#10: Process peak!

This week I go off on a tangent about posers and punk rock before digging into resistance to working and making major changes to my style – including some process!

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What I’m thinkin’

Pushing people out of the circle is essential to insecure people who want to make sure the circle has edges and they are safely inside.

Jessica Abel

This bit of wisdom from Growing Gills came to mind yesterday when I came across this comic on Instagram about older punks and what punk is acceptable:

You’ll have to click through to read it all.

I remember hearing the term poser (or the more poserly poseur) as a kid in the 80s and being uncertain what it really meant, aside from being unequivocally bad. Was I poser? Could I be a poser? Did this really depend on what music I liked? Maybe I’ve been a poser this whole time and just haven’t known anyone douchey enough to call me out, which sounds like a win.

I did know someone in the 90s who was a well off suburban trust fund kid who tried really, really hard to not like anything popular and thus was a big Sonic Youth fan (I’m not into art rock, I dig the experimentation and whatnot but the stuff just sounds shitty). I guess he personified the fear of being a poser.

For the record, I like punk, I’ve never been to CBGB’s (the only time I considered going was when Social Distortion played there in ‘97 but I couldn’t get tickets), and my favorite band is Green Day (I can imagine the gatekeepers’ eye rolls right now).

And for the gatekeepers: Green Day followed in the footsteps of The Ramones, except they’re much, much, MUCH better songwriters who refused to let anything hold their creativity back – least of all other people’s opinions.

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What I’ve been working on

The last couple of weeks, with the interrupted sleep, has been difficult creatively. I’ve been struggling, and I’ve given myself some room (but not a lot) to do less than usual. The guilt is still there (if you’re like me, it’s nigh impossible to get rid of).

I find that resistance grows when major changes need to be made. I’m committed to growing and improving as a creator. And I have a compulsive perfectionism that is constantly whispering in my ear.

Last week I had a meeting with with my critique group and I’ve been kicking around wholesale changes to the first third of the story. It now feels like I’m writing an (almost) different story and it’s become a bigger deal to reconsider what works, setting up what I want to setup, etc. It feels a bit more like work.

At the same time, I didn’t like the way the colors look on the 5 page comic that I’ve been spending way too long on:

image 2
This doesn’t look bad but choosing colors and keeping a consistent look across different panels irritated me. But I like these inks so much…

Prior to last week, I was pretty happy with the Ink Liner Toothy brush from the Watercolor MaxPack. I love rough, analog inks (especially Jim Mahfood, man do I love his art). I thought it gave a nice quality to the last few comics I posted on Instagram. And I could color those comics with the kickass watercolor brushes from the same pack – which is exactly what you can see above.

But I was not happy about how all the colors looked. And I’ve learned that I often feel resistance when there’s something I don’t totally love about whatever I’m working on.

So I researched the shit out of limited color palettes, learned about spotting blacks after noticing how Vera Brosgol uses black ink, and then did some studies of Alec Longstreth’s coloring of her Be Prepared:

A pagespread from Vera Brosgol’s ‘Be Prepared,’ colored by Alex Longstreth.
This is indoors & at night, so the darker green is prevalent. In outdoor & daytime panels, the lighter green is more common. Also, this looks NOTHING like my art, right?

I’m a fan of making studies, and it’s been a primary way for me to figure out how to do things. So in scrutinizing Be Prepared, I noticed that:

  1. The inks were smooth, with lines thicker than I’ve been using
  2. Longstreth used 4 colors only: black, dark green, light green, and white

I did not want to re-ink all 5 pages so I decided to try the limited color palette first. I came up with a color palette based on a dark brown (instead of black), orange and yellow – colors that I associate both with India (especially turmeric) and the 1970s. And I tried it out:

First pass with a limited color palette

That’s not bad (I added some shadows & highlights), but I still not right – the darker orange isn’t dark enough. The hair and white background don’t look all that great. Brosgol & Longstreth’s work looks a lot better, and they plan their use of colors better. Back to the drawing board.

This time I grabbed Longstreth’s colors and converted them to grayscale. Then I futzed with my colors, trying lighter and darker shades until the values were similar:

Ugly mustard bad
That ugly mustard color on the right side was rejected despite it’s value being perfect because it looks like a mustard stain.

With the colors set, I tried coloring with different brushes:

Different brushes

The watercolor brushes that I loved were the first ones I tried (#1) and they were too washed out. But I still wanted some texture so I tried a bunch of other brushes, deciding on #6: a photocopy inking brush from the Retro MaxPack.

I noticed then that aside from a little texture, the colors looked pretty texture-free because I didn’t want the texture in everything. And if I could just drop colors in (like with a bucket tool), it would speed things the f up. And the faster I can do things, the more likely a comic is to get finished.

Problem was, with the inking brush I used, dropping colors was not easy because there were often minuscule gaps. It’s not much faster to have to select an area and then drop a color in, so I decided that I’d just copy Brosgol’s inking style (literally tracing over her lines to learn how to make the lines) and went back to trying two brushes that I’d been customizing for MONTHS:

image 4
Brush 1 on the left, Brush 2 on the right. (Yes, there are minuscule differences but dammit I can tell…)

So there you have it – I’m re-inking 5 pages, that will now be recolored with a limited color palette. The colors will be dropped in as much as possible, with limited shadows, highlights, and texture.

If you’re wondering what made me decide to drop the colors in, it was this study:

Shitty texture
The texture is barely noticeable, looks shitty around the doorway, and took way too much time to not add much.

Hopefully it’ll be done in the next couple of weeks.

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What I’m reading

Still working on Chuck Wendig’s Damn Fine Story, which rocks as it’s making me think really hard about character and motivation over plot & structure. And it’s throwing wrenches in my plot rewrite.

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That’s all folks! My question for you this week is:

What’s your process for making changes and improving your art?

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I write about life as a creative, how to make money without being a skeevy marketing bro, good reads, and more. Free exclusive comics may or may not be involved.

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Each issue is written straight from the heart. I write about life as a creative, how to make money without being a skeevy marketing bro, good reads, and bad jokes. Free exclusive comics may or may not be involved.