Thursday, March 1, 2007

Page 13 and the Power of Short Story

Well, page 13 is up and running. I had a lot of free time this morning, so I decided to go ahead and knock out a new page, so I did! So Newman is finally introduced into the story. I had been trying to figure out just how I was going to do it, and I finally worked it all out, as well as several things to come. Relax kids, I know what I'm doing... kinda.

Anyway, I was reading the flight forums recently and there is an ongoing discussion about short stories and whether or not a comic artist should attempt short stories before trying to do any sort of long form graphic novel work. I've been tooling this over in my mind and decided I would post my thoughts about it here.

I'm not going to tell you that you HAVE to do short stories before you can do anything else, but I will tell you why I believe it's a pretty good idea. Doing short stories is both a confidence builder, and a talent builder.

How it makes you better:
When you set out to do a 20 page, 10 page, or even 5 page story, you have a large amount of freedom. You are much more likely to try different things and step out of your comfort zone because you don't have a long term commitment to the project. You probably wont be willing do some crazy artistic/literary experiments with your 200 page graphic novel. On the contrary you are going to stick to what your best at, what you know you can do, and do your best to keep a continuous look. While it is certainly good to stick to your strengths in a long form story, you may not know what your best at if you don't experiment. Writing short stories allows you to teach yourself the art of story telling. This is where it's safe to make mistakes. It's better here to try something different and fail, than to succeed at what you already know how to do.

So what do I mean by experiment? For example, try using a limited color pallet; 4-5 colors with a decent value range and see how it comes out. Perhaps a monotone approach. Try different styles, different ways of inking. Try using brushes, quills, technical pens. See what happens when you free hand your panel borders, or even if you take away the panel borders all together. Maybe try drawing all your characters and leaving out the line work, using shapes and colors to complete your figures (See the work of "Pascal Campion"). There are endless things you can try visually to tell a story. I guarantee you will take something away from doing this. Figure out what worked well for you in those stories, and then start to apply what you have learned and what works well to your long form story.

You wont know if you can do something, or if it will work, until you try.

Building Confidence:

There is nothing more satisfying than finishing a piece of work. Being able to look back on the hard work you did and knowing that you have a finished product, good or bad, can put a little bounce in your step.

A lot of people, myself included have attacked a huge story, and then given up after the first ten pages or so. Maybe even less. What happens is that the artist is usually not confident in their own abilities, or isn't sure how they are going to make the story work. Perhaps you suddenly realize you've written yourself into a corner and you don't know how to get out. You don't want to get into the rut of never finishing anything. That goes for anything in life.

Especially if you are a young artist and you've just recently decided that you want to make a comic, I urge you to start small. Don't try to tackle a massive project right off the bat. If your still learning how to draw, definitely don't tackle something huge right away. What ends up happening (if your serious about your work) is you get about ten pages in and realize you don't like the way it looks, you want to make it better and you end up scrapping it all together. Instead, aim for ten pages in the first place. That way, when you get to page ten, it may not be top shelf material, but you finished it. Learn who you are as an artist, improve your skills, work hard, and slowly move up to the bigger, scarier task of the long form story.

Small victories go a long way to defining who you are to YOURSELF. In order to pull off a comic, you have to believe that you can do it, regardless of what other people are telling you. It's hard work and it takes dedication. It's not always fun, but it's worth it if you're willing to do what it takes.



Chrissie A said...

GREAT advice here, Josh!

I'm enjoying browsing your blog this morning... :)

Josh Ulrich said...

Thanks Chrissie =)