Why I draw

I haven’t made a blog entry in a long long time. It’s not that I don’t have anything to say, it’s just that I keep myself busy, and drawing a panel always has priority over these things. I do a lot of reflection, a lot of it inside my own head as I walk to and from work, but I rarely write anything down. But I do need to do that from time to time.

I love drawing comics. I always did. When I was four years old and living on Cape Breton Island I drew a comic strip called “Krazy Kat”, a sort of knock off of Tom and Jerry which would always end up with someone saying “That cat is crazy,” and someone else saying “Of course! That’s Krazy Kat!” I didn’t have access to a photocopier at the time so I just drew a dozen copies of the same strip and handed them out to the neighbours, all of whom didn’t seem to mind me ringing their doorbells and handing a piece of paper with a badly drawn cat on it.

This continued throughout elementary and junior high school. In elementary school I made two comic books — a Star Wars parody and a Choose Your Own Adventure comic book. In Junior High I did an Indiana Jones parody and a New Teen Titans parody book. Then in high school, I joined the school newspaper and made comics there. Soon, I made a friend in a nearby town and together we did a horror anthology zine called “LOST” which I did comics and he did short horror stories. Soon the zine had contributions from others across the continent and continued for ten issues. Finally, in university, I did a comic called “no name comics” for the Imprint; of the dozen comics I drew only two got published, so that was kind of a failure.

It was during this time I drew comics not for anything else but the love of drawing comics. I had no belief that anything I did would ever really amount to anything bigger than the pieces of paper the comics were drawn on. I knew LOST would never be anything more than a zine that was traded for other zines in Factsheet Five. But I remember the late night copy and paste sessions with Adam where it would be late and any crazy editorial decision was OK. Then the next day we would go to Kinkos, and soon we would have a folded, stapled, REAL piece of work in our hands. Who cared if it was successful? It was REAL, and that was success enough for us.

I got busy and I gave up drawing comics. I still drew though. I had a little watercolor set I would take places and draw what I saw. It was fun and relaxing. But after the failure of no name comics I really didn’t have an urge to make a story. But that was before some asshole introduced me to anime and fucked up my life.

In 1997 a roommate gave me a copy of the first six episodes of Neon Genesis Evangelion and told me to watch it. I didn’t at first, but he was insistent and was feeling bad for initially agreeing to something I had little or no interest in but just for the sake on conversation. I put the tapes in the VCR and I thought it was stupid until the fifth episode. Then I was hooked. Then I found out there was a manga as well, so I had to seek that out and then I was back into comics, but this time only Japanese manga.

At the time I never really heard of webcomics, but I was inspired to make my own comic, a copy of the style I was falling in love with. I decided to do it the only way I thought it could be done, using all traditional materials — copyproof blue pencil, Hunt 102 pens, Rapidographs, and Bainbridge card stock. Over the course of a couple of months I finished the first comic, “A Heart Made of Glass”. While I was doing this, I learned about webcomics and joined the community, and soon I was doing only webcomics.

But the title of this is “Why I draw”. And suddenly, I realized the reasons I was doing it this time were different. I wasn’t doing it simply for the love anymore, I was thinking I could somehow be successful at it. Watching people in the webcomics community getting successful put me in a competitive mode and soon I was waiting for my turn to get job offers and recognition. I had made THAT my reason why I drew.

After a few years, nothing materialized. Everyone I knew was getting some comic related job or something but I wasn’t. I was stuck. This feeling was dragging me down and affecting my work. Soon updates were spotty. I didn’t feel like doing any work because I really couldn’t see a reason for it. People on KeenSpot were making real money from their work, I was making practically nothing. And I felt locked into doing a comic that I had some success with but I was becoming uninspired with, and I was locked into a comic that I thought had to be my brand. If I didn’t do this comic I wouldn’t be successful, but the comic had diminishing returns.

And for some stupid reason, I kept going back to it, like it was the only thing I was supposed to draw. There were some other comics I drew, but they all sputtered and failed because I was supposed to draw that damn Sexy Losers, and if I couldn’t draw that I had no right to draw anything.

I went back to it the last time in 2011. I was going to make a Tumblr version, a stripped down analog only strip that was supposed to be like how I did comics way back. It wasn’t very good, and I got a lot of feedback saying that very thing. It was disheartening. It was depressing.

It was depressing enough I thought I’d make a joke comic about how depressing it was. I drew two comics about how I felt, and called them “depression comix” hoping that if people didn’t find them entertaining, they would at least find it ironic.

Surprisingly, they were more popular than my regular comic at the time. I drew a couple more, and sure enough, they got liked and reblogged too. Soon I was drawing ONLY depression comix, EVERY WEEK. Whereas my productivity before was spotty, depression comix made me have something to show every week.

Since December 2011, I have had an update of something every week. Last year I was getting tired of doing just depression comix, I wanted to do other comics as well. I was feeling inspired and needed to draw something else than random people feeling depressed. I wanted to draw stories, I wanted to make characters that people would love and hate. So last year, I decided to rotate my updates so that I could keep depression comix — my source of personal expression — and do the other comics I longed to do like A Strawberry Memory and HAttiE.

Now everything has changed. The reason I draw now is for fun. For the feeling of creating something. Watching characters that existed in my head — Wren, Raven, Robin, and now the characters of HAttiE — all come alive and have their stories become real. Although everything I draw is planned, I don’t write everything in stone and let the characters surprise me on the page. Sometimes they follow the roadmap I made and sometimes they don’t. But getting to the next page is what interests me the most. I don’t know what it looks like but I am incredibly curious to find out what it will look like.

The internet is filled with failed webcomics. Sometimes they fail because the creator doesn’t have time or lost interest. Some webcomics die because they were too ambitious for what the creator could handle. But I’m sure some webcomics fail because they didn’t meet the expectations for success that the creator had for it. Success for a webcomic is especially hard. There are already thousands of them competing for reader attention, and the most popular ones give a false image of the ease of success. It’s not that easy.

I really do think the secret of doing webcomics is simply for the love of doing it. I’m lucky to have found that love again. My webcomics may not be that great or launch me to the upper echelons of the webcomic world, but every page you see I have loved drawing it. That’s why I do it, and that is why I’m confident you’ll see me drawing comics for a long time.

3 thoughts on “Why I draw

  1. Well I’m happy to hear it. I grew up reading your webcomics. Back when I was in high school AHMOG and Sexy Losers were my favorites, some of the few webcomics I even remember reading to this day. I started following this blog last year after not hearing about you or reading any of your comics for years, and I was happy then to see you still doing it, and even happier now to know that you’ve come out of a what seemed like a creative slump and rediscovered your love of it. Your story is very relatable to me, someone who has also struggled to find success, find their place in the world, and not lose what makes me happy in the process, and it is reassuring to read your latest entry. We’ve never met and never will I’m sure, but I feel like following your comics and blogs for years, as I was growing up through my awkward youth, has made me feel a certain connection with you that I don’t feel I still have with many people in my life in general anymore, much like you feel connected to your childhood heroes or idols, even if you don’t really know them. At my age most of the people and figures I’ve felt this way about in my life have fallen away, but seeing that you’re still making comics and loving it is both comforting to my old soul, and validating. I gave up doing what I was doing because I was sick of just doing it for the money and nothing else, and am working to rediscover what really makes me happy, what I love doing for the sake of doing it, but have my fears of whether it was the right decision to make. Seeing others do the same and find happiness, especially people I look up to, like you, is reassuring. Keep it up, my friend.

    • Thank you for the kind words. Doing something that makes you happy is more difficult than it seems, and keeping happy doing it is even harder. I’ve been fortunate that I’ve found a way to do this hobby and keep interested in it. But mind you, it helps a lot that I rarely ever get negative feedback on this like I did with SL (and still continue to get it with it on that strip)

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