Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Of The Things I Do + Graphic Novel (Pg 1)

Of Things to Come

                Very recently, I talking to someone I had recently met.  After telling them of the various little things I do; drawing, writing, taking acting classes, now working with a non-profit organization[1] I was asked “what do you plan on doing with all these skills?”[2] After some thought I answered “I want to have some kind of creative or near-creative career.”  Since this was a conversation being held through text messaging, conciseness took precedent over specificity.  But I had a compulsion to further explain myself and my actions so I followed up by saying “I’m doing the things I think I should be doing so…something will eventually come from it.”[3]
                I realized that last phrase could be applied to my life beginning with the end of high school.  Nothing was ever implicitly told to me but from observations and participation in our culture, I believed certain actions needed to be taken in order for me to have a specific place in society.  After high school comes college comes career.  What career?  I didn’t know.  What college?  No idea.  That little phrase whether I knew it or not, explains the kind of motivation and drive I have for the things I do.  Looking back at it, it feels like I was blindly following some heavily treaded path that everyone else knew why they were taking.  

The last part “…something will eventually come from it.” sounds like I’m leaving my fate to some unknown power or system in the world that checks off the things I’ve done off a list and then allows me to take my place as an artist, illustrator, writer etc.  But that’s not how I feel, it’s much more controlled.  

                In reality, the second half is a concession to the way I see things in life.  Nothing is certain and there’s no way I can predict the future, so this vague statement is the best I could do.  I wouldn’t feel right saying something like “I know something will come from the things I do” because I don’t like thinking in absolutes and I could die tomorrow.  Even in casual speak, I almost always say things like “99% sure”, “almost positive” etc[4].  But there’s a hidden confidence in there, that barring anything unusual I will become something and the actions I’m taking is just one of many paths to the place I eventually want to be.[5]

                Being honest with myself, does it really help that I now have an active Twitter account for my illustration[6], or that I constantly update a blog that only my friends, if that, read, or that I’ve taken over my Facebook page[7] to promote all these little things I do?  I can’t say it does.  But what’s the alternative?  Not doing these things, in addition to all the drawing, all the sketching and working and buying of materials.  It would be much worse.  Because what is an Illustrator other than someone who works as an Illustrator?  And I say ‘works’ because that is essential to what I want to be.  I want my living to come from the things I do, the actions I take.  And if I don’t do these specific things, then what am I really doing with my life?

                Again, these actions that I’m taking, the, in essence, self-promotional activities, I’m doing them with the same mindset that pushed me to attend college.  My observation of the culture and environment of Illustrators and freelance artists is that they self-promote, they get their work out there, and after time, enter agents and artist representatives and cover letters and portfolios and here comes a job.  An assignment that says “communicate this, with that”, that being your specific skill as an artist and visual communicator.  That can go into your portfolio, it can be seen by other art directors and hopefully, work steadily comes.  

                This all seems somewhat fantastical but not unreasonable.  I’m doing two essential parts of it now.  I’m working on my illustrative skills and my self-promotion.  Soon I’ll join an online portfolio group, have my own website, and then I’ll go about contacting people, looking for my first job.  

                Is there a possibility that never happens?  Yes.  Is there a possibility I never actually get hired to do a job?  Yes.  But I’m a rational person and what I’ve accomplished so far, that didn’t come out of dumb luck or a random circumstance.  It happened because there was a seed of possibility planted.  I would never get into college if I never applied, I would never graduate if I never did the work, I would never find a job or an internship if I never went to an interview.  Once I’ve done my part, I leave the rest to person who holds my immediate future in my hands.  Sometimes it doesn’t work out.  I don’t get accepted, or I don’t get the job, but that’s expected and I live my life accordingly.  

                I do the things I do because it makes what I want possible.  Like raising a child, eventually things leave my field of influence and I actively wait, because I won’t stop.  Why would I want to?  I love what I’m doing.
Graphic Novel (the most incomplete)

                One of my goals in life to create a graphic novel; specifically this graphic novel[8].

  The germination of this idea began sometime between my junior and senior year.  While this blog is dedicated to my personal pursuit of illustration and my career as an illustrator, I’m more a writer than an Illustrator[9].  But there was a story in my head and I could only think, “this story is best told visually.”  Of course there’s the medium of film and screen, but that didn’t do it for me, not for this story.  “Graphic Novel” was the word that kept making itself known in my head whenever I thought of this story.  

                The thing was, I knew so little about the graphic novel form[10].  Comic books were things I was never into as a child, it was more animated films and series.  I loved superheroes but that was only based on TV shows I watched growing up; the fact that comic books cost money pushed them even more out of my reach when I was smaller. 

                This partially finished page, which is page one of the novel, came to be long after I had the idea.  I had a completely different opening, one that didn’t work at all and exemplified the little I knew about the medium.  So what did I do?  I got to reading a few graphic novels, Watchmen is still my favorite and one of my favorite films, Persepolis (both parts) was incredibly engaging, even if not skillful in a technical drawing way, and Brian Michael Bendis’ Total Sellout, a short story book showing the various kinds of graphic interpretation showed me the possibilities I had at my hand when it came to this visual literary medium.  The entire Scott Pilgrim vs. The World series was also something I couldn’t put down[11], due to its great writing and storytelling. 

                In the fall of 2011, I took a Storyboarding class with Daniel Shefelman[12], an animator and director.  I was the only non-film major and asked him if, for the final project, I could work on my graphic novel and present that, rather than an actual storyboard from a film, as most other students were doing.  He was very helpful with any question and inquiry I had and was more than happy to let me pursue my personal project for the class, as it served the same purpose.  

                By the end of the class I had outlined almost 15 pages and finished almost three.  Page one was finished and became this.  

                As of right now, the project is on hold.  There are a lot of things I need to do before I can confidently continue.  One, I need to get better at drawing[13], and two, I need to have the story finished.  I did a foolish thing of trying to write the story as fiction and then adapt it to a drawn page where I should’ve written things as a screenplay and then switch it to a graphic display; it just makes things easier.  

                I’m not in a rush to finish this.  I still have much more reading to do and I should expose myself to the culture of graphic novels and comic books just so I know more about what I’m doing.  Eventually I’ll have a story written and a graphic novel finished.  From there, publishing will be the next hurdle.  I’m nervous of course, but never discouraged. 

Thanks for reading. 


[1] Terreform.  (
[2] Paraphrased again- specifics don’t matter much here.
[3] Direct quote.
[4] Even used “almost” in that sentence.
[5] The “where do you see yourself in five years” has been something I’ve thought about much more recently. 
[6] @JL_Illustration
[7] Which I never really used personally.
[8] I’m not exactly sure what “this” is.
[9] Though I wouldn’t call myself either or.
[10] I’m still in the dark as a whole.
[11] I loved the film, so reading the work it was inspired by was only natural.
[13] Something that is always true but moreso with this project as being anatomically correct is fairly important.