Four Basic Ways To Downgrade Your Webcomic (To Stay Inspired)

2017-artwork-downgrading-a-webcomic

Although the webcomic mini series I’m posting here at the moment has fairly detailed art and a slightly elaborate storyline, the next mini series will experience something of a downgrade when it appears here in early September. Here’s a preview:

The full comic update will appear here on the 4th September. As you can see, it looks and reads more like one of my "old" comics from 2016.

The full comic update will appear here on the 4th September. As you can see, it looks and reads more like one of my “old” comics from 2016.

Why? Well, it was mostly because, when I was preparing August’s daily art posts, I was extremely reluctant to make comics. After all of the effort I’d put into the mini series that’s being posted here at the moment, making comics started to seem like an arduous, time-consuming thing. It was only when I noticed that I hadn’t included a single comic in any of August’s art posts that I realised that I was in danger of succumbing to comics burnout (like I did for pretty much all of 2014). So, drastic action had to be taken.

In other words, I began to make a fairly heavily downgraded short mini series for September, as a way to ease myself back into making comics. But, how can you downgrade your webcomic if you need to stay inspired, if you have less time, if you have less enthusiasm etc…

1) Comic type: There are two types of webcomics – webcomics that tell continuous stories and webcomics where each comic update is self-contained. Both of these comic types have their advantages and disadvantages when it comes to ease of writing.

Different people find different types of comics easier to make. So, if you want to downgrade your comic, then just choose the type that you find easiest. Interestingly, this can work both ways- I switched to “continuous story” comics for the comics I posted earlier this year because I felt that it was easier than having to think of new ideas for each comic.

However, after a while, coming up with suitably interesting plot ideas became more difficult. So, during my recent downgrade, I switched back to self-contained comics. So, yes, it can be something of a cyclical process.

2) Art downgrade: The easiest way to save time and energy if you need to downgrade your webcomic is to simplify the art slightly. There are literally loads of ways to do this.

For example, you can switch from colour artwork to black & white artwork. Yes, knowing how to make good black & white artwork is a skill that has to be learnt but, if you know how to do this, then you can save a surprising amount of time.

Or, you can do what I’ve done in my upcoming mini series and simply reduce the level of background detail in each comic. Whilst most of the comics I’ve posted here this year tend to feature detailed outdoor background locations, the next mini series will go back to mostly featuring simple interior locations. This means that, for most of the backgrounds, I often just have to draw a single wall or two – rather than, say, an elaborate cityscape.

This allows me to keep the overall “look” of the comic, and the writing within it, at a reasonably good level whilst also saving me a large amount of time. In addition to this, I had a lot of practice with using simplified backgrounds during 2016, so it was a way to recapture some of the “spontaneity” that I used to feel when making those old comics.

3) Know what to downgrade: Have you noticed how I’ve only really talked about downgrading the art in your comics or changing the format you use? Well, this is because there’s one thing that you should never downgrade. I am, of course, talking about the writing in your comic. Don’t downgrade the writing!

I’ve probably mentioned this a few times before, but the writing is the most important part of a webcomic. Even if the art looks simplistic, a webcomic can still be interesting, compelling or funny if the writing is good enough.

So, don’t downgrade the writing!

4) Time and length: One ‘downgrade’ that I applied to my webcomics before I even made them was to release them in short 6-17 comic mini series. Whilst this is fairly unusual for a webcomic, it was a decision that I made because I’ve learnt from experience that there are limits to how long I can focus on a single comic for.

Likewise, one subtle form of downgrading that I’ve used in order to stay inspired whilst making webcomics over the past year or two is to vary the lengths of the mini series. If I’m not feeling hugely inspired, then I might only make a six-comic mini series. If the art was particularly detailed, or the story required a lot of planning, then I might limit myself to just eight comics.

In fact, this was probably why I had so many problems after I finished the mini series that is being posted here at the moment. Due to it’s artistic complexity, it should have been a 6-8 comic mini series. But, since I was having so much fun making it – even if it was a bit of a challenge – I overstretched and made twelve comics.

So, yes, don’t be afraid to do things like releasing comics slightly less often or reducing the length of your comics, if it keeps you inspired.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Three Tips For Dealing With Moments Of Low Enthusiasm When Making Webcomics

2017 Artwork Webcomic unenthusiasm article sketch

Even if you’ve meticulously planned out several future webcomic updates and are feeling inspired by your webcomic, you can sometimes still occasionally suffer from moments of low enthusiasm/low motivation whilst making your webcomic.

This can be caused by all sorts of things – from your mood at the time, to the weather (eg: hot weather often does this to me). But, there are ways to deal with it and still produce webcomic updates – albeit at a slightly lower level of quality.

So, how do you deal with it? Here are a few tips:

1) Take a short break if you need to, but don’t fall behind schedule: As counter-intuitive as it sounds, you still need to keep up with your webcomic update schedule when you’re feeling unenthusiastic. This is because webcomics often have a certain level of momentum to them, which can be ruined if you start skipping updates.

Even if making a webcomic update feels like a difficult chore, you need to do it so that future webcomic updates will be easier to make when you’re feeling more enthusiastic. Even if the update you make looks absolutely terrible, the fact that you’ve actually made and posted it will mean more to both you and your audience than if you hadn’t.

If you need to take a short break to build up your enthusiasm again, then this is great. Just make sure that you don’t fall behind schedule though, since it might make your webcomic more difficult to get back into.

2) Work out what you can jettison: Since you’ll still have to make a webcomic update, you may as well make it as easy as possible. So, try to work out what you can temporarily get rid of in your next comic update, without seriously damaging the webcomic as a whole.

There are plenty of sneaky ways to do this – such as subtly reducing the level of background detail in your next comic update or even making a “talking head” comic (where the whole comic update consists of nothing more than two characters standing next to each other and talking).

Yes, it won’t look as good as anything you’ve made when you were more enthusiastic, but at least you’ll actually be able to finish the comic.

The thing to remember here is that the most important part of a webcomic is the dialogue. You can skimp on everything else if you have to, but you can’t skimp on the dialogue too much.

3) Build in some safeguards: If you’ve had some experience with making webcomics, then you’ll probably know what is likely to make you feel unenthusiastic. Once you’ve found this out, you should be able to build in some safeguards to reduce the number of times that you feel unenthusiastic.

For example, one of the many things I learnt from my very first webcomic [made in 2010] was that having to repeatedly draw the same detailed background over and over again quickly sapped my motivation. So, in all of my current comics, frequently repeated backgrounds either contain relatively little to no detail, or they’re the kind of dynamic background (eg: the streets of a city) where I can draw something different in the background of each panel.

Likewise, I’ve learnt that there’s a time limit to how long I can make a particular comic before my motivation runs out. As such, I often tend to make shorter narrative comics and/or groups of four-panel webcomic updates that have a limited length (usually between 6-17 comic updates).

This sort of thing differs from comic maker to comic maker, but if you know what will make you feel unenthusiastic, then you can design your comic in a way that reduces the chance of this happening.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Three More Ways To Deal With Unenthusiastic Times (If You’re An Artist, Writer And/Or Comic Maker)

2016 Artwork Unenthusiasm article sketch

I’m sure that I’ve written about this topic before, but I thought that I’d talk about creative unenthusiasm again. This is slightly different from writer’s block or artist’s block, since it describes a time where you can think of ideas for writing or artwork but you just can’t really find the motivation or enthusiasm to put those ideas onto paper. It’s when writing or making art/ comics feels like a chore.

If you’ve seen a few of my recent articles and some of the art I posted earlier this month, you may have noticed that I was going through a bit of an unenthusiastic time. Still, I’ve been able to keep this site going using a few of these techniques. I apologise in advance if I’ve mentioned any of this stuff before, but hopefully there will be some new stuff here too.

1) Go for the “easy” option (but still make something): If you’re making smaller self-contained things (eg: individual paintings, non-fiction articles, short stories, webcomic updates etc…) then one way to deal with unenthusiastic times is to make things that you consider to be “easy” to make. If making things feels like a chore, then try to lessen the load as much as you can.

So, write about topics that you know a lot about, write about topics that you’ve written about before, draw the kinds of pictures that you could draw in your sleep, come up with an easy running joke/ short story arc for your webcomic etc…

For example, during my unenthusiastic art phase, I mostly focused on making digitally-edited landscape paintings. Since drawing people is something I consider to be slightly challenging, I tried to draw as few people as possible and I mostly produced digitally-edited paintings like this instead.

"Starburst" By C. A. Brown

“Starburst” By C. A. Brown

This ensured that I still had content to post every day, whilst reducing the amount of effort I had to put into my art. The thing to remember here is that although “easy” filler content might disappoint your audience, it’s considerably less disappointing than posting nothing at all.

The other thing to remember about “easy” things is that, even if you aren’t feeling enthusiastic, if you pay lip service to writing or making art (and do a bit of a half-arsed job) then it’ll be a lot easier to get back into the swing of things when you do feel enthusiastic again. And, eventually you will. So, just keep going with the minimum amount of effort possible until your enthusiasm returns.

2) Add some fun to the creative process: One way to get your enthusiasm back, or to reduce your unenthusiasm slightly is to try to find a way to make whatever project you’re working on fun again. Or to find some way to incorporate other fun activities into what you’re doing.

For example, if your webcomic is feeling stale – then make a short story arc that parodies your favourite TV show or videogame. If making art feels boring, then try making a type of art that’s slightly funny (eg: satirical cartoons, parodies, caricatures etc..) or make something rebellious (eg: nude art, punk art etc... If you’re writing fiction, then just try writing a short piece about something that you geek out about a lot. I’m sure you get the idea.

To give you an example from this blog, I plan to review “Serious Sam: The Second Encounter” at some point in the future. This is an old computer game from the early ’00s that I bought online when it was on sale back in December. The review will be an easy one to write and I’ll probably enjoy talking about this game a lot. But, more importantly, this has actually had a knock on effect on my motivation for writing other articles because I know that, as soon as I review it, I won’t have an “excuse” to play it so much.

That was a bit of a weird example, but it illustrates how incorporating fun into your writing, drawing, painting etc.. process can help you to feel a bit more motivated. This also brings me on to the last point on the list…

3) One-Time Backup ideas: One of the things that can help you feel more motivated is knowing that you have a backup idea that you can rely on if you can’t be bothered to think of new ideas. This works best if it’s an idea that can only be used once, since it’s there if you need it – but there’s also an incentive not to use it unless you really have to.

For example, if you’re an artist, then find an interesting-looking object that you can make a still life painting of. Since you can only really paint this object once or twice before it would get repetitive and boring, you’ll probably want to put off using it for as long as possible. In other words, you’ll be motivated to make more art.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Using Your Emotions To Get Motivated To Make Art (And A “Never Seen Before” Painting!)

2016 Artwork Motivation And Emotions Article sketch

I’m sure I’ve talked about this before, but I thought that I’d talk about a technique (perhaps the oldest trick in the book) for getting motivated again when you don’t have the enthusiasm to make art.

But, although this is an article about another way to get motivated to make art when you’re feeling unenthusiastic and uninspired, I’m going to have to start by talking about how I got out of a recent unenthusiastic time I had recently. I’ll give some more general advice near the end of this article.

Anyway, a while before I wrote this article – I was having a dismal and unenthusiastic day. After a lot of effort, I finally pushed myself to make an extremely minimalist and fairly low-quality limited palette (red, yellow, blue and black) painting.

Although this was one of the few paintings that I didn’t feel was good enough to include in my daily art posts, I’ll include it here to illustrate how uninspired and unenthusiastic I was feeling:

"Audience" By C. A. Brown (Never seen before!)

“Audience” By C. A. Brown (Never seen before!)

Although I’d actually made this painting, it didn’t really make me feel any better about myself as an artist. It’d taken a long time to make, it felt like an absolute chore to make and it didn’t really seem as impressive as it should have done. Not only that, I was still in a fairly dismal kind of mood.

It was then that I noticed that the next piece of art on my schedule was the artwork for April Fool’s day. Since I’d already written the very cynical satirical article I’d planned to write for the first of April, I suddenly realised that I could make a cynical piece of digital art that made the same point.

Since it’d just involve taking some things from old digital photos of mine and messing around in MS Paint, it seemed lazy enough for my extremely limited levels of enthusiasm too.

So, I made it:

 "Yearning Of The Cosmos For The Zeitgeist Of Postmodern Thought " and "Gossamer Memories Of Paperback Perdition" By C. A. Brown

“Yearning Of The Cosmos For The Zeitgeist Of Postmodern Thought ” and “Gossamer Memories Of Paperback Perdition” By C. A. Brown

Suddenly, to my surprise, I felt slightly better. A cynical grin crossed my face. I started chuckling evilly to myself. But, most of all, I felt better about being an artist. I felt like making art meant something again.

This was all because I made something that expressed a particular emotion (cynicism) that I feel a lot but, for some reason, hardly ever seem to express in my art.

Because I was in a fairly dismal mood, I was feeling more cynical than usual and, because of this, trying to make anything other than cynical art just felt kind of “empty”/ “pointless” as a result.

So, I guess what I’m trying to say here is that if you’re having problems working up the motivation to practice making art, then it might be worth looking at which emotions you really want to express. It doesn’t matter whether they’re “positive” or “negative” emotions – the important thing is to work out what emotion it is.

Then find a way to make a piece of art – any piece of art- that plays into that emotion. It doesn’t matter whether it’s good or not, the important thing is to make a piece of art that feels meaningful to you in that moment in time.

Even if it’s a terrible piece of art, then it will remind you why you got into making art in the first place and, with any luck, this will make you feel more enthusiastic and motivated to make better pieces of art.

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Anyway, I hope this was useful 🙂

Weather And Creativity

2014 Artwork Weather Creativity Sketch

Before I begin, I should probably point out that I originally wrote this article near the end of July (because I usually write these articles fairly far in advance). Anyway, why am I mentioning this?

Well, it’s both to explain the slight dip in the quality of the articles here recently and to talk about the effects that weather can have on writers and artists. I’ll also be talking about how to stay creative during terrible weather too (regardless of which types of weather you consider to be “terrible”)

Yes, this article will start with some moaning about the weather (hey, I’m British – it’s our national pastime). But there’s a point to all of this, sort of.

You see, at the time of writing this article, there’s a heatwave in the UK. Summer is my least favourite season as it is, but this is apparently one of the hottest summers in recent history – probably due to global warming or something like that.

Anyway, I’m not a hot weather person. Seriously, I can barely function in weather like this – hence why I’ve been doing the bare minimum possible on some of this month’s articles.

Fortunately, my art hasn’t suffered as much, although I ended up producing it at a slightly slower rate than usual. Working up the enthusiasm to create things when I’m drenched in sweat is a lot more difficult than when I’m not.

The reason that I mention all of this stuff is because it illustrates one of the ways that weather can have an effect on our creative abilities.

Unless you’ve got good air conditioning and/or heating (if you’re one of those strange people who actually likes hot weather), extremes of weather can have surprisingly unpredictable effects on our creative abilities – or, more accurately, our enthusiasm for creating things.

So, apart from the obvious things (like using a fan or drinking lots of cold water), what can you do to stay creative if the weather is too hot (or too cold)?

Simple – try to scale back as much as possible whilst also remembering why you like creating things at the same time.

By “scale back”, I mean try to create the absolute minumum that you feel that you can do without feeling guilty about it (or running into problems, if you’re working to a deadline).

The important thing during periods of extreme weather is to stay creative and actually make stuff – as such, having much lower expectation can be a way to stay creative without over-exerting yourself. And, if you happen to exceed those expectations occasionally, then this is a bonus.

Another important thing to do is to remind yourself why you create things. Trust me, if you’re in the middle of an enthusiasm-sapping heatwave (or a cold snap), then you’re probably going to need all of the intrinsic motivation that you can find in order to keep creating.

If you’ve been creating things regularly for a while, then you can use this to your advantage when the weather gets bad. Regular creativity has a certain kind of momentum to it which can carry you through unenthusiastic times.

I mean, if you’ve been creating regularly for a while, then it just kind of becomes part of your daily routine and not creating things can end up feeling, well, slightly unnatural. Use this fact to your advantage when the weather is annoying.

But, if you don’t create things regularly, then go for “easy” projects which require less creativity than usual when the weather is being annoying – you know, things like fan art, fan fiction, drawing practice exercises etc…. Remember, the important thing is to keep creating stuff.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Creative Unenthusiasm? Find New Ways To Think About Your Creative Projects

2013 Artwork Unenthusiasm Daydream sketch

This isn’t an article about writer’s block or artist’s block, but it is an article about one way to deal with the thing that usually precedes it. I am, of course, talking about creative unenthusiasm – the kind of weary boredom which makes you feel reluctant to work on your creative projects. This is the kind of state where you still have a few creative ideas, but none of them seem interesting enough to fully devote yourself to.

As such, you can end up producing some rather mediocre and unimaginative things which might not be “bad” as such, but which can be kind of forgettable and dull to both create and read and/or view.

This happens to almost every creative person every once in a while, although it’s a lot more noticeable if you publish/upload almost everything that you create rather than just selecting the best things you create and only publishing these. There are benefits and drawbacks to both of these approaches, but I’ll probably cover these in another article. However, creative unenthusiasm can strike regardless of how often you publish your creative works or even if you don’t publish them at all.

Anyway, whilst daydreaming a while ago, I came up with a rather interesting technique which might help you to feel more enthusiastic again. This technique is fairly simple, although the details of it will probably differ depending on what fascinates you the most.

Basically, it just involves imagining that your creative projects are actually in a totally different format – preferably one which absolutely fascinates you, but which you have very little talent or experience in. Of course, you’re still actually work with the format you have been using before, but you imagine that you’re working on something totally different.

If this sounds strange and confusing, then that is probably because it is – until you’ve had a bit of practice. Likewise, having a propensity towards daydreaming and geekiness probably helps with this technique too.

In other words, if you are writing a novel (which you aren’t feeling hugely uninspired about) and you’ve always dreamed of being a film director, then keep writing your novel but imagine that you are actually producing a film whilst you are writing.

Really throw yourself into it. Imagine what the camera angles in every scene of your novel would look like. Imagine what the trailer and the posters would look like. Imagine which actors and actresses will play the main characters etc….

When you trick your mind into thinking that you’re working on something that you’re interested in, but have no real experience in, you’ll probably start to feel more enthusiastic and fascinated about the thing you’re actually working on.

Not only that, you’ll also get to temporarily feel like a talented film-maker, when you’re actually a writer who is still learning the craft. Yes, it won’t give you any practice in the other format, but it feels great and it can re-ignite your enthusiasm for whatever you are working on.

To give you a couple of personal examples – these days, I usually post either two pieces of art or two comic pages on here every day and, yes, sometimes I feel unenthusiastic about making art. So, when I feel unenthusiastic, I sometimes tend to think about my art in musical terms.

Despite having no musical talent whatsoever, the idea of releasing an old-fashioned CD single still appeals to me. Everything about it, from the cover art to the B-side which can’t usually be found anywhere else (except Youtube, of course) just fills me with geeky and nostalgic fascination.

Anyway, in order to feel more enthusiastic about posting my art on here every day, I imagined that I was releasing an old-fashioned two track single every day. The first picture was the “A-side” and the second one was the “B-side”. Yes, this is nothing more than a strange daydream, but it can really help me feel enthusiastic about creating art on days when I feel less than creative.

Another personal example is a daydream that I sometimes use when I’m not feeling that enthusiastic about writing these articles. Back in 2009, I wanted to make a monthly magazine which would have been filled with fiction, reviews and articles. Even though I sketched a few cover art designs, the project never really materialised because, well, I have no real knowledge or experience when it comes to magazine publishing and magazine design.

However, quite a few weeks back, I realised that the number of articlers I post to this blog every month would probably add up to something approaching the size of a rather small monthly magazine. So, whenever I am feeling unenthusiastic about writing articles, I sometimes imagine that I’m actually working on a magazine. Again, this can really work wonders in terms of my level of creativity and enthusiasm.

Yes, this process isn’t perfect and it essentially consists of nothing more than illusions and daydreams. But, if you’re feeling unenthusiastic, then it might be worth giving it a try…

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂