I hate how I draw. This isn’t unusual with most cartoonists. If I’m doing an illustration, I don’t mind at all. I fall into my style and I don’t question anything. But once I start doing something sequential, I fall into a hole of self-doubt.
I’ve been working in creative services for over 27 years now. I know any feedback I get is not personal and I’m there to help turn my client’s vision into reality. Comics are personal for me however. Writing them continues to be fun. I love to write. I have more than a few scripts and outlines waiting for future work. But I’ll always stop dead because of drawing. I keep telling myself to move past the doubt. Some days I can, but I know I can create a lot more if I can get out of my head.
I’ve been reading Rick Rubin’s new book The Creative Act: A Way of Being. Every morning I’ll read a section or a chapter. The reading the other day was about accessing your inner child. Becoming free of what you know (or think you know) about craft. That made me think of James Kolchalka’s controversal letter in The Comics Journal: “Craft is the Enemy.”. I was too young at the time, and had barely made any comics when that debate raged. But I never forgot it. I revisited it this winter as a matter of fact. I wanted to read with fresh eyes.
I have found myself thinking about stripping all that I know about making marks to get at something…pure? I want to have fun drawing again, like I did when I was a kid. To create a visual language that anyone could understand and is as easy as typing letters on a keyboard.
I went to MoCCA in 2012 since I was so close in proximity to NYC while I was in Vermont. The team at Fantagraphics invited me to drinks later in the evening. I met up with them at a bar that was full of monks that shushed the crowd every time we got too loud. It sounds annoying but I didn’t mind since it allowed me to have a conversation with Nicolas Mahler. Mahler is one of my favorite cartoonists. His work always resonated with me and I told him how brave he was to work in the his style. He told me something to the effect that “everyone should have as much fun drawing as I do – to be free. It’s no effort at all.”
One of the last times I remember enjoying the act of creating a comic was during an assignment at CCS called “the Ed Emberley project”. We all had to draw like Ed Emberley using his seminal instructional book Make a World. I had poured over his book Drawing Book of Halloween when I was a young child. Coming back to his work as an adult was so much fun. It was the best I’ve felt in awhile. I did a mini-comic in one day in his style.
I’ve been thinking about trying something like this again. To let go of what I’ve been hanging on to, and to have fun. It’s so hard to turn off my brain. So back to Rick Rubin’s book, and looking for sustainable ways to turn off your brain and draw. Another cartoonist I admire is Ivan Brunetti, and I have a copy of his book, Cartooning: Philosophy & Practice. There’s an exercise of his in the book to draw 100 random characters as fast as you can. I’m going to try this. See if it unlocks anything in my brain. I look forward to sharing what I discover.