My five-year dry spell making art came to an end a few months ago, as you’d know by the sketches choking your feed. Part of the reason is that I am going to illustrate another comic. I did four of them twenty years ago, and they look terrible, but I’m endlessly proud of them. I’ve learned a lot since then, much of it this winter, like (some) basic anatomy, a little more control with the brush, the usefulness of references, et cetera. I’ve been experimenting with lettering, poses, and panels, I’ve been honing characters’ faces, I’ve been buying the necessary supplies, I’m finding pictures of my old college for backgrounds (which are going to look rough, but that’s what I’m going for). I took a couple of weeks to visualize some of my unrelated characters, and now I’m back to work on the comic prerequisites.
I’m running out of things to do to prep for doing the comic, so I’ve decided to give it a month. The last week in February, I’m going to sit down and lay out my panels. When that’s done, I break ground on this awesome new paper I bought and see this through. It won’t be great at first, and one day in the future, after I’ve really had the opportunity to hone my craft, I may dig up the old layouts and illustrate issue one and redo it. Or I’ll leave it. The comic series Mage was Matt Wagner’s second book, and it did not start out well. By issue fifteen, his style evolved into the graceful curves of what would be his storytelling through the eighties and nineties.
As much as I love the scripts I have pounded out, I have entry-level skill, and unless I redraw it every time I have a breakthrough, it will stay that way. My friend in San Francisco shared a video with me about an art class where half the students had to make as many vases as they could in one week, and the other half had to make one perfect vase. The result was that the first half produced the perfect vase first because they were practicing by doing. That’s why I illustrated MortalMan twenty years ago, even though I wasn’t ready. Even though I illustrated two horrible issues of The Book of Jesse, and I still wasn’t ready. I wasn’t ready when I decided to illustrate Three Stories in One and made it most of the way through the book before I got distracted. But I drew a lot of pictures, and they got better. I have a few Three Stories in One illustrations hanging on my wall because I think they’re so cool, including the one where Jeremiah rebounds off of a commercial airliner.
If I had kept making comics after I moved in with Kate, who knows where I’d be right now with my pen and ink. (Correlation is not causation: My next big project after quitting comics was Three Stories in One, which I started after Kate went to Namibia for a year.) Like having an entry-level-adjacent job at forty-six, I feel like I’m going to be starting out with the skill level of an ambitious college student, whose father I could possibly be. But I’m middle-aged, not dead.
I start February 26. Cheer me on.