Friday, July 29, 2011

Unmanned While Manning

It takes the same amount of effort to make bad art as to make good art, and you won't know which you've made until you release it into the wild. You can continue to refine a work until it doesn't set off your own quality alarms, but that's no guarantee that what you've made will touch anybody. A lot of artists, including many of the best ones, don't particularly care whether their art is "good" or whether anybody else appreciates it. Regrettably, I am not one of those artists.

The way that I deal with this uncertainty is to assume that everything I make is bad, which prevents me from being surprised by negative criticism. But a side effect of this stance is that I feel like a fraud when someone says something nice about my comic. That doesn't mean I won't revel in the attention -- I've developed quite a little addiction to praise. But I have trouble shaking the sense that the world will someday realize, en masse, that my work is crap.

All this is in my head right now because of the Eisner Awards. Last weekend, I flew down to San Diego to attend the event -- I'd been nominated for the Russ Manning Promising Newcomer Award, breaking a zero-nomination streak that had gone uninterrupted since the ninth grade. I shared a table with John Layman and Rob Guillory, the author and artist of Chew (who were both very nice and who went home with a well-deserved award for best continuing series).  My dad, my stepmom, and my wife came along, as well. Oh, my poor wife -- the Manning Award gets announced sometime near the end of the third hour of the ceremony, which meant that she was faced with the marathon task of preventing the vibrating, sweaty ball of nervous tension to which she was married from melting down. By the time the Manning rolled around, I caught myself wishing that I'd be spared the horror of having to go up on stage in front of so many people.

And then I won. Whew. My heart speeds up a little just typing that.

Well, I didn't trip on the stairs on my way up to the stage. That was my biggest worry, so I was already feeling pretty good by the time Chris Bailey handed me the award. It was so bright at the podium that I couldn't really see the audience, which was probably for the best. I don't really remember what I said. I'm told that many attendees were preoccupied with a clothing-related mystery -- I wore a white shirt and black tie, but I'd forgotten to pack a white t-shirt to go underneath, so at the last second I borrowed a Threadless t-shirt that I'd given to my dad. I'd turned it inside-out, hoping that the writing on the front wouldn't show through two layers. Alas, those lights were probably bright enough to penetrate to my skeleton, so the giant hi-def screens treated everyone to a dim message that read, in reverse, "I listen to bands that don't even exist yet."

The applause felt great. Famous people came up to me and shook my hand. My parents beamed with pride. My wife looked happy. It was an amazing moment.

And then right back to the self-doubt. In case you're wondering whether getting an award like that changes how you feel about yourself, let me share the insider's perspective: it doesn't. You think to yourself, "all I did was make 25 drawings. One measly issue. I do not deserve this." And now former Russ Manning winners have begun to tell me that I've made some sort of promise to the world to be awesome. Yikes. Perhaps not coincidentally, the frequency with which I've been asked what's going on with issue #2 has peaked.

I really hope the second issue lives up to peoples' expectations. But what I would like even more is to have the fortitude not to care. I look around me and I see other artists who create as easily as they breathe. And though I'm sure they all enjoy receiving attaboys, they'd be drawing exactly the same stuff even if the whole world told them they were talentless hacks. I'm not sure I can say the same.

Here are some of those artists, by the way:

Eric Canete. I know I mentioned him before. I'm mentioning him again. Just browse his DeviantArt gallery and feel the rock and roll.



James Harren. His sketchbook. My God, his sketchbook.





Little Thunder. The awesomeness of her name is only superseded by the awesomeness of her art. I really hope she gets published here in the States. I need more of this.

Little Thunder Drawing



I heard about this Merwan guy yesterday. Wow. If anybody has any links to a blog or gallery, I'll post them here.





Jordi Bernet! Also heard about him yesterday. Yesterday was a good day.



Cory Walker! What a lovely, economical line. And the proportions. And the feel! You may remember his work from Invincible, also drawn by the fantastic Ryan Ottley. I love them both.





Here's some new Ottley for you:



That's probably good for now.

Issue 2 is happening. Hopefully not too long now.

14 comments:

  1. That's just awesome. I don't know why you're so hard on yourself! Congrats!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Although I can't speak for the award ceremony part, I think I know how you feel.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I've been collecting comics for way more years than I should have and I can tell you the death of EVERY title for me was--in order--infrequent output, bad story, then bad art.

    I'm not worried about book two; I'm worried about the last book.

    Congrats! Go draw.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Throw away the doubt - you're one of the greatest! (And those who appreciate your work will wait for each issue to take the time it needs.)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Congratulations sir, it is well deserved!

    ReplyDelete
  6. I just submitted a quote from this blog post to "Quotes on Design," and it was accepted and published. I so enjoy your insightful blogging.
    http://quotesondesign.com/nate-simpson/

    ReplyDelete
  7. congrats on the award! just don't think about it if it stress you. :)
    you got an excellent taste man, i love the work of all those artists.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Nate, congratulations on the award. Be sure to read the Wikipedia article on "Impostor Syndrome". It won't cure you of self-doubt, but it's comforting to know that enough people feel the same way that there's a name for the experience. It's common in academia, and believe me, I know how you feel. Of course, *my* impostor syndrome is but a pale shadow of the hardcore impostor syndrome of my peers, and it's only a matter of time before they find out...

    Looking forward to Issue 2 (and there's nothing you can do to change that).

    ReplyDelete
  9. Thanks for the plug, Nate! If art comes as easy as breathing than I must be an asthmatic :)

    ReplyDelete
  10. wow love the styling here. very niiiiiiiiiiiceeeeeee

    ReplyDelete
  11. Congrats Nate. Just do what you love, and everything else will fall into place.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Hello, here is the blog of Merwan Chabane if you are interested: http://findufond.blogspot.com/
    I suggested you to also have a look to his animated shorts:
    http://vimeo.com/13545045
    http://www.catsuka.com/player/biotope

    ReplyDelete