30 January 2016

Paper tests with a tech pen

I decided to do a quick paper test for a new comic I'm working on. I was going to go with Bristol board as the drawing substrate and thought I'd give it a quick test.

drawing of a chair in a corner with lamp and side table
Test drawing number 1 (bristol)
I was a little unhappy with how the pen moved across the page, the Bristol makes my tech pen drag a little which caused a few minor errors.
I decided I needed another test drawing, and seeing how I mostly draw in my sketchbook, I gave that a go next.

drawing of a chair in a corner with lamp and side table
Test drawing number 2 (sketchbook)
This was definitely much easier to draw on and I found the pen flowing over the paper more easily. These kind of tests can be hard as by the second time you have drawn an image you have become better at it anyway and make less mistakes. I was sure the second one turned out significantly better, although after scanning, cleaning and saving they look almost identical to me!

Do you see any difference?

I like to follow blogs on creative thinking and innovation and a mantra that is often repeated is 'fail early and often'. By testing the paper out with one panel and then realising it's not going to work, I have made a small mistake instead of the massive mistake of penciling and inking the whole thing on that paper. I could argue that the difference would be minor, but you have to take any small wins you can get.

4 January 2016

Name change, back to the old...

After updating this blog from awcomix to anthonywoodward at the end of 2014 I have made the decision to go back to the original awcomix. After all the original is usually the best.*

Speaking of old things that are new, I'm finally putting some time into my long neglected GumRoad site. I must have set that thing up a couple of years ago and I never really felt like I knew what to do with it or how to use it properly. I have decided to upload my back catalogue of comics there for free. I have chosen to go with the 0+ model which means you can name your fair price, and to be totally clear and honest I am happy for people to put in $0, I am also happy for them to name their price too. I made a decision last year when I started making digital comics that I always wanted to offer a free option. I believe artists should have the opportunity to be paid for their work if it is appreciated, but I also believe in having things freely available. People can't always afford to pay or they might just want to sample the work before committing to paying.

Link to GumRoad store

*I originally did it as to not confuse this site with my main art site awcomix.com. A lot of google searches were still hitting old the awcomix pages, and the reason for changing the name were not as important as people not hitting dead links to old tutorial posts.

31 December 2015

End of Year Wrap Up 2015

It's been a weird year for me personally but luckily I have been able to continue my drawing practice.

Two major achievements this year for me, were the release of two new comics

George Bloop
This was a comic I started in 2013, but never completed. I resolved to not only finish it but add extra pages and expand the story. While it was not technically my first piece of writing fiction, it did feel like my first attempt at a longer story, coming in at just under 20 pages.

Imagined Mysteries : A Tribute to Leonard Nimoy
I felt inspired to write this after hearing about the passing of Nimoy. Being a Star Trek fan from my early teens I felt I had something to say about Nimoy's portrayal of Spock and our current political climate.

New designs on Redbubble
I've been trying to get some fresh designs up onto my Redbubble account. This shirt is still popular on Redbubble even though I have a new version here and this robot head.

What's next?
I'm going to continue posting drawings online and exploring different themes. I'm hoping that maybe a story will emerge from these doodles, but if not I can just enjoy them for what they are. I'm hoping to get a new comic out this year, I'd like to do something in B&W, maybe even something in a series. One of the things that took me so long to publish Imagined Mysteries was the colouring process. I feel a bit stuck with my comic writing at the moment. I'm going to have to design some small challenge for myself to hopefully get around the block (like the one I did above).

2 November 2015

Inktober is complete!

I’ve participated in Inktober a few times now but this year I had a few things going and wasn’t sure the distraction would be good. I ended up jumping right into it and set myself two rules, 
1-I had to post everyday, if I missed a day I was out! 
2- All drawings were to be done in straight B&W ink, no pencil.
I feel really happy about the body of work I completed and even have enough work to put together a selection of them in a new zine called ‘Ramshackle Shacks’.
I posted almost everything I did here, or you can see the full collection on my Instagram

21 September 2015

New comic! Imagined Mysteries

‘Imagined Mysteries’ 
 By Anthony Woodward.

 My new comic is out and you can download it for free from the Caravan of Comics website run by Andrew Fulton.

This comic explores my thoughts and feelings after the passing of Leonard Nimoy earlier in the year. I immediately felt inspired to try and explain what Nimoy’s portrayal of the TV character Spock meant to me and how I felt he fit into the cultural landscape. The comic itself was a different direction for me from what I have done before and the work I plan to do in future, but it was this weird little ball of inspiration that had to come out. After finishing this story, I sat on it for a while, because I just didn’t know where it sat, was it worth saying, and what do I know anyway… Ultimately I’m proud of how it turned out and I think it says something important about our collective subconscious and about the importance and danger of the human imagination

Grab yourself a copy here

6 August 2015

Learning to be who you are

Last week I had one of those gob smacking revelations about my art practice. Something so simple, yet it had eluded me for years. It was a sudden dawning of realisation, one that makes you feel really stupid for not seeing it clearer before now. Although I can perfectly feel the meaning of the insight and what I have to do, I have found it tricky to put into words. I don’t want this to be like one of those new years resolutions, where more time is put into talking about the idea than actually doing the work needed. However, I do feel like teasing it out here may help clarify this insight and perhaps may help others to see their own practice clearer. A number of factors combined to make possible an insight about my attitude to drawing and the kind of work I want to make.

I’ll try to explain starting from the beginning...

As the years progressed with my drawing practice, and in an effort for continual improvement, I made efforts to make my work more professional. That is to try and improve my work in ways that could make it be considered professional. I looked at other professional artists and tried to imitate (in my own way) the work they did and the tools they used. I think maybe you can see where this is going.

This mentality planted a tiny seed that eventually grew into a huge and terrible attitude. An attitude that as time went on I think this wore me down, and made me insecure and less sure of what type of work I wanted to make. I cared too much about what people thought and the attention my work was (not) getting.

A few months ago I read Simon Sinek's book 'Start with why', the basic premise is that to be successful you need to first and foremost have a clear idea of why you're doing something. I connected with this idea, it made a lot of sense to me and felt like a way forward to gain more confidence about what I was doing. The problem was, that I couldn't exactly put my finger on my why. I just wanted to draw...I wanted to draw as much as possible. If I could draw in a more professional way, then maybe I could draw for a living. Was that a good reason why I was drawing? It didn't seem like it. My next thought, was that I wanted to make quality work. Again this didn't seem like a compelling reason as to why I was drawing. Like most art questions that go un-answered, you don't give up on it, but rather I kept it in the back of my mind, with the understanding that it might take a while to get a reply. I waited.

Then last week it hit me, not in clear distinct terms or words, but more of a sense and a feeling. A feeling that I hadn't had for many years. It started with an idea of being comfortable with who I was and what I wanted to draw. To be clearer, of not trying to be something I wasn't. To stop thinking that I had to make work that looked like everyone else’s work. A feeling that I could just be my weird self and draw with my weird tools, and draw the things that I wanted to draw, and that it was ok. If what I wanted to draw and how I wanted to draw, didn't bring widespread attention or acclaim that was ok. If I never sold hundreds of books then that was ok. What mattered was that I was making work that was true to my vision, my imperfect vision, my 'not like everyone else’s vision', the vision that didn't fit with current trends, and wasn't cute or even cool. It didn't matter, as it was mine, some people might like it, others might hate it and mostly it would probably go ignored. This doesn’t completely describe the feeling or aesthetic that the insight brought, but it goes a long way to indicting some of the outlines.

This was such a freeing thought for me, that it instantly erased a lot of the worries and doubts I had been having about my art. It doesn't necessarily make art practice a breeze, any artist or writer will tell you that creativity is a constant struggle, an enjoyable one none the less. If you're making good work you should be putting in a effort to push yourself, the kind of effort that keeps you on your toes. This realisation has gone a long way to making me feel connected with my purpose again, the 'why I draw answer' I was looking for.I was expecting a clear and concrete why in terms of words, but what I got was my 'Why' in the form of a feeling.

If I had to put it into words it would be something like this:

Be the truest version of yourself that you can be. No one else can be you or think like you, and likewise you shouldn't waste time trying to draw or think like others do. What you create will be imperfect, but that is exactly what will make it yours. Efforts to make something perfect, that is without fault, will only create bland art that looks generic and equivalent to what many other people can produce. Embrace your faults, as it is there that you will find something essential about what you are, what it is that is uniquely you. In embracing your faults you create space for yourself to work, you create room for growth and experimentation. If you are overly concerned with creating things that are perfect, you will very likely not create much at all, and anything you do create will be ordinary and bland. Draw for the pure sake of drawing. Draw knowing that it can't be perfect but you can strive for something better with your effort. Know that anything you create is essentially imperfect but there's is nothing wrong with that, in fact it is equally good and bad and can be used to your advantage. Think about how imperfections perfectly display who you are and where you are coming from and going to.

Why this took me so long to figure out so completely I'm not sure. No doubt, I’ll forget it again.

Post script:
After writing this I stumbled upon this TED talk and I think it heavily correlates to the insight I had. I highly recommend watching it.

26 July 2015

Notes on Productivity

I've struggled with productivity over the years. At some stages I have had superhuman productivity and at other times super slug levels of activity. I recently had an important project I wanted to finish without it dragging on. I was tired of taking months to make a few basic changes to a comic. I decided to try and find every moment I could within the day to grab some time to work on the project. In addition to working in the evening, I decided I was going to use every break I had at work to do something on the comic. I have a morning and afternoon coffee break of 15 minutes and a 45 minutes for lunch. If I was disciplined this meant I had:

  • 10 minutes morning tea break
  • 25 minutes at lunch 
  • 10 minutes afternoon tea break
  • 10 minutes immediately after I came home from work
  • 30-60 after we had put the kids to bed

In total this added up to approximately 1.5-2 hours per day per day.

The strange thing is that each little piece isn't much, but when I added it all together I found I could complete a whole page in one day. I have now adopted this as a working method and I'm using it again to compete my next comic. It can be hard to stay disciplined and some days I miss out on a morning break or afternoon break, I have to run an errand on my lunch break or I'm just too tired in the night. I remember in my first year of art school, I didn't have a TV or a computer and I carried my sketchbook around with me wherever I went. A classmate remarked how she didn't understand how I got so much drawing done. It was really an illusion, because I grabbed little 10 minutes blocks here and there and used my evenings for drawing instead of TV or surfing the web, all the little pieces added up to lots of sketchbook pages. It can be a trap to think that artists work in complete inspired and manic sessions. Sure this happens occasionally, but in the mean time you just have to get on with the work. As the artist Chuck Close said "Inspiration is for amateurs -- the rest of us just show up and get to work". I think this also relates to my idea on art comes from art, work comes from work. Just get on with it. Choose small amounts of time to chip away at something, those small amounts of time encourage other small amounts of time. It's a get rich slowly scheme, each day saving a small amount of time to amass a larger amount of time by the end of a month.

An important part I haven't mentioned yet, is having a good plan. You need some sort of structure or guide, so that when you do have 10- minutes you don't spend the time wondering what to draw. Have some go to ideas of sketching, still life, buildings funny faces. A with a comic it helps to have a storyboard or thumbnails or script to go from. If you have you work planned out, filling in 10 minutes with rules panel borders and adding lettering is easy. I used to only be able to work spontaneously but these days, perhaps due to time constraints, I work much better when I plan. But that's another blog post.

Post edit: Using the method mentioned above I plowed through the comic I had written in a few weeks, completing 20 pages. I then needed to scan and colour the pages, which is when I hit bit of a brick wall as I couldn't do this at work. I also hit a busy patch with home life so unfortunately the project has now extended to a few months instead of weeks. Once I do get this last project complete, I plan to work in a way that this won't happen again, by returning to my roots of black and white comics. I want to get back to B&W drawings with no extra special effects and colours applied. I will report back on how it goes.