Great advice on working and making comics from Becky Cloonan, Jeff Lemire and Michael DeForge

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Comics creator process posts are the BEST posts. Jeff Lemire seems to have taken over Charles Soule’s mantle as Busiest Person in Comics– writing 7-8 monthly books – and he reveals how he does it in an absolutley stellar process post with a ton of photos AND a page of preview art from AD: After Death, his GN with Scott Snyder.

I am currently writing about 7 or 8 monthly books and drawing one as well (right now I’m finishing up art for the graphic novel AD: AFTER DEATH, written by Scott Snyder, an exclusive page from which is featured above!).

The first thing I would say is that I am probably doing too much stuff right now. But, when you love to do what you do, it’s hard to stop, and hard to say no to new opportunities to work with artist and characters that inspire you. So, how do I do as much as I do? First, I’ve always been a very organized and self-motivated person and had a great work ethic.  Before making a living in comics I worked as a line cook at a variety of restaurants in downtown Toronto. Being a line cook isn’t about knowing how to cook, it’s about knowing how to stay organized and how to manage your time and do a lot of things at once. Furthermore, when I was working nights in these restaurants I was also trying to make comics, so I would wake up early and draw all day before going back to restaurant for my next shift. I had a window of 5-6 hours a day to do comics and I maximized that and took full advantage of it. I think I carried a lot of the mindset from those early days into my work as a cartoonist and writer now.


Organization porn addicts are going to go NUTS for this post:

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Lemire says in addition to being very innately organized, he also LOVES COMICS, and this i sbrought home in a post by Bekcy Cloonan on staying in comics:

A lot has changed since art has become my full-time job. I used to only draw when I felt like it, now I have to draw even if I feel uninspired, or unmotivated. I had to learn to turn that switch off, and treat it like a job, and not as a hobby.

I also had to kiss my social life goodbye! As a freelance artist you are always working. I try to separate my art and life as much as possible, but I’m still surrounded by it. I still work all day, and I almost always take my sketchbook to bed to knock out a few more ideas before sleep. Days of the week don’t hold any meaning; whenever I go out on a Friday I wonder why there are so many people around. “Oh yeah, it’s Friday night. This is what normal people do.” As much as it is liberating, it’s also a bit alienating.


But, as with Lemire, she LOVES COMICS:

The second I stop loving it I will find something else to do. Comics are hard work. Comics are relentless. Comics will break your heart. Comics are monetarily unsatisfying. Comics don’t offer much in terms of fortune and glory, but comics will give you complete freedom to tell the stories you want to tell, in ways unlike any other medium. Comics will pick you up after it knocks you down. Comics will dust you off and tell you it loves you. And you will look into it’s eyes and know it’s true, that you love comics back.


AND finally this is an old post from 2013, but it’s aking the rounds again because it’s so good, Michael DeForge’s 10 rules for drawing comics, which include that crucial matter of working through a block:

6. Ignore “blocks.” I know there isn’t one way to deal with writer’s/artist’s block, so this is just how I do it. I can’t take a break during those stretches. If I’m not feeling it, I just have to work through it anyway. Sometimes that means turning out thirty pages of garbage and tossing them in the recycling bin before hitting my stride again. The longer I spend away from the drawing desk, the more I’m thrown out of my routine, the harder it is for me to get back to work.

Drawing for comics is such a weird and different process compared to other types of drawing. Some days, working on a comics page has more in common with organizing a spreadsheet than it does, say, drawing in my sketchbook. So I need to keep that muscle memory there because blablabla it’s like exercise etc In general, I think it’s dangerous when cartoonists wait around to be “inspired” to work. Drawing isn’t always going to feel like lightning bolts are coming out of your fingertips or playing jazz music. It’s work, and on most days it will feel like work. If you’ve chosen comics as a vocation, a lot of your time is going to be spent measuring panel borders or crosshatching a brick wall, so get ready.


Skeaing as someone who manages to keep a fairly rigourous daily schedle of work, I agree that you can’t be “inspired.” You need to have a process set up that overrides your innate “goof off switch”. Which isn’t to say I don’t take breaks for Clash Royale or whatever, but it’s a process for resting up for the work at hand. 



YMMV, but these are all sound strategies.

BTW, all these posts will be aded to my “How to break into comics and survive” resource page. Bookmark for all kinds of information.

Comments

  1. Alan Spinney says

    Jeff’s blog post was excellent reading, thanks Heidi for posting the link. I admire how organized and productive and pragmatic he is about his work!

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