Making Comics

Making Comics: Finding your ideal drawing pace

The following is a post I’ve moved over from my Everything is Comics tumblr, which is still online but not actively maintained. Please note the date on the post. Because it is from a few years ago, not all links are up-to-date and not all commentary and details are 100% current. The post is provided as is, for background and general interest. For the latest information, please go to my About, Books and Making Comics sections.

misterloki asked: Typically, how many pages are you able to draw in a good week? I know every artist is different, though! I am trying to gauge an appropriate number I should shoot for, while still giving myself appropriate breaks for sanity’s sake. Thank you for taking your time to look at my question!

Well, I draw comics full time, so my answer will probably not be feasible for most people who maybe have regular jobs/school. I work about 12 hours a day (with a break for supper), six days a week (I take Saturday off) and my quota is 2 pages a day for pencils, 3 pages a day for inks. It varies with each project, though. That’s my quota for The Nameless City, and it’s a hard one to keep up. I usually need most of my 12 hours.

So if I’m on a penciling week, I’m drawing at least 11 pages a week (sometimes I slack a bit on Sundays, unfortunately). If I’m on an inking week, I’m inking about 16-18 pages.

This schedule is kind of hard, though. I’m really behind on my book right now, so I’m pushing myself to catch up. If you can make your deadlines while taking evenings and weekends off, I think that would be ideal.

When I was in school and doing online comics, I’d do maybe 4+ pages a week, which is still a really high number. The pages I drew back then were much smaller than the size I draw at now, and had less backgrounds. I could churn them out a lot faster. Over the five years I was in school full time and drawing online comics, I drew over 750 pages, which is nuts! I didn’t go out much. Also I was single. 😉

I think if you’re doing an online comic and maybe working a job or going to school, doing 10 pages a month is fantastic. That’s a really good pace, because then you’re drawing 120 pages over the course of a year! That’s an entire graphic novel. Even 5 pages a month will give you 60 pages in a year. It really adds up.

I’d suggest working at the speed you feel comfortable with, but always looking for ways to streamline or improve your process. As you become more accustomed to making comics, you’ll get faster and hopefully your work will become more accomplished. However, I am sad to report that despite drawing over 3,000 pages of comics, I still don’t find them easy to make. 😉 I’m always struggling to do better.

Making Comics

Making Comics: Comics aren’t just art or just writing …

amanofletters asked: When you first got into comics, did you feel like you were better at, or more interested in, the drawing or the writing? I want to make my own comics, but I feel like my art straggles behind my writing. How can I cause these two aspects of comic-making to come together within myself, and make the works I want to make?

Oh hey, this is something I think a lot about, actually! So when I started making comics (15 years ago this month, haha), I was really terrible at drawing. And I wanted to do, y’know, GRAPHIC NOVELS, with fairly realistically drawn characters and backgrounds and things that are hard to draw. Things that I didn’t really have the skills to draw at the time. So I’d draw my comics and the art was generally pretty terrible. But I was comfortable with writing, and that helped me keep going with making comics, because I enjoyed the storytelling aspect of them so much.

It’s hard when you feel pretty okay about your writing but your art doesn’t measure up. I kind of feel like my art still doesn’t measure up to what I want it to be (mostly right now I want it to be Hiromu Arakawa, which will never happen, no matter how much I practice), but I’m very comfortable with the writing part of comics, so I look at that as my great strength in my work. It makes up for where my art is lacking, and I work hard at writing to make the sum total of my work better than if I was just writing or just drawing.

I mean, the absolute best thing about comics (to me) is that you don’t need to be a spectacular artist to make really great, involving comics. I’m not an amazing technical artist. During my down times, I don’t draw gorgeous illustrations or do amazing paintings (I kind of dislike doing that kind of thing, to be honest). I will never be Gillian Tamaki. But I’m good at storytelling, and I’m good at interpreting emotion and drawing that on the comic page. So I work to my strengths, which is making stories about engaging characters, and laying out scenes where there is a lot of emotion running through them, and people who like my comics don’t seem to mind that my art is not as great as Gillian Tamaki or Hiromu Arakawa.

Comics aren’t just art or just writing, they’re the two combined to make something new and wonderful. They are more than the sum of their parts. So work hard to because a decent artist with a good grasp of storytelling basics (this is super important!), and work harder to become a truly excellent writer and storyteller, and you can quite possibly make great comics! It worked for me. 🙂

Making Comics

Making Comics: Applying for grants

draw-blog asked: Hi there, I’m a Canadian cartoonist interested in applying for some grants to make comics. I’ve heard that you have received some grants (apart from the now discontinued Xeric) to make comics and I was wondering if you could specify which ones, or talk a little bit about the process? Thanks a whole bunch!

The Canadian government has several grant programs to support the arts within Canada. I’ve gotten grants to make comics at both the provincial and federal level. These allowed me to continue working full time in comics during a very shaky financial period in my life.

The federal grant program in Canada is overseen by the Canada Council for the Arts. They support a variety of work from dance to sculpture to prose to comics. I’m actually not sure of all of the varieties they support, but it’s quite a lot. The grant for Creative Writing includes graphic novels, so if you are a cartoonist, you can apply for a grant to work on a comic. However, there are eligibility criteria to fulfill, so make sure you read that carefully to find out if your work is actually eligible for a grant.

The provincial grant programs vary from province to province. I got one from the Nova Scotia Communities, Cultures & Heritage grant program, to write and draw Friends with Boys. I would suggest googling to see what kind of grants are available to you in your province. I tend to suspect that there are less applicants on a provincial level; the Canada Arts Council is well know, and competition to get a grant is very strong at that level.

As for actually getting a grant, my advice is to make your application as strong as possible. If you are applying to do a graphic novel, include samples of that graphic novel, so the people on the grant jury can see your work and see what you want to achieve. Ask for the maximum amount of money available to your category, as you don’t get points for asking for less. Also, the grant jury changes every year, so if you fail to get a grant with a certain project, you can re-apply with that same project at a later date and it may be successful. But remember to make your application as strong as possible! You are pitching people on the merit of your work, and asking them to invest financially in it.

Good luck!!!!!!