24 weeks

Oct. 3rd, 2011 07:13 pm
From midnight 2012/10/03 I'll have exactly 24 weeks to finish writing, illustrating, editing and designing the first half of Frostfeld: The End of The World as You Know.
24 weeks.


Blink, and it'll be the festive season.

Blink again and it'll be April 2012.
Finished. Completed. Done.

Just shy of 150 thousand words and 318 pages. The first draft of my first novel is complete. I cant help but feel a great sense of..emptiness. Something which had taken up my life entire has left a void. I remember when the first ideas for the novel came to me. Way back in 1996. They were random bits and pieces but had no cohesive center. Rubble and debris circling a star.
It wasn't until 2004 that elements of a story began to form. But I still had no protagonist. No structure. Just a series of uncollected islands in close proximity to each other.

One day in 2006 Marlyn Frostfeld popped into my head.

Followed in quick succession by her best friend: the pugnacious Ayami Kojima.

A story quickly began to take shape as well as a desire to tell it. I hadn't written in years at this point but the desire to craft a story became stronger everyday.

In 2007 I became serious about writing the novel.

In early 2009 I actually started writing the fucker.

Fast forward to today. 2011-09-21 and i have the fruit of my labors sitting in various media around my house and on the net (dropbox is your friend). I still find it difficult to accept what I've been able to accomplish. That there exists in the world a rough manuscript with characters and situations which do not exist before i breathed life into them.

I see them so clearly now. I hear their voices. But for now, they must remain silent. But only for a time. By the end of the week a printout of the manuscript will be in my hands. This will find its way into a secure folder and be put in a drawer. Where it will remain for six weeks.

At that time I will start work on proof reading and editing the work. Soon after that i will start work on the second draft.

Its fun. Its interesting. Its a learning experience. But it is work.

So, what do I plan to do over the next couple of weeks? Why, start work on the sequel and the illustrations for book one of course! I've got a plot outline to nail down!

It never ends my friends. Never.

Back to work.
So I'm far enough into the first draft of the novel that the end is now just over the horizon and within sight.  And after a year of life drawing, painting, studying and reading I'm confident enough to start building the visual aspects of my world.  Previously i relied heavily on found imagery, my own photograph and tracing light boxing to create images, all done in an effort to avoid doing the hard graft of gaining the art muscles i knew i didn't have.  And even with the reference i had, i didn't have the necessary skill to interpret it as I saw fit or bend it to my needs.  This all came from a severe lack to practice.  A lesson which had to learn the hard way

But now, having learnt or at the very least having started to learn what i didn't know and know exactly what i didn't know and how to find out how to learn what i don't know, I'm in a far better position than i was last January.

Still, i can guarantee you, writing was the easy part!!

For the next few weeks I'm going to start breathing life into my characters.  With pencil and ink and brushes Im going to try to get them looking as close to how I envision them as humanly possible.
I've got well over 25 empty sketchbook littered around my room.  I aim to fill up at least half of them by the time all of the illustrations are completed.  And i can promise you that they will look at much like this as possible.

And as a rough estimate, we are talking about a 40+ black and white illustrations for a 200+ page book.  Not to mention a color front cover.  To to be done by the beginning of the festive season.

Sweet baby Jesus, i better get started and very organised!!

Wish me luck

Oh yes.  Remind me to show you the books and the artist whom I'm looking at for inspiration.  It's a long and varied list, i can promise you!
Liberated from his twitter feed.  I hope he won't mind me reposting them. 

here's a couple of artist tips i wish someone had told me:these are generally not going to be about technique, there's tons of info on that

1) excercise. I can't stress this enough. This is a sedentary lifestyle, sitting at a drawing table, or computer. You will spend hours......not moving much and it WILL impact your health, your mood, your life and your work. You must counteract this by eating a good diet......and going to the gym. And dont bs me abut time. This is a basic. You find time to breathe and to eat and poop, go to the gym

2) Don't depend on all nighters, lots of sugar and coffee to get you through. Your work will never look as good as when you are rested......thinking, and happy. The myth of the nutty artist flailing away at the board through a veil of tears is just that...a myth. WORKING......artists, whether commercial or otherwise, have a work ethic, a set schedule (mostly) and a reliable method of production. Does that go for everyone? No, of course not. But mostly yes. Admit it, most all nighters are the result of procrastination.

3) the same thing goes for drugs. i don't judge and many of my friends indulge. But don;t do it because it's going to expand your mind....... Legit unbiased studies show, drugs may lower your inhibitions but they also dampen the creative centers of your brain.

4) give yourself a chance to succeed: use the best materials you can afford.

5) remember it's a business. I mean two things by this: you are trading something of value for money. If what you provide doesn't have......value in the eyes of those with money, it's not personal or a moral judgment.Also, and everything i say here is from experience, comics specifically can be a social club. It can be fun and HIlarious......but not everyone os your friend. I don't mean they're your enemy, I just mean they are not people who'd you'd necc want to go to .........dinner with, and vice versa! And if you meet someone you don;t like, remember it's a business and unless they are really impossible......be willing to work with them. We all love comics and have much more in common than not.

6) When getting your work looked at, an editor's only legit critical stance is...is this work publishable, will people like it and do.....I think he will get it in on time? Believe me, while there is value in criticism and you should always try to get better......NO ONE'S work is perfect. NO ONE. That;s not the point. But you should keep in mind that a lot of times all those things an editor......criticizes your work for may not be that important if he's under a deadline crunch. Don't take it personal.

Also, if you have a fan following, all of a sudden those things don;t matter either.

7) Editors are people. Some will get your work. Others won't. Some will become life long friends, others you won't be able to stand the.....the sight of. That's part of being human. Deal with it.

And some will go from one to the other. A good commercial artist is a diplomat. While also staying true to himself. Yeah I know, hard.

8) Same thing goes for fellow creators. Keep in mind when an artist gives you a crit, he (or she) is telling it from his (or her) ......point of view. We, as a species, have tendency to see OUR way as the ONLY way. Take the crit, smile, parse the info out later.

9) During a crit: do NOT argue. Do not take as gospel. Do not excuse your work. Present it well.

Dress appropriately. I wouldn't choose to go to a portfolio review in jeans and a t0shirt. But a jacket and tie might be too much as well
Don't wear a costume! And I don;t just mean like Dr. Who. Don;t try to create a persona. Be yourself. Editors want to work with......easy going people who draw good and mostly get their stuff in on time.

10) Lastly, don't resent. There isn't a person on this planet who's achieved everything they want, that doesn't experience disappointment.. heartache and the agony of defeat. You will. Boxers get up after being hit. I'm here because i will not go down (tee hee.)Sorry. Remember, it's not who hits the hardest, it's who can take the hardest punch and remain standing.

11) (okay one more) if you want a career in the arts, you are asking for periods of feast and famine, heartache, personal agony and......disappointment. At best, periods of financial uncertainty. But if you work hard, play your cards right, the breaks will come and ...you'll have an extraordinary life, like I do. Whenever I or my friends get down about something, we say " this is the life we asked for." This is the life i asked for, and I wouldn't have it any other way. How many people can really say that. Thank you!
Can you fill up a sketchbook a month? Do you? An artist friend of mine chastised me severely recently for my lack output. Saying that I should be "filling up a sketchbook with work every month" .

This is going to be slightly long winded so bare with me!

In my end of year review I stated that I had come to accept that it was okay to draw like yourself and not be a slave to a particular art style. Or movement. Over the last few days I've been sitting alone in my room working on my project and I've come to realise certain things.

Here where things become long winded and slightly stream of conciousness-ish as I'm going to be jumping for point to point.

  1. Although you like a particular artists work and find their work inspiring, the style of art may not be compatible with your natural drawing style: For years I attempted to bend my work in encompass the styles of James Montgomery Flagg, Charles Dana Gibson, Ashley Wood, Jock and various others before I realised that although I enjoyed their work and found it inspiring, their work was so stylised and unique to them that it was 100 mile away from what my brain was tell my hand to try to do. There was no way "in" for me. Meaning that there was no way for me to look at their and learn how they constructed their imagery. They have effectively develop their own visual language and thus their work was impenetrable.  Over the past 3 years I've actively been looking at the work of artists who work is closer to my naturally ability. Sean Phillips, Posy Simmonds, John Paul Leon, Disraeli, Alison Bechdel, Milton Caniff, Nihei Tsutomu, Jordi Bernet, Tim Sale to name a few. And sometimes Jae Lee.  And learnt significantly more, to the extent that I've been able to fold what they do into what I go.  I'm far, far closer to being me than I was 3 years ago.  I can't even look at my old sketchbooks anymore.  It's just too painful!!
  2. You can only ever do the best you can do at that moment in time. The more you do, the better you become. I was getting hung up about the images I was producing for my final minor project until I realised that I'll never be judged by what other people are producing. I'll only ever be just on the articulation of my ideas. In essence, I'll be judged again what I'm capable of and not some imaginary high water mark that doesn't exist. Perfectionism kill creativityDo it.  Finish it.  Learn, Move on.  Do better next time.
  3. Now this one I've always know, but sometimes it's important to articulate things that run around in your head.  The grade I receive at the end of this course will be entirely worthless.  Indeed, the very paper that my grade is written on will be worth more than the actual grade.  You're dong this course to gain skills not for a fucking grade.  How many uni graduates are working for Mc Donalds and Mark and Spencer at the moment? A 100 miles away from the subject matter that they sacrificed 3+ years of their life for.  A grade asurses nothing in illustration and even less than nothing in fine art.  The portfolio you produce how ever is worth more than bars of solid gold.  Rather you fail and have a portfolio that shows your best work and that you're happy with and play lip service to the biases of your lecturers who sometimes get it wrong. Everyone comes with their own personal/artistic biases.
  4. Some of your lecturers will be major assholes with egos the size of the heliopause.  They will be snobs who will look down their nose at your work and your influences.  But sometimes they'll drops a peal of wisdom that will help you see the woods thorough the trees.  And sometime the advice they give you though will be spot-on even though they're king-sized arseholes.  The trick is separating the gold from the bullshit.

And that's it.  More later.

Edited to add:  This post was prompted by laying eyes on Bernie Wrightson's Frankenstein this evening and knowing that it took Bernie SEVEN YEARS to complete those illustrations. Good art takes time.



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