Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Breakaway


Why on Earth did I wait until last month to rent a studio?

As with most of the delays that have plagued this project, chalk it up to a failure of imagination. It takes a firm commitment to convince your mental hinterlands that you’re serious about a new course of action, and there’s no firmer commitment than the financial sort (that’s not true, but let’s proceed as though it were). 

Having moved my stuff to the studio, I find that I’m exactly twice as productive as I was back home. I can’t completely account for the speed gain -- perhaps when I’m working at home, there’s a part of my mind that’s stuck in some domestic slacker-torpor. What’s nice about this new arrangement is that when I am at home, I can enjoy a TV show without being terrorized by the solemn beating of the tell-tale Cintiq in the corner.

I have three office mates, and they are all cool bros who have yet to ice one another. Inspired by the artistic slipstream effect that seems to have accelerated our output, we have named our studio Peloton. Which leads me to the second big change of the month -- I’ve been riding my new (ancient, crappy) bike from Capitol Hill to Ballard every day. This may seem to have nothing to do with anything, but I have found that after only a month of exercise, my brain works better. 

There’s a thing that used to happen to me -- usually around 2 in the afternoon -- where some minuscule task would suddenly become insurmountable. Faced with the impossible challenge of changing a character’s eye color, I’d end up going to the convenience store, reading a magazine, changing the water in the hummingbird feeder -- anything but making an actual creative decision. I just didn’t have the mental oomph to get over that little artistic speed bump. That doesn’t seem to happen too much anymore, and I credit all the happy exercise chemicals square-dancing in my brain. Somehow, physical stamina equates to mental stamina -- almost like your brain is part of your body or something. On a related note, if you’re on the Burke-Gilman trail at 7 in the morning and you blow past a skinny guy straining up a 1% grade in the wrong gear on a rusty old Trek hybrid, tell him you’re rooting for Project Waldo.

Finally, I learned a new workflow trick this month. For the first half of the book, I completed the linework and all color for each page before starting the next. This habit had more than a little to do with my desire to submit finished drawings to this blog on a regular basis. Recently, however, I hired a flatter to prep my linework for color (side note: his name is Eagle Gosselin and he’s the best -- he’s got a great eye for detail and a real passion for his work and you should hire him to flat your next book if he isn't too busy with my next book). 

With this sudden flood of pages ready for color, I couldn’t help but work on multiple pages at once. And heavens to Betsy -- it’s much, much faster that way. It turns out that some of the toughest problem solving happens somewhere other than in your conscious mind -- I suspect it takes place somewhere in the vicinity of the ass -- and it just won’t be rushed. With the earliest pages, I’d end up fiddling with sliders for a whole afternoon, only to realize the next morning that a better approach had materialized as if by magic. When I hit a tough problem now, I just put the page aside and move on to the next one. More often than not, a solution presents itself when I come back to the page on the next day. Wonderful that I’ve only figured this out a couple of weeks before the end... anyway, the next issue will go like gangbusters now that I've harnessed the power of ass-thought.

Alas, Comic-Con is happening right now and I didn't make it. It seems like every blog I follow is full of giddy stories in which people meet personal heroes, sign 18-figure deals with Hollywood moguls, and get drunk with Australian comic book artists. Well, I’ll have you all know that we’re partying pretty hard up here in Seattle, too. Why, I just drank a delicious sparkling apple juice! Straight up!

So suck it, San Diego!

50 comments:

  1. At last the Gnarly Nate and Eagle team has arrived! Considering how often he's been on the blog I was wondering when it would happen. Please pass my praise onto the Guru of Flatters. Great to hear its moving to the finish that much faster!
    Looking everyday to see its the same Blog entry for a month has been... well... underwhelming. But Ive stuck with this whole time, and now as Im finally returning to the US after 2 yrs of overseas duty, I get to look forward to walking into a comic shop and buying PROJECT WALDO #1!!

    PS: there are plenty of other Cons you could premier at.

    PPS: yes, I believe I did just bring back the word Gnarly from its '90s grave.

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  2. Great to see proof of existence from ya, Nate! =D

    So are you on to issue #2, or are you simply moving much faster on #1 now with Eagle's help?

    Looking forward to more words of wisdom, and really anticipating being able to pick up a copy when it gets published! Keep truckin'!

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  3. I hope a dog doesn't run into your studio and make everyone wreck.

    My studio is the floor of my room. It is hot up here and I have been having fan related pencil shaving accidents lately. Also cat induced paper wrinkles.

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  4. Yeah, I find working in a studio heaps more productive than working from home. I seem to work more hours at home (no travel time) but somehow get less work done.

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  6. Aw, thanks, man! I so wish I could get in on the studio racket. :/

    It's been absolutely wonderful getting to be involved.

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  7. Congratulations on the studio.

    ...and your dead on about the exercise = brain stimulation. Amazing how it's all connected.

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  8. Is your comic a retail comic or a web comic? I ask because I've seen it advertised my other artists as a webcomic.

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  9. It'll be retail. That's why there haven't been updates in a while, even though there are several more pages done.

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  11. Nate,
    Great work from what I've seen so far. I live in Ballard and work from home for now. My webcomic, http:stixandbones.com has been going since Feb. I'll have to buy you a beer at the Viking sometime!

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  12. Nate,

    This has been the most helpful blog yet personally. You've seriously just rocked my world.

    Thank you.

    PS: try and make it to NYCC ;D

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  13. Met personal heroes.-Check!

    Got drunk with Australian comic book artists.-Check!

    Signed 18 figure deal with Hollywood.- Still working on it.

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  15. I'll have you know, I didn't get drunk with a single Australian comic book artist. There was a whole table of Brits who drank me under the table, and one gal from New Zealand who knew her way around a bottle of tequila...but no Aussies.

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  16. Captain Parsons - Thank you for resurrecting "gnarly." I am especially fond of it's Southern Californian cousin, "gnar-gnar." As to other conventions I where I might drop the first issue -- I'm aiming for New York right now, but who knows how long it'll take to get the thing printed once it's done? Making a comic is like watching paint dry. Hope springs eternal!

    Congratulations on your return to the States. You'll find I kept everything just like you like it.

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  17. Michael - Q: "So are you on to issue #2, or are you simply moving much faster on #1 now with Eagle's help?" A: The latter. But by faster, I mean MUCH faster. Last week, I managed to color three pages in a week (for the record, that's three times faster than before). We're closing in on the finish line very rapidly. Maybe two weeks to go.

    I'm looking forward to hearing what you think of the finished product. After staring at it for nearly a year, I really can't tell whether it's good or bad.

    But what I CAN tell is that your stuff continues to be absolutely spectacular. Those Bonnie Lass sneak peaks are driving me crazy. You kick hiney in a big way.

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  18. Nobbynob - Thanks, man (or woman)!

    Nobby Nobby Nob-by Boy,
    Nobby Nobby Nob-by Boy,
    Nobby Nobby Nobby,
    Nobby Nobby Nobby...

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  19. Michael Pfeffer - Funny you should mention dogs taking us out. I nearly aced a goose on my way in a couple of days ago. There's nothing less likely to get out of your way than an angry male goose in defense mode. Also cars.

    The new drawings you've been posting to your blog are blowing my mind. You need to be making comics, man. You're really good!

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  20. Tang - Totally weird that a change in setting should have such huge results. I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes!

    Your blog, man. Wow. Awesome. The concert posters are spectacular. You wrote that you weren't happy with the last one, but I love it. You really know how to press my color buttons.

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  21. Eagle - Yeah, you should totally get a studio -- heck, you sort of have one going in your house right now already!

    Thanks as always for helping me out with this. I'm getting pretty giddy about finishing soon!

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  22. Sam - Thanks, man. The exercise is really doing wonders for me. This week, I started noticing weird bumps on my legs (and on my arms, too, weirdly). After consulting WebMD, I've learned that these are called "muscles."

    You're just cranking out beautiful work over at http://amangaaddict.blogspot.com/. I can't believe your output. And you get to live in Japan. Fair? No.

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  23. Nordlund63 - Eagle's right -- this is a retail comic, though I'd have loved for it to have worked as a web comic, too. Just too many darn pixels to fit comfortably on a screen. I'll be starting up a webcomic project later this year, however. I'll post here about it when there's more to say.

    Just out of curiosity, who said I was doing a webcomic?

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  24. Darrell - A local! You should swing by our studio sometime. We're up in the Ballard building on Market Street.

    Your webcomic is amazing -- I'm very curious how you hit such a consistent pace at such a high level of quality. Really funny, well-illustrated stuff! Congratulations, man.

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  25. Oneiros - I'd sure like to be at NYCC this year. I'm doing my best to finish in time. Thanks for the support!

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  26. Steve - Ahhhh, so jealous. Next year. Next year.

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  27. Marc - What a shame. Went to SDCC and not a single drunk Australian to show for it. I hope you'll try harder next year.

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  29. im so buying the shit out of this comic when it comes out, the art alone is incredible.

    I went all the way to the start of your blog and went through until you decided to write this story, and put stareater away for now. It was so cool to watch your process, and im inspired to continue my own hobbies.

    Thank you for not only doing this for yourself, but also for all the people who just dont have the balls to start something of this proportion.

    KEEP KICKING ASS! AND FINISH THIS SOON PLEASE!

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  30. wow ive just discovered this site in the last few days and have been going back through the posts as well. Your art is beautiful and you seem to have improved in leaps and bounds through the process of creating the comic. Not only that, i find the humour and the thoughts you share in your blog posts great to read, i can relate to many of your thoughts on improving your workflow/self discipline, and you have inspired me in my own creative efforts. Sounds like the finish line is nearly in sight and i congratulate you on the effort you have put into this, im sure it will be worth it as its looking fantastic.

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  31. Nate,

    I have been meaning to write for months and am finally getting it together. I started reading your blog late last year and went back and read all your earlier posts at the time. You already know how good your illustrations are but your posts are equally inspiring (not to mention hilarious). I'm an aspiring childrens book illustrator (one book self-published) trying to figure out how to get my frickin' act in gear. Your blog has truly been a gift. Thanks hardly says it but much appreciation that you've been willing to share your process with the world. (Malcolm Gladwell also talks about the 10,000 hour rule in 'Outliers'). I won't pass you on the bike path but there's a hell of a lot of us rooting for Project Waldo. (you actually don't need it, you've spread enough good karma you will be receiving it back in bucket loads). thanks and cheers to a gnarly project :), E.

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  33. Aw Man. When you said Capitol Hill I got all excited that you might be in DC a few minutes north of me. Five minutes of Googling later and I found out that evidently you freaky West Coasters have your own second rate version of our Capitol hill.

    Pft.

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  35. Stein - Thanks! I'm glad you're getting something out of this blog -- sometimes it feels pretty self-indulgent, so I'm glad folks occasionally find something worthwhile here.

    As for finishing soon -- I'm so close I can taste it. I've started recruiting some other mystery artists to draw pinups for the first issue. Shit just got real.

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  36. matt - The test renders you have up on your blog look great -- are you going to post the final movie when it's all done? I love the character design, and the story's got a lot of personality. So many brilliant little touches (even the way the guy's nose pops out after he rubs his face). Wonderful stuff!

    Thanks for the kind comment, Matt. Good luck with your next project!

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  37. ezobel - Thanks a lot, Ezobel!

    If you've already got a book self-published, it's you who should be blogging! Congratulations on getting something finished. Is there someplace online where I can see how it came out? Your blog is fairly minimalist right now, though I did enjoy your post entitled "test test test." Stirring.

    Thanks again for saying hi!

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  38. wow thanks Nate, its great to hear feedback on my stuff, the fact that you went to the effort of checking out my blog really means alot, your awesome man. Actually i worked on the film with a partner, it was from quite a while back in my last year of uni. It sort of got 'finished', although some renders werent completed, and despite my desire to finish it off, i guess life got in the way, it stayed as it was. But i am happy with how it turned out. I havent put it online anywhere though it was screened at a few festivals.

    Thanks for the comments on the story, making the film was such a fun thing, super hard and stressful, but fun. As you would know, combining story and art is such a satisfying thing, if you enjoy both and believe in and care about the story you are trying to tell. Adding in those little details and touches are the real fun part :) Since then ive worked in games and now work freelance, and its been tough finding the motivation to pursue my own projects, and hard to avoid the feeling that i am just churning out artwork.

    Your blog is a breath of fresh air, someone taking initiative to just create. You've set a creative goal and are well on your way to achieving it, and showing/telling the process and thoughts behind it is something you should be commended for.

    I will be keenly following your blog sir :)
    Matt

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  41. lunabird - Yeah, our Capitol Hill is only half-accurate, in that it is a hill. Yours, I might add, is also only half-accurate, but it's the other half. We should get our two Capitol Hills together somehow. Perhaps the next time I visit D.C., I can bring a spoonful of dirt from my Capitol Hill with me. Actually, that's probably not a good idea. Capitol Hill dirt probably has enough drugs in it to get me arrested at the airport.

    Just going out on a limb here -- that particular combination of words probably got me on some kind of watch list.

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  42. Matt - It's great that you enjoyed the process as much as you did -- a lot of people forget why they got into art in the first place and it ends up feeling like work. That joy of creation you felt is evident in the film. And it's infectious!

    I hope you harness that passion and make some more cool stuff soon!

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  45. 每次看完你的文章,總是回味許久,要經常發表喔。..................................................

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  47. Hey Nate,
    It's been a long time since I stopped in to say hey. Glad to hear you've taken a leap like a studio rental. Sounds like a very promising addition to the motivational toolkit. I hear you about exercise. As I sit here feeling like a flabby mush bag trying to push through more concept work with one heck of a sore neck and lower back. Also, I agree that exercise breeds motivation, thus I read your blog rather than tackle the difficulty of deciding if a rat is too dark or too light. Seems I haven't reached the point of commitment yet personally to integrate regular exercise into my own motivational toolkit. Anyhow. I ramble. Great post as usual and best of luck with all the finishing touches on issue 1.

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  48. corey - It seems like most comic guys have chronic back and neck pain, including me. The cycling has definitely helped with that. Justin (one of my studio-mates) had a special drawing table built that lets him stand while he works. He seems pretty happy with it.

    Good luck with your rats!

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