Monday, December 5, 2016
I used to do a "shake" after SD Comic-Con, to use our old Herald terminology, where I sort of analyze what we learned from the event--so here are some things I got out of Tokyo Comic Con that I hope to keep at the forefront into the new year. I should note, while the event was much, much, much, much, much smaller than SD, it was even smaller than I was realistically hoping for, so there weren't a lot of review or meeting opportunities at all. I also don't get how some people would refuse to review...there was nothing going on a good part of each day. I've been on the other side of the table multiple times, I know there are thumb-twiddling, not-accomplishing-anything moments at every event, and people were not being hounded for reviews here as they might be in SD. If I am ever in the position to help anyone, carve it in stone: I will help whoever I can, whenever I can, if approached when I'm available. What cruelty otherwise.
Anyway, first thing off the bat, it's been a while since I've "showed," and I had an absolutely gross, roller-coaster feeling in my stomach all event--I could barely sleep (just laying in bed with my eyes closed, a phenomenon I absolutely hate, hence I tend to go to bed only when I'm about to collapse...I hate being in bed and not being asleep, but trying to go to sleep), so I just need to power through that..I'm not a social person, so it could be a "crowd" of one person, I still dread it. San Diego's easier because the days are longer and it a 5-day event, so you have plenty of time to numb your nerves. So, to try to deal with the nerved, I drew the little Zero sketch above the night before the event because I couldn't sleep or focus on more productive work, like prepping my files for print.
During reviews, I tend to focus almost entirely on note-taking, but I feel I should have asked more questions and generally been more active. The first reason I tend not to try to ask too many questions is above all, I feel awful taking up people's (anybody's) time, and asking questions always feels like a blatant "spend moar time on ME!!!" demand--this includes anything from an art review to asking the dude at 7-11 to microwave my bread. But I suppose if they're deciding to take time to review me, then I should take some liberty of ownership over the time they're granting me.
The second reason I hesitate to ask questions is that I don't want to give any whiff of excuse-making, and I feel like pros are quick to sense that from reviewees, and this is something I myself see in less experienced artists. Almost immediately with rookies, there're qualifiers and explanations and all this fluff, rather than letting the art speak for itself. I frankly hate that, so I don't want to give any impression that I'm trying to lead their interpretation of a piece by asking something after they've given their commentary. It's just like in Magic--never make excuses; take ownership of your decisions and just accept their results, and learn from that, not monologues on manascrew. So even if I feel I have grounds for a question or disagreement, I always second guess myself because I feel it'll come off as I'm making an excuse or trying to influence them in some way. I know this is absurd because I am capable of stepping back and reading a situation as a third party, and because when I would venture a question, we'd subsequently have a productive discussion, but I still can't shut off that "how dare you speak" voice in my head.
That said, I do feel this was the first time I've felt like I was in a conversation with a pro, though, not just a pure student. I get so nervous, though, I totally blanked on Splinter and Coverage Draft, comics I've worked on for months...as if I was just improvising the story on the spot...it was the same way at school--I could know a subject front to back, but if having to deal with a human (not a paper) it was a coin flip if I could pull it together to present myself as informed and as prepared as I was or if I was going to come off indecipherable from some rando off the street riffing on a whim.
The other big takeaway was, as I had feared, I don't have enough variety in composition. All my stuff, as I was assembling it--even pre-assembly, as I was shorlisting files--tons and tons of bust shots; I ended up putting stuff in just because it had more body present. So top priority, I need to pull the camera back, more than just waist-up shots. People liked my comics, though, since those of course have more mobile vantage points. The other thing was one reviewer said I ought to put more story into the images, another suspicion I had during assembly. I've been trying to put more narrative into backgrounds, but the advisory seems to be to hit it head-on with multiple characters in one piece, for more apparent intrinsic storytelling. Appropriately, the last drawing I did before Tokyo Comic Con was that Zero bust sketch above, so to counter that, the first drawing afterward a sketch on the train of Fred and Vicky in front of a news kiosk, trying to put together a quick exploration of what I learned.
The last noteworthy thing I can glean from the event was that I need to pick a lane. This was floating in the back of my head, but hearing it out loud solidified it. I don't know what my "thing" is...am I painting or doing lines?...I love lines, I want to be a killer with linework...I feel pressured into painting and even coloring. But the unanimous winner was our linework stuff. In fact, our little monochromatic Zero was the breakout piece. I included him almost at the very last minute, but ended up putting him on the cover of the packet when assembling leavers in the hotel on TCC eve. I had intended to paint him, but secretly really loved the monochromatic treatment. I included him mainly just because it was as near to a full-body image as I had. But this was the one everybody responded best to, which was quite gratifying, though the Admiral was our best painting piece). Zero means more to me than anything else I could possibly do, so it was a pleasant, if quiet, victory. What were we talking about again? Oh right, pick a lane.
So the vibe my packet gave off was schizophrenic. I have to pick an aspect to focus on and just go all in on that, it seems--one reviewer said that piece to piece, they look like they could have been done by different people. The problem is I don't exactly-laser-focused know what I want, and I've always discarded notions of "style," since that was always like n00b code for "I suck, but these pieces all suck in a similar way, so that makes them good," it's like a type of intolerable excuse-making discussed earlier. I had always learned that style comes over time, eventually, naturally, and unintentionally...only amateurs try to force it. I don't know what my "style" is, and I dread even thinking about thinking about it. I draw as I draw. I don't know. It was unthinkable to try for style. But now, I have to? That's like learning that mothers drinking vodka actually helps their babies grow strong.
What is the goal? I just want to make people happy with art. I'll dance like a monkey to do that, whatever jig it takes, disregarding any personal happiness in the process, as I have for the past decade. My personal wishes don't hold much weight in my mind. But I do know I like lines, and I want to be insane at that more than being an insane painter. Color has always been a lower priority to me that I've felt pressured into. I don't even like most color comics to be perfectly honest...especially in the west, colors too often destroy lines, or even just act as a crutch for poor linework. I love JP comics because it's pretty much all black and white, so you live and die on your lines. Obviously when they do color, it's only a few pages and covers and stuff, and it's gorgeous, and that's more the pace I'd like. So I guess that's the decision, huh? Focus on linework. The rub is that nobody cares about lines. Everyone wants colors...
So as we look to next year, I have to pull the camera out, do more implicit storytelling in images, and tighten up (spam?) a style. Art, like Magic, isn't fun. It's a technical endeavor in the pursuit of perfection. So we need to be more perfect. Oh, also, while I grapple with these art issues, my country is destroying itself and reverting into an abominable amateur-hour version of itself from half a century ago, so good beats.