Weekly Blog 5/5/19: Facing My Fears – Following Through After Failure (& Weekly Video Digest)

Hey guys, it’s Taylor! This week I want to talk a bit about how one faces the fear that often follows on the heels of actual or perceived failure – in other words, how to get back in the saddle after we screw up or fail at a task. As usual, I’m speaking from past experience and what worked then, but also what I’m going through currently, and what works now.

I’ve wanted to be a comic artist for about 17 years. Some of you have heard the story: 11-year-old kid, reading a newspaper article about manga, decides, based on that one brief article, to become a manga artist; kid spends next 18 years studying; kid now blogs at taylorjohnson.art about said study. So yeah, drawing American manga has been my passion for the better part of my life.

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I put out what I thought was going to be my debut self-published, home-printed comic book in February – then abruptly pulled it from the figurative shelves (my Etsy shop) after a true friend saw it and said “This makes no sense. I can’t follow the story. I’m sorry, but dude, it doesn’t read.”

Best friend ever, by the way. Friends will give you compliments on your work. Great friends, valuable ones, will give you critiques.

But it hurt like hell, and I sat and licked those wounds for about two months. Because i realized there was a bigger problem than Beauty For Ashes not being good. If I had slacked off on it, if I hadn’t put my all into it, then it sucking wouldn’t be a problem. It would make sense.

The problem was, that was my best try. I did put my all into it. I tried my best and it was still bad. Really bad.

If the comic that represented my latest-and-greatest effort didn’t even make sense, if it was a jumbled mess, I had a bigger problem. Have a bigger problem.

I dont’ know the first damn thing about how to write and design a comic.

Oh, I can draw. And I can draw in panels. Many people can. What I struggle to do is make a sequence if pictures in panels make sense, instead of being a jumbled mess. In other words, I know art – but I don’t know jack about sequential art.

So. Literally back to the drawing board. I dragged my feet for a while, but got kicked into gear at…a convention, actually. AwesomeCon 2019 had its ups and downs, but one very high point was talking with a female comic artist (whose name I have unfortunately misplaced). My boyfriend actually dragged me over and made me talk to her.

I, awkward creature that I am, started out with “Hi, I’m sorry.”

Fortunately, she was better at conversation than I was.

Finally I said “You know, I’m trying to think of a question that isn’t one of the lame ones like ‘how did you break into the business,’ so I’m gonna ask…What exercises do you recommend for someone trying to learn pacing and to make their comics make sense?”

“Start really small,” she told me. “Start REALLY small. Do a one page comic. And make it flow, make it make sense. Do another one-pager. Make it flow better. When you can do one-page comics, go up to three. Then five. Then ten. Once you’re able to make the most out of ten pages, you can start thinking about something longer – and when you do, it’ll be powerful, because you’ll make the most of it.”

It was revolutionary to me, though it shouldn’t have been. One page comics sounded crazy, but the more I’ve thought about it, the more sense it makes. Painters aren’t generally encouraged to start with a 40-foot mural; novelists aren’t (usually) told to start with a 300,000-word epic. Seamstresses don’t start with experimental gowns for the Oscars. And no comicker should even try to start with a three-hundred-chapter epic.

And yet that’s exactly what I’ve been doing – okay, not three hundred chapters, but even a 5 or 10 issue series is a big deal. (That’s 150 to 300 pages, in the case of most of my works’ templates.)

I’ve also not done my basic homework. I got Making Comics by Scott McCloud for Christmas two years ago, and haven’t finished it. Manga in Theory and Practice by Hirohiko Araki is sitting in my Amazon cart, but I have yet to order it. And while I read some Eisner works many years ago, I have never read his classics on comics.

So this is me getting back to work – or school – in the area of comics. I’ll check in here about how it’s going, from time to time, and I’ll let you know what I find.

For now, however, here is a first draft of my first one-page comic.

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The prompt was “what a baby bird gets up to during the day,” and my inspiration was my experience being a sibling for the first time – when my brother was born – and how strange and amazing that experience was, and how I wished so badly that I could help out somehow.

The initial feedback is that the story makes logical sense, and the reader can follow the story, so I’ll be continuing this practice for a while yet – I think it’s really going to help.

That’s all I’ve got for the blog section…without further ado, here’s a summary of the videos I put out this week:

4/29/19: Deck Collection Spring 2019

This is just what it says on the tin: an updated video of my collection of Tarot, oracle, and angel decks.

5/1/19: May 2019 Card Reading

This one is the May 2019 card reading for my channel. It’s an interesting one this month.

Speedpaint Portrait of Molly Roberts | Reacting to my Old Process

This is one I’ve wanted to do for some time – a reaction video, but just me reacting to the timelapse footage of one of my oldest watercolor paintings. It turned out to be both amusing and inspirational to see it. Plus, I painted Molly Roberts – how cool is that?!

Anyway, guys, thanks for tuning in. I’ll keep you posted about the one-page practice comics, as well as other projects here on Taylor planet. Have a wonderful week!

-Taylor

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT Blog 4/22/19| The Millennial Mystic Tarot’s First Printing, New Project-mom Syndrome, and All My Feelings

Image description: A left hand, Caucasian, holds a medium-sized Tarot card, with the backing facing us. The cardback depicts four crystals, a crescent moon, and a night sky over an ocean. The background is vague and dreamy, and on the wrist of the hand is a tattoo: “I AM NOT AFRAID TO KEEP ON LIVING.” End description. 

Hey guys! I know I had another blog that was posted today, but I just HAD to get in here and share some thoughts really quickly.

I arrived home this afternoon to find a box in my mailbox from MPC – MakePlayingCards.com – and while it was no surprise, I’m pretty sure I had a very minor cardiac event taking  the box up to my apartment…I told myself not to get too hyped up, that this was just a test print, and that it was not going to be perfect. I’d planned to go upstairs, sit down with the deck, and write down notes on what needed fixing on each card.

Well, maybe I’m delusional from excitement, or maybe MPC just did a really great job…but the cards are flawless. FLAWLESS. I am amazed and thrilled and blown away. I can’t believe how GOOD they look. Everything is beautifully bright, beautifully saturated, and perfectly aligned on the card.

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I don’t know how I lucked out this good, but honestly, the cards are exactly how I’d imagined them and dreamed of them.

It is…an incredible feeling. It cannot be described; the best I can do is to say that I feel like a popcorn machine starting to really get going. I feel like bits of excitement are just exploding in my chest. I’ve teared up several times.

I know. I’m acting like a new mom. The Empress energy is a little too real right now. But I’m basking in it. I have never completed a project that took anywhere near this long, and it has been a thousand percent worth it. I feel more whole than I have in a while, more at peace, more confident and also more humbled by the forces around me. I am so small, so insignificant, and it is an honor to be used in this way by the Forces That Be to create what needs to be created.

That’s what I see the Millennial Mystic Tarot as. Something that needed to be birthed into this world. I just played the role of the creative womb, the artistic pathway through which it came into existence.

Yep. New project-mom syndrome, I guess.

I don’t have anything further to say, really, except that yes, a flip-through will be coming shortly, and I’ll be sharing more about this project as news about it comes along. For now, though, I am just so goddamned proud of my work, and SO freaking grateful for those who have joined in the celebration, previously or today, and are helping me to celebrate the creation of my first deck!

S/O to S, V, and A for being incredibly generous and giving their time to review; to Aunt B for always looking at my art over Messenger and giving me both compliments and helpful tips; my Mom and Dädd (in-joke) for supporting this madness despite the simultaneous very real madness; and of course to my love, J, for helping me heal and helping me to make it through this project mentally. Also, S/O to EVERYONE who has liked, commented, or followed me on social media during the past 18 months.

I AM going to be doing a giveaway of a deck, but it will be US-only due to complex giveaway laws. I’m sorry, but it actually is complicated, and some of the penalties are very harsh. I will be posting about that later on my YouTube and Instagram, as well as here – so subscribe wherever and you’ll be notified.

For now, I’m going to get some rest and just play with my new cards. Of all the decks i own, I’ve waited the longest for this one. It’s completely (and I might not be speaking out of bias) worth it.

Stay tuned for more photos and info on ordering!

-Taylor

Weekly Blog 2/18/19: Beauty for Ashes: Receiving Negative Feedback, Processing Failure, and Starting A Period Of Study

Hey guys! It’s Taylor. I’m here with a bit of a difficult blog, on a bit of a difficult topic: some difficult feedback I’ve gotten, and the process I’ve gone through in integrating that information and figuring out “if I suck at the one thing I really want to do, where do I go from here?”

So, basically, a few days back I showed my latest creation, the comic Beauty for Ashes, issue 1, to a friend. He complimented the art and printing, but said finally: “I can’t follow the story. Like, at all.” It was a punch to the gut. I hadn’t realized that with all the corners I cut – reading lots of comics (but not drawing much), only practicing drawing females (to the detriment of learning to draw males), spending years practicing making comics but never really learning the theory behind it – I realized, after this difficult conversation, that my slacking and freeform study had not resulted in me being able to draw comics. It had resulted in being essentially a writer who can’t plot a novel, or a screenplay author who can’t format. I had the passion and the practice and NONE of the study.

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For a few days I languished in despair (intentionally using dramatic language there – I was being dramatic). My whole world felt jumbled. I had spent the past 15 years or so actively trying to become a comic artist, and, to my mind, had failed. Then a thought came to me – one of my favorite quotes:

“If you need a tree, the best time to plant one was 20 years ago. The second best time is today.”

Meaning that yes, we may waste time, and yes, it may be too late for some things in some senses – but that doesn’t mean you give up. You still plant that tree, and you water it and make the best of what you can.

So I got thinking: What did I do with other art forms that I have gotten good at (novel-writing, painting, etc)? “Practice,” “study,” and “start small” came to mind immediately. With novels, I studied the craft (taking classes and reading how-to books), I practiced (I’ve written 8 or 10 fiction books depending on whether you count picture books), and I started small (the picture books were my first foray into fiction). With watercolor, it’s been a similar path.

For some reason, I guess I’d thought that my years of striving with comics would result automatically in learning. Turns out practice makes progress, but it works a heck of a lot better if it’s combined with academic study (or at least learning from experts) and starting super-micro.

Thus I’ve been coming up with a sort of course of study for myself, going so far as to also learn about “how to teach yourself stuff in general,” involving books and courses on how to make comics. It includes some of Eisner’s instructional works on sequential art, Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics and Making Comics, Hirohiko Araki’s Manga in Theory and Practice, and other resources.

The important thing is…I’m going to study. I’m going to do the homework. I’m sad that it’s taken me this long to be ready to do it, but it takes what it takes. For me it took four comics that didn’t make sense – and some incredibly helpful but very painful feedback – to figure out that I need to do the homework, have beta readers, and study – the same as everyone else.

In the next year or so, I don’t plan to release much in terms of comics, but I’ll definitely still be making art, the Tarot deck, and my blog and YouTube content. It will be a year of practice and study, and that’s okay. I’m excited to tackle this, and I’m excited to see where I end up in 2020.

If you’d like to support this whole operation, please head over to my Etsy shop. You can purchase art, prints, even stationery and Tarot accessories, all handmade by me. And if you’re enjoying my site, please hit the follow button on the right to get notified whenever I post a new blog (about once a week).

Wishing you all the best,

Taylor

Weekly Blog 12/17/18 | Comic Scripting, Multitasking Projects, and Day Job Breakthroughs (That I Can’t Talk About)

Hello everyone!

I’m very excited to be coming back to you with good news from my corner of the world: I’m doing much better mentally, after that crazy week of creating tons of art and projects, and am evening out my mood. My paper planning system is helping hugely in this; I’m able to not only track my mood and be aware of where my brain is, but it helps me also to manage my daily habits and do enough self-care but also enough work that I can sleep at night. So, things are pretty good.

I’ve been scripting comics – actual drawing quite often triggers my hypomania (bipolar symptom), but scripting is not a problem. I’m working on My Life On The Sidelines, the next installment being chapter 1, but also Beauty For Ashes, a more grown-up manga about a sort of antihero vigilante who protects women from assault, but has a lot of secrets of his own. The script for Chapter 1 is complete and I’m hoping to release that chapter as a little home-printed comic in spring 2019.

I’m managing a lot of projects right now, and I have to say it’s a bit difficult to work on them all and make progress! My day job takes precedence of course, but then it seems that the Millennial Mystic Tarot, the Hekate Oracle, my poetry, My Life On The Sidelines, and Beauty For Ashes are all tied for second place. It’s really hard to prioritize when you have one clear priority but really haven’t prioritized beyond that. It is fine to have a bottom line – at the end of the day, I HAVE to have done my day job work – but it’s also important to prioritize the littler things.

I don’t know exactly how I’m going to manage that. But I will. 🙂

Finally, I have made a major breakthrough at work…and can tell you absolutely nothing about it. Like, really, my hands are tied here. I would love to describe the process to you, especially the “EUREKA!” moment I had last Tuesday night – but I can’t. It is all proprietary, and in essence, my company owns the technological advancement I made. That’s okay, though. I intend to stay with them a while yet.

I’m off to work now. Wishing you all the best, and hoping you have a great day.

-Taylor

Image for this week’s blog: Joey Belle, a male but somewhat feminine character with bright blue eyes and messy, badly trimmed blonde hair. The image is a portrait, shoulders up, of Joey smirking confidently.

Weekly Update 1/29/18 | Zine Influences, Comic Inking, and Self-Publishing Rebellion!

[Pictured: An assortment of the zines and self-published publications I’ve collected over the years.]

Hey y’all! It’s Julian. I’m in the midst of a comic-inking marathon, but I’m taking a few minutes to write up an update. 🙂

I’ve been really inspired by zines, zine culture, zine discussion, and zine documentaries this week – and self-publishing in general is becoming even more appealing to me than before. I’m really excited and, in fact, proud to be self-publishing. I honestly think that self-publishing is the future of art, rather than a dying concept. I see more and more young artists self-publishing zines, books, and comics, and more and more big companies going down…in a way, it makes me happy. We are still here.

I’m currently working hard on My Life On The Sidelines, my current comic project. I’m on the Prologue right now and am about 2/3 done with those 24-ish pages. I’m looking into formatting and printing it, and it’s going to be more zine-sized than my previous (8.5×11″) comics. Every day I’m learning more about what my technology can do and how I can print them without going to a bigger printing service. It’s awesome!

(If you’d like to read Sidelines now, please click here.)

The whole idea of self-publishing appeals to me partly because it’s an act of rebellion. Not just if you make an explicit, politically drive riot grrl zine – I mean that self-publishing itself is an act of rebellion.

How so?

Well, first of all, it rejects the very idea of needing permission: permission to speak, permission to share your ideas, permission to promote your art. It rejects the idea of needing validation; anyone can self-publish, so it doesn’t matter whether your art is “good enough” or “high quality.” And perhaps best of all, self-publishing is no respecter of persons. Rich, poor, POC, white, male, female, nonbinary – anyone can make a zine, and for the most part, no one can stop you.

Of course, I realize I’m speaking from a place of privilege in that I’m in a country and area where if I say (or self-publish) something outlandish, I’m not likely to be killed for it. But really, in most places, anyone can self-publish. You can even be anonymous or use a pseudonym if you’re really uncomfortable about it. I do.

But really, I believe that self-publishing is an act of rebellion, a show of courage, and a practice of self-worth and love. Self-publishing your work shows that you are unafraid and unabashed and unashamed.  And so I’ll keep running off photocopies.

Until the next time we speak, I hope you’re having an excellent day, and I’ll talk to you again very very soon!

~Julian

Weekly Update 1/15/18 | “Sidelines” Comic Creation Process – Setbacks, Successes, and Surprises!

So I’m in the beginning of the Starting-To-Panic Point: the moment at which the number of days before my deadline approaches the number of pages I need to do BY that deadline. At a good steady pace, I can ink maybe a page a day. I am very slow and very bad at focusing, and I get burned out easily, so I prefer to keep it down to one page a day. That doesn’t often last to the end of the deadline period, but hey. One can try.

Today is January 15; my deadline for my comic is February 15. Well, actually, the release date is February 15. I have to have all the pages inked by the 7th at the VERY latest.

To make matters more difficult, I have a convention coming up just days after that deadline, AND – I’m inking these pages with a dip pen! Not my usual Microns, but a dip pen! What the…?! What was I thinking?!

Me: But G-pen nibs make such beautiful lines! It’s everything I’ve ever looked for in line art!
Also me: Never mind how it looks, it’s not POSSIBLE to do a whole 20 page intro chapter in 20 days if you’re doing it with a dip pen. 
Me: But dip pens are PERFECT!
Also me: And they take forever.
Me: BUT THEY’RE PERFECT!
Also me: You’ll never get it done in time if you do it with dip pens.
Me: And if you make me use microns, it’ll look lifeless and lame. I need to use dip pens for this! MY COMIC IS WORTH IT!
Also me: *massive sigh*

This is just a taste of what goes on in my head on a day-to-day basis.

So yeah, the dip pen situation is slowing things down, but I desperately want to use dip pens for this project. So unless/until it becomes abundantly clear that that’s impossible, I’m still going to try.

I HAD had the first several pages sketched very neatly and was ready to start inking them, but then realized – much to my dismay – that I had sketched them on paper that isn’t good for pen and ink. I’m used to my Microns, which will write on pretty much any paper without much trouble. Dip pens and ink are a bit more finicky.

So I traced and redrew all those pages onto different paper, paper that actually takes pen and ink in a great way. I probably should use Bristol board, but I’m broke, on a budget, and already have drawing paper on hand, so yeah, higher-grade drawing paper it is.

I’ve also reorganized some of my art materials into more portable cases. If anyone’s interested, I’d be happy to do a “what’s in my pencil case?” video, since those seem to be pretty popular amongst the YouTube journaling/art people. 🙂

Also! I’m having a huge 10%-off-EVERYTHING sale on my Etsy shop. So head on over! There’s original art, trading cards, journals, and handmade goods galore!

Thanks again to everyone who’s been supporting me through this journey so far. I really am looking forward to this year. It’s shaping up to be a good one. 😉

~Julian

Weekly Update 12/11/17 | Shipping Wars, Prismacolor Pencils, and BAKUMAN

Hey y’all! It’s Julian.

It has begun. The shipping wars of December 2017 have begun.

What I mean, of course, is the process of producing, packaging, and shipping all the holiday gifts I’m sending out this year. And if you’ve ever done this, you know that “war” is only a moderate exaggeration.

I’ve chosen FedEx as my partner in battle this time around. Currently, an amazing piece is in their hands, headed to Chicago. I’ve had no complaints with FedEx so far, so they’ll be my partner going forward.

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I’m busily working on other pieces, and yes, I’m working with Prismacolors now!! SO in love with these things. I got the 150 set, only because they were on sale for like $47 on Black Friday. But they are now mine, safely in my hands, and I intend to use them to the best of my ability.

I’ve also begun to really use the local library system again…mostly for reading manga, yes, but also for picking up books on writing, drawing, and publishing comics. Here are a few I’m reading right now:

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BAKUMAN (Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata) – Created by the author and artist of Death Note, BAKUMAN tells the story of two high-schoolers who aspire to become manga artists. Through a classic manga-style Odd Turn of Events, our hero, Moritaka Mashiro, makes a pact to become a published manga artist, WITH his work turned into an anime, before he’s 18. I’m only 2 volumes into this series, and it’s at least 20 long, but I’m really enjoying it so far.

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Making Comics (Scott McCloud) – This is pretty much my core text as a comic artist. I don’t own a copy but I borrow one from the library from time to time. It’s the basics of creating comics – whether comic books, manga, or graphic novels – all told in graphic novel form. Very fun, very educational, very important work.

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The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing Comics (Comfort Love and Adam Withers) – I haven’t read this one at all yet but it looks awesome. It’s by a husband-and-wife team who started self-publishing comics in 2008, and were doing it full time in 2009. Which is incredible. So I wanted to read this and pick the brains of the experts!

Well, that’s all I’ve got this week. I have a couple of videos coming your way, though, so stay tuned for that!

~Julian