Monday, August 13, 2007

Why you, Yes You, need to STFU and start Drawing a Webcomic Right Now.

Once upon a time there were two artists who wanted to be Big. They could both draw -- not much more than stick figures, perhaps, but at least the art teachers liked their drawings and every now and then friends would fawn over their sketchbooks. At the end of the school year, the art teachers managed to corner the two artists after class and asked them if they wanted to try this new 'webcomic' thing; it wasn't Big, or Glamorous, or even Profitable, but the art teachers wanted someone to try it so they could see if it was a Good Thing to do.

The first artist wrinkled his nose at the idea and turned the teachers down, saying that he didn't feel he was good enough to start a comic, because he knew other Big comics had much better art than he did. But in order to save face with his teachers, he told him to check back with him when school started to see if his art was good enough then.

The second artist, on the other hand, wanted to tell a story anyway, and (after getting the art teachers to give him some extra tools for the task) he started working on his comic.

The second artist quickly found out he sucked, but kept drawing (after leaving whichever websites left a bad taste in his mouth), and posting new work every couple of days. And he kept drawing. And kept drawing. And then he'd post again every couple more days.

Every couple of weeks or so he'd tell the art teachers he needed more money for a new reference book, which they bought for him, and then he'd read it, and go back to drawing with the new information he learned. Eventually he started drawing strips in advance, so he could take breaks every now and then but the art teachers wouldn't notice what days he was slacking off.

As he was posting all of this work online, eventually other people than his teachers started to notice his work, and soon his work was getting Bigger. And because he was learning as he went, his work started to get Better, and he was learning all sorts of things about typography and character design, as well as form and shading.

Towards the end of the summer he went back to the teachers, and saw the first artist standing there. The first artist showed his work to the teachers, and the teachers didn't think he'd improved much at all; in fact, compared to the second artist, he'd somehow started to look worse in comparison.

When the second artist showed the teachers his work, the first artist blinked, turned to his friend, and went, "What the hell?! When'd you get that good?"

"Hey, when you're turning out so many of these things a week, you have to improve at it sooner or later..."
Now, just in case you're the type that prefers lists:
  • Everyone sucks when they start. Let's just admit it to ourselves and move on. No, I'm not going to tell you how you suck, but once you get at least ten pages under your belt, you'll look back at the first one and say "I suck!". It's a given.
  • Everything has a learning curve. Learning to draw, use a certain program, or tell a story only works if you keep doing in constantly. You can struggle in certain programs for years before you find out about Multiply layers, or how to Transparency Lock a layer to prevent coloring outside the lines, or what methods give you the best results for what you want.
  • The longer you're out here, the more people see your work. No, we can't really rush this unless you're That Damn Good. And heck, if you're not up for very long, you also don't have a lot to show.
  • Each comic you add makes your work that much more alluring. The more pages, the more odds of having a story, and the more people can see your work evolve. If you have enough to show how much the art has advanced (among other details), suddenly you give people more reason to want to read your work from there on in.
  • Even if you ditch it later on for a better idea, you'll start out that much better. Think of it as Artist's XP. You want to level up, you gotta draw.
  • Just drawing things isn't the same as drawing comics. Comics force you to think about storylines and action, scenery and setting, and a whole host of other things you won't get a feel for if you're just drawing your Level 17 paladin in 'exciting' new poses.
It doesn't matter when you start, just start already. You don't even have to be consistent about it, but it helps, because having a crappy comic that will eventually get better beats having no comic at all.

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