Don’t Train The Same Art Muscles Every Day

Don’t Train The Same Art Muscles Every Day

Sorry for the radio silence. I’ve been hard at work getting the art for The Walk further along than it has been. But I still feel like a failure on many levels. I can’t blame myself for losing a couple years on it due to my health. But I have a hard time working on it now. When you are working out, you aren’t supposed to work the same muscle group every day. Could that be the same with art? I decided to do something about it.

I started working on a new short comic in tandem with The Walk. It’s in a completely different style and subject matter. It’s made a world of difference on my outlook. Now, instead of struggling through a page for The Walk, I can do a page for this new story. It has actually helped me work more on The Walk because I know I can go back to the other story soon. Because I’m having fun. Oh man, I can’t tell you how much fun it was to draw this page. And I think it shows.

It’s a short story that I plan on self-publishing as a mini-comic. I’ll also include it in a one-person anthology book that I am planning. I’m feeling the need to work on short stories now, or serializing longer ones. Another stumbling block I almost hit on this short story: feeling like I needed to do several drafts. And that’s not necessary. That’s going to slow me down.

A common theme in past blog posts is how I have been thinking about doing a one-person anthology series. A series in the vein of Crickets, Eightball, Lose, or countless others. One large issue a year. Thinking about self-publishing it has me excited. Most of the work will appear online, too. But this is where I’m at now as an artist.

When I get on Facebook, I see my younger peers working all night, preparing their books for cons. I regret that I’m not there anymore in my life. But I have to be realistic about my age and output now. Which isn’t to say I’m jealous. I’m happy with where I’m at. Thinking about scraping by to get to a con now makes me content to stay home. I’ll deposit that table fee into my retirement account instead.

I’m turning 40 in a month. You can’t run every day the older you get. You can’t work the same muscle group. You have to mix it up and compensate for your age.

The Struggle To Create

The Struggle To Create

I’ve been slowly finding time The Walk, but it’s a struggle. I started working on this comic in the summer of 2013, after I graduated from the Center for Cartoon Studies. That’s four years ago now. I’ve been trying to determine what my roadblocks to success have been.

Page 3 from The Walk

No Energy

When I returned home from Vermont after I graduated, I started to work on The Walk. I was working as a freelance designer but soon found a job as a creative director. I noticed that my energy levels plummeted throughout the day though. I figured it was from working full time again for the first time in a couple years. Little did I know I was starting to go through heart failure. That was two years of coming home wanting to work and having no energy to do it. After surgery, I have a lot more energy, as long as I take care of myself. I need to exercise at least three times a week and stay on a low sodium diet. That also means watching my alcohol intake and getting a good night’s rest. I used to have a couple drinks every night and get about 5 hours of sleep. Now I have a couple drinks on the weekend and get about 8 hours of rest. Even if I’m not tired, I’ll lay in bed and read until I’m sleepy.

I saw an energy boost immediately after surgery. My heart was working well for the first time in years. But taking care of myself has added another boost.

Page 8 from The Walk

Work/Life Balance

Achieving a proper work/life balance is tough for me. I love to work. But after working all day, somedays I need to relax and spend time with loved ones. My comics ambition is very high though. I have so many stories I want to get out of my head. So I end up being cranky all night and not doing anything right. I’m not relaxing, and I’m not working. I’m agitated.

By the time the weekend comes around, I don’t want to sit at a desk at all. I have been using Saturday and Sunday to recharge for the coming week. What I’ve come to tell myself is that it doesn’t have to be war all the time. You don’t have to do a page a night. Sometimes I only have the energy to do a panel. And that’s okay! But working on it every day is the important thing. It’s like exercise. As long as I do something, most of the time, it all starts to accumulate.

Again, before I went to CCS, I’d work a 70 hour work week and still draw comics into the early morning. I’m almost 40 now. I can’t do that anymore, so I need to adjust and not kick myself when I’m having a less productive night. And that it’s okay to relax.

Cover art from The WalkSelf Doubt

All artists doubt their abilities. That’s a given. I’ve always pushed through those doubts and did the best job I could. But now I’m too much in my own head. I’ve redrawn entire sections of the book into a different style. I’ve almost ditched the project because I don’t know if anyone will read it. I sometimes think about bringing the story back into draft mode. I start thinking about different techniques I can do with the art to make it stand out.

I keep a private journal while I work on comic projects. I re-read some of my entries and got sick of reading all the self-doubt. This isn’t rocket science. I have to draw and finish the thing. Push through. If no one cares, no one cares.

Space sucks. Don’t do space stories.

Page 4 from The WalkThe other sticking point that makes me doubt everything. Doing anything set in the future. The Walk is about an astronaut on a space station. I thought, hey, space is simple to draw!

What I didn’t foresee is how much research I’d do into what space stations could look like in the future. What ships would look like. What kind of spacesuits would be possible. What a waldo is. It’s maddening. I’ve wasted a year of my life reading about space.

And then I had a realization. No one cares. No one cares if you predicted any of it right. No one especially cares if a comic book predicted what a space suit in the next century looks like.

I did finally find a design theme that works with the story. But I wasted a large amount of time trying to get it right. Now, I’m cherry picking the designs of all my favorite space stuff. I want the reader to feel like maybe none of it is real. Maybe the events of the book are in the protagonist’s head the entire time? Maybe he’s assembling his life as an astronaut with pop culture references? Nothing is a blatant rip-off, but a lot of it is close enough that I hope it makes the reader notice.

Page 17 from The Walk

How to Succeed

To recap, here’s what I’m doing now to keep working:

  1. Don’t doubt.
  2. Don’t research anymore. Work.
  3. Don’t get discouraged.
  4. Take care of myself. Rest.
  5. Work when I can.
  6. Start posting online again.

The last one is important to me. I haven’t posted any comics online since 2012 when I ended Drunk Elephant Comics. It’s time. Working on a schedule, posting online, and getting immediate feedback was so important to me as a young cartoonist. I’ve been wanting to start a Patreon for a long time now, and I have enough work done on this story that I can start posting. I have permission from my publisher to post online also. There’s nothing stopping me from doing it.

More importantly, I have two more stories ready to go, enough for 8 years of regular doses of comics from me.

February is a tough month for me. Lots going on with taxes, and marketing budgets start getting allocated to clients. So bear with me, but expect to see The Walk online soon on this site.

Page 14 from The Walk

2016 Has Not Gone Well

2016 Has Not Gone Well

Thanksgiving is always a good break for me. I get four days free from work (mostly). That time off gives me room to breathe, gather my thoughts and take stock of the year. And deal with a minor medical emergency1. But like most people, I think we can all agree 2016 was the absolute worse.

One of the nice things about keeping a journal is that it gives you a record of your past. It’s one of the best features of Day One that it now reminds you of past entries on their anniversary date. And also one of the worst. I wrote about my creative goals in January this year and I haven’t come close to accomplishing any of them. I didn’t go to any conventions. I didn’t finish The Walk. I didn’t produce any mini-comics. I didn’t relaunch Drunk Elephant Comics. I had to turn down an opportunity to work with Kevin Church again because I was too busy with client work. And I certainly did not finish a rough draft of a graphic novel. Don’t get me started on finishing Moby Dick.

Today, I’ve been making an action plan on getting back on track. For now, that means picking back up on The Walk. The last page I completed was done a year ago last week. I want it done and out of my life. So that’s all I’m doing for the foreseeable future.

The year wasn’t a complete failure for me though. I designed and built a huge website for a client that gave me a ton of ideas moving forward with my own web presence. I did read a ton of books for the first time in years also. Maybe it’s time to give up on Moby Dick? I created 30 pages of comics for a magazine project that will hopefully be released in the near future. I participated in Panel Explorations here in town and contributed to the program.

2016 has mostly been defined by loss. Loss of time, in the above instances. But we all lost people we loved, either near to us, or artists who influenced us. I received the call from my mother that my grandfather had a month to live on New Year’s Eve. David Bowie. Alan Rickman. Leonard Cohen. Sharon Jones. Gene Wilder. Muhammad Ali. Merle Haggard. Garry Shandling. Prince. So many more. That’s a crazy list. And then we had an election that still puzzles me. In so many ways it feels like hope died this year.

I’ve spent more time talking with friends in need this year. And we all need each other. I needed a lot of solace myself. Art, film and music are good go-to’s for myself. But I got solace where it really counted. The Chicago Cubs won the 2016 World Series.

At the end of a long day, I’ve found myself going to YouTube and watching videos upon videos of that amazing Game 7, and of fans’ reactions. I always tear up, just like I did during what seemed like the entire month of October. Even if you aren’t a baseball fan, you can’t help but feel the raw emotion of these videos. I may have purchased Eddie Vedder’s unofficial Cubs theme song, Someday We’ll Go All The Way for the darker moments to find some solace. Some hope that things can change. Because if I can live in a world where the Cubs finally win the big one, then anything is possible.


  1. 1 ↩︎ I ate too much sodium during the holiday festivities and needed to start a water pill regimen to get it out of my system. I’ve already peed 8 pounds of water weight off in two days. Just a reminder to take care of myself a bit better.
Everyone is Creative

Everyone is Creative

Illustration by Ryan Kholousi

I wrote another post for the B² Interactive blog, this time about a subject that is near and dear to my heart: creativity. Most people in any organization feel like they cannot possibly be creative or contribute to a creative project in a meaningful way. I’m here to tell you that it’s simply not true. If you’re a manager or in marketing, be sure to give it a read. Here’s an excerpt:

Let’s take a trip down memory lane. You might not remember, but you used to love to draw. Every kid drew. They drew constantly. Art class was everyone’s favorite class. Right up until that jerk Tommy colored the sky meeting the grass in his picture. You recognized his brilliance immediately. The teacher applauded his observational skill. Fed up with your own drawing (and let’s be honest, Tommy’s stupid face), you quit. Art wasn’t so magic anymore.

This plays out across classrooms the world over. Each new leap in skill drops more children out of art. Creativity becomes a dirty word. Something out of reach. Unattainable.

It’s garbage.

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