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

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