I decided that I would only draw s.s.what using brush markers on 32-lb Southworth ivory paper. Actually “decided” is probably a strong word for it — if I have any artist in me, it’s expressed mostly as uncontrolled eccentricities in lieu of actual talent, and for whatever reason there’s some part of my brain that has decided that these pens and that paper is the “correct” combination for the comic, so that’s what has to happen.
I like the varied-line feel of brush markers, but only started using them recently (in fact that’s half the reason the comic started at all, not for doing a comic but for having something to draw with them). But clearly I’m not really using them properly for the comic. I wanted the art to be different from my usual style, something tactile and organic — probably why I decided on the heavy paper, actually, because it’s heavy and textured and makes itself known as part of the process more than standard paper would. But really, for the comic, I seem to be using the markers less as brushes and more as felt tips that get mushy quickly.
Part of the problem is that I can’t really draw. I mean, I can draw comics okay, and when I stay within the boundaries of my ability I’m able to put lines together such that the intended shapes are generally recognizable. But I feel like the potential of these markers is much greater than my ability to draw it out. It’s like sitting in the pilot’s chair in a helicopter — looking at all the dials and controls and things, you know there’s all sorts of awesome stuff you could do with it, but with no idea how it’s done, exactly.
So I can’t really draw volumes and objects the way I’d like, but I do like drawing lines and patterns. Still not with any real art, but enough to make me happy. So I sat down with a notebook and decided I’d do a page of lines with a brush marker to play with its widths.
I decided the pattern would be: draw a diagonal line going from narrow to wide, then draw a line next to it going from wide to narrow. Continue layering and repeat until done. In the corner of the page I did this:
And would you believe at this point I was already getting bored with it. I felt like the lines were getting too long to maintain a full narrow-to-wide progression for the entire length, and I didn’t really have a plan for what to do with long lines, so I tried breaking them up.
I looked at this and felt it was pretty much crap, so I decided to give up and go do something else.
And that right there summarizes about 40% of my life. I do have some raw, above-average talents for a few things which started at a fairly early age, and I think when I was young, my brain turned that into you’re pretty much good at whatever you want. And for much of my life I’ve operated under the assumption that all it takes for me to do something great is to sit down and do it, I just have to get around to it sometime.
This has long been a source of frustration for me. With drawing, with music, with whatever — I subconsciously assume that I should be able to sit down, get started, and maybe an hour later — two hours, tops — ta-daaaa! Masterpiece! And when it doesn’t work out like that, I wander away, bored and frustrated.
The thing is, sometimes I really am able to pull that rabbit out of the hat. I knock something together, it all goes according to plan, and in fairly short order I have something that really makes me proud. But I remember the hits much more than the misses. Or not remember exactly, but the emotional footprint of the pride stays with me. And that footprint bleeds out to the rest of my memory, painting over all the times I gave up too easily.
So I’m left with the feeling that I can do pretty much anything well. But it’s taken me a long time to learn (and I’m still learning) that my efforts have been self-selecting. I feel like I can do anything well, because challenges I’ve completed, I have been proud of. However, I tend to forget all the false starts — the things I started and got “bored” with, because it wasn’t suddenly and evidently magnificent. It’s not that I’m great at everything, it’s that I’m good at the few things I’ve persevered through to completion that made me happy, and constricted my universe to those few things. Everything outside that universe, you know, I’m probably pretty much great at, I just haven’t had the time for it.
That last sentence is probably best read as Bender.
So that all flashes through my head in less than a second, and I say to myself fuck that, man, you are gonna fill this page.
And, you know, not too bad. I’m really not happy with that row of Ss, partly because it doesn’t look like it belongs, but mostly because it was kind of a mini-failure, I was getting bored again and wanted to give up on it, but I pushed through. And the whole page is neat in its way.
That went okay so I decided to do another one.
That one I like even more. Which of course is the point — I was learning how to control the pen more, and had a bit more of an idea what I wanted to do, etc. It’s pretty basic “if you want to get better you have to practice” stuff, but it’s something I’ve never really learned and has messed me up for a long time. The meta-problem being, if I haven’t learned this lesson by now I won’t properly learn it at all, but hopefully I can use little experiences like this to bootstrap a wider understanding of the perseverance necessary to make myself better.