On Sunday, July 13th, I posted a new Arcadia comic with very little fanfare. It was a busy weekend, we had just celebrated our daughter’s fifth birthday with a big family party the day before, and we were recovering and cleaning and just generally enjoying the quiet that comes from a week’s worth of effort gradually winding down. I posted comic #32 right from my phone because it had been ready for a couple of weeks and all I needed to do was activate it within my comic backend manager, and it was good to go. I honestly thought nothing of it.
Then the other day, as I was going through the script and thumbnails for future pages it occurred to me that I had hit a milestone. I’d had it marked in my progress sheet on Google Drive for a while, but it didn’t even occur to me that I’d managed to reach it already.
I’ve now been drawing and posting Arcadia every week for a full SIX MONTHS.
Now, that might not seem like a substantial milestone to many. In fact, even as I’m typing it here, I’m realizing that it sounded much more significant in my head. But for ME, specifically? This is a big deal. I don’t tend to stick with personal projects long (which is hilarious given that in my day job I’m an IT project manager). But I have a bit of ADD when it comes to creative projects. I like to move on to something new whenever I can, even if that means abandoning the current project in order to focus attention on something that for the time being appears more captivating.
With Arcadia, I challenged myself to not do this anymore. To keep a weekly comic running despite every ounce of my being screaming at me to toss it aside and do something else. To hit a six month weekly milestone for me is a HUGE accomplishment, and I’m honestly surprised and proud of myself for achieving it.
So now that I’ve gotten to this point, as promised, it’s time for a review! Laid out here in no particular order, are some of the things I’ve learned and observed undertaking this project over the past six months.
- I feel like my art is improving, just not in this comic. I continue to draw almost every day, and you can see all the drawings I’m generating over on my illustrations page (the ones I feel are worthy to post, that is. There’s a lot of stuff that doesn’t make the cut). I feel like in every aspect of my art, my skills are improving all the time. I’m reading about and learning new software techniques and participating in challenges to force myself to draw things I might not normally draw, just to see if I can do it. It’s all making my art better in lots of different ways, but you really can’t see ANY of it reflected in Arcadia. I think the reason for that is I’m rushing the comic pages. I knock out a few pages, ink them hastily, scan and post them all within a couple of hours and then forget about it for a while. I do no detail work, no real clean-up, no backgrounds, no color, nothing. I just draw them and post them and quickly move on to another art project that might feel more interesting at the time. The comic suffers from my inattentiveness, and I think that’s something I really need to work on in the coming weeks. I love the project, and it deserves more of my focus than it’s currently getting.
- I’m putting way too little content into each page. Each page has only between 2-3 very large panels, which is part of why the story is taking so long to develop. There’s very little on each page. My hope is that in future pages, I can start to put together more concise “comic book style” pages with multiple panels per page that make sense logically. That’s a skill I think is really valuable and will take a lot of time and trial/error to develop, but luckily I’ve been doing a lot of research. 😀
- I have little to no audience right now and I find that I don’t mind that at all. I thought I would be disappointed to see so few hits every time I post a new page, but I’ve found that it doesn’t bother me at all. I’ve gotten to a place where I understand that this work is mainly for ME. For me to tell a story and improve my skills. And if anyone wants to follow along, awesome! But if not, I’ve found that I’m fine with it, and I just keep chugging along regardless. It’s a freedom I never thought I would enjoy, and I’m grateful for every single view I get, no matter how small the audience.
- I’m getting out of this project exactly what I wanted. I wanted to force myself to work on a single cohesive project on a weekly basis and keep it up for an extended period of time, and I’ve proven that I can do that. The advice from so many cartoonists is that you won’t get good at cartooning unless you actually START a project, and continually improve by forcing yourself to work on it all the time. Even when you don’t want to. Arcadia is doing that for me. It’s my first project, so it’s obviously going to be rough. But I’m going to keep at it, and eventually the next project will be better, and the next one after that better still. It’s all about improving.
Now, I’m nowhere near done yet. This story has barely even started, and there’s a substantial number of pages to get through before we even start to see the end of this chapter (there’s four chapters total). Will I make it? I certainly hope so. And I’m absolutely going to keep going! But first, I’m going to take a couple of weeks off before launching into the next block of pages. I’m going to take a breath, work on some other art, regroup a bit, take some of these lessons learned, and apply them to the next few pages. You may not see all of the observations I’ve noted take shape in the next few pages, because I’ve already scripted/thumbnailed out to page 48 (the end of block 2). But hopefully starting with page 49 you will start to see some improvements in how Arcadia is drawn and blocked out on the page.