I’ve been drawing The Worried Well regularly for a little over a year now, and have slowly progressed from the Not Sure What I Am Doing phase to the Why is This Getting Harder, Not Easier? phase, and finally, onto the Huh, Surely I Should Have Run Out of Ideas by Now phase. This seems like as good a time as any to write about What I Learned in list-fashion, so on that note:
What I Learned Drawing a Bi-Weekly Comic for a Little Over a Year
1. If you don’t have a lot to say on a topic, don’t push it.
As some of you may remember, in 2015 I created a mini comic called The Illustrated Guide to $14 Cocktails. A few of the individual cartoons are still lurking around online, but overall I consider it one of my weaker books. But what happened? It sounds like it would write itself, no? Those overpriced drinks just begging to be mocked! All of those fancy ingredients only a handful of people could possibly care about! And so forth. But in the end, I ran out of things to say about pricy cocktails pretty quickly—I had maybe one or two cartoons worth of material that I tried to stretch into a book’s worth, and it just didn’t work. (Also, how do you write about drinking expensive cocktails without sounding like a jackass? Serious question. Please tell me.)
There are, however, LOTS of things that make me legitimately opinionated: the overabundance of Book Shaped Product (ie, contentless drivel packaged up nicely), inspirational items that are really not, Richard Price, the so-called circular firing squad of the left, feeling powerless and infuriated at our current administration but how we cannot use that as an excuse not to act, introvert fetishization, my controversial stance Valentine’s Day is actually a wonderful holiday, not feeling the way you are “supposed” to feel, and many others. My general rule is that if I encounter a topic that makes me want to go on a drunken rant, I might have something I can work with.
2. No one cares about the drawing. Except other artists.
I knew this going in of course, but seeing it play out in real life is vaguely depressing.
3. Nib pens are your friend.
The advantage of using a nib pen? It slows you down and forces you to work in one place. The disadvantage? It slows you down and forces you to work in one place. Right now my favorite tools include speedball 512s, square yellow Post-It Notes for doodles, an assortment of Japanese Pilot pens from JetPens.com (thanks, Eric!), and various glass trays I purchased at thrift stores and garage sales for palettes.
4. It's important to finish things.
To paraphrase Tom Hart: "You can be the type of artist who finishes things or the type of artist who hates himself." And weirdly, one of my proudest accomplishments last year was applying for a cartooning residency I didn't get into. It was only after I completed the application that I figured out what I wanted a collection of my work to look like.
5. It's still way more fun to draw stuff that doesn't have to make any sense.