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 @

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Comic Artist Rehab (and more)

There is a nifty website called "Comic Artist Rehab" out there, which aims to help cartoonists de-slump and become productive. They do this by selecting four cartoonists at a time (from those who have written in for help) and requiring them to draw (and post online) four panels every four days for four weeks. At the end of the program, each artist completes and posts a 5-question "exit interview" in which, among other things, they describe the experience and what it did for them.

Like any exercise, you don't have to do the "official" version. Dragon Green wanted to take part but didn't want to wait, so she decided to do it herself and put out a call on her LiveJournal to see if anyone else wanted to join her. I and two others responded, and the "Comic Rehab Ripoff" was born.

While the exercise isn't a cure-all for everyone's woes, it has been a good experience for me (as I write this, our final round is in two days). The combination of small frequent deadlines and a small audience of dedicated peers seems to do a good job of motivating me. I suppose you could view it competitively, not wanting to be the one to fall behind, though to me it feels like a cooperative enterprise - we are all working together, and I want to keep my end of things up.

Rehab has also made me think about the diary cartoonists out there (like Matthew Reidsma, Jennifer Omand, & of course James Kochalka) who draw four (or so) panels every darn day, on top of other projects. My post-Rehab goal is to draw at least 2 finished panels every day (preferably at least four).

I think a dedicated workspace is also helpful. I replaced my desk with a used drawing table a while ago, and though it took some time before my space was orderly enough to access it, during Comic Rehab I have enjoyed the feeling of sitting down to this special space to produce my allotment of creative stuff (also, the slanted surface is harder to clutter!). I don't think a drawing table is necessary, just a place that is clearly for drawing comics or whatever. It doesn't even have to be strictly dedicated, as I am all too familiar with space constraints, but it should be set up so you have to do little or nothing to sit down and start making comics - no piles of stuff to move, etc.

Don't get trapped into thinking you can only draw in your special place, though, or you'll be working against yourself. Draw everywhere! Brandon Graham says, "I drew for years at a time without owning a desk. Be ready to draw anywhere, bust out your best work anytime. The best thing about comics is that it takes no money -- you could steal pens and paper and make the best comic ever sitting on a dumpster."

Be ready to draw cartoons even when you are Bob Ross preparing for your show: