Monday, June 02, 2014

Knowing Your Limits: Being efficient as an Indie Comics Illustrator

I'll admit: I've gotten slow in the past few years when it comes to drawing. It may be because I've been dividing my time between practicing writing and drawing. Or it may be because I've noticed my previous drawing mistakes and now consciously try to correct them with each new panel I do. Plus the new drawing tricks here and there I've been adding to my repertoire. So my reduced drawing pace should be for the better because I've been trying to improve my craft.

Or maybe it's because I'm older, and my body is starting to cry "uncle" after a number of hours. Or maybe it's because, as an adult, there are more responsibilities on the plate due to "real life."

Whatever the case, it's always a struggle to be efficient, especially as an indie creator who's not being paid a regular wage.

This, I think, is a common conundrum indie comics creators have to face--the lack of time. We want to make our comics stories, bring to life our own creations. But somehow, somewhere, there's always something that pops up that takes us away from the drawing table longer than we'd like.

When this happens, our personal deadlines get pushed back. Our perfectly planned-out commitment to our personal project gets thrown out the window, and we end up apologizing to our audience for delay after delay, and sending them heaps of gratitude for their patience. While we sulk.

But there may be a way around it.

Is it possible to measure our pace?

What if we test ourselves, how fast (or slow) we can really go given the rest of our real life responsibilities, and let our speed dictate the kinds of comics that we make?

So take a comics script--any comics script--and commit to spending one month on it. Draw as many of that script as you can in one month, from pencils to letters, without radically disrupting your day-to-day living. Don't set a target number of pages--just take whatever extra time you have, whether it's 30 minutes a day, or every other day, or three hours on weekends, and enjoy the process. You should be getting enough sleep, too.

At the end of one month, how many pages can you do?

If you can do two pages a month, then you can conceivably do 24 pages in a year. You can then decide, "I'll do an annual comics story with a maximum of 24 pages."

If you can do one page a week, then your annual comics story can have a maximum of 52 pages.

24 pages? 52 pages? For an annual story? That doesn't sound like a lot for an annual release, but it has advantages.

1) You can assure your audience that you can do an annual complete story with X number of pages. Even if you do a comics story every year, it still makes you reliable. It's something your audience can at least expect from you.

2) You can assure writers that you can deliver X number of pages. You don't risk overpromising.

3) Doing complete stories is better than doing a series, because your audience won't have to wait a long time before the next issue comes out.

4) After doing these annual stories for a number of years, you can opt to produce a compilation with extras, maybe even a bonus story.

5) Your annual commitment does not weigh you down, schedule-wise. There's little pressure on you.

6) Doing short complete stories allows you to try different genre, using different styles, and helps  you to determine, without stress, what style you'll be most comfortable with.

Most importantly, you're still making comics. Complete comics. And for us, comics artists, I think that's what we really want to do.

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