Tag Archives: creativity

Be Funny

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Panel 4: Interrobang!

The pressure to accomplish something every day simply because someone else expects you to is a tremendous motivator. For years, the Fox and I emailed each other every day for “accountability.” We would share our word count, or number of pages edited, or queries submitted, like that. Definitely, there came days when I would have just skipped writing, except that it shamed me because he would know that I failed. So I wrote a lot more to keep from disappointing my friend.

Practically every night I think my ideas are good when I come up with them, OK as I create them, and terrible when I upload. Usually trolls don’t excoriate me. Maybe once or twice a year, although 137 upvotes/messages might be an exaggeration. Still, it’s enough to keep me going. Yesterday I was thinking about quitting. Today 7 people told me they hoped I didn’t. So, you know….

If you are among those who get something out of this work and don’t want me to quit, please consider making a small monthly donation to my Patreon. For the price of a cup of coffee a month, you could make a difference in the life of an artist. And to my 2 current Patreon patrons, thank you! You are appreciated.

 

I’d rather talk about augmented reality

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This means something, I promise.

The uncorrected proof of my comic book arrived today. I found a missing quotation mark in the text and none of the italics got set, but I think they already printed the run. No big deal; I knew there would be one typo no matter what. No one can edit themselves. It’s a gorgeous thing, this comic book, otherwise pretty perfect. But I have other feelings about it. Maybe tomorrow. I’m not ready to share yet. Besides, I couldn’t get a decent photo in the available light.

So, I was sitting at my desk searching for inspiration. Like, literally searching. I keep some weird bits in the drawers, all sorts of random tiny materials and pieces of projects, including my magic bottle from exercise 32 of The Trickster’s Hat. Some of the elements had fallen off, maybe 2 years ago, and formed a part of the whimsical detritus of the drawer that I always open in search of a working pen, but which never contains a working pen. And I decided to fix the magic bottle. Yes, I did. I fixed it. Then I improved it a little.

Which got me thinking about Nick Bantok’s method, and how he changed my mind about collage. Collage always seemed too easy to me; they’re fun to make but they don’t require as much talent as other media, in the sense that you’re taking pieces from lots of other people’s work and don’t have to create any of the elements yourself. Just discover them. But going through The Trickster’s Hat requires a lot of collage, with enough variation to demonstrate how magazine scraps can be just as basic an element as paint. Besides that, the way I make my comics is in large part a collage system, even though I redraw the lines myself.

Anyway, by the time the magic bottle was finished it was kind of late and I was still uninspired so I decided to try to create an entire comic from magazine scraps. By the time I finished cutting (old National GeographicSmithsonian, and Atlantic pages) it was way too late to try something else. I think, given more time, I could have produced something a little more cogent, but this does say a few things. I don’t know how successful it is as a comic, but Dave McKean says that any pairing of words and images is a comic, so by that metric it’s a rousing success.

A Career in the Arts!

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The Unicorn of Creativity supports this message. So does the Moth of Poverty. Your parents are just disappointed.

I say “get older” because I’m not sure “growing up” is something that is compatible with the creative life. At least, it’s been a couple decades now and I don’t seem to be doing it, at least not in the sense that my parents used the term. Maybe other creative types have had better luck, but I’m pretty sure that we’re all just big kids going through the motions of putting on pants in the morning and driving cars.

This comic isn’t 100% representative of my life, because I did try to have a career in my 30s, and after the novelty of having a lot of money wore off, I hated every second of it, and it wasn’t like I needed so much money anyway. It just felt like squandering my creativity. Even now when I get desperate and take the little freelance jobs that still come to me sometimes, I feel guilty.

Anyway….

I’m really digging this very web aesthetic of drawing black and white designs with small but meaningful hints of color. A lot of web artists seem to employ this style, and it’s pretty effective. Berk Breathed has been using it in the new Bloom County strips, for example. I hope it’s apparent that panels 1-3 feature colorful butterflies while in panel 4 you see a gray moth. The comic still works if that’s not apparent, but it has a nicer balance if you see that.

The really important part is that you know that mystic unicorn is always right behind you, whispering in your ear: You have made all the right choices. If you can hear her, just keep skipping through that flowery meadow. Tra la la.

Success

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I’m literally standing right behind you.

Criticism I can handle. Handling criticism is one of the skills they teach you in Iowa-style writing workshops, of which I have participated in 10. Criticism isn’t personal. Good criticism is useful. It helps you learn how to improve. Unlike insults, which are not useful. But even insults I can handle, having become inured to verbal abuse during my traumatic childhood.

Whether total strangers love me or think I’m a moronic talentless hack, I can still console myself with the fact that I am producing original content 5 days a week. Are they doing that? There is a line in the Tom Robbins book Skinny Legs and All where the main character, an artist displaying her canvas, is told, “My 5-year-old could do that.”

“But he didn’t,” the artist says. “I did.”

It’s like the band Nickelback. They’re hugely successful, and yet so many musicians despise them as talentless hacks, writing heroic couplets and playing 3 chords. But love them or hate them, you can’t deny that Nickelback created something. They created heavy metal music that could be played on the soft rock station. They created it and you didn’t, so try not to be too jealous that you didn’t figure that one out first, because if you had, you’d be the big rock stars, live in hilltop houses, driving 15 cars.

I’m just saying, make it useful criticism.

Anyway, 1 a.m. again. But I made something.

Dragon Comics 54

And we’re back! In retrospect, I guess I meant to come back on Monday, but for some reason I thought I had planned to pick up on Wednesday, so here we are.

When the muse sings, you better shut up and listen.

When the muse sings, you better shut up and listen.

My intention was to draw 5 or 6 comics over my break, but of course, I got sick on Christmas Eve and lost most of that week. At least there are 4 finished. Comic back to the comic after take a week off was sort of surreal. It was necessary to remind myself that yes, I can do this.

Inspiration for short fiction sort of comes at your head all the time. I probably write 2 dozens stories in my mind every week. None of them get written down, or even remembered, most of the time, but stories are everywhere. There are characters; there are situations. With the comic, the characters and situations are, by my own parameters, basically the same, but there have to be a million ways to get to the punchline, even if we always start in more or less the same place.

Pebber nodder is a kind of delicious Danish spice cookie, sort of along the lines of gingerbread, but usually smaller than cookies we eat in America (at least in my experience; I am not an expert on Danish desserts) and typically served (I believe) for Christmas. The real life owl is of Danish extraction, but I don’t know her feelings on pebber nodder. We did not eat cookies in the desert over the holiday, although I have hung out in the desert with the owl, without cookies.

The owl, the fox, and the rabbit are my real life writing group, and we do like to go away together to write in a new place. It’s a good form of inspiration, but of course you can’t depend on retreat for inspiration. You have to be able to create in your natural habitat as well.

Origami Lotus Candy Wrappers and Other Beautiful Trash

From the scraps of a bulletin board (I think it must have been last winter's lantern design) I idly constructed a magical paper landscape for two little sisters to enjoy.

From the scraps of a bulletin board (I think it must have been last winter’s lantern design) I idly constructed a magical paper landscape for two little sisters to enjoy.

My dear old friend, the artist Jeffrey Woods, went through a period when a great deal of his work involved covering glass with tiny vinyl dots, painting the glass, and then peeling off the dots. As a result, his entire property (I’m talking the inside of the washing machine, the cat’s tail, the artist’s feet) to this day remains infested by colorful, sticky, vinyl dots, forming their own patterns across the landscape. There’s a metaphor in there about the persistence of art, I think. If you ever visit his workshop (which you wont; you can’t; he doesn’t let people in) you’ll notice that his trash is gorgeous. Picture paper plates which have sat on turntables inside an airbrush booth, sporting rings of complementary colors, crammed beside gracious curves laser cut from clear blue plastic, stuffed stuffed alongside sinewy white stencils into a plastic bag with the remains of yesterday’s lunch. Splashes of color on the walls and floor from which those prone to pareidolia cannot help but search for meaning: constellations of random mess.

As a child, I spent a fair amount of time folding origami. I used to have a decent repertoire: shrimp, cranes, swans, boxes. Now the only thing I remember is the lotus blossom, which somehow looks more like a water lily than a lotus to me. Anyway, these were folded from chocolate wrappers. Endangered Species Chocolate is my favorite.

As a child, I spent a fair amount of time folding origami. I used to have a decent repertoire: shrimp, cranes, swans, boxes. Now the only thing I remember is the lotus blossom, which somehow looks more like a water lily than a lotus to me. Anyway, these were folded from chocolate wrappers. Endangered Species Chocolate is my favorite.

When I was little, I was always intrigued by artist’ palettes, the random smears of color sometimes more lovely than the finished works. I seem to find patterns spelled out on a piece a paper that I’ve used to blot my paintbrushes or wipe my fingers.

Testing markers on this sheet of paper, both sides. Paint pens always jam on me. The doodles on this paper came out way better than whatever it was I was actually trying to do with the paint pens.

Testing markers on this sheet of paper, both sides. Paint pens always jam on me. The doodles on this paper came out way better than whatever it was I was actually trying to do with the paint pens.

I’m the kind of person whose hands sometimes go on without her, particularly when it comes to small, malleable pieces of refuse. I remember once, years ago, picking a twist tie off my cousin’s counter and, without really thinking about it, curling it into an elaborate butterfly. Her son took an instant liking to it and, shades of Hawthorne’s Artist of the Beautiful, smashed it into a wad. My cousin was horrified. I laughed. It was perhaps beautiful, but it was also a bit of trash.

I'm just as likely to curl paper as to fold it. With the right material to hold their form, these scraps could easily be beads.

I’m just as likely to curl paper as to fold it. With the right varnish to hold their form, these collaging scraps could easily be beads.

Challenge yourself to find something pure and shining in the discards of your life and watch the world made magical.

Too Many Words

There’s a roster of webcomics I adore because they’re smart and funny, and Subnormality, by Winston Rowntree, is high on that list. He subtitles his comic, which mixes fantasy, science fiction, slice of life, and true storytelling, “comix with too many words.

The cursed eyeball plant

The cursed eyeball plant: late 90s

I think I write comics with too many words. I’ve been reading books about graphic storytelling and trying to understand how to create images that do the work of words.

The fiery glowworm; late 90s

The fiery glowworm; late 90s

I drew these comics for my little cousin while toying with the idea of creating an illustrated zoo of imaginary animals, but ultimately, I figured that what came out of the crayons was probably a bit too creepy and esoteric for a 3-year-old.

A clownfish. Why, why, why? This image is so wrong. It was wrong when I drew it in the late 90s, and it's just increasingly wrong every year.

A clownfish. Why, why, why? This image is so wrong. It was wrong when I drew it in the late 90s, and it’s just increasingly wrong every year.

Still working on it.