Sunday, September 28, 2008

Help Me!





It's been a frustrating stretch. I've just scrapped thirty completed pages on my book about Turkmenistan. This week I found myself starting over at page one. I feel good about the new direction, but dumping over a month of work doesn't feel great at all. It's hard not to feel that all that time was wasted. There was all that effort getting facial expressions and making sure the panels from one to the other. It's hard not to feel like Sisyphus and it's easy to have doubts.

But I had to go there to get where I am now and it seems that's the way with my long projects. They never go as smoothly as I imagine they will. They always take twice as long as I expect. There is always a moment when I find myself so frustrated that the only thing I can do is yell wordlessly. Ink bottles spill. Pen nibs break. I draw the same characters over and over again, panel after panel, page after page.

Which is why short projects are wonderful. They're over and done with so quickly and if they come out well I'm happy and if they don't, it's not like I spent over a month on them.

They're little victories.

And little victories make it easier to keep plugging away at the long projects.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Play Ball!


There have been a lot of changes in baseball. Old gloves are barely recognizable next to new ones. With video, radar guns and computer driven statistical analysis the game of today is far more scientific than in the past. Babe Ruth's training regimen of hot dogs, beer and women is quite different from today's players.

But fundamentally the game has remained the same. The pitcher pitches. The batter swings. There are three strikes, four balls and four bases each ninety feet apart. You can foul the ball off as many times as you want. The excitement that I feel when my team has a runner on third with two outs in the bottom of the ninth is the same excitement that was felt by fans 100 years ago. They prayed for any kind of hit in the same way that I pray, just as the opposing fans pray for an out of any kind.

There's comfort in the knowledge that so many other people have felt the same things that I do. Not only have they felt the same thing as me but they've done the same things as well. Many people have thrown their hats off in disgust one moment and then leapt out of their seats with joy the next.

It's not just with baseball that I feel this way.

It amazes me that the C chord I bang out on a guitar is the same C chord that Hank Williams played. I sit down at my drawing board with my pen and ink knowing that Charles Schulz did the same thing. Henry David Thoreau stacked wood for the winter and so do I.

I know I can't do as much with my C chord as Hank Williams, nor is it likely that I'll create something on par with Peanuts, and I'm sure Thoreau had a neater woodpile.

But it's nice that I can still take part.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Go!


So you want to draw a guy kissing a girl.

There are all sorts of things to think about. There's perspective which helps to create the illusion that this kiss is taking place in a real place. There's anatomy which makes the characters look natural. There's line weight which can create a sense of depth, heavier lines pulling forward and lighter lines falling back. You can also think about how many panels to draw this kiss in. One? Or two? Or three? Do you stretch it out and show the couple looking at each other, capturing the anticipation? Or is it sudden and surprising?

All these things are important and you can spend a lot of time thinking about them.

But I think you have to forget all that and just draw.

All those things just turn into obstacles. Once you start thinking about them you'll find all sorts of other things to think about. What time of day is it? Where are they? What about the general composition of the panel? What do you focus on? What don't you focus on? Do you draw just their heads? Or their whole bodies? Or maybe just their torsos? What are their hands doing?

All of a sudden drawing has become a very complicated task.

Which it shouldn't be.

It's like thinking about kissing a girl before you kiss her.

How do you kiss a girl?

You can think about what you'll say and how you'll act. You can make sure your hair looks right and that you're wearing your favorite shirt. You can turn down the onion rings and go heavy on the tic-tacs. You can listen to your favorite song ten times before you leave the house.

But when it comes down to it...

How do you kiss a girl?

You kiss her.

And I don't think drawing is any different.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Hello and welcome.

My original intentions with this blog were pretty minimal. The only reason I created it was because I wasn't happy with the way some of my pages looked on Facebook. This blog was only for those eight pages.

But now I have a blog and I feel like I should do something with it.

I draw a lot. I have never had a problem sitting down at the drawing board and getting to work. Where I struggle is in actually doing things with my drawings after I have drawn them. Things have a tendency to sit around. It feels like most of the stuff I draw goes unseen by most people including my friends. Pages get piled up on my shelves and then get buried under coffee cups, books and whatever else I can't find a good place for.

This blog will be an attempt to change that.

Once a week I'll put up a new comic or drawing. Most of these will be little side projects that I do to take a break from working on the next big book. Some will be experiments, some will be redrawings of old comics that I think can be improved on, and some of them may just be the results of my playing around.

I hope you like what you see.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Golden Age

These are the first eight pages of the graphic novel I am currently working on. It is tentatively titled The Golden Age and is based on my experiences in Turkmenistan.