Obviously I am not going to give a drawing course in a single post, so I am going to assume you already know how to draw well enough to get your point across, or have an associate who is going to do it with you. But if you’re just starting out, the least I can do is introduce you to your enemies.
Twin Killers in Cheap Suits
Like all good demons, they hover around us perennially. Make no mistake, they want you, and they will do everything in their power to get you, though naturally, like all good demons, they’ll drape their evil in enticement and allure. That’s why they are so successful.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the two Crown Princes of Hell, Procrastination and Perfectionism.
There are, of course, charms to work against them, but only two: Commitment and Discipline. In some ways, that may sound like the game isn’t worth the candle, but in the end it comes down to your answer to this question: Do you want to do a webcomic or not?
I’m going to assume you said “yes.”
I think I put this in an earlier post, but it’s always worth repeating: Commitment means doing what needs to be done even, perhaps especially, when you don’t feel like it. It means that if you don’t do it, it won’t get done. There’s always something else that needs doing, and always something else that seems like more fun. That’s where Procrastination is in its element.
The only real method I’ve ever found that is successful against Procrastination is the Five-Minute Rule. When you don’t feel like working on your comic, and in the absence of any life-threatening emergencies, commit to sitting down and working on your project for five minutes. Set a timer if you like. At the end of five minutes you reassess…and you’ll be surprised to find that your interest in working has increased.
Commitment also comes into play when you find yourself spending hours and hours over a single panel or face, always finding something wrong. That’s a sure sign Perfectionism has snuck up on you and sunk its teeth in.
There’s nothing wrong with standards. I believe in doing the best I can at any given moment. And the higher your standards, the more work your comic is going to be. That’s all to the good…
…except when your standards keep you from getting the work done, or even when they are severely impacting your life in a negative way. Derrick Ravey, over at Everyday Decay, has an interesting tale to tell in that regard, so I suggest you check out his blog.
Perfectionism’s greatest friend is unfocused Commitment. Are you committed to that one panel or to getting your story out to the public? It’s a balancing act, sure, but you have to decide.
And how does one do that?
Oooh, sounds kinky. But you don’t need to dress in leather for this one unless you want to.
You do have to remember that you’re going to get better as you go along. Your reach will, if you’re creative, always exceed your grasp.What’s perfect today is going to be imperfect tomorrow.
And you will improve more by doing a thousand decent panels than one or two ‘perfect’ones. That means learning to let go, move on, do it better next time. The point at which you let go is, unfortunately, up to you. It’s not an easy decision.
Discipline also reinforces Commitment. In fact, Discipline is the strength that allows you to keep your commitment.
You’re not a ‘writer’ or a ‘penciller,’ you’re a story-teller. Even a single gag panel is a story. The most incredible draftsmanship, the finest rendering, is not going to make much impact if it doesn’t convey its point. Flashy panel layouts and whacky perspectives won’t do it either. All can add to the impact of what you have to say, but in a pinch, clarity always trumps window dressing.
Play to Your Strengths
If you’re not (fill in the artist flavor-of-the-month here) then don’t get lost in pretending you are. You can be influenced -lack of influence, so they say, is lack of interest – but the sooner you find your own way, the more quickly you’ll find satisfaction in the work…and believe me, it is a lot of work. A LOT.
Now me, for instance, I have a shaky hand. I can sit and mope about not being as slick as this guy or as graphic as that one, I can put off drawing my comic because I think people won’t like my work, or I can get over it and incorporate my supposed weaknesses into my style. And although I always strive to improve, as should you, your style is going to emerge anyway, so the sooner you get to it, the sooner people wlll quit spotting the Mike Mignola swipes.
If all you draw is stick figures, then draw stick figures, the most expressive, powerful stick figures you’re capable of; that’s what it’s really all about, expression. Yeah, we all love to drool at the folks who draw for the ages, but comparing yourself to them is a dead-end game, ’cause you’re not them and you never will be them and if all you want is accolades then you really don’t want to express yourself in the first place. I guarantee that any successful story teller would be telling stories, even if they had to work in a laundromat to make a living. (Shades of Stephen King!)
There are lots of comics on the web that have very simple drawing styles and yet are still very popular, because it really is all about the story you tell. Take a gander at Order of the Stick, or the noob; A Softer World uses photos.
Lately rediscovered, likely by Bruce Timm when he redesigned Batman for animation, is the idea that you don’t have to draw realistically to tell compelling dramtic stories. Anyone who has ever read Dick Tracy strips from the thirties and forties could have told you that.
No matter what you set out to do, your own personal style will emerge over time, the amalgamation of all the things you’ve taken in during your life-to-date.
You can’t make all your decisions up front; your strip is going to grow and evolve. Waiting to finalize your drawing style is merely procrastination and/or perfectionism in a cheap suit.
But you don’t want to set out on this journey without some idea of where you’re headed. Too easy to get confused and lost, and that will kill you as surely in your storytelling as it will in a blizzard.
Just as with your script, you need to at least decide as much of what you want to say as you can…then feel free to change it as you go along.
It’s called growth.