On Friday I posted the last page of my “30 Days of Comics” story, “Consternation Inc.” (All 30 pages are archived here.) I started it partly as a whim, partly to try to break some bad creative habits. A project with some time, technique, and level-of-finish constraints seemed like a great idea.
Goal 1: Produce 30 days of comics. A schedule of one page per day was doable (accepting that they might not be “perfect” or even good), and easy to remember (instead of “Am I supposed to be done with page 10 by today? Let’s check the calendar …”) 10 out of 10 for this one.
Goal 2: Get comfortable — care less. This goal actually had a couple of different aspects, but the main one is that I wanted to make “finished” work that was as much fun to make as doodling. I wanted to move comics-making out of the realm of a special occasion requiring a lot of effort; instead it should be an ordinary part of my day. So I used familiar tools (watercolor, gouache, ink) and cheap paper (actually nice stationery, with a good tooth) that I wouldn’t mind throwing away if the page went south. As it worked out, I had relatively few false starts – maybe 3 pages out of 30. Having a daily deadline also helped; there wasn’t enough time to fiddle with things endlessly. 8 out of 10 for this one.
Goal 3: Refine and amplify my technique. 30 pages was a good space in which to play with different media, amount of whitespace on the page, collage, color schemes etc. I wish I’d been able to push the collage further (I did the collage elements at a dead run, since they took longer to put together than plain old wash and ink.) But it did give me some ideas for future pages. Collage adds a nice element of randomness, something to play off of with the paint. 6 out of 10 for this one.
Goal 4: Do more work in my brain. I wanted to work directly in color, and to get each page done in at the most 2 tries. I found that after a day’s page was done, I would spend downtime (washing dishes, etc.) thinking about the next installment. After awhile I was able to visualize individual panels fairly clearly, and remember how I wanted to execute them when I sat down to paint again. It helped to only have four panels to work with. (Looking back now I can see pages where I didn’t visualize things very well.) Occasionally I would only have a really vague idea of what to do, and would just lay down some washes and improvise over that. 6 out of 10 for this one.
Goal 5: Improve my writing. Writing is difficult for me, at least after the initial rush of putting ideas together. I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to improvise a story that would work in the timeframe (either running out of steam too early, or making things too complicated to resolve in 30 installments), but I think I landed it fairly well. Again, a daily deadline helped. 5 out of 10 for this one.
So my takeaways from this are that I need a regular deadline (maybe a page every two days?) to keep my morale and production up; that I should work more intuitively and with less concern about the end result; that improvisatory elements like collage are useful; that I can plan a page in my head. (And: try to pick colors right out of the tube for your character; it will make painting him over and over less painful.)