The webcomics blog about webcomics

Just One Thing Today

It’s been making the twitterrounds and honestly, I can’t remember who to credit for first pointing it out, so we’ll just say it’s via Kate Beaton because Kate rules. From Phil McAndrew (who has the best blog name in history — Marvelous Mustache¹ Factory), a treatise on Super Obvious Secrets That I Wish They’d Teach In Art School. How super obvious? Enough so that Mr Non-Artist here understands them all.

More importantly, while McAndrew writes in lieu of responding yet again to students wondering how break in to a career in comics or illustration (that is, not specific to webcomickers), every single thing he says applies to webcomics. As we at Fleen have come to accept, the distinction between webcomics and not-web comics is entirely academic at this point, and we’re only using the word because it’s got inertia and is relatively succinct.

Do you own the words+pictures that you create, and at some point the internet is a/the dominant vector for distribution? Webcomics. It’s not an either/or proposition any longer, it’s a spectrum, and anything that looks like a comic falls somewhere on that spectrum (granted, some of it falls waaaaay over to the low end of the spectrum, where the internet part is an afterthought and the ownership stake is minimal and the creator is in some way or another getting screwed — we won’t be paying to much attention to that end of the spectrum).

I am purposely limiting the highlights that we quote here — the impact of McAndrew’s simple advice is best appreciated in great big chunks, and you really should check out the drawings he chose to accompany his thoughts. Some of these are about how you improve your art, some are about how you conduct yourself, all are important.

You don’t grow by staying within your comfort zone. You’ll be a stinky stagnant little pool of moldy potential with little insects buzzing around and having desperate sexy times and laying eggs all over the damn place.² Force yourself to draw something that you know will be difficult.

Say “thanks” a lot. And mean it! Be thankful that someone is paying you to sit at home and draw pictures! If no one is paying you then be thankful that we weren’t born without arms.

Stop talking about it and do it. Don’t wait until you have more free time or more drawing skills. As you get get older you will find yourself with less and less free time. And the only way to improve your skills is to draw a lot.

You won’t find success if your only sources of inspiration are other comics that are already popular. A thousand other people are already trying to make something just like that one comic you love and chances are most of them aren’t going to find much success either.

If you want people to respect your work, take you seriously, or pay you to draw things then do not trash talk your own work. If you want people to get excited about your work (and to hire you to draw things³) then you need to show them that YOU are excited about your work.

I’ve tried many different methods of self promotion. The most effective thing I’ve done has actually been the simplest: Draw awesome stuff and put it on the internet. Do this for a while and good things will happen.

I’ll add one last thought: If these simple rules are helpful, if they contribute to your artistic growth and cartooning success (however you define it), if you find value in them even if you aren’t a comics creator (at least six of the ten secrets presented apply to any endeavour, not just cartooning), then make it a goal to tell Phil McAndrew so. Find him at a convention, a signing, or randomly on the street (NB: do not stalk Mr McAndrew on the street) and thank him for sharing his thoughts. I’m guessing at least one of you just saved a couple years tuition in art school if you apply these rules stringently enough.

¹ While we at Fleen prefer moustache, as used by the World Beard and Moustache Championships™we will not gainsay those that wish to use the alternate mustache. For once, the American spelling keeps the “u”! Then again, leaving out the “u” would result in the entirely-perverse “mostache”, a word which is used only by t-shirt thieves that don’t appreciate the subtleties of original design.

² This is currently in the running for Best Sentence of 2011.

³ That little parenthetical is the key part of this key point. Want to be a success? Remember that there’s a big difference between working for free and working for yourself. The work is immediately unpaid but provides you with some means of income in the future? Good. The work is immediately unpaid but somebody else promises to maybe pay you something in the future, no really? Bad. Very, very bad.

Food for thougt: Many, I’d even say most, of the points Phil makes apply to many other fields. I think that’s why we not-artists understand it.

An example: “Challenge yourself” reminded me of that quote from one of your teachers you mentioned a few months ago: “If it ain’t broke, break that sumbitch and make it better”

[…] Obvious Things Artists Need to Know Original Source: Marvelous Mustache Factory – via: Fleen) […]

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