Hey there Silverline Family! I got a hold of Haley Martin who is something of an auteur. You can really see this with her ongoing comic Heroic Shenanigans. She does everything. For a lot of people looking to get into comics, this is the natural way to get your first story/book done and out there. Haley was gracious enough to share some tips on how to look past the daunting work and keep your eyes on the goal as a creator. Hopefully, after this, you feel like you have a bit more of an idea of how you can bring your passion to life.
Balancing Act – Managing Different Parts of the Creative Process
I dove headfirst into comics by making my own from scratch: writing the story, designing the characters, and sketching, inking, and coloring the pages. It’s a lot of work for one person! I’ve since experienced how much quicker and more streamlined the comic-making process can be when working on a team, but if you’re like me and enjoy having your hand in every step of your passion project, there are ways to speed up the process and keep yourself organized.
Have a checklist and a schedule, but be flexible. When I sit down to work on one of my comics, especially if it’s been a while, I can feel overwhelmed by how much work stands between me and a completed page. That’s when an organizational tool like this spreadsheet from comic artist Michael Regina is very helpful. Just plug in how many pages are in your comic and all the steps that are needed to complete a page (thumbs, inks, flats, etc) and then update the spreadsheet when you finish a task. It’s really satisfying to see that percentage go up and give you an idea of how close you are to completion. If you’re working on a large graphic novel project it may be helpful to break it down into chapters/issues rather than tackling a whole 200+ page book at once.
If you’re working as part of a team, the inker generally needs to be completely finished with a page before the colorist can start their job. But if you’re doing all those jobs yourself, you have the freedom to jump around. For example, I might be struggling with the sketch of a particular panel and need to look at it later with fresh eyes, but another panel on the same page might be ready for inks. So I’d start on that one before the pencils of the whole page are technically done. As long as the comic gets done and done well, it doesn’t matter if you do the steps a little “out of order”.
However, you don’t want to go so crazy with it that you get confused and forget steps. And you don’t want to finish all of your favorite parts of the process and then leave yourself with a full workday of only the tasks you don’t enjoy as much. As one of my college drawing professors said, “leave yourself a candy bar”. Save a part of the process you know you’ll enjoy as a reward for completing one of the less fun parts.
I know I’ve advocated “jumping around”, but you don’t want to do that all the time. You’ll get more done at a faster pace if you let yourself get into the zone. You’ve no doubt heard how important it is to warm up. If my first sketches of the day are frustrating, I’ll try to push through because I know my hand needs time to warm up. Next thing I know, an hour or two has passed and I’ve sketched more panels than I planned because I got on a roll.
The last thing I want to mention to help you juggle your different comic-making tasks is to set up a schedule. That spreadsheet I mentioned earlier can help you see how many steps you need to get done, and I would advise taking it a step further and outlining when you plan to work on each step. Schedule your work out so that you’ll be able to get the project done within your deadlines, but also leave some wiggle room. Life happens, so I find it better to give myself a range for when a task should be completed rather than a hard-and-fast I need to work on this specific task on this specific day. For example, I could schedule myself to ink page 12 on Monday and page 13 on Tuesday, or I could say I’m going to spend Monday and Tuesday inking pages 12-13. What’s the difference? Say I end up having more time on Tuesday than Monday, so I only ink half of a page on Monday but ink a page and a half on Tuesday. All the work gets done in the allotted time, but I can be more flexible about when it gets done within the time frame.
Remember, all this is just the advice of one artist, and you should do what works best for you. But I believe that once you have a system in place, your projects won’t be nearly as daunting and you’ll be finishing pages before you know it!