A little late seasonally for this one but I’m still adding comics from the archive.
People often express envy of my hair. But they don’t understand the chaos that comes with a curly mop of hair.
(There’s a point to this. Stick with me.)
Many people have hair that responds to the environment in a small range of fairly predictable ways. Curly hair does not live by such constraints. Curly hair has a wide range of possibilities within any given set of conditions. And it doesn’t have to respond in just one way. It is creative. It can choose to respond in multiple ways simultaneously. Straight, wavy, frizzy, fuzzy, spiral curls – all can coexist in an inexhaustible number of combinations. It is chaos. The more I try to tame the chaos, the worse it usually gets. I am not adding structure to my hair with the addition of styling gel – I’m adding more variables. Yes, the results can be beautiful, but also overwhelming.
People often express envy of my creativity. But they don’t understand the chaos that comes with creativity.
Many people respond to their environments in a small range of fairly predictable ways. Creativity is about removing those constraints. The more creative you are, the more possibilities you can see. You do this by never accepting that options are limited. You may not know the question to ask, but you know there is always the potential to ask a question that will lead you to an answer that is new. An answer that is creative. Ask enough questions and you can arrive at a place where there is an inexhaustible number of possibilities. This is creativity. It is chaos.
I often have no idea what to do with my hair. So it gets pulled back into a pony tail holder. I can’t control it. Also, often, I have no idea what to do with my life. Not because I’m out of ideas, but because I am working with too many ideas. It’s a very different problem, but the results may look the same. I make no progress at all. I do the emotional equivalent of pulling my life into a pony tail holder.
So, if you are striving to be more creative, understand that you are going to have to get comfortable with uncertainty. The more questions you ask, the less sure you may be of the answers. You have to say goodbye to the way other people style their lives. And if you have a creative person in your life who never seems to accomplish anything at all, have a little sympathy. They see the world very differently. Yes, the results can be beautiful, but also overwhelming.
Seth Godin defines art as “a human act, a generous contribution, something that might not work, and it is intended to change the recipient for the better, often causing a connection to happen.”
I’m struggling right now with what it means for me to be an artist. Sure, I can draw and paint – I can even write. And you may wonder why that isn’t enough. But the real art project is not my latest watercolor effort, or the story I’m working through. The real project is ME.
I am not just looking to improve my drawing skills. I want to fully realize my potential. To make “art” that is true to myself in a way that takes a risk, makes a connection, and contributes something to the world. But it is amazing how hard it is to get out of my own way. I am always conscious of my image. Most people don’t see me as insecure, but I am. I worry about how others may perceive me – whether anything I am doing even makes sense. It doesn’t matter if it makes perfect sense. I’m still figuring it out. It matters that I am doing it for the right reasons, with the right goal in mind. That goal is to make things that only I can make. To find “me,” as cliche as that sounds. I’m the art.
In the story I’m working on, Leap, I have my main character jumping off a cliff with homemade wings, only to have those wings fall apart, causing her to plummet and get snared in the tree limbs. I love that panel. I know just how she would feel if she were actually conscious at this moment.
Ray Bradbury is famously quoted as saying
“Jump off the cliff and build your wings on the way down.”
I’m a jumper. A wing-builder. But I always end up dangling in the tree limbs wondering what went wrong. I’m in one of those moments right now. I’m hanging there, upside down, blood draining to my head, wondering if I’ll ever really fly. Or if this jump + crash + recovery + repeat process is the sum of my future.
So, here’s my agenda through the end of the year. I am taking Leap back to the literal drawing board, to be sure that a story I feel can be awesome is actually being served by the decisions I am making, and not just being rushed through so I can say it is finished and move on. I will be removing it from Webtoons & Tapas, and posting every part of this process here as soon as I get myself organized.
I may not turn into a professional wing-builder. I may still jump before knowing what I’m doing, but I am at least going to make an attempt to learn from some of my mistakes.
Recently, during a writing group session, I was trying to describe my efforts to untangle my life’s purpose, and what work I should be focused on to best reflect that purpose. How I struggle because there are too many competing ideas in front of me, and I want to choose the right one. A friend stared at me with a puzzled expression and asked “is that really what it is like inside your head?”
Yes. Yes it is.
And it is probably why I am so scattered and ineffective. I am reading The One Thing, by Gary Keller, where he has you refine your priorities down to one thing. You focus on that one thing first and foremost, making everything else easier or unnecessary. So, my one thing right now is to figure myself out. I’ve made some efforts over the years to make this website a cohesive reflection of me as an artist, but I’m not looking for a job, or even to sell you anything, so that seems pretty unnecessary. Who cares what people think when they visit? So, I am going to work out my “one thing” right here, with whatever craziness that might entail.
I am sure I love stories. The only common thread through the things I try to do, the things I care about doing, is story. The Ghost of a Coal Miner painting I recently did for a character challenge is a story. Nearly every piece of art I am really proud of has a story in it. Every song I have cared about writing has been a story. Every comic, every poem, every piece of fiction I enjoy making has some sort of story embedded in it.
I care far less about each individual medium than I do about the creative challenge of using a particular medium to communicate something. So, that’s where I am starting. And I am going to work on putting all the different creative pursuits here – I have removed most of them as they didn’t make sense when put together.
Oh, and I’m bringing the webcomic back. It will still be on Webtoons, but also posted here. With extra commentary probably.
This post isn’t going to go over well with a few of my friends, because they will argue that I’m succeeding. But I’m not. I’m failing. I’m failing constantly.
A week ago, on Monday night, I was up past midnight, working to get Episode 4 of Leap finished. I know I’m supposed to be working with a buffer, but I’m not, and I know I should be at least working ahead, but apparently I’m not.
Then came the moment of realization, the kind you feel in the pit of your stomach. There was just no way. I was going to miss my deadline.
It’s a self-imposed deadline. I set it. There are no consequences for missing this deadline. Except the profound feeling of being a big failure.
Why do I keep doing this? Why do I always feel so pressed? So behind? So in over my head? All the horrible feelings of self-doubt and frustration come crashing down on me. When do I get to the point where I am winning at this sort of thing? When does it get easy?
Then it hit me.
Unless you are stagnant, failure can’t be conquered. It must be embraced.
What I’m doing with Leap is completely new and very challenging for me. This is the first time I’ve fully finished a story. I’m drawing all of it. I’m churning out more than five fully rendered panels a week where I normally did one. I’m imagining and drawing everything in the story. I’m designing characters and magic and intricate plot elements. I’m coloring and finishing the pages. I’m posting and promoting. While keeping up fairly well with the rest of my busy life.
And if I get good at this? If I get to where I don’t miss any deadlines and don’t feel pressured anymore?
So I’m always going to fail. And I’m just going to have to get comfortable with that sick feeling in the pit of my stomach, because that is the feeling that gets me where I want to be.
Here’s an excerpt from my comic collection, “My Mom Is An Artist.”
When I was seven, a nice lady asked me if I wanted to be an
artist when I grew up. Confused, I replied, “I am an artist.” An
artist was a person who did art. I did art. I was an artist. But
some concepts are more difficult for adults to grasp than children,
and three decades later I am still learning how to say with
confidence, “I am an artist.”
The day before I drew my first comic in 2010, I was not an artist.
I was not doing art, and I hadn’t in a very long time. At thirty-
seven, I was a mom with a baby and a toddler (a job I had
long wished for), and I had an identity crisis of epic proportions.
As two tiny faces looked up at me, I was filled with doubt. How
could I help them grow and find success, when I couldn’t follow
my own dreams?
I have always believed that everyone has a God-given purpose
in life, but though I had some talent, my creativity never seemed
like a significant contribution to the world. So I spent twenty
years wandering in the wilderness of ideology, doing everything
but what, deep down, I knew I really wanted.
In the Icarus Deception, Seth Godin says,
Art is personal. Art is untested. Art is intended to connect.
As a child, I did this naturally. My art was very personal, untested (for me) and it’s purpose was to communicate. Along the way, I lost the sense that I had anything at all to say, because I went through a crisis of personality. I tried to fit in to the world around me so I could find friends and avoid ridicule. (Junior High is brutal, ya’ll.) I continued this pattern of trying to blend in for the next two decades. It made life a little easier.
I lost the ability to connect with other people through art. I was simply pursuing some skill with what I saw as my talent. The comic brought me back because its only purpose is to connect. It doesn’t matter how well you draw a comic. It matters if it resonates with at least one other person on the planet.
Connections come from something genuine inside you reaching out to someone else. It’s something we should all be doing.
We should all be artists.
I’ve always told stories about my life. We all do. We might tell them to our BFF or a stranger in the checkout line at the grocery store, but we’re always telling stories in funny or dramatic ways. Of course, many of the stories I tell about myself are in comic form.
Leap is different. It’s a complete story, and it’s not about me. I’ve worked on stories for decades, but I’ve never finished them because I was so personally invested. They were too important to me to get wrong. Too emotionally big to risk failure.
Leap is just a story. A story with magic and mystery and murder. There’s not much magic, mystery, or murder in my life.
Along the way, however, the main character, Nina, started to take on familiar elements. Nina is a young woman who finds an ancient source of power, which causes some terrible things to happen. But Nina’s biggest problem is herself. She’s given away her own power. She’s let people take power from her. She struggles to make decisions.
How many people do I know who are Nina? Myself, sure. But beyond that I can’t even count. Some have grown and taken back their power. Some are perpetually stuck in a cycle of letting others take from them. And hopefully, in the people that read this story, there will be someone with whom that concept resonates, and maybe even subconsciously, it will help them realize that they are strong enough to take a leap, spread their wings, and fly, even if they aren’t sure where they will land.
Read Leap only on LINEWeboon:
For years I’ve had people ask me to put my comics in a book, but I couldn’t figure out the best way to do it, so I put it off, thought about it, worked on it a little, then put it off again. Now, after seven years of making comics, I’m finally going to gather up the best and put them together.
My journey through webcomics is so much more than the effort to be funny or meaningful. It’s my journey through the process of figuring out how to believe in myself and my art. It isn’t always easy to do the thing deep down you know you are meant to do, and I hope to share a little of the emotional path I took while making the comic along with the best panels.
I’ll be posting updates all next month, so check back!
I’ve made the decision to only post updates on Webtoons and Tapastic from now on, so if you’re looking for new comic updates, you’ll have to go there! I do also post to social media, usually within a day, so if you follow on Twitter or Facebook you can also keep up.
I’m really enjoying Webtoons as a comic platform. The response has been very encouraging, and I’m loving getting to interact with more people. Comments here on the website have always been scarce. If you enjoy webcomics, or are already into LINEWebtoons, please subscribe to me there and give me a good rating and some likes! It really helps my exposure.
Happy Holidays everyone! I’m creating a new category for my website – Comic > 2017 – which means next year I will be hitting the seven year mark for the comic! Also big news, I’ve launched the comic on both Webtoons and Tapastic so if you use either of those, or love webcomics and want to discover new ones, please subscribe and give me some likes!
I’ll be posting some highlights and revisited favorites on those platforms so I can maintain regular posting in 2017 and build an audience. If you’ve got any favorites from the terrible archives, let me know and I’ll add it to the list. Look for the start of regular updates January 10th! Thanks for all your support!
I made a little looping gif for Colour Collective with some snowflakes I drew. Snowflakes done in Photoshop, animation in After Effects (and a little photoshop)
Also – Merry Christmas from me!