Last year was a good year by and large. I spent most of it in a state of low-level panic regarding my own drawing ability and creative worth (as per the comic artist cliché) but I also think I managed to produce the work of which I am proudest. I'm starting to realise that's sometimes how it works. I finally managed to get the first chapter of Ellipsis released - a whole 24 pages of my own comic - something I'd been unable to focus exclusively on since I started Solipsistic Pop. I also produced ten pages for Cartoon Movement on the London Olympics, two pages of experimental poem comics with Chrissy Williams, and a whole load of posters, illustrations, logos, storyboards and other paying gigs that kept me warm and fed.
Additionally, in the last two months of the year I produced nine comics for the New Statesman as part of a weekly comics gig that I've written more about here. I remember the talented Rob Davis and Gary Northfield coming up to me at Thought Bubble to congratulate me on the gig (because they are also lovely people) and they both said something along the lines of "it'll make a man out of you". I think there's something in that. A weekly deadline for a topical comic is a tough one but I'm already seeing positive results from such a schedule.
It's not a huge body of work for one year, but it's a start and I'm hoping to up it substantially this year with the release of Solipsistic Pop 5, Ellipsis 2, some anthology bits and pieces, Ellipsis 3 and many more poem comics with Chrissy. We'll see how I manage.
My key things to remember this year are: 1. Keep drawing and 2. Keep making comics. I suppose they sound like fairly obvious statements but it's surprising how easy it is to lose sight of these things...
1. Keep drawing
This is something I need to be doing much more of. I feel my style is becoming tighter and I'm no longer surprised by the things I draw. I want to be looser, to enjoy the act of drawing more. To be stepping up a level. So I'll be "forcing" myself to draw a single sketch (at least) in my sketchbook every day for the entire year (again, at least). No day off for good behaviour. It shouldn't be a problem at all - I love drawing and I love keeping sketchbooks - but somehow I stopped sketching in them last year, possibly due to being fulltime freelance, possibly due to workloads. Whatever the reason, I refuse to let it happen this year and I'm determined to draw new things every day - things I've no idea how to draw.
To start with, I've been drawing wolves as practise for a comic I'm working on with Chrissy. Here's a quick look at them:
As you can see, I'm keeping the sketching time to around 5-10 minutes to make sure I'm staying light and retaining some energy in the sketches. No pencil beforehand, just straight in with ink. I expect I'll also use these daily sketches to experiment with other materials and processes as the year progresses.
I doubt I'll throw too many sketches up here over the year as that could work against me loosening up if I expect people to see what I'm drawing but I may do a little update sometime later in the year.
2. Keep making comics
I got an iPad as a birthday gift last year and have almost exclusively been using it to read comics and try out various comic reading apps. I'm actually pretty taken with it. Chris Ware's McSweeneys piece is obviously lovely, but there's still lots of scope here for new, innovative comics to make use of the tablet canvas. I have plans for a tablet-specific spin-off of Solipsistic Pop but need to wait until I have enough money to pay a developer to code it. It doesn't look too cheap at the moment...
That aside, I've also played a few games on the device and particularly enjoyed the Sword & Sworcery EP. The developers, Superbrothers, actually wrote a manifesto for games making called Less Talk, More Rock. I'm so behind on all this that it most likely came out four years ago but regardless, the basic principles they outline hold true: To go directly from inspiration to making something. To not let the talking, the process, the problem-solving get in the way of that, and come back to it at the end. Obviosuly that's not entirely possible sometimes but I like the essence of the idea. I like what it's saying. Go and make some stuff and think about the rest afterwards. It strikes a chord with me right now so it's probably best to take the advice.
Less Talk. More Comics.