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!