Monday, August 15, 2005

Magic Christian Music

The best and worst idea I ever had during my seven years of comic making was switching from drawing with a pen to drawing with Illustrator. If I'd been drawing five comics a week by hand for the last four-and-a-half years, I'd be pretty good at drawing by now. I do get better at drawing even working in Illustrator, but not very fast.

It was a good idea because I was worn out on the old ways, stuck in a rut, and anything that makes you think in a different way is helpful. But now it's a bit boring, and vector art is so ubiquitous that it'll be passe in a year or two. A man of the future has to move on. Every couple of months now I suffer a powerful urge to permanently go back to the pen and ink, and here is the thought process that follows:

1. Drawing is more fun than computerin'
2. Sitting in front of the computer is horrible
3. Faces, feet and hands so much easier to do well with the old pencil stick thing

1. Colouring on the computer takes ages
2. I am no good at drawing backgrounds compared to, say, other top comic makers of the day
3. No access to the hilarious world of typography (when all else fails)
4. Worried about what the proles will think (leading to bankruptcy)
5. I am no good at all at drawing cars compared to, say, a 5 year old
6. Stage fright means things drawn on purpose only 50% as good as sketchbook jottings
7. I will mess up my book collections in a way that makes people feel weird

It's tricky, because I'm probably looking now at the same stagnation I was scared of in 2001 - in terms of what I'm doing, I've peaked. I may solve this problem by retiring from comics and becoming a shepherd, bookmaker or owl groom.


michelle said...

Don't get bogged down by 'if'. If I had been exercising reglularly for the past 4 years, I wouldn't be so roly-poly and I could get a date. See, all this ifing only ends in tears.

Go forward from this moment, brave boy!

fontgoddess said...

bookmaker with sheep and owls. that'd work.

personally, I like your computer work very much. I do think it's distinctive and will never be passe because you do it very differently from anyone else doing vector art that I've seen.

I also like your drawing. I like the feel of the Scare-o-Deleria comics, their kooky, folksy vibe. (folksy not in anyway meant as a put down, the opposite in fact. the comic has a feeling that it would make a very good folktale and has the folk-type illustrations to go with it.)

I guess I like both very much (although it would take a while to get used to a hand-done SGR) and would rather you switch mediums than quit altogether.

Josh said...

Speaking only personally, I am a huge fan of the Scare-O-Delerias done so far, and would love to see more of your hand-drawn stuff. The important thing, though, is that you stay comfortable with what you're doing - even if that means challenging yourself.

Perhaps a gradual change-over? Start off making every Monday a Scare-O-Deleria day, then adding Fridays if it goes well, gradually letting it take over if the mood so takes you. I am certain that you will find your readers a patient, tolerant and open-minded bunch.

Kenny said...

Or maybe alternate for each story arc.

Sarah said...

Dear John,

I think that you should not worry so much. Your fans seem to love both the computer drawn and hand drawn comics very much. Do what you will and we will continue to read. But please, please, please do not mention quitting. Do you want me to start ripping hunks of hair from my scalp and wailing? Well, do you?


Journal of Lies said...

I have startd no less than 3 replies to this and erased them all. They essentially come down to: Go with what your heart tells you to do. Failing that, the voices in your head, or a talking dog will suffice.

I personally like the idea of you trying out different styles and media with each story arc, but really, what keeps you interested in doing this stuff is what's best for you and ultimately, us.
We'll most likely enjoy whatever you decide to do next, and if we don't, that's really our problem, not yours.

Most of the time, as fans, we should be ignored rather than catered to.

I know several comics that at least at some point were hand-drawn, scanned and then finished in the computer. Is that at all a viable option to give you a little tactile satisfaction in working with the advantages of number-crunching? Or would that just take more time to do?

Jenna said...

I would be very sad if you stopped comicking altogether! Looking at Scare-O-Deleria, and even back to Bobbins, I think you draw fine. Much better than I ever could, anyway. Besides, I love your storylines and I think you're witty John. I would probably still read your comics if you drew them with your feet.

est said...

John, maybe you could do some kind of strange and interesting hybrid? Do the bits you enjoy by hand, then load them onto the computers and touch up whatever you want. Or you could even put the hand-drawn characters over the top of an illo background, then clean them up a little.

Whatever you decide, it is mostly the characters and the story that we punters are with you for. We'll forgive you any transitory stages of awkwardness, I'm sure.

Zach! said...

Exactly. Take Questionable Content, for example. In their world they redecorate every two or three days just so things will get changed around and those episodes are always slightly less funny, but I keep reading, because he's a gem.

And you are a similar gem, just more shiny.

Roman said...

John, based on what you've said here and other places, it seems like in an ideal world you would have the time to create both hand-drawn and vector-illustrated comics. Sadly, there isn't time in the day to do both on a regular basis - something you've pointed out repeatedly. Perhaps you should take more time to experiment with hand-drawn comics, rather than worry about sticking to an absolute schedule of 5 vector-illustrated comics a week, every week. It seems that you've built up quite a loyal fan base in 2005 - these fans (myself included) probably had no idea who you were or what you did in 2001, so I don't say you're in any danger of losing readership. Those few who do drift away will miss out, in my opinion.

Bee said...

I say do whatever keeps you sane, and ignore the whingers who go nyuh nyuh nyuh I liked it better the way it was before and while you're at it bring back [X character from way back when]. Like Roman says, I think they're in a minority, and there are enough people who would still want to buy your stuff to keep you from bankruptcy. (And judging by the people who keep asking for more Scareodeleria, I'd say that your hand-drawn work is just as popular as your computerin' work.)

I for one fully intend to order more books and t-shirts and things as soon as I can get onto an internet connection that doesn't come up "ACCESS DENIED!" whenever I get within sniffing distance of a site you can buy things from ... (this is what you get for looking at the internet when you should be working. See, I wouldn't have this problem if I was an owl groom).

marianne said...

I would encourage you not to retire to bookmaking (although a fine profession in itself), owl grooming or looking after the sheeps. We would miss you.
In the long run to maintain your creativity you need to do what challenges and fulfils you. Regardless of whingers or complainers, if you're not happy doing your work then eventually the punters will pick up on that and bankruptcy will lay its cold and steely hand upon you anyway.
Take courage, Master John. After all, as others have commented, it is your wit and your whimsical use of language that attracts us to your work, as much as, if not more (in my own personal case) than, your very attractive computerin's (or pencillings).
As a web comic addict I tend to take a fair amount of abuse (lack of updates, obnoxious rantings etc etc) before I run away for good from a comic I enjoy. I do tend to ditch very quickly when I get bored, however. And if you were to be bored by doing SGR then that would show and we would get bored, and consequently skip merrily off to other more shiny sites.
Do what you need to do, and as long as you are enjoying it, the likelihood is that we will too and will continue to contentedly plunk our moneys down for your fine tangible (as opposed to digital) offerings.

Luke said...

Saying that vector art is done is kind of like saying Photoshop is done - that is, it's kind of like saying that paint is done, or pencils, or using your hands. S'just a medium, in the end. Any medium will get co-opted by twenty million new graduates eventually (all with their spiral-bound Computer Arts collections, all with their little shrines to Dave McKean) but SGR is appreciably distinct from the reams of swirly-lined rubbish that are getting thrown about so.
Combining hand-drawing with vector art is a lot of fun though!

marco said...

i believe you are kinda arbitrary in the pros and cons: if what you draw is the what you express and the how you express, then there is little effort to do to be able in reroduce it with pen and ink.
consider this: Scareodeleria is stuff done by the same hand that does the internet strip. the objects that are in the internet strip as company and help to the story are in another form in the pen and ink pages drawn by you.
the communications utilities and tool you have for one you have for the other.
as for the tech problems: why you assume you have to colour the pages the same way you did on Bobbins? there is lot of experimentations you can do and choices. moreover, if you do have to colour in photoshop comic-like, i don't believe is really longer than to do the vector work. but i'm not sure how that gets to you, to me vector work is a pain in the ass.

Pablowapsi said...

I absolutely love your hand-drawn comics, however I understand the coloring/background concern. As was mentioned earlier, perhaps a hybrid comic would be in order. Whatever you do, go with what feels right and keeps you sane. I sincerely hope you keep comicing for years to come. :)

Jay said...

Owl grooming is a fine and noble profession for an Englishman, but not one to be considered lightly. I don't think even the scruffiest owls would be particularly appreciative that you had given up comicking.

I think what I might want to say is, John, we love your work. We love it handdrawn, we love it computered. It's the stories and characters and your unique voice that appeals -- so long as you want to do it, your readers will support you in whatever medium you choose.

Isabella Richards said...

I like the drawing. I don't think you should worry about the books. Serena Valentino of Gloomcookie changes artists every few issues of her comic, and then when it's printed as a graphic novel, she just publishes them by artist. You could publish your next lot by drawing style.

Either way, I'm sure you'll never go stale.

Balthial said...

I think the computer art fit the comic better, but I enjoy your hand drawn art too.

Laurel said...

I would like to go down on the record as a strong vector supporter. I am a lover of the smooth loveliness, and I will be forever and a day, popularity or no. I am secretly praying that this "drawing" thing is only a phase.

However, ultimately the appreciation of your work, Mr. Allison, comes down to your writing. I would gladly put up with artwork created by the chewing and salivating of a dog so long as it has in it somewhere the linguistic waxings of one Miss Shelley Winters.

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