Posts tagged ‘achewood’

March 20, 2011

i believe it was voltaire who said, well, then fuck them

man. lots of things in my head, gonna do my best here.
a lot of my reticence towards writing lately has come from weird standards that set in on this blog almost immediately after it was created; things like no hyperlinks (it was a writing blog, not a place for dissemination), more emphasis on descriptive storytelling and less big-lesson narcissism (hey, it is going to be both! sometimes! i don’t know!) and other such business. i’ve been feeling crazy about having all these rules on what was ostensibly made to be a platform for my own expression.
this is me getting over it.
on a side note: i’ve also created a new tumblr page that will act as a holding ground for my ongoing sketches and more media-oriented interests (read: there will be youtube videos sometimes. i particularly love that ira glass quote near the bottom – it comes from this wonderful series of clips). and i have many, many more drawings to share – lacking a scanner has been a good motivator in that i have an excuse to head down to the iprc once a week to make use of their scanner and get out of the house.
in the past i have lamented being sick of myself, sick of my style and my creative history, and let it build up to the point of acting as a serious point of artistic asphyxiation. more recently i began reading dave sim’s cerebus’ guide to self-publishing, a mostly out-of-print missive on the hard truths about making it in the world of comics, and it crystallized a few points for me. i won’t quote directly here – sim is crotchety and occasionally threatens to blunt his own purpose by being such a hard-assed dick about things – but the merits and frankness of the book far outweigh the rancor and bile. but that is for another day, and another post.
what i have taken from it so far (echoed by the ira glass lesson) is the thing we all already know and never want to think about – the importance of starting something – committing to something – and sticking with it. wisdom holds (at least in sim’s world) that comic-makers, for instance, have 2000 bad pages in them, and the sooner you get them out, the better. it’s an obvious variant/parallel of malcolm gladwell’s 10,000 hour rule. but sim touches on something more vital: the sheer irrelevance of knowing where you going or if you’re doing it right from the get-go. he argues that it is impossible to know such things at the beginning, when you are bound to produce work that is substandard compared to what you wish you could produce, and it has to be worked through until you reach a point where you know, through hard knocks experience, what does and doesn’t work for you. ask yourself: if you look at any comic that you love now (comic because of the sequential nature of the medium), how many of them got it right with the very first one? does that one even stand out in your memory?
the other thing sim touches on is the importance of making hard choices. you want to make something? great. most people, and this is a source of much of my frustration with humanity, want to make something, and will probably keep right on wanting to make it (or have made it, somehow jumping to that far shore) until they’re dead. in the meantime, the best way to make something is to start and keep with it. and with that, you set a hard goal and work to maintain it. holding yourself to a schedule is bare-bones, minimum-discipline stuff. i lied earlier and am going to quote sim here, because it is essential:

take two weeks and decide to do a page a day (ed: insert your own goal here) – pencilled, inked and lettered. if you miss a day, look at what you did instead. whatever caused you to miss doing a page that day is an impediment to your career.

look at the impediment.

look at the work.

make a choice.

i recently wrote about chris onstad and his struggle to continue achewood after nine years. after all the uncertainty and silence, onstad finally composed a lengthy and thoughtful letter to his fans (which can be read here). it warmed me with admiration to read it. earlier today i finally sat down to begin writing my first proper comic in awhile, and true to form, the old demons came out almost at once. the script got longer and longer, panels piled high, and i began envisioning which artist i would liberally borrow from to mask my own stylistic limitations. what began as an honest seed for a comic bloomed into a big, contrived mess, like it always did; whereupon i’d push through and make it anyway, usually dissatisfied with the results but reasonably sure that someone would like it. i am well trained in formula, thank you.
and then i read onstad’s post, and it just hit me in the face. fuck that! there is no way i am going to turn out another comic that compromises what i know it could be with a little more work for something passing decent that i can get out by this evening. i’m holding myself to the schedule (for now, two finished pages per week), but i am not about to manufacture something that amounts to little less than hiding behind borrowed words and voices just because it’s hard. i’m only an hour into the preliminary scripting and storyboarding; it is far, far too soon to be worrying about final form yet. and i am done settling for something passable.
i know two things: you don’t compromise on your goals, and you don’t lie to yourself about the so-called efforts you make. i’ve barely begun. page one of 2000.
i was reminded of an old achewood strip – sometimes i like to take a single panel out of its context to serve as a reminder for certain occasions. this is one such occasion. it acts as my current response to people (well, mostly my own internal voice that cries for consistency and control).
now, back to work. i’ve got a long, long way to go.

February 20, 2011

aaaand we’re back

cup of coffee, blueberry/blackberry scone, jazz samba. it’s a fine day for starting again.
the hardest thing these days is turning off the urge to multitask. my brain running three or four processes at once has long been my m.o.; now i just want to practice being where i am.
i had given up and moved on. this blog was a rock in my mind that i was content to walk away from in favor of other projects, other mediums; sitting down at a computer and free-associating got old quick. i could never stop the urge to write entries based on preconceived titles, to fake some cheap and tired wisdom. that was what i expected of myself and the habit i’d built over time.
the tradeoff is scary: giving up what you know you can do for things you know you might be able to do, but not without a good deal of embarrassment and clumsiness and generally poor execution; the early steps of anything new. between that and the sheer ease with which i get distracted, the prospect of ‘making it’ as i’ve come to hold in my mind has looked grim. in my daily writing i’ve learned the value of pushing through hard spots and seen the satisfaction that comes from working through a cold start in spite of not wanting to. but multitasking, itself a minion of the Lord Trying Always To Be Elsewhere and Do More Than I Can In A Day, remains. my recent preoccupation – or sideways flight – into a game approach has yielded one definitive truth thus far: life does not resemble a game so much as an office job, where most of the time is unremarkable and repetitive. setting out first thing in the morning with goals like have an epic day are fun in theory but largely impossible to execute, and are rather exhausting to attempt anyway. working within smaller, mundane confines is our lot.
today was like any other day.
and then i checked achewood.
for the last several years chris onstad’s work on achewood has served as an example of what is possible in comics, both in terms of quality of writing and the endless possibilities of what can be said and done. over the course of nine years he produced an incredible variety of stories, in a manner that could perpetuate itself forever. the world of achewood was not limited by sequence or consistency or continuity, or any other marks of a small perspective. it simply went anywhere and everywhere, one small and absurd and wonderful step at a time.
last year, achewood began to slow and slow until it came to a full stop early this year. it seemed that onstad had broken down under the mental pressure of his legacy, that he had lost faith in his powers. in the dry month of january checking for new strips became more and more a futile act of self-deception. it was over. what hurt was not that it had ended, but that it had ended with its author in defeat. storylines lay open and unfinished, and there was not even a farewell-and-thank-you to signify that the end had come. just silence. it shouldn’t have ended like this, not after all this time.
i felt despondent; if the price of making something like achewood was the mental collapse of a man, what hope was there for the rest of us?
i was on the verge of composing a eulogy for the strip as one might do for a friend who died too soon; the energy of all the life they had still to live screaming out like a siren of all things wrong in the world. forever a bitter taste.
and then, today.
achewood has returned.
only time will tell if it regains its former speed and strength, but this much is certain: i could have asked for no better sign this morning that today, always today, is a fine day to start fresh, and make what was so wrong right again.