Monday, February 24, 2014

Making Comics: Starting Out By Starting Small

When learning how to draw comics, it’s prudent to start small and work your way up. Many times have aspiring creators approached me to talk about their planned “epic series” but never got around to starting. They’re chasing the big dream without knowing what achieving that big dream entails.

My first solo work back in 2001 was 56 pages long, and the story was simple–two people talking about their past romantic relationship. There were no physical fight scenes nor adventurous camera angles, and I had been drawing other people’s stories for a few years prior, so tackling 56 pages for a simple story wasn’t much of a stretch.

For you, it’s advisable to spend a couple of years to create one 4- to 8-page story every month or two. Ideally, these works won’t be for public consumption. Instead, you can post your pages on forums like DigitalWebbing to get crits.

As you work on shorter stories, you’ll be able to:

1) Learn how to draw different things. With each story, try a new genre. Since your stories will have a variety of topics, you’ll have opportunities to draw things you’ve never drawn before.

2) Draw faster and more comfortably. As they say, practice makes perfect. When you become used to drawing regularly, your speed improves, and your style becomes more consistent. Plus, you get your hand more accustomed to drawing.

3) Find your “happy middle.” Drawing comics is about producing satisfying work in the shortest amount of time. If it takes you four days to a week to finish a page, then you won’t be able to take on many projects. By doing short stories first, you can test different approaches and see which approach satisfies you as an artist but doesn’t take too long to finish.

4) Engage in “deliberate” practice. Because you’re only doing short stories, you can finish a story faster and take time to evaluate what you’ve done. You can also predetermine what sorts of drawing skills you want to work on for each story. For instance, you can say, “For the first story, I’ll work on facial expressions.” So your energy and focus will fall on that area. Then you can move on to camera angles and perspective for the next story. Then anatomy, and so on, improving slowly with every new story.

5) Create a working method. When you’re starting out, the way you produce comics won’t probably be the most efficient. Along the way, you’ll discover better paper, or a better inking method, even a better time of day to work. You might even discover that going 100% digital for your art would best, or maybe you’ll decide it’s not such a good idea after all. By doing short stories first, you can test different methods and different materials and see which works better for you.

If you’re looking for short complete stories, you might want to try some royalty-free comedy skit scripts written by Jeff Goebel over at Frogstar. While these are not comics scripts, they can easily be made into comics, and allows you to develop your skills in drawing facial expressions. (By the way, if you decide to use these scripts to practice drawing comics, let Jeff know through jeff@frogstar.com, especially if you plan to post your work anywhere on the web.)

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