Not Every Webcomic Update Will Be Stellar… And That’s Ok – A Ramble

Well, since I’m busy making next month’s webcomic mini series at the time of writing, I thought that I’d talk about quality variations in webcomics today.

This is mostly because, although the second update in the upcoming mini series certainly isn’t a “bad” comic update, it didn’t end up being quite as funny or artistically detailed as the previous comic update was. Here’s a preview of it:

The full comic update will be posted here on the 23rd May.

Even if you only make webcomic updates occasionally, you’ll probably run into this problem too. Sometimes, the only good idea for a webcomic update isn’t quite as good as the idea you had last time. Of course, in these situations, the only sensible thing to do is to… make the comic update anyway.

Yes, you heard me correctly. Make the comic update.

As counter-intuitive as it sounds, a mediocre finished webcomic update is still better than a hypothetical “great” webcomic update that you haven’t made. For starters, it means that your audience gets to see something. Even if they aren’t impressed by the comic update, they can at least feel reassured by the fact that you’re still making comics (and sticking to your schedule).

Secondly, you are almost certainly your own worst critic. If you’ve been making webcomics for a while, then even one of your “bad” comic updates might still be considered acceptable or even good by the standards of other people. If you haven’t been making webcomics for long, then you need the practice – so make the update and post it for your own sake. Remember, even the best webcomics weren’t as good during their early days.

Thirdly, even if you only publish six comic updates a month (which seems to be my thing at the moment), you’ve still got to make multiple comic updates within a relatively short period of time. This is especially true if you want to make a long-running webcomic.

You’ve got to come up with comic ideas on a regular basis and, as such, there are inevitably going to be slight dips in quality occasionally. No-one’s imagination runs at 100% efficiency all of the time. Your audience probably understands this too and are more forgiving then you think. At the very least, if you stick to your update schedule then this means that they won’t have to wait that long for the next comic update (which might be better).

Fourthly, a mediocre webcomic update can be more inspirational than you think. After all, if there are any aspiring webcomic creators in your audience, then they are probably going to see the mediocre comic update and either think “I can do better than that! I’ll finally start my own webcomic!” or “Whew! I’m not the only one who has off days with my comic sometimes!“. So posting a mediocre comic update might actually help out other people.

Finally, and most importantly, if you care about the fact that your latest comic update isn’t as good as the one you made before it, then this means that you care about making webcomics. It means that webcomics still matter to you. It means that you still feel motivated to make webcomics. It means that you aren’t giving up in frustration or anything like that. It means that you want to make better webcomic updates. And this is a good thing!

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Sorry for the short article, but I hope it was useful 🙂

Three Things To Do When Your Art Starts Looking Mediocre

2017-artwork-mediocre-art-phase-article

If you make art regularly, then you’ve probably gone through a mediocre art phase at least once. This is a time when your art isn’t exactly terrible, but it isn’t exactly at it’s best either. Whether it’s because you were feeling uninspired, or were mostly focusing on other projects or just didn’t have quite enough time, it can happen.

In fact, it can sometimes happen annoyingly often. I mean, some of this month’s paintings and quite a few of next month’s paintings and comics (as well as some paintings that will appear in early October), were made during these phases.

So, what should you do if you find yourself in the middle of one of these mediocre art phases?

1) It isn’t as bad as you think: Chances are, if you’re able to recognise that you’re going through a mediocre art phase, then you’ve probably got a bit of artistic experience. You probably practice regularly enough to notice both subtle and large changes in the quality of your art over time. You’ve also produced good art, which allows you to notice that your current art is mediocre by comparison.

Well, one of the great things about practice and experience is that it can help you out during the difficult times. If you practice regularly, then there’s a good chance that the “uninspired” or “mediocre” paintings that you seem to be making at the moment are probably better than the “good” paintings that you made a 1-2 years (or more) ago.

So, if a painting is “mediocre” by your current standards, then it’s probably jaw-droppingly excellent by your old standards. In other words, it’s a sign that you are still improving and that you should keep practicing.

2) Get some inspirations: If you have a solid idea of what you want to paint before you start painting, then this can improve your mediocre art. The more specific the idea, the better.

For example, during the mediocre phase I was going through when writing this article, I made a relatively decent painting during a fairly rushed day purely because I had the idea of “cyberpunk hackers using typewriters” before I made the painting. Here’s a reduced-size preview:

The full-size painting will be posted here on the 2nd October.

The full-size painting will be posted here on the 2nd October.

But, where do you find these ideas?

Before I go any further, I should probably link to this article of mine that explains the difference between inspiration and plagiarism. That said, don’t be afraid to do a bit of artistic research (eg: image searches, films, games etc..) before you start making your painting if you don’t have any ideas. As long as you only extract the general themes/general ideas/general techniques etc.. from those things and use them as the basis for your own ideas (instead of copying specific details), then it’s ok.

For example, both this short story of mine and my “Cyberpunk Typists” painting were – amongst other things – partially inspired by an episode of “Lois & Clark: The New Adventures Of Superman” (one of the few superhero-related things I actually like, due to 1990s nostalgia) where the city’s computer systems are damaged and the newspaper that Lois and Clark work at has to return to using typewriters and linotype machines. I was curious what a “low-tech modernity” storyline would look like when transposed into the cyberpunk genre. Hence the painting and the short story.

3) Keep going: This one is pretty self-explanatory, and it’s something that I’ve said in many other articles. If you’re going through an uninspired phase or a mediocre phase, keep making art. Even if it’s crappy art, keep making it. Even if it feels like a chore, keep making it.

If you keep up the rhythm of regular practice (to the point where not making art every day or every week or whatever feels somehow… wrong) , then you’ll be able to get back to making good art a lot more quickly after the mediocre phase.

Likewise, if you have a brief moment of inspiration or a bit of extra time during your mediocre phase, then you might just even be able to make a good painting or two. Sometimes, this will help you get out of the mediocre phase (by increasing your confidence). But, sometimes it’ll just break up the mediocre phase slightly and remind you of what you’ll be able to make when the phase passes.

For example, here’s a reduced-size preview of a good painting that I made during a mediocre phase that affected the art I made in late September/ early October. If I hadn’t kept up my practice during the “mediocre” times (eg: if I’d waited until I felt totally inspired again), I probably wouldn’t have made this good painting.

The full-size painting will be posted here on the 25th September.

The full-size painting will be posted here on the 25th September.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

What To Do On Mediocre Days

2013 Artwork Mediocre Days Sketch

If you make art and/or write fiction on a regular basis, then you’re going to run into mediocre days every now and then. These are, of course, those days where everything you produce isn’t terrible, but it isn’t great either. It’s just kind of …. well…. mediocre.

They’re the kind of days when you’ve finish writing or drawing and look at what you’ve made and your instinctive reaction to it is “Yeah, it’s ok, I guess”. The kind of days where you aren’t really proud of what you’ve produced, but you aren’t really ashamed of it either.

If you’re having one of these days, then don’t worry – here are a few tips that might come in handy:

1) This happens to everyone: Yes, even your favourite writers and artists have mediocre days. Even if they’re extremely famous and/or talented, then they will still have the occasional mediocre day. Everyone who creates anything will have mediocre days. No exceptions.

Do you want to know how I know this?

It’s simple – everything is relative. In other words, for your amazingly creative days to feel like amazingly creative days, there have to be mediocre days to compare them with. Even if you didn’t have mediocre days and just had amazingly creative days, then these would eventually start to feel mediocre.

So, if you’re having a mediocre day, then just remember that it’s there to make your creative days feel great by comparison.

2) Look at your old stuff: Remember how I said that everything is relative? Well, this also applies to how you perceive the quality of your work too. If you’ve been writing and/or making art for quite a while, then something which might be “mediocre” by your current standards would probably be “amazing” by your old standards.

So, if you’re making mediocre stuff, then find some of your really old art or old stories and compare your “mediocre” modern stuff to the best pieces of your old stuff.

This is what I considered to be one of my best drawings last  July

This is what I considered to be one of my best drawings last July

This is what I consider to be "mediocre" these days.

This is what I consider to be “mediocre” these days.

Suddenly, your “mediocre” drawing or story will probably start to look a lot better by comparison. After all, if you’ve been creating things regularly, then you will have improved over time. So, take another look at your “mediocre” stuff and try to think about what your past self would have thought about it if they were somehow able to see it.

3) Context and inspiration: Unless you’re a bestselling published author or an artist who has sold a lot of work and has had your stuff shown in a few galleries, then it can be very easy to think “what’s the point of creating anything?” if you’re having a mediocre day. If you aren’t careful, this thought can lead to writer’s block or artist’s block.

Likewise, when you aren’t having a mediocre day, I can bet that you probably feel that everything you create is meaningful. When you’re really inspired, you know that there is a point in creating things and that there’s a reason for it all. Usually, it’s the kind of strange and nebulous “reason” that is more of an emotion than an idea you can really put into words. But it’s there. And it makes you feel inspired.

So, if you’re having a mediocre day, try to re-kindle that inspired feeling by reading and watching interviews with all of your favourite writers and/or artists. Go onto Youtube and listen to all of the creative people you admire talking about why they create things. Don’t compare yourself to them (since this might make you feel more uninspired), just listen to them and try to remember that they’re just another writer or artist like you.

4) Take a break: Sometimes mediocre days can happen if you try too hard or if you’ve been trying too hard for too long. Sometimes they’re a sign that you need to take a short break and do something fun or relaxing for a while until you’ve “recharged your batteries”, so to speak.

The reason for this is that we all thrive when we’re having fun. I’m sure that you’ve probably noticed that, when you’re having an inspired day, creating things just feels fun and exciting. When you’re having a mediocre day, creating things usually either just feels neutral, boring or like hard work. Notice the difference?

So, start having fun and, when you feel like creating something again, then go for it!

5) Make something else: Sometimes, but not always, a mediocre day can just be a sign that your current creative project isn’t really a good “fit” for you. So, put it to one side and think “if I could create anything and I didn’t have to show it to anyone else, what would I create?”

It could be anything and it can be as weird, derivative, shocking, bizarre, comedic, nonsensical, geeky, abstract etc… as you want it to be. All that matters is that it’s something that you really want to create.

Once you’ve come up with an answer, start a small project based on your new idea. Don’t aim to make something great, just aim to have fun and mess around. Whilst this won’t help you with your current project, it may well make you feel a bit less “mediocre” and unenthusiastic.

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Anyway, I hope that this article was useful 🙂