Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Hotspot #5: Dear Webcomic Artist... Get a Life

Strike items number 1 and 3 off the list below. It's sort of snowing in Central London, I did my share of running around, and I also just got back from the Dragonforce gig at the Mean Fiddler.

Other than the pushing, squashing and having to endure what was possibly the longest support band performance ever (1 hour! A big deal when the whole gig is 3 hours...) Dragonforce gave value for money, and I had the time of my life! I think halfway through Angra support performance most of the audience began to get a little impatient waiting for the main feature though, except for the enthusiatic Brazilian fans.

(No I have no pictures. I didn't dare to bring my camera, and my ticket stub was lost in all the jumping around).

Anyways, I'm not usually a party animal to be going out to Metal concerts (and on a Monday night too), and my idea of a nice time is a free night to spend drawing comics/a good book, drinking tea and nice music, but once in a while something different is always a good thing. You see, the last few weeks I've been feeling sick and tired of webcomics.

Yes, you read that right. Sick and tired of webcomics. Because I have been doing too much of it, and things related to it.

Let me see... The Jaded, The Longest Sojourn, How Not To Run a Comic, The Essence of... , Webcomic Finds, Keenspace Gear, Keenspace Help Center.

In short, far too many things in my life are currently associated with webcomics. And maybe they've earned me praise from many quarters I value and people I respect, but sometimes there is too much of something that you reach a point where you need to stop and take a breather. And do something different, because the alternative is sitting there staring at a blank canvas and feeling absolutely empty. No ideas, No will to draw the ideas you've recorded for cases of no ideas, and worst of all: No joy from creating comics. Nothing.

To those of you who may have webcomics, I implore you: if you do a webcomic, make sure it's not the only thing you do in your life.

I may do a lot of things webcomics related, but I'm also taking care to do a lot of other things that are not webcomics related because I know a human is not a machine, and too much repetition will kill the love of something very very quickly. You won't be a better webcomic artist by shutting yourself up in your room with your pencils and paper and inks, drawing comics all day and never experiencing human contact or that mystery we call Life.

Interact with people MORE. It depresses me that webcomickers have the stereotype of being sad losers with no social skills, no purpose in life other than their comics and can't get boyfriends/girlfriends. It may be true in some cases (the number of webcomickers I've never met who chat me up on AIM and get blocked after one 'conversation'. Bah, Idiots! Just because I'm female doesn't mean you have to be so sad as to hit on a complete stranger over the internet at first chat!).

Back to the topic... One thing DO I notice is that a lot of the more successful webcomickers are also the ones who don't fit the bloody stereotype.

And it makes sense. Art, writing, and any amalgamation of the two is in the end, still all about Life. What chance has a person who has never experienced Life and human interaction of writing and drawing anything that usually involves human interaction and achieing anything that rings true? (Well, perhaps this is an exception... and a damn depressing one too).

Otherwise, not much, unless you count regurgitating bits and pieces from the comics/books/TV shows they've read and reread/watched a bajillion times over... the results of which is that drivel which consists of cliches, the formuliac aim-for-audience-pleasers, the copycat clones and the death of originality and anything remotely interesting.

For the record, besides having an irrational fear of dinosaurs, I'm also demophobic. I'm scared shitless afraid of crowds. I hate them. HATE. Yet today I willingly let myself get squashed in the middle of one very excited and rowdy one, and in a small enclosed area to boot. And it was surprisingly, a good exprerience for me to face one of my fears head on and see the worst it could possibly do to me. (Actually, the worst would be a stampede, but that didn't happen).

And now I'm back home, tired but happy, and oddly enough... rejuvenated. I've danced and jumped and listened to deafening music (Extreme Power Metal!) and sang myself hoarse along to it (though in my case, I think 'yelling out-of-tune to' would be a better term to describe my singing voice). And now it's all over, I feel like I got something out of my system that needed to be aired.

And I feel like drawing comics again.

I guess what this whole Hotspot is trying to say in the nicest way possible is:

Don't forget to Get a Life!

No, seriously.

Do your comic. Love your comic. Have fun with your comic.

But do not make it the only thing in your life. There's work and family and friends and juggling fire and so many more things to do. There are more important things than the next story arc or punchline in your script, how you're going to draw your next panel, how many readers you have and what the webcomics community have to say about you. And once in a while, do something that scares you. Something you would normally never do. (And I don't mean Infinite Canvas or Sprite Comics, smartass!)

There is more to Life than putting a comic on the Internet.

It sounds silly and patronising coming from me, I know. But please, please, please... Never forget this.

ps: Adis, Eric, Chuck, Adam and Alan. These are poor words, but all the same... Thank you. I appreciate it. I just don't know what to say in return.

ps again: Obviously, if you already have a happy normal fulfilled life you may disregard this Hotspot.


  1. Pffft! Life shmife! Your advice smacks of undisciplinedness! ;)

    Honestly though, it is a danger we face. I'd suspect that the danger lies more in the "web" portion of the term webcomic. I believe that it takes a special circumstance for artistic storytellers like we cartoonists to exist. Namely, we need to be easily able to live inside our heads for long spells. If we're already comfortable with the living quarters we've made inside our brains, the web certainly doesn't help us to get out of our heads and interfacing with the real world once in awhile. That's why I find the effect that the internet has on me and my ilk to be pretty dangerous. It provides us a venue to express our ideas and show our creations and receive outside feedback, all without ever having to get out of the house. Not only that, but we're able to suspend disbelief well enough that our web interactions are more real to us than they probably should be.

    So, if we don't have to leave the house to create our work, and we don't have to leave the house to show our work off or get feedback, what's the point of leaving the house at all? Dangerous, indeed.

    I think that's the reason why, for all of the time and energy that I spend ranting on the web, for all of the work that I show off on the web, I still hold back about 80% of my work and opinions from the web. I expound on limited subjects, I show work I'm not too emotionally attached to. I save the rest for the non-virtual. All the more incentive, I suppose, for letting daylight shine in my eyes once in awhile.

    The thing is, I'm not really doing it intentionally. Somehow, subconsciously, I know that if I let myself slip into the virtual vortex of the internet, even just a bit more than I am now, I stand a real chance of never climbing back out again. I already spend far too much time online, killing my eyes by staring into a computer screen and cramping my fingers up by typing long tirades.

    So, having a life outside the web is very important. I'll have to say that I don't mind giving myself over to my comic work, though. I've defined myself by my artwork, specifically my comic work, for at least fifteen years now. I can't say that defining myself as such has done much to keep me from sewing my oats or getting out into the world when I need to. Sketchbooks travel well, after all. If anything having my artwork to turn to has saved my life on several occasions. So, I'm happy to expend large portions of my energy on that which I feel I do best, social life or not.

    As exhausting as it is to create sometimes, and as many breaks as I may give myself, the compulsion to do art is still there. It's always there. It won't be happy until it's fed, and its appetite is insatiable. I like that. I work well with that. I've got more ideas than life force, so it'll be a challenge to express them all before I kick off. It'll also be a challenge to express them in a manner that's up to my high standards, too. Maybe that makes me a different breed. I certainly don't consider myself an amateur or hobby artist. Drawing and cartooning is more than just a fun pastime for me. It's my life, it's my livelihood. However, even if doing my work is the only time that I actually feel right with the world, I'll be sure to take a break once in awhile. That shouldn't be too hard. I am an artiste, after all, so by definition I'm good at leisure.

    I just hope you remember to take your own advice. Of course you will while it's still fresh in your mind, but write it down and pin it to your drawing board and computer screen. Better yet, use Krazy Glue. You're too talented to just burn out on us. I expect to see your work when I look around ten years from now. (no pressure)

  2. Sound advice. I've been struggling with that myself lately (apart from the regurgitatin'. I don't think I've ever done that). Now I've got heaps of life coming at me, and I hope I can cope.

  3. John Lennon said it best--"Life is what happens while you're busy making other plans." Best to get out there and live. And hey, if doing webcomics and webcomic-related things is part of that life, groovy. But like you said--there's more to existence and life than sitting in front of our computers all the time.

  4. the last thing you want to do, ping, is suffer from burn out... so it's good to step back a little and see all sorts of other things are going on in the unreal world! but at least webcomic artists are doing something creative... it's not like we're playing 24 hours straight of quake (or whatever)... oh wait... some are!

  5. I think it was my burn-out and nervous breakdown around this time last year that really taught me this important lesson. Sometimes we tend to think we are invincible and can do anything, but we really are more fragile over the long term.

    I'm more careful this year. I've come close to burning out a few times, but instead of stubbournly plugging on, I'm learning recognise that I'm pushing too hard, let up and take things easier now.

    And oddly enough, I do in fact plaster this advice to sticky notes on my wall in case I forget ;)

    But having been sucked too deep into the web before, I understand the dangers all too well. It's a bit scary when interactions in a forum become more important than interactions in real life. It gets to the point where it all becomes too real, we get blinded it takes something big to pull you out of it.

    I think Gianna had a great quote in one of her comments here about seeing how silly some things are when you take a step back.

    I think I might print that out and stick it on my wall as well. ;)