a deadline on every project. Reward yourself for hitting them. Great practice for working under pressure real or imagined

-Sundays are the best for drawing comics, get up early, the house will be quiet and you’ll be surprised how much you can get done. But this will involve an early night on Saturday….

-We’ve all heard it a million times: always carry some drawing equipment with you. I swear by this and always have everything with me, a half hour of frenzied drawing on your lunch break makes all the difference, plus, if you see the page that you’ll be working during the day a few times, you’ll know exactly what has to be done when you get home. I found pinning the page in progress to the wall above my pc in work helps, when you’re on the phone or whatever you’ll end up staring at the page from a distance, giving you a fresh perspective and helping you mentally work things out.

-If you have a desk job, or anything that involves paper you can draw individual panels on loose sheets of paper and add them to the page later. This works! With
a page slid under your keyboard you can secretly work away. I was fortunate that
all the panels in my Mr.Amperduke comic are the same size and would fit perfectly inconspicuous under my keyboard. Your boss will think ‘oh that crazy kid is doodling again’ but little do they know.

-Here’s a crazy one that definitely works and can be applied to other stuff, while learning Japanese I laminated a sheet with all the characters I had to learn on it.
I stuck it in the shower, hence the laminating, so every time I showered I was learning. Scoff as you may but ever notice how you start reading ingredients on a shampoo bottle if its right on front of you? Don’t waste that time, laminate character designs or a tricky page.

-If you work on a pc in your day job here’s a tip, say you have Photoshop open and you hear the door, don’t be left fumbling buttons and panicking. Open up Window Explorer and use the Alt+Tab to jump into it if the boss comes in, it opens so fast and looks legit so you can just click away on files and look busy, I’ve weasled out of getting caught on the job dozens of times with this

-You have a light-box, use it. The cheap and easy way is obviously to tape two pages to a window and trace that way but I’ve found a physically lazier way, open Word or whatever and place your pages over the screen. The brilliant white empty document will allow you trace while still at your desk.

-Don’t throw away used or faded pens, a half dead marker gives a great shading effect

-Clean your ruler at regular intervals, wrap it in a piece of paper and tightly drag the ruler up and down. You’ll be amazed at how much crap comes off and its really satisfying seeing what you’ve just prevented from dirtying your page. Sort of like a Clearasil ad.

-Good backgrounds can make a comic. I find looking at photos really helpful for this, not just for copying scenery but for training your eye. Someone gives you a photo of them at a circus, you know it’s a circus because there’s straw visible, in the background a kid has cotton candy, a shadowy figure has an oversized stuffed animal under his arm etc. Picking up on the details that make a scene easily identifiable is important and since a photo conveys an image just like a single panel you can learn a lot from this. How many times have seen old family photos and recoiled at the 70’s wallpaper? Nuff said

-Multitask. Sounds corny but it’s essential. When I’m pressed for time I put a pizza in the oven, have a shower, study while showering, the pizza will be cooked by the time I’m dressed and I eat while I read my emails. Not a second wasted. A practical comic making application of this is while I scanning a page I’m erasing the pencils on the next page while the computer is tied up

-Print concerns: always allow for bleed on your page. Try work out which page will be facing which when it’s printed, sometimes a layout can look crap when beside a certain page either because the same panel layout is used or a character appears in the same pose/composition on the facing page.

-Speech Bubbles: A common mistake among novices is not to leave room for the speech bubbles so precious art is obscured. Stripping in text by copying and pasting from a Word doc to a graphics programme can really help. Sometimes I’ll letter a page to see how it reads before picking up a pencil. The position of speech bubbles guide your eyes down through the page so use this to your advantage, don’t waste time with intricate backgrounds on a text heavy panel, the reader, however courteous is compelled to move at a steady pace.

-If you hate drawing backgrounds, take at look at how manga artists manage to bang out hundreds of pages in a month. Strong establishing shots then vague backgrounds for page after page.

-The old ‘look at it in the mirror’ trick to try get a different take on the picture doesn’t work for me. I prefer to turn the page over the stare intensely at something unrelated for a few seconds, really studying it so that your mind is reset. Flip your page back up and you’ll see it as something new and be able to judge your work objectively

-I asked a friend before who had just finished a 4 year degree in Fine Arts:
“ Tell me the most important thing you learned” his answer was “ If you’re working on something and you can’t get it right, just leave it and start again, don’t try refine something you’re not happy with”. Hey, its good advice and it saved me 4 years.


That’s all I can think of without getting into technical specifics like inking etc but
I will post something new soon. I really hope that you find at least some of this helpful. My work can be viewed over at www.clamnuts.com.

Thanks,
Bob Byrne

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

don't go backwards

Harry Houdini did some amazing things in his lifetime, but one of things that impressed me most was something he said.
"People have sometime suggested that I have a genius for this sort of thing, but I know what I have is a 'sense.' I mean that I am sensible enough to know that when you stop doing your job you begin to go backwards. And I don't want to go backwards."

Welcome back to MCF, and forgive my long absence. I've made some new developments in my work process that I'd like to share. One is that I purchased a daily planner (for $5!) How I got along without it before, I'll never know.

My cute little planner was produced by the Slingshot Collective of Berkley, CA. Birthdays of important anarchists are noted, there's chart to record you menstrual cycle and advise for dealing with the repressive government (NEVER TALK TO THE POLICE, EVER!) Sigh, I still have a soft-spot for well-meaning anarchists.
I really love my planner, which is good, because need to use it every day. I forgot to check it one day and I messed up an important appointment. That's why I taped the word "diligence" on the cover, and vowed to check it everyday.
Another thing I'd like to report on is my 24-hour comic experience. I completed my first 24-hour comic while on vacation in Alaska. A few days after Christmas, I took a nap (three hours) then woke up at midnight (the Longstreth method) and started drawing in my mom's basement. I didn't have a plan, except I wanted to start with the theme of returning home, and I wanted the main character to have ponytails (after a photo I saw in a hairstyle magazine, while my mom was getting a haircut.)

The first six hours were quiet, lonely and dark (being Alaska in winter, the sun didn't rise till about 11am.) I came closest to quitting at the sixth hour, I was tired and frustrated with my comic, which I kind of hated. But I took a break and ate some breakfast, and that helped. After that it was a lot easier. At a certain point quitting wasn't an issue, I'd come to far. But I was loosing ground, somehow I gotten off track and was a few hours behind (I was on page 18 and it was hour 20.) I drew as fast as I could manage, while keeping the look of the comic consistent.
I should admit, I kind of failed. At the 24th hour, I was still completing my last page. In truth, it's a 24 hour and 36 minute comic, but I think Scott McCloud will forgive me.
I was always told that completing a 24-hour comic will change you, and to be honest, it kind of did. I felt more confident about myself and my work. I had always thought I wasn't tough enough to complete one. That was something other cartoonists (better cartoonists) could achieve, but not me. Having completed one, I fell on par with those better cartoonists. If they can do it, I can do it! It was a nice way to start the new year.
For the comic itself, it's ok. I'm not good at using pens or working fast, but I think I pulled it off. It's fun. It's about riding bikes, cartooning, and making-out. I don't think I'll post it online or publish it, but I will share it with friends.

Friday, January 13, 2006

14 Days on THE SCHEDULE

PLEASE NOTE: This post constantly refers to my previous post dealing with a system of 8 and 10 hour SCHEDULES that I developed for drawing Comics. If you are confused by some of my terms, you might need to go read the previous post.

So I just wrapped up two whole weeks of using "THE SCHEDULE." In 14 days I drew and/or inked for 126 hours, at an average of 9 hours a day. I completed EIGHT PAGES of Basewood Chapter Two which is almost 25% of the book. I consider it a very successful outing, and I thought I'd share some of the things that made it easier for me this time around.

I should note that while the main PRINCIPALS of The Schedule (mentally separating WORK time and BREAK time) work for single day use, or shortened periods of time, it was originally designed to be sustained over long periods of time. I know that's REALLY hard to come by. I lucked out, as I am now a full time student and had two weeks off before the next semester began. SO--here are some tips that helped me through it:

1) For almost the whole two weeks I alternated between the 10-hour schedule and an 8 hour schedule (usually the "Even Steven" variation). This was good because I was usually a little burned out after the 10-hour day, so utilizing a less-rigorous Schedule gave me more energy to tackle the NEXT 10-hour day. Previously I just did 10 hours every day, which was a lot harder.

2) Getting out of bed can be really hard for me. But one thing I thought about during this work block was ALL THE CRAPPY DAY-JOBS I'VE WORKED. Namely how I've never been late to a day of work in my life. Even if a job is stupid and mindless and pays poorly and I dislike the people I'm working with, I would still show up on time and work my shift until it was over. So THE LEAST I could do is be on time for drawing Comics! (something that I LOVE WITH ALL MY HEART, you know?) Every time that thought went through my head, I JUMPED out of bed.

3) NAPS. I really utilized naps this time around. I know they are not for everybody, but a short 15 minute nap can really help revitalize you. I usually did one during my first morning break (catching up on that lost morning sleep!) and then one in the afternoon (during the 3-5 break). This also helped me get out of bed in the morning--thinking, "Yeah, I'm sleepy, but I only have to draw for a few hours and then I can go back to bed for a bit."

4) AUDIO BOOKS! I got the "His Dark Materials" trilogy by Philip Pullman on AudioBook for xmas this year. It helped me get SO MUCH drawing done. I listened to it mostly when I was inking and I found that I was SUPER EXCITED to get back to the drawing table after my breaks, because I wanted to know what was going to happen in the story next! And the time just FLEW by. More than once I was sorely tempted to keep drawing in my break time (BUT I DIDN'T). You can also get a lot of AudioBooks on tape and CD from your local library. I also listened to a TON of This American Life.

5) Another thing I noticed this time, which is sort of similar to the "start on time" theme, is to work the WHOLE time block! A lot of times I was tempted to stop early. Like the CD I was listening to would end 15 minutes before my hour of drawing was up and I'd think "Ahhh, I'll just stop early." But instead, I'd put on a different playlist of music for 15 minutes or (GASP!) draw in silence and you'd really be amazed how much you can get done in 15 minutes! Drawing Comics is this long and arduous journey, and every little minute of effort adds up in the end!

6) FRESH AIR! After one of these days, I lay down to go to sleep and I realized that I hadn't spoken to anyone all day, or left the apartment (NOT GOOD). So after that I tried to at least walk around the block, or run an errand or two that FORCED me to go outside each day. And it helped a lot, breathing fresh air and seeing other people (that should go without saying!)

I guess that's it. For full disclosure, I should probably also add that I am completely EXHAUSTED. I did take a 2-day "break" in there too, but that was to draw a 24-hour comic (and then the day afterwards, when I only drew 2-hours NOT on The Schedule and caught up on my sleep). This stuff is great for meeting a deadline, or finishing a project, but it's no way to live your life! I don't have a significant other (as if you couldn't tell) and I have very few friends that I hang out with consistently, so it was pretty easy for me to stay THIS focused. I got lonely sometimes (especially late at night) but as always, I gain a lot of strength just from knowing that all of you and so many other Comics artists I respect are in their homes, sitting at their drawing boards, making time to draw Comics as well!

So I hope SOME of that was helpful. OH--and I've had a few people comment to me, and I know Robyn got at least one--so just to set the record straight: I DID NOT START THIS BLOG! THIS BLOG WAS STARTED BY, AND IS THE BRAINCHILD OF ROBYN CHAPMAN. And we're so lucky she did. Thanks Robyn!!!

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Part Time Stories

So, my week off from work to do freelance/comic work was a huge success. I redesigned my own site, launched my T-Shirt line, and the bit I'm most proud of...

I started Part Time Stories, my year long online comic site. It starts with Thirsty, written by Marc Bryant, and will continue through out the year with stories from a bunch of writers.

I have 3 more stories besides this one ready to go (older stories I have had ready for the web since I thought up this project) and 4 more scripts as of today. I have two more stories I want to put together in my head, so that works out to be 9 stories in various stages as of launch time.

It'll be a heck of an experiment to pull this off, but to tie this in with the purpose to the purpose of the blog, it is a large effort of productivity and page creation, with deadlines and whole nine yards

Part Time Stories, one year of short stories. Here we go!