August 26, 2011
Fair warning this one will almost certainly ramble quite a bit and gets kinda personal. By all means don’t take just my word on this, I can speak only from my own experience.
Yesterday, I finished about four days of work writing and especially drawing a guest comic. I ended up with something I am very proud of, though I can certainly pick out things that I could maybe improve (as I often do once I declare something finished), and handed it over to its new owner, and not only did I actually receive payment for it but I also got nothing but positive reactions with each new piece of work I presented them in the space of those four days.
Now is perhaps where I declare the strange part: I’m not an artist.
Or at least, I don’t consider my primary position here at Remember to be that of the artist. This is strange because I certainly spend a lot more time drawing it than writing it, and the art is certainly the part that has seen the most development and improvement over time. I’ll declare myself an artist when it’s appropriate in conversation but at heart I truly consider myself more of a writer.
Do I consider my art good? Hell no, as I said I always finish a page happy with it but picking it apart at the seams for every speck of dust or gentle imperfection. The writing is a lot easier for me most of the time, and I’m always happy with my writing, even though I keep pushing my boundaries in it and trying to blur the line between my writer side and my artist side. My art may well have developed so much over the years simply because it was the side that had to catch up the most.
So when I’m getting compliments and positive feedback about my art…I’m a little conflicted. I mean, on the one hand any positive support is always awesome to receive, especially from someone you like and respect in the field, but on the other it’s sort of like getting a compliment for doing the dishwashing while working as a chef. It’s like getting complimented on something that’s far and away not the big aspect of your job for you.
Webcomics are normally a labour of love by one person, occasionally two but more often just one. That person has to walk that line between artist and writer, mingling the exposition with the visual action and the language of a character with their expression and body language. In short, the lone author of a webcomic has to become something that’s not quite an artist or a writer but something very much inbetween. As I’ve often said, you don’t need to have good art or good writing skills to make a good webcomic, but that doesn’t mean you should let either stand still as you progress through anniversary after anniversary.
And so we have a unique medium in webcomics. An artist can draw paintings that move you deep inside, an author can bring you to tears with the motion of characters in a plot, but a webcomic author working alone has to do both in equal measure. Now of course, I can’t say that such a creature is “better” than either of the more traditional forms, its more like a modern reinterpretation of both, and that reinterpretation is more what I consider myself than an artist.
Does that mean I don’t want artistic encouragement? Validation? Of course not, one of the biggest killers of webcomics is a lack of motivation, if the creator loses motivation it becomes increasingly difficult to continue. Without the few comments I get on pages through the weeks, I doubt I would have made it almost four years into Remember, I doubt I would be knee deep in the final story arc of this main storyline, thinking up and developing the next ones at the same time, and I doubt I would be half the man I am today. The smallest thing you can do for a webcomic author is to comment and say “hey, this is cool, keep going!”, and it all starts from there, going up.
Apparently I baffled two people recently with one of my webcomic features, but really they’ve very much returned the favour with the praise they’ve heaped on to that lone guest comic.
So to close, am I an artist? No.
Like most of my peers in this strange industry, I’m something very new.