Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Pierre Speaks: The Eternal Marathon

Not what I was planning to write.... but after a discussion with one of my colleagues, I HAD to write this Blog instead.

One comment that often comes back when talking with many artists is how working on a project is often like running a marathon. Depending on who you talk to, each episode itself is a marathon... but for others.... working on a series is like running a marathon.

If you work as a designer, you must deliver one episode each week.... kind of short in my book to call it a marathon. If you work as a storyboard artist, you usually have 6 weeks to produce a storyboard. That can start to look like a marathon.

But a series usually means 4 to 6 months of constant running to meet deadline after deadline, week after week after week. Now THAT in my book looks like a marathon.

When running a marathon, you must pace yourself so that you have enough energy to last until the end of the race... in this case.... the end of the project. You can run full blast for a week to produce a single episode. It is fairly easy to work 40, 60 or 80 hrs a week for just one week.
Although a little harder, you can run somewhat full speed for 6 weeks to produce a single storyboard. Tough... but it is doable. But for an entire project?? Much harder to run at full speed for the whole project.

So you MUST find a way to pace yourself.

You must find a work habit that will make you last until the end of the project. You must make sure that you will have enough juice to last until the end of the marathon. Me... I think that a marathon is a piece of cake compared to working on a project as an artist. As an artist... no sooner are you done running your marathon, that you must start running the very next marathon. Heck sometimes.... you have to run two marathons at once.

A perfect example is the projects that I am working on right now.

There is still at least a month’s work left on the series I was working on, and I started working on the next series about a month ago. So I am working on two series at once as I write this (and that goes without counting the awesome Blogs that you guys get to read each week, and whatever work on Flashback Universe pages or designs I can squeeze in).

Now before you ask.... I am not making twice the money. It is expected that I can juggle both projects with one hand tied behind my back. If I was working for two different studios... I would be collecting two paychecks . But since I am working on staff for one studio on both projects... the second project is seen somewhat as the continuation of the first one.

In an ideal world.... I would have been done on the first project on a Friday.... and the next Monday, I would have started working on the second project. Or even better, we would have had a week off between both projects. Sadly this is not an ideal world with rainbows and unicorns.

So you take the work when it’s available, even if it is not really reasonable. Even if it means you will be wayyyyy overworked for a month or two. Even if it means that for a month or two.... you will be running two marathons at the same time. Being a workaholic.... I don’t really mind it.

I am literally married to my job... so it is not much of a sacrifice to spend 90% of my time at the studio or behind my drawing table. But for those who are actually married with half a dozen kids.... it can be tough.

It is not much different when you are making comics.

You must learn to pace yourself.

Often I see people who will put a lot of work and energy into doing their first page... with lots and lots and lots of details. You can usually tell that they have worked hard on their page. But by the time they make it to page two.... not as much detail... not as much work. Already you can see that they have a tough time keeping up with the pace they have tried to set for themselves with that first page.

Then comes page 3.... with less than half the amount of detail you found on page one.

Wayyyyyy too often.... I will see people who have a truckload of three pages comics.... but nothing else.

Who were never able to finish a single comic. Heck who have a truckload of half finished pages.
It is easy to be inspired for a day on a project... two days. But making comic takes a lot more than 2 days.

So it is easy being inspired the day you have your “awesome idea” of making a comic with Dracula as a cowboy or something.... but after a few days.... some people give up or their “awesome idea” that really inspired them (remember what I wrote about inspiration??).
Making comics take time.

Just pencilling the darn thing can take a month.... more if you try to make some highly detailed pages. Then inking the pages can take just as long. Then coloring them pages... etc.
Now imagine if you must do many of those steps yourself.

So when you have your awesome idea.... you better REALLY like it.... because if you are working full time on it... you may be working on it for the next few months.

And if you are working on it on the side... you may be working on your comic for a year.
So you better pace yourself if you want to last until the end of your project. Heck too often I see some people look at what we do at Flashback Universe saying how THEY could do it. Heck even how THEY could do it better.

Usually based on one highly photorealistic hyper-detailed drawing they did that took them a week to do.... and it was just that one drawing.

Usually I answer them “Do a full page. Then 3 pages. Then 10 pages. Then 22 pages. And heck.... in the case of most Flashback Universe comics.... 40 pages. Once you manage to do that... THEN they can claim that they can do that.”

I would continue by saying that “Talk is cheap... let’s see what THEY actually CAN do.”
But in general.... just telling them to do more than just that one drawing, more than just one half finished page is enough to shut them up.

Yes it is a little blunt... but too often I see people who can barely draw more than one page say stuff like that.

Too often those who cannot even run for 20 feet will tell those who can run a marathon.... or even multiple marathons.... that they could do that.

But since they cannot pace themselves.... they will never run further than 20 feet. ;)

Until next time.

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