clay learns to draw

One of the most frustrating things that has dogged me throughout the years is my inability to draw. That’s probably a strange thing for someone who draws comics to say, but here we are. After drawing hundreds of comic strips , I will now honestly state that I do not know how to draw.

How I’ve gotten this far is simply by sheer luck. I had some talent when I was younger, I was the best “drawer” in my class, and I loved art class the most. But I only liked the things in art class I was good at. Give me a pencil and a paper, I would go to town on that baby. Give me anything else though, and I would just lose interest. A lot of high school art was doing anything BUT pencil and paper, so I quickly decided art wasn’t worth pursuing and focused on things I really loved doing like algebra and physics (sarcasm).

This didn’t mean I hated art, I loved making comics. But I hated having to do anything that wasn’t comics. Learning how to paint? Good God. Learning anatomy? Kill me now. So I settled in with a drawing ability that allowed me to do some comic strips but not much else. I learned enough Photoshop to colour the strips, but not enough to actually create from scratch within.

Although there were many things hampering me when I was trying to do a comic like Sexy Losers, one of the biggest ones was my lack of drawing skill. My characters were always stiff, perspective non-existent, and I often copy pasted out of sheer laziness. If there was a particular drawing problem which would need me to do something other than have the characters talk at each other, I would immediately hit a rut. A good example of this is the Shiunji thread, where I knew I had to draw dogs at some point, but I procrastinated the hell out of it, dragging the strip on forever. Because I couldn’t sit down and learn how to draw a dog. It doesn’t really come up as a problem in a comic like depression comix but it really is a comic about people doing nothing other than talking to each other. Artistically, depcom really isn’t that demanding.

This year, I have realized how much my own inability is holding me back, stopping me from making the comics I want to create. So far, I’ve coasted on luck and not skill and I’m finding it increasingly constraining. Up until now, I’ve been an adequate artist for the work I do, not a good artist. And it’s time I did something about it.

So what I’m going to do is teach myself through books, YouTube and practice. Although art school is going to be out of reach for me, and something I have always regretted not attending, I’m going to do this by myself but through the tutorials of people better than me.

I’ve identified areas in which I need immediate help:

  • anatomy
  • using PhotoShop as an illustration tool
  • properly using tools like pencils and inks

These are areas which I need help very soon:

  • perspective & backgrounds
  • colour and light
  • layout

There are more areas I need help in, but these I think are the essential ones I need to work on this year. If I don’t improve myself and become more than an adequate artist, I won’t be able to draw better and faster, and bring to life many of the ideas in my head that I don’t have the skill to transfer to paper just yet.

I’ll be updating this blog to talk about my progress. I hope that if you’re reading my work, it’ll become something more enjoyable and dynamic.

Good luck, me!

5 Abandoned Plotlines in Sexy Losers

Occasionally when I was doing Sexy Losers I would try to shake things up a bit, to try to create new situations for possible comedy. Not everything was successful, and occasionally I would begin something I would never finish (much like Sexy Losers itself). As drawing the strip became more difficult, I started to abandon more and more. Recently I was able to close a couple of abandoned plot lines like the Gender Incrmination thread and the Shiunji and the Suicide Girl, as well as begin a new thread featuring Mrs. Shibata and Kenta (3 strips finished, 4th one being pencilled now). However, here are five plot lines that got started and I just abandoned to the wind and probably leave that way.

5. Miho’s Shit-eating Family

I got as far as the first strip on this one. The idea was, Miho’s family were traditional coprophagists, and believed the daughter, Miho, should follow likewise in her dating preferences. Her new boyfriend was not into eating feces, but appears for dinner bringing a vintage bottle of human urine. From there, the strip would have become a satire of religious intolerance. I thought this would be pretty funny, but I lost the enthusiasm of getting there when the first strip received a (rightfully so) tepid response. It probably would have picked up steam at some point had it gone into the satire I wanted it to be, but I didn’t want to invest any more into the strip.

4. Mark Fails Becoming A Jerking Jedi

I had gotten a couple of strips into this thread, where Mark decides that he wants to sign up for his roommate’s wank classes so he can learn to jerk off. It was going to be a deep Empire Strikes Back parody as you can see from one of the strips where I nearly rip off the movie line for line. In the end, Mark fails every test, offends people, and loses his girlfriend in the process. There are several strips that were storyboarded and never got past that stage, but who knows, this thread may still have life in it yet. Mike stories tend to write themselves and this one was no different.

3. Mrs. Shibata Gets Arrested For Murder

In the Natsuki storyline, there was one strip where Mr. Shibata buys surveillance equipment so he can enjoy watching his wife and Natsuki get it on. There was an actual point to this strip and the existence of the recording equipment. Immediately following the death of Natsuki, the tapes were to be confiscated and used as evidence in court against Mrs. Shibata, who is charged with murder. Fortunately for Mrs. Shibata, the tapes are so incredibly sexy the jurors let her go hoping for a sequel. This one didn’t continue because after Natsuki died, I was kind of sick of the series and didn’t want it to continue.

2. Sex In the Industry

At some point in the series, Sexy Losers was to have been bought out and reformatted to get rid of the grosser strips and focus more on the sexy. The new owners would reassemble the cast and create a roommates kind of strip called Sex In the Industry with Madame X (the sex artist), Chie Sakamachi (the sex actress), and Dr. Lovetalk (the sex therapist) living together with hijinks. It was supposed to be a parody of character reboots. I ended up abandoning it because it was a little too ambitious for me at the time, but Chie and Madame X ended up living with each other anyways.

1. A Hentai Made of Glass

This one was actually abandoned two strips away from the eventual punchline. It left off as Cheryl and Jon were getting back together and coming to grips with Cheryl’s orgy porn star past. Jon’s friend Al was to tell him about the incredible sex he was going to get and he should stop complaining, because all he ever did when Jon and Cheryl were together was complain about NOT getting sex. Now he’ll have what he wanted — the beautiful sexy woman and the incredible sex. Finally, when they officially get together over dinner, Cheryl announces that she’s a born again virgin.

What I liked about this series was to show how stupid expectations are in a relationship — if you can’t accept the person for who they are the relationship is screwed. Jon’s inability to accept the person is what makes the relationship fall apart. And his acceptance of her past feels like a painful concession to him instead of a non sequitur as it should have been. If I had more time with the characters and could show it from Cheryl’s side, I would have focused more on how good a person she is, and why accepting an asshole who had dumped her over a stupid rumour makes her the one who is really making a painful concession.


The Fap Is Back

Wow, it’s been a long time since I posted here. I’ve been so focused on depcom, that I forgot this was here. The last post on this blog is a post dedicated to blasting the Star Wars franchise, a blog post that actually got me an interview on the BBC. Unfortunately, the post was old and I didn’t really feel like that anymore (not that I like the franchise any more, I care less). But anyways, after two years, it’s definitely time for an update.

There will be more Sexy Losers strips starting in September. I don’t know why, motivation is kicking in or something, but there will be a 15 strip run of comics in the next little while. What will you expect? More of the same. Why do anything new or different.

All of the strips in the next little while have already been written and sketched out. All of the strips are new ones that didn’t appear in the brief Tumblr Thin H Line run except for the conclusion of the Shiunji thread, which I just gotta do at some point.

What to expect:

  • NINE of the strips will be a running thread of the Shibata family. Here’s a preview of a strip currently in production:
    I know, I know, not amazingly funny yet, but that’s as far as I can go for this SFW blog post.
  • Another Clueless Cuckold strip.
  • Gender-reversed Swearing friend from #275 becomes a thing.
  • The Incredibly fertile woman has some children, as usual
  • A Harry Potter fan fiction!
  • Dutch Wife Fairy
  • Mike slappin’ his stick once again
  • The aforementioned Shiunji/Suicide Girl conclusion. I’m redrawing it and putting it in color.

There will probably be more but these are the ones I’m committed to doing. There is a subscribers list on the Sexy Losers site, you can sign up there if you would like the strips sent to your mailbox.

Why the updates? 2016 has been pretty grim. Maybe I can generate a couple laughs and make things a little less serious for people for a few minutes. I think we all need it.

Why I Hate Star Wars

From the title, you might be thinking that this is a post from someone who has never liked Star Wars, and is just looking to grumble about something. But no, as a child who grew up with Star Wars as a major interest in his life, I can tell you that I’m writing this with a grand sense of disappointment and recently came to understand why this is so.

To understand this, I had to go back to 1977, when I was first exposed to it. My older brother took me to a store that sold comics and showed me the Giant-Size Star Wars comic book adaptation by Marvel. He said to me, “We are going to see this film” and he bought the book to read it to me. Unfortunately it was only the first half of the adaptation, and I would have to wait until I walked into the movie itself to find out how Luke, Leia, and Han got out of the Death Star.

I walked out of that theatre a fan. I had never seen anything like it. New worlds, new life forms, spaceships and an environment that looked real, and regardless of how fantastic everything was, it felt like something that could exist. The fire of my imagination was ignited and I could never be the same anymore. My life was now Star Wars.

I had to have everything Star Wars. My first toy was a Kenner R2D2. Soon I had toys, coloring books, the novelization, the board game, a set of blankets and sheets for my bed. My Christmas wish list was all Star Wars. There was simply nothing else that quite captured my interest like that.

I couldn’t wait for The Empire Strikes Back to come out. When I heard it was going to be Chapter V of a larger series, I nearly wet my pants. I found the novel adaptation and read it in a night. I was ready.

The Empire did not disappoint. It was full of images of fantastic things I had not seen before: four legged ATAT walkers advancing like the mechancial animals they were, a violent whirlwind of rock that was the asteroid belt, home of huge worm-like creatures, and a floating city in the sky. Then there was the Force, which did amazing things if one just believed. It was all too much and the imagination was fired up again.

The Star Wars series, although it was a simple story at its base about a boy who saves a princess from evil, used that plotline to advance us from one incredible situation to the next, to blow our minds away with the previously unseen spectacle before us. It was not just a movie, it was an Experience.

Six years later from that fateful day I entered the movie theatre in 1977, Return of the Jedi came. I eagerly sought out the novelization, read it in a night, and then a couple of days later waited in line to see the movie just as it came out. The anticipation was intense.

Return was good. But there was something different about this one. It just seemed to lack something essential, something that brought me into the series and made me a fan in the first place. My imagination wasn’t fired, it was more like closure. Star Wars was over, and it was time to move on.

What happened? The first episode had closure, but it inspired me. Return didn’t. It just made me want to move on.

Now that I look back, I can see why that was. Return was already old when it came out. There wasn’t anything terribly new or imaginative in it. For the first part, they went to Tatooine, the desert planet in the first Star Wars. It was based in Jabba’s palace, which was a more expenisve version of Mos Eisley. From there, Dagobah, where we had been in Empire. Then, another Death Star, in orbit around a moon that was just a big forest populated by real-looking teddy bears. The only really novel thing was the speeder-bike chase, which was in the middle of the movie. The Death Star was destroyed in a way that was pretty similar to the old one, except in a hole rather than a trench. It was simply a retread of old ideas. The imagination was gone.

When the prequels were announced, I wasn’t really that excited. Back to Tatooine, a planet that was initially described as a place farthest from anything that happens. More fighting in spaceships. More lightsabre duels, except they are getting longer and more aerobatic. Simply more of the same, without the imagination for the fantastic that made the series come alive in the first place.

The original movie told us we were going to a galaxy far far away, but now we were in a place we knew too well. Without the amazing backdrop and the jaw-dropping visuals we were left with the plot, which was always a little lackluster. THe universe of Star Wars was no longer something to be discovered, but well-worn territory.

And as Star Wars becomes more and more commercialized, the more familiar it’s become. And the awe that I felt as a little boy disappears with it.

I think that’s why I can say I dislike Star Wars now. But even though the imagination has died in it, TV and movies that inspire are still being made, like in Star Trek: The Next Generation, Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, and more. We still get to see strange new things and visit places that are unlike our own. I hope in the new series planned for Star Wars it remembers the promise of a galaxy far, far, away held, and bring us to someplace that makes us believe in the unbelievable.

EDIT: this post was made a year ago, before there was a director announced and definitely before we got to see some trailers.  Free from Lucas’s control the franchise may breathe. But I don’t believe it will have the impact that the original did. There is a lot of amazing entertainment nowadays, and the bar is far higher than it was in 1977. But it’s possible that it will get the bad aftertaste of the prequel series out of our mouths that has lingered so long.  But what made star wars so great was at the time there was nothing like it. Now it’s very familiar territory. And I have the feeling that people are looking forward to the movie not exactly to see something new, but to relive an old experience.

Sorry to keep you waiting …

It’s been a while since I posted and I apologize. I’m a terrible blogger because I always think twice about what I say, and hence, usually delete what I write.

Some good news though.  The income from the site now pays for itself so it’s no longer something that costs me money to maintain. However, I have to admit that this is temporary because as the site attracts new readers, costs will go up accordingly. I’ve had to upgrade the hosting plan in January, and now in February it looks like soon I will have to upgrade once again. But this is manageable, and it looks like with Google AdSense and people’s generous donations, keeping the site alive will no longer be out of pocket.

Now the bad news: the display on my laptop died. I can get it to work by plugging in an HDMI cable to the TV, but this is really annoying. I will have to buy a new computer soon, hopefully by March 31. Japanese sales tax goes up 3% in April, so I will have to consider what kind of computer I need soon.

Other things I have to think about is a redesign of the depression comix site.  There aren’t a lot of good designs for a vertical comic and WordPress isn’t exactly suited for this kind of thing. Which is too bad, I think WordPress is awesome and has a lot of potential but as I said, it’s still not great for comics. There are a couple of comic themes and plug ins but they aren’t that great; there’s a tendency to make comics as custom posts when I think it’s better to have comics as regular posts with additional functionality through custom taxonomies and custom fields. Currently, if you look at the sidebar with the character listings, that’s all done with custom taxonomies tacked on to regular posts.

Another thing I have to think about is what I’m going to do with the site. At first I thought it would be a blog thing where I post everything I do but all I do is related to depcom anyways so lately it’s just been a verbose mirror of that site. I’m thinking of making it just a portfolio site with links to SL and depression comix and get rid of the blog functionality.

Anyways, I’m still alive. I’ve also been blogging at the depression comix blog at , and that’s a strictly depcom blog with no mention of anything else I do artistically (ie Sexy Losers).

Recent developments

Well, some bad news happened to me, the company is restructuring and I am being pushed to a new department, one that has terrible hours and coinides with my part-time job, which I will have to quit.

What this means is that financially I take a bit of a blow. There’s also talk of reducing salaries so that’s something else to consider.

Although I am not happy about this in the least, there might be a silver lining in this in that it may be what I need to push me to make online comicking my part time job, and I would enjoy that more than my part time job. The question is, is it possible? Can I replace my part time job by doing depression comix and related work?

That’s a good question, and maybe now is the opportunity to find out. Unfortunately, with the traffic I have now, it’s not steady enough to be a reliable source of income. When Iwas linked by i09 I received over $50 that week in Google Adsense, but the following week it died down so now my average is about $0,50/day.

To add to all the problems, the display on my laptop is dead, I can only get it to work by conecting a HDMI cable to it from my TV, which is not an optimal solution. I will have to buy a new computer very soon.

These problems will have to be solved. The last thing I want to do is give up comicking now that I’m slowly making a comeback. I will have to find ways to make this work.

Why the focus is so business oriented lately

Way back in the day when I was focused on Sexy Losers, the site bounced around from server to server because it always seemed to require more bandwidth than the provider wanted to give. After one bill of over $250US I decided that the only way for me to have Sexy Losers online somewhere is if someone would host it for me. At first, it was the Stile Project, who put the most vile adult ads possible on it. As more and more ads were being placed on the site without my input I decided to move to KeenSpace, another free hoster with ads but the ads were much more managable and less offensive (although the argument is that Sexy Losers was itself pretty offensive, it didn’t take itself seriously but those ads were serious and thus creepier). During this time, I should note that I never made a penny from any of these ads, and at the time I was more focused on avoiding another $250 bandwidth bill than anything.

I ended up leaving Keenspace because even though Sexy Losers was the most popular comic on it at the time, Keen would never promote it or share in the advertising money, despite it saying that it was possible. After a few Keen honchos said some disparaging words about the comic, it was time to leave, and a reader who had a server said I could host SL there if I ran some ads, and that’s where it is today.

I had the opportunity to meet this person last year, and one of the things he had said stuck in my head. He said that the ads on the site helped pay for his college tuition. In my recollection, the ads never made any money, and I received very little ad money myself, although he did renew my domain a couple of times.

Hence the story of Sexy Losers was how I was making money for other people but very little of it for myself. That bandwidth bill scared me so much I let other people host the site and pocket the ad money, while all the time I was working for them for free. Pretty stupid, huh?

I guess the lesson I’ve learned from all this is that if you’re doing work on a free site that collects ad money, you’re basically working for someone else. All your hard work is profitting other people. And you think they’re doing you the favor by letting you host your work there.

After that meeting I knew I had to get depression comix off Tumblr/ and onto a site that if it had to have ads, the money would not go to someone else. Even if the money was a pittance, I would at least know how much money is being made off of my work and would get my share of that pittance.

At some point I’m going to move Sexy Losers to a place I can control. It makes no sense to continue having it online not doing anything for me. I won’t be able to put ads on it probably, but I will be able to link it to a shop that would sell merchandise or something that would have the possibility for some kind of revenue.

The lesson here is that my work should have been more important to me, and I let other people profit by it because I did not believe that it was good enough to make my own money from and that I was just very lucky to have someone host it for me. No, the important thing is to control your own work, and if other people are making money and you’re not there is something very wrong.

New Years resolutions and the business side of depcom

This year I decided to make a New Years resolution for myself: This will be the year I will try to run comics more from a business point, and my personal goal is to make a profit of $100 every month in 2014.

In the grand scheme of things this is both a small goal and a lofty one. It’s a small goal in that $100 a month isn’t going to make me rich or make me quit my job or anything like that. But it’s also a lofty one because I’ve been doing this stuff pretty much for free since 1997, and I’ve always stumbled badly on trying to derive some kind of income from my work. To make a goal like this and try to make it work myself is something really new for me.

I’ve been trying to figure out ways to do this. It’s not easy, but because I’m focusing only on Depcom it’s much easier than it would have been for my other comics. Here’s some of the things I’ve been trying:

1) PayPal Donations: Thanks to the incredible generosity of a number of people, this has been the most successful way of generating income from the comic. There are a couple of problems with this: it’s not stable income and PayPal Japan doesn’t like to allow individuals donations so I can’t make the process any easier — people have to login to PayPal and send money the hard way. The next trip to Canada I take I will reopen my bank account there, and hopefully be able to run it from Canada where the rules aren’t so strict.

2) deviantART prints: This seemed like a good idea, offer people the ability to buy prints from deviantART and I would receive 20%. I spent hours and hours uploading all the raw images and formatting each one for the various print sizes and merchandise sizes only to have one sale. Perhaps this option is not obvious enough on the site, but it has been a waste of time.

3) Google AdSense: This was a bit of a battle to get accepted but I did in the end, and I had it all set up by the time I was linked by i09 and my traffic soared. Google AdSense is not a lot of money at all — I’ll probably average $0.20 to $0.40 a day with it — but it’s money that happens without me having to do anything. Currently I have an ad in the sidebar and one at the bottom of old posts so they aren’t particulaly distracting, and I’ll keep it there.  As a sidenote I banned the ads from Scientology — I do NOT want to send anyone there.

One of the things I would like to try this year is an eBook. Perhaps the first 100 strips of Depcom or A Heart Made of Glass or something like that. I’ve been playing with things like PressBooks (too expensive) but I really don’t know where to start with this, in terms of software, templates, etc. I am truly clueless about this but I know it’s a step I should take.

Anyways, I will write more about this, this is a learning experience for me and I&d like to communicate my experiences in this blog. More to come.

Under the shadow of hyperbole

I started this comic fairly spontaneously in September, 2011 although I had been mulling over the idea some time before. But the start was spontaneous, a bad day was had and the next day two new depression comix appeared. The initial response from the small group of people who were following my thinhline blog was positive, so I continued it in addition to my thinhline comic. Depression comix quickly became more popular than the thinhline comic (it was only a couple of months before the numbers of followers for depcom had surpassed thinhline; a couple of months later still the numbers were double that of thinhline). This prompted me to dedicate myself more to depcom, partly because it had more readers and partly was it was different enough from Sexy Losers or Thin H Line that it was much more interesting to do.

Things were going well but later that year, I hit a serious speedbump in the form of Hyperbole and a Half.

I hadn’t heard of the comic before then. Suddenly, I was nearly drowned in mails saying I should check out this blog, which I did. Because I was maintaining a page on depression-related comics naturally I was interested. So I read it, added it to the list, and went on creating comics about depression.

Of course, being out of touch with the scene for so long I didn’t realize what a news event the Hyperbole post was. It generated a number of articles and interest in the role of depression in webcomics. Occasionally depcom was included, but it rarely appeared without Hyperbole. Depcom seemed to get attention as a sort of afterthought in articles directed at Hyperbole.

When the second Hyperbole post appeared a year later, this didn’t help matters at all. In fact, I remember bracing myself for the impact, knowing that all I was going to hear for the next little while was about Hyperbole. I adjusted many of my ideas to avoid overlap, in fear that my comic would appear derivative of Hyperbole. I was doing depcom under the shadow of that blog, and I knew it. I had to resign myself to the fact that when people talk about depression and comics, depcom would not be the first name that would be dropped despite its focus.

Recently it has forced me to think about my own comic and what makes it different, and try to consider how to make those differences into stengths.

Allie Brosh’s work is truly wonderful. It’s a personal description of depression written with lucid and striking prose, and with art that is disarming because of its simplicity. She removes the heaviness through her wit and charm, making it easy to read and digest.

Thankfully, I started depcom from the idea that I wouldn’t be describing my own situation. I planned to draw a number of different characters with depression, to try to make it more about depression than a story with some characters. I think this approach helped in making it unique and relatable; it’s not about anyone in particular. It could be about anyone.

But another area where depcom departs is that Brosh’s depiction, like her regular blog entries, is done through a sense of childlike wonder. It doesn’t go into the darker territories of depression, such as how depression destroys relationships and drives one to suicide. Her story sticks with lack of energy and motivation, the self-hate, and anhedonia. The majority of those who suffer depression deal with this, and there are those like myself who go further down towards the destruction of all personal relationships and finally the destruction of oneself. To me, this is where I really want to communicate, as a sufferer, about why this path is so seductive and my own thought processes got so twisted up that I believed removing myself from the planet was the best thing I could do for it.

But also recently I’ve seen the comic as a way to help other people. To inform people of current research, to help people who have depressed people they love, and to help people who are depressed themselves. Recently I’ve added a page for those who need help, and have connected to Five Cups of Tea, a 24 hour chat support site with trained listeners. This is just a start, Iplan to do more.

But what I really want is to try to get out from under the shadow of Hyperbole. To be a site that not only informs but helps. This is the direction I plan to go in, and I hope I have your feedback to guide me.