Refocusing

Farnsworth and Tate think about math

I just finished a freelance job building a website for a friend. It turned out really well. However, through no fault of my friend, who was extremely patient and understanding throughout the endeavor, the project was way more of a mess than I expected. Aside from the e-commerce aspect of the site, which my wife would be handling, the design was complete, and the site was built and ready to launch. However, something was wrong. The website was throwing frequent internal server errors (just one of the many versions of the “white screen of death” you’ll see when a website is not cooperating), caused by the site using too much of the server’s available memory. To my dismay, I couldn’t figure out what was wrong or why the site was being such a hog. I’ve built numerous sites the same way, using the same tools and the same platform. Despite most of those sites being more complicated and resource-hungry than this one, they all worked as intended. This one did not, and no amount of Googling or tech support or uninstalls-and-reinstalls could help me find a solution that worked. Unsure whether to laugh or launch my computer into the sun, I ended up rebuilding the entire site from the ground up using a different framework.

Go on….

Just Tell Your Story, Already

Bilbo's first line

[Surprise, surprise. I’m struggling through more creative process/work habit issues! As usual, I hope talking myself through my problem here might help somebody else out there, as well.]

Recently, a friend said something about art that struck me in a way I wasn’t expecting. To paraphrase, the goal of art should not be entertainment; the goal of art should be to tell a story. In other words, writing, drawing, performing, or whatever the form of art may be, is done because of a burning desire to express something inside of the artist. A good professional wrestler, for instance, works with the same intensity and believability in front of ten people as he or she would in front of ten thousand people. They do this because wrestling is their art, and getting their story out there is the most important thing to them, regardless of how many people are in the seats. They do it because they need to—they have a story they need to share with other people, whether it’s ten or ten thousand.

I thought about this for a while. I’m still thinking about it. And I realized that I have lost sight of the idea of creating art to tell a story, and instead have wandered into the territory of creating art for entertainment. I know this because the first question I keep asking myself (and others) about future projects is this: are they marketable? Will other people like them? My number-one concern about these projects is no longer getting the story out there; it’s commerce. It’s finding an audience and making money, and if I can’t find an audience or make money telling these stories, is it still worth it to tell them?

This is all wrong.

Go on….

Consistency, or Lack Thereof

Inconsistency.

This is another one of those blogs in which I talk myself through a problem I have. I hope that it is helpful for me, and maybe for you, as well.

When I was a bowler in high school, there was one particular Saturday afternoon in which I was the only member of my team who could make it, and the opposing team only had one guy show up, as well. While our absent teammates’ handicaps played into the scoring, it was, essentially, a one-on-one match-up. My opponent was a nice kid a couple of years younger than me. Quiet, no trash talk, no hot-dogging. He was just there to bowl, like me.

I had a not-so-great day on the lanes. A strike here or there, a bunch of splits, and I couldn’t pick up a spare if a dude was standing at the ball return paying me money to do it. I think I carried a 160 average that year, but if I had to guess my scores that day, they would have been probably 115, maybe one good game at 170, and 137. Meanwhile, my opponent, a developing bowler in his own right, had a career day. If his average was 140, he bowled a 210, a 180, and a 190-something that afternoon. While my opponent wasn’t much of an underdog, he was an underdog. And I was beaten handily.

At the end of the third game, I sat, dejectedly, changing my shoes at the scoring table. My opponent approached and said simply, “You lack consistency.” He wasn’t being mean, just offering a critique of my afternoon. He was so correct that I didn’t know how to respond. I just sighed and said, “Yeah.”

Go on….

10 Years Later, My Creations Haven’t Come to Life and Killed Me, Yet

Screenshot from Comix Zone on Sega Genesis

I started listening to a new podcast called ComicLab, in which comics professionals Brad Guigar and Dave Kellett (and sometimes a guest) sit down and talk about making comics and making a living from comics. It’s something of a spiritual successor to an old podcast I used to listen to called Webcomics Weekly, which also starred Guigar and Kellett, along with Scott Kurtz and Kris Straub. Unfortunately, Webcomics Weekly petered out some years back. However, it was one of the driving forces behind me resuming work on Mike and the Ninja at the beginning of 2008, after a hiatus of more than a year. Not only did I get a lot of useful and funny information from the podcast, it also inspired me to just sit down and work. I wanted to make comics, but that can’t happen without a lot of work, and it took me a long time to realize and fully appreciate the amount (and sometimes complexity) of work involved. Webcomics Weekly came at almost the perfect time, the first episode landing maybe two or three months before I decided to put serious effort into Mike and the Ninja, once and for all. Listening and re-listening to those episodes kept me going during those first fragile months of tackling a long-term project, and gave me the motivation to press onward.

Go on….

My 2017: What Worked and What Didn’t

Futurama - Fry about to fall into cryo-chamber

Hey, so 2017 was pretty crazy, right? It was pretty crazy for me, too, with a lot of successes and failures personally and creatively. As a sort of personal therapy, I’m reviewing what worked and what didn’t work this year, both to get it off my mind, and to put it all in a central location for future review and self-embiggenment. Maybe it can help others who happen to stumble upon it, too.

Go on….

Inktober Has Run Dry –OR– A New Effort to Stay Not Insane

Too many projects!

I had a pretty good idea for this year’s Inktober. I decided to make a flipbook of scenes from various sidescrolling video games, in which the protagonist would traverse the page from left to right as the pages are flipped. One page a day for 31 days. I think it’s a cool idea, and I was excited by the prospect of once again bringing my passions for drawing and video games together as part of a fun project.

I got started. I cranked out the first four pages. The first one went well! It only took me about an hour and a half to do the whole thing. Then the next one took quite a bit longer. The next one? Even longer. The fourth page took an entire evening to get done. Despite my best efforts to try to limit my time and the amount of detail on each drawing, I found myself spending more and more time on each one, and the level of detail got more and more complex, as well. You know, the exact opposite of what I had intended!

Not only was the project really starting to drag, it turns out I wasn’t enjoying it, either. At another time, it may have been really engaging work, but I found myself falling prey to the same mistake I make again and again: overcommitting to too many big projects at once. I overwhelm myself with work and commitments until I have no flexible hours in my day and end up making myself miserable.

Go on….

Six Legs, No Heart Progress Report, Part Deux

Six Legs, No Heart Cover

Here’s an announcement I’ve been hoping to make for quite some time now.

Six Legs, No Heart is finished! We sent it off to the printers a couple of weeks ago, so barring any extreme unforeseen complications, it will be ready and available at Cape Comic Con, April 21-23!

Go on….