Last year I came to the realization that I used to love to draw. I remember drawing Nintendo characters as a child. I remember growing up enamored with Disney cartoons, comics like Jeff Smith’s Bone and foreign animated films from Studio Gibli. That said, I hadn’t drawn in years. My skill level had deteriorated considerably. Still, I used to love to draw. I used to enjoy the creativity.
I discovered some friends who had been honing their skills through constant practice. They were self-taught for the most part but their art was incredible. I decided that I wanted to draw again and that I wanted to work to constantly improve. That meant drawing every day. That meant scheduling time to do so. That also meant I should try to find myself a project.
I had been drawing a doodle about a little fox and a bear in space. They were characters I had drawn years before. Someone watching me draw said they liked the little fox and would read a comic about him so I decided to write a daily comic strip.
I will stress again that my work isn’t as skilled as those you’d find in most Marvel or DC comics. It didn’t need to be. I just wanted an outlet for my creativity. I just wanted a reason to draw and a means to constantly improve and learn. What I hadn’t counted on was how rewarding it could be. Drawing relaxes me and despite how much growth I have ahead of me I still manage to draw in a few avid readers. I acquired fans. I even have a folder filled with a dozen pieces of fan art. Not bad for a little pet project by someone who hadn’t drawn in years. Below is a piece I received recently — something that frankly looks better than my own comic work.
For anyone else who is interested in taking on a similar project, here’s what I did to get going:
Have An Idea
Come up with an idea you like — something you want to work on — and put some thought into it before you get started. Don’t be afraid to scrap the idea if it doesn’t pan out the first time.
Don’t Be Afraid That You’re Not “Good Enough”
There are plenty of examples of work by folks with very rudimentary drawing skills. You don’t have to be a master artist to get started or to create something enjoyable and engaging. Even your writing may need work but that will come in time. The goal here isn’t to be the best of the best right out of the gate. The goal is to improve and to practice.
Set A Schedule
If you are working on a webcomic, set yourself a schedule and try to adhere to it. Will it be once a week? Twice a week? Daily? Monthly? A schedule will serve as motivation to keep you working daily.
Look For Support, Feedback and Opportunities to Learn
This may include friends, family or online communities. Feedback will help you improve and grow and getting in touch with other artists can give you a source of advice and help you learn new things. A number of artists stream their work on various platforms such as Picarto, YouTube and Twitch. Watch them draw. Watch speed paint videos. Ask questions. Learn.
Now with that said, you will want to chose a medium to work with. Will you be drawing your comics on paper or working digitally or a combination of the two? Will you be using watercolors? Digital color? Black & white? Give all of these some thoughts and find tools that work right for you.
Here are some suggestions if you are interested at all in working digitally:
Get a tablet. There are plenty of drawing tablets available. Wacom tablets are some of the most well known but there are third parties that also make them. Find one that suits your needs and budget. I started out with an old Wacom Intuos 2 that I had from previous employment. You might also consider tablets with pen and touch support like a Microsoft Surface, iPad Pro or similar device. You can also find digitizer displays that allow you to draw directly on the screen like the Wacom Cintiq or some of the more affordable third party digitizers. Those are all going to be very costly options but they can improve your speed considerably. It is possible to work with a mouse and I have peers who have worked with them for a while but a tablet (and some practice using it) will quickly surpass it.
Find a decent drawing program. There are a number of them available including Adobe Photoshop, Sai and the like. One of the best options currently available for web comics in my opinion is Clip Studio Paint. Clip Studio (also called Manga Studio) is geared towards drawing comics and as such it has a lot of tools and features that can make a comic artist’s life easier. The best part is the tool frequently goes on sale for 60% off allowing you to pick it up for $30 — far less than other similar programs.
Once you’ve started, you’ll want somewhere to put your comic. There are plenty of inexpensive web hosting options and getting WordPress installed with a comic plug in can allow you to put together a web page quickly and easily. There are other ways to share your comic as well including tumblr, twitter and a number of image hosting websites like Deviant Art. I would recommend using a number of these sites to help promote your comic.
After you have gotten the hang of things and your comic has a couple dozen printed strips, there are a number of websites you can use to help promote your comic. This is currently the step I’m undertaking. You can also consider printing your comic at a local print shop or looking at comic focused print companies like Ka-Blam.
If you want to further promote your comic (and meet other artists) consider attending local conventions and comic based events. Don’t be afraid to show off your work and bring some business cards too.
And that’s it. You have a comic. Don’t beat yourself up over weather or not it’s good or bad – just focus on improving and getting better. You’ll be surprised at how much improvement you can make or how many readers you may find.
If you are interested in following my progress, feel free to follow my comic at http://spacepawdyssey.com. I also post to tumblr (http://frostclawart.tumblr.com and http://spacepawdyssey.tumblr.com) and twitter (@spacepawdyssey) and stream my work on occasion on Picarto (http://picarto.tv/frostclaw)