Three Stress- Reduction Tips For Making Comics And/Or Webcomics

Well, at the time of writing, I’m busy preparing this year’s Halloween comic. So, I thought that I’d offer a few stress-reduction tips for making comics and/or webcomics. Apologies if I’ve mentioned any of these before, but they’re worth repeating nonetheless.

1) Plan it!: This is really obvious, but make sure that you have prepared a plan/script for your comic before you start making it. Although it might take you a little bit longer to plan out your comic, this can save you time and stress in the long run. Why? Because it means that you don’t have to worry about writer’s block, writing yourself into a corner etc…

If your comic is planned out in advance, then all you have to worry about is actually drawing it. You don’t have to worry about “what happens next” because you’ve already worried about that before you made the comic. Planning your comic also allows you to see whether your comic idea is a good one or not before you invest any serious time or effort into it. This means your comic is much less likely to fail.

Likewise, make sure that you have a “buffer” of pre-made comic pages before you post any of them online. What this means is that you’ll have a bit more leeway when it comes to deadlines (since you have several pre-made pages queued up), meaning that your self-imposed deadlines will feel a little bit less harsh or stressful than they would be if you had to worry about no comic updates appearing at the appointed time.

2) Put most of the background detail at the beginning: When you start a new comic or webcomic project, you’ll probably be filled with excitement and enthusiasm. However, once you’ve made a few pages, you’ll probably start to find that this initial burst of energy and enthusiasm has faded slightly.

So, plan your comic accordingly! If you dazzle your audience with detailed backgrounds etc… in the early parts of your comic (when you’re feeling more enthusiastic), then set more of the later parts of your comic in locations that are easier to draw (for when your enthusiasm drops slightly), your audience will be less likely to notice the drop in detail because they’ve already seen detailed backgrounds earlier.

Yes, this is a bit of a cheap trick and it needs to be done in a slightly subtle way in order to work properly. But, when done well, it can work!

3) The writing matters most: With comics, the writing actually matters more than the art does. In other words, if you need to make some kind of visual downgrade to the art in order to save your own sanity, then your audience is more likely to forgive this if your comic contains interesting characters, funny jokes etc…

The classic example of this is the webcomic “XKCD” – this is a very popular webcomic that often features basic “stick figure” art. Yet, it is rightly considered to be a great webcomic because of the sophisticated humour and writing. So, yes, the art doesn’t matter as much as you think.

For example, after the stress of making a full-colour comic last Halloween, I decided that the pages of this year’s Halloween comic would mostly be in greyscale/limited colour. Here’s a preview:

The full comic page will be posted here on the 22nd October.

Although this was partly a stylistic decision (because it’s a gothic comedy comic) I also chose to use greyscale/limited colour because, if you’ve practiced making this type of art, it can be considerably quicker and easier to make than full-colour art. Likewise, things like digital image editing are also signficantly quicker/easier with this type of art too.

So, don’t be afraid to downgrade the art in your comic for the sake of your sanity. But, don’t downgrade the writing.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

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Another Three Ways To Be Creative Before The Apocalypse

2015 Artwork Creative Apocalypse sketch censored version

Well, since I was stressed out at the time of writing this article (a couple of months ago), I thought that I’d revisit a topic that I’ve covered twice before (here and here). I am, of course, talking about how to remain creative when you’re feeling stressed out or worried about the future.

Apologies in advance if I repeat anything which I’ve covered in the previous two “apocalypse” articles. I probably will, but there will also be some new stuff here. Anyway, let’s get started:

1) Go for your emotions: In other words, try to focus on making something that will put you in a better emotional state than the one you are in right now.

This obviously isn’t as simple as it sounds because, if you’re stressed out, then the last thing you want to do is to sink a lot of effort into making something. So, don’t worry about quality or quantity or anything like that – just make something that will make you feel better.

Sometimes, this might be something that may sound depressing – but which makes you feel less alone in the world. Sometimes, self expression for the sake of self-expression can work wonders on an emotional level.

For example, a few months ago, I was stressed out and I kind of felt like there wasn’t quite enough time in the day. Suddenly, a couple of lines of music poetry just kind of appeared in my mind.

They went something along the lines of: “Time ticks away, hour by hour/ I feel more and more like Jack f**king Bauer“. In case you don’t know who Jack Bauer is, he’s the main character in a TV show called “24” where there’s always a ticking clock (and not quite enough time) in every episode.

Although writing this rhyming couplet didn’t immediately make me feel better – it was such a brilliantly rhythmic expression of my frustration that I could imagine it being set to music and forming the soundtrack of my life. And, thinking about a soundtrack to my life made me look at everything from a slightly more distanced perspective, which helped.

Of course, different things work in different situations. But, the genres that are best for getting into a better emotional state usually include things like poetry, dark comedy and erotica. But, go for whatever works for you – and don’t worry about quality.

2) Adventure games: If you like computer games and you’ve got an hour or two to spare, then try playing an old “point and click” adventure game (you can find a couple of freeware adventure games from the 1990s here, that will work on literally any computer – I’d recommend “Beneath A Steel Sky”). Just remember to find a walkthrough guide on the internet first, because the last thing you need right now is to be frustrated by near-impossible puzzles.

If you’ve got a bit more money, then I’d recommend buying a couple of modern “hidden object games”. These games are fairly similar to old “point and click” adventure games. These games have less frustrating puzzles and lots of beautiful artwork, although there’s slightly less exploration, dialogue and interactivity than you would find in a traditional “point and click” game.

So, why can adventure games help you to be creative when you’re in this kind of mood? Well, there are several reasons – one of them is that they often have a much slower and more contemplative style of gameplay than most games do, and this can be oddly relaxing.

Not only that, many adventure games are filled with cynical humour that can make you look at your own life in a more humourous way. In addition, most of them have fairly happy endings – which might give you hope about the future. Plus, since most of these games are focused on problem-solving, then this might put you in a better frame of mind to solve your own problems (even if you use a walkthrough guide when playing).

But, most of all, adventure games are one of the most atmospheric and immersive types of games in existence. And, if you spend long enough immersed in an interesting fictional world then not only will this make you feel better, but it’ll also spark your imagination too and hopefully lead to a few new creative ideas.

In fact, I used this exact tactic to make a drawing that was posted here a couple of days ago:

"Under A Broken Moon" By C. A. Brown

“Under A Broken Moon” By C. A. Brown

As you can see from this drawing, the perspective and layout of the drawing is fairly similar to what you can find in a “point and click” adventure game. And the background itself was heavily inspired by the dystopic sci-fi computer game settings that I’d been looking at for the past couple of hours.

3) Dissect something: No, I don’t mean that you should literally dissect something! What I mean is that you should take a fairly close look at a novel, comic, film, artwork or game that you really love and try to work out exactly what makes it so great.

Once you’ve found this out, then try making something of your own that contains these qualities (but which also has an original setting, original characters, an original story etc..). The reason why this can be such a good way to stay creative when you’re feeling stressed or miserable is because it saves you having to work out what you want to do with your story or piece of art. All you have to do is to come up with enough changes to make your work into something original.

And, best of all, you’ll also get the satisfaction of having produced something which you personally think is really cool.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂