You can now buy my first toy design as a 3D printed sandstone collectible! Timebadger looks great, Shouldbee have done a top job in translating the design into a product. The first 15 orders receive a signed Timebadger sketch from yours truly, so look sharp!
It’s hard to stop caring
I was chatting to my mate (a great illustrator who I won’t name here, just in case he’d rather I didn’t) the other day about art, illustration and the creative process and all that good stuff. We were working on projects at the time, sketching out roughs and developing ideas while (I hate this phrase) ‘putting the world to rights’ (but that’s essentially what we were doing). It’s fair to say that we are both fairly harsh critics of our own work and this is hardly a phenomenon unique to us. Artists as a whole - and creative people in general - tend to immediately dismiss their own work as inferior to their peers, legends in their field, even poorly remembered and romance-infused past work we may have seen or heard in passing once in 1989*.
Sometimes this debilitates us. We all suffer from malaise now and again, both personally and creatively (sometimes both at once, which is a killer). Anyway, this artist and myself pretty much agreed that this comes from a sense of expectation on behalf of our audience. We preempt their reaction, projecting opinions on them, thereby preempting our reaction to their reaction, which is to tear the page off and start again. At the time, this seemed like a negative way of working. But is it?
It’s indicative of a positive mental attitude to just plough ahead and follow your gut, deflecting criticisms and imagined future slights against your work like Batfink’s wings of steel. Faith in one’s own ability is what makes professionals out of amateurs and success out of aspiration. But isn’t it also what gives the world third-rate ‘art’ such as Uwe Boll’s movies, the myriad sub-par superhero comics (and movies), songs like Blur’s Girls and Boys (not a terrible song, maybe, but listen to Wire’s I Am the Fly and keep reading…)? Just because you have faith in your ability, doesn’t mean you’re not following someone else’s path.
Perhaps the question is: how do you know when you’re creating something good?
Is it when it starts to come together and you feel a hint of satisfaction, because now the work conforms to your vision of what it should have been since its inception? Or is it because you’ve studied your craft and recognise that your work has covered the fundamentals associated with the very best examples? Or is there a third option?
Option 1: It’s more or less true to say that there are no original ideas anymore, so we shouldn’t lose sleep over the fact that our amazing concept turns out to have already been thought up and applied (albeit probably very differently) elsewhere. What we should keep an eye on about ourselves is the notion of aiming to replicate our heroes’ success. Frankly, letting go of this can be terrifying. When, at the age of 16, I told my college tutor Jim (who always seemed to be wearing the same Greenpeace t-shirt) that I wanted to be a comic book artist, he said “Okay, but if you’re going to do that, aim to do something like Dave McKean and just come at it differently. There are so many similar styles in comics already. Be different.” But I wanted to draw like Joe Madureira or Ed McGuinness, so I ignored him. Now, at the age of 34, I would give exactly the same advice to a 16 year old wanting to break into comics. But have I changed? Ummm….
As my style has changed beyond anything my 16 year old brain could have conceived, I find myself with new artistic influences: Robert Ball, Warwick J Cadwell (collectively, Cadballs), TADO, Daniel Danger, Olly Moss and so many more. It seems with each passing day, I collect another influence. Again, not unusual for a creative type. The real worry for us as artists, is that when we draw, we might pick one of our influences as a barometer of quality. This sets a standard that acts as a deterrent from completion - “THIS IS NOT GOOD ENOUGH!” RIPPPP - and yet when the work is completed, “good enough” means “acceptable enough approximation of [artist]’s hallmarks”.
Option 2: Studying your craft is essential. After all, the fundamentals need to be concrete in your head before you start bending the rules. You think Radiohead wrote Kid A by accident? Imagine such a fluke: The album recording is finished so the producer suggests a celebratory rendition of Cliff Richard’s Congratulations to mark the occasion. Only, Radiohead can only play the songs they wrote because they never learned about chords, scales and tempo. Well, the same applies to artists who draw with crazy anatomy. It only works because they know the basics and how to play with them. Picasso was a fantastic traditional artist.
The downside? Your work can be robotic. If your weeks, months, years of study haven’t already caused an evacuation of imagination from your bonce, then you have to apply that imagination with wild abandon. Technical proficiency is, to all intents and purposes, the least that people expect. That was school. Now you begin. A tin of Savers baked beans is still a tin of baked beans. So, option 2 is pretty much the polar opposite of option 1, although certainly not mutually exclusive.
Mystery Option 3: You create your art with your mind a blank slate. You evolve a style which is influenced by nothing and nobody, or at least controls those influences without bowing down to them. You don’t project the opinions of your audience ahead of time. You give yourself a break and know for damn sure that you have the ability to make something great.
Simple. But bloody scary, because to be truly original - or as original as you can be in 2013 - you have to work with the training wheels off. If what you want is to be successful in your own right, without constant comparisons to similar artists, you have to accept that down that path, there is little in the way of support. Because ideally, you are the only one on it. If you fall at the finish, you have to be the one to drag yourself over the line.
The truth is, you need all three options but you have to be responsible for handling them. You should have influences but remember that you should control them. It’s your brain, after all. And you should be technically proficient, because you don’t want to be caught short when asked to do something outside of your comfort zone (and even if you’re beholden to nobody, you can become a one-trick pony). But most of all, you shouldn’t draw, write, play, stitch or mould for anyone else. After all, we don’t leave customer satisfaction surveys behind after we finish creating.
Just trust that you are good enough.
* Memory doesn’t work like files in a hard drive. We re-create all of our memories from scratch at the time, hence rose-tinted glasses and conflicting accounts. It must be true, I read it in a newspaper.
I had an idea for something I’d like to do the other day. The reality is, though, that I won’t have anything like enough time to do it as I’m very busy with work and it’s only for fun. So I’m wondering if any artists, specifically those who enjoy Transformers, would fancy being part of it?
The idea is to re-create the intro to Cheers using characters from the Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye comic, re-naming it Swerve’s.
There are fifteen stills in the intro, some easier than others, but if we could draw one each, using Ratchet, Hound, Tailgate, poor Pipes, Fort Max, Swerve himself and many others, I’ll put together the animation (simple enough) and there would be a pretty cool little showcase of our skills to go around the net. As a bonus, we might help get some new eyes on the MTMTE comic, which - as you should know - is genius and deserves to continue for many, many years.
There’s a Dropbox folder with source images all ready to go. Who’s in?
Robutts: @everyone who thinks IDW 'can afford a drop in sales'/ those who think not buying comics isn't a big deal
A duel purpose post!
Let’s go check ICv2’s Top 300 Comics for March 2012!
These results include estimated sales of single issues in the US, they don’t include overseas sales (which with TF’s is usually 20% added on because TF has a big overseas market) and Digital sales (which are around…
People NEED to read this book. It’s not what you think it’s going to be (unless you think it’s a witty, well-constructed, deep, funny, heartbreaking, gorgeous, inventive piece of ongoing fiction which works on so many levels).
I’m not such a fan of football that I lose the ability to be rational like half of the country, but I am a Hull City fan, to some degree. Today, that meant I was shaking with nervousness as they attempted to grab only their second promotion to the top flight (which they did). I ate five satsumas, I was so nervous.
Anyway, the manager is Steve Bruce. I never liked him, but fair play to the bloke. During the post-match interview, I realised he would be a relatively easy bloke to draw. So I did just that.
I was extremely saddened today to learn that Sean Hartter had unexpectedly passed away aged 39, on 27th April 2013.
I’ve genuinely loved Sean’s original, alternate reality style of art for years now and I’m really going to miss regularly marvelling at his latest pieces.
A fund to assist the family with funeral costs and arrangements has been set up, and I would urge anyone to give generously if you can. HERE.
Man. Sean Hartter died.