As I mentioned on my recent quote post, I recently started drawing small, single page comic strips every day or as close to daily as I can (so far I've only missed two days) so I thought I'd just write down some thoughts on it, if anyone's interested.
In the post linked above, I realised the reason why I wanted to try out daily(ish) comics is a way to get my brain thinking about ideas. Every day.
Working on longer comics projects, I get into a sort of "execution" headspace, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. But, there's a lot to be said for keeping the brain working on coming up with new ideas on a regular basis.
If you want to be a better writer. Write.
Not sure who said that but this is the crux of the why is this. By working on new ideas every day, even though they're short, it adds up to the collective experience and just keeps the idea generating part of my brain ticking over.
Another added bonus to drawing daily comics is I'm not restricted when it comes to the idea. I have a simple framework I have to work within:
- Single page of a 5x5" sketchbook
- Stick to 4-panels or less (unless the idea really needs more)
- Drawings cannot bleed to the edge of the page
- Ink pens and biro - no colour
- Bad or mediocre ideas are ok. Good ideas are better, though
- Must be fairly quick. Under an hour is ideal. Over 2 hours is too much.
- No really bad swear words, just in case my kids read it
Aside from these rules, I have complete freedom. One day, I can do a random Pokémon-related comic, the next I can do a Lord of the Rings-inspired piece. It can help break the monotony of working on the same set of comic characters.
Having this freedom keeps things fresh every day. The short-burst nature of it means there's no time to overthink or second-guess, there's no time to worry about creating "perfect" art (that's a whole topic of its own) and in just a few short weeks, there's a body of work starting to build up which helps keep the momentum going. I'm now finding myself fighting really, really hard on days when I struggle to get an idea. I don't want to miss a day.
For anyone interested, I just thought I'd write a little bit about the process.
First is the sketchbook. As some of you know, I started making my own notebooks last year and now, having changed the paper stock I use, also make my own sketchbooks. I'll not go into detail about that here so getting back on topic, I knew I wanted a square format since Instagram would be my primary place to share online and I happened to have a 5x5" sketchbook just sitting there on my desk as though it was waiting to be called up to bat.
I created a basic 4-panel stencil which I used to go through all 24 pages with a faint pencil line to set out the core layout.
From there, it's down to the daily practice. Try to think of an idea, any idea. On a day where an idea doesn't just pop into my head, I have to shift to a sort of observational mode in my head. Not necessarily to pay attention to what I'm doing at any given moment, that just happens but more observing what's happening in my head.
I might read a passage in a book or hear something on a podcast which sparks a random thought. If I'm not paying attention to those thoughts, potential ideas just drift away.
When a spark of an idea hits me, I figure out if I can make the idea work in 4 panels or less. If not, I'll make a note for a different project but so far, I've managed to whittle down an idea to it's core essentials so it can be told within the framework.
You might be wondering what I consider is a good or bad idea. As I mentioned earlier, either can go into the book but as a general rule, if something makes me smile or if an idea just keeps coming back to me, that's usually a good sign. I'm doing this project first and foremost for myself so I allow my own opinion or sense of humour guide what ideas I press on with.
Once I have an idea which I think will work, it's then all about getting it down on the page.
First job is writing any words. First, they help me start to visualise how the structure of the story or the gag is taking shape.
On a more practical level, doing the lettering first then allows me to see what available space there is left to do the art, which is the next stage.
Once pencilling is done, I break out my pens. I typically start with a brush pen and set down the core solid lines of the artwork. That way I can rub out the pencil and get a feel for how the final piece is shaping up before going in with fine liners and increasingly often, using biro to add shading.
Once the art is done, I drop a date on it and that page is finished!
At the time of writing, I've only a day or two left of this first sketchbook. That'll be 24 short comics finished. Part of me wants to wait another month or two to release a collection but part of me also loves the idea of doing a short print run of each individual sketchbook so I'm just getting some quotes on that.
So all that's really left to do is create a cover, maybe write an intro and see what quotes come back.
Watch this space...