I want to talk about creating comics and graphic novels on a different level now. Not the aspirational big picture level. I’m talking small-scale, late night, fourth coffee, half asleep, creative GRIND.
So here is the scenario. It’s 1:00 am. I’m inking a detailed background and cursing myself because I like to draw fabric, leaves or some crazy detail that I thought was a good idea 4 hours ago. I need to keep the gas-tank lit with inspiration. I need to push through and get this page done. There is nothing worse than looking back at a night’s work in utter shame and disappointment of one’s laziness to ink leaves. It’s a horrible feeling, makes me want to watch TV and play XBOX till morning. What do I do to keep going? Remember, creating a graphic novel is a marathon not a sprint.
Here are my “Go-to” options to get motivated…Ready? Pride, envy, perseverance and good music!
Pride: I’m a proud guy and I don’t enjoy losing. I’m in a constant battle with myself to get better and better. If I’m told my writing needs work or a characters anatomy is a mess…I won’t rest till I’ve adjusted, re-worked, obsessed and proven (to myself) that I’ve fixed the problem. For example, I’m “obsessing” over a character that wears a partially tattered cloak. The length of the fabric will symbolize how good, neutral or evil the character is. Too long and you have Dracula, too short and it’s Robin Hood. Perception is a big deal and drawing a character consistently is important for the audience to connect and remember that specific character. Here is a great article on why character design matters: https://medium.com/this-could-be-better/the-brave-and-the-bold-9366f8a34e77
Envy: I look up to creators like J.K. Rowlings (little book series that made a movie or two called Harry Potter), George Lucas (That guy that made the Star Wars franchise), Guillermo del Toro, Robert Kirkman (Walking Dead), and to a lesser spotlight, David Peterson of Mouse Guard, Frank Miller (300, Sin City), Mike Mignola (Hell Boy), and Bill Watterson; creator of Calvin & Hobbes.
Sure I want to get my story in front of as many people as possible. The dream is to create something from scratch and share with the world. High hopes, but go big or go home right?
Perseverance: I’m hungry for the end result, I need to see my story come to life, it’s an obsession. For example; I was working on the blue-line of a page last week. I could skip this stage, but I know that the final coloured page may suffer from the lack of structure and layout that is often determined at this “blue-line” stage. Perseverance comes into play when I know I should stop, and re-charge or tap out and go to sleep. So instead I keep working, blink and 2 more hours pass by. It’s funny how that tends to happen.
Music: I listen to all kinds of music. It really depends on my mood, the time of day, weather and what I’m working on. When I’m writing I need music without vocals. I listen to soundtracks that help me to get into the scene of my story. THE BONESETTER is a dark, Gothic thriller set in frontier America. I’ll often have music playing from movies like The Proposition, Last of the Mohicans, The Dark Night or Hell on Wheels. I’m open to other suggestions, so please feel free to comment.
Lately, I’ve been looking to my fellow comic book creators for inspiration. I’ve been searching for podcasts, websites and YouTube videos. A month ago I stumbled across this great podcast by Jason Burbaker and Daniel Lieske. The series is called Making Comics. They’ve both been through the struggle (and rewards) of creator owned comics and graphic novels. They have insights on work-life balance, the tips and techniques to get through that creator grind. Very helpful for up and coming independents like myself…who are on their 5th cup of coffee…half asleep…grinding that work out.