Making ofPosted by Kalle Wed, April 06, 2011 22:01:19
(Posted originally on May 27th, 2006)
I just saw the film “Metallica: some kind of monster” on DVD and that was... uplifting? Seeing multi-millionaire mega-heavy-metal gods struggling with their work was sort of consoling and inspiring. They’ve sold zillions of records over the course of 20 years, are adored around the globe, can play a three-hour set comprised entirely of metal masterpieces and still they have all these issues, catfights, lack of self-esteem and all that. If the giants have hard time pulling their stuff together, then it’s no wonder I’m having difficulties in making progress. It has to be admitted, they apparently had a whole lot of personal shit to deal with, which I don’t because I had a happy childhood and I don’t do drugs. I’m a difficult person only because I like to consider myself some kind of genius, whose (undone) work is tragically unappreciated.
Another thing, I thought after the film: with music you’re in the moment, you don’t think about three songs further down the line, you just play and everything is revealed to you and your audience as it is done. Not so with comics. That’s probably why this feels so frustrating so often. Clearly frustration is a central theme in these writings of mine, but that’s just so ever-present in the comic-drawing process. You get your idea and want to do something about it, but it’s nowhere near completion and making it comprehensible to anyone else isn’t really fun, like playing guitar is. Drawing comics isn’t at all as immediate as, for instance, playing music. I get all kinds of other ideas while I’m drawing and start to panic, because I’m sure I’ll forget the idea while I’m drawing. Ideas are such elusive sons of bitches. Once I saw this billboard at the airport: there was a beach and somebody had written in the sand “I am your idea. Someday I will be gone”. The high tide was already threatening the letters. Now, it was an advertisement for some stupid consulting company, but it scared the living bejesus out of me. Actually, I think it was more of a reminder that I still haven’t worked on my stuff and if I don’t start with it soon, somebody else will do the exact same thing, or I’ll just get tired with the whole thing and wind up dealing with yet another unfinished project. It’s just... it’s just so unfair that you spend a whole week producing a two-page comic, which can be read in three minutes.
Making ofPosted by Kalle Wed, April 06, 2011 22:00:07
(Posted originally on May 27th, 2006)
The slow pace keeps on bothering me. Especially when I re-read The Amateur Gourmet's 1000th post about how to start a food blog. He says - and I believe it - that the key to creating a succesful food blog is to update often, preferably daily, if possible. Given the amount of time it takes me to draw a single page, it just can't be done.
But maybe I should cut myself some slack. As you may know, there are plenty of web comic sites, which are updated daily, but those are predominantly black-and-white strip comics with 1-4 panels each. That makes 6-24 panels a week (on Sunday you don't work). Then an average comic of mine with some 10-24 panels pretty much represents a week's worth of comics (especially if they are in colour). So, a one-two page story a week wouldn't be nothing to be ashamed of. If it only were so... No, I'm not starting that discussion again, you've heard it all before.
One possibility to increase the updating frequency could be a build-up. To publish the stories three-four panels a day. Not the most elegant way to do it, since I don't do my comics in handy, semi-independent strips, but it could force some readers to check the page every day for further development in the story. In the near future I might structure some stories to be easily "buildable" and see if it works.
Making ofPosted by Kalle Wed, April 06, 2011 21:52:08
(Posted originally on May 10th, 2006)
I've finally realized something about comics and why many of them are drawn in a rather simple manner. The single most troublesome and work-intensive issue about making comics is drawing the same faces and bodies all over again, from different angles. That's why it is very hard to keep a face somewhat similar to the one presented in the first panel it appeared. And the difficulty of drawing people in varying angles and face expressions easily tempts the cartoonist to use very simple figures, like in Peanuts, Dilbert or almost any other popular strip (interestingly, the makers of Modesty Blaise seemed to have solved this problem by having every female character look quite similar to Modesty and every male look like Willie).
It's the faces that are most difficult to draw. That's why even some otherwise very impressive comics tend to have very simply drawn people. Like Tintin: the houses, cars, airplanes and such are drawn with great detail, but the characters - most notably the hero himself - aren't quite as complex in their physical appearance. Don't get me wrong, I'm not dissing Hergé or Tintin here, I love the comics, but I'm just stating... a fact?
Naturally, not all comics have cartoony people. Like Lieutenant Blueberry, for instance. I just don't get it how Giraud could have produced all those stories with such a fine artwork. Hard Boiled (drawn by Geof Darrow) is another one. I might not be great fan of the story itself, but the sheer amount of skill and work that has been put into those albums is plainly stunning.
Where am I getting with this? Nowhere. It's just that I got a bit frustrated the other day and was cursing the repetitiousness and the difficulty of drawing different expressions on the same faces. Not that I mean to imply that my characters have complex features, it's more like, I'm not smart enough to create characters with clear features that are easy to mold and reproduce. Anyways, in my frustration I realized why most comics look the way they do: to make drawing them easier. It's just a bit weird that I haven't given this much thought earlier. Now I'll start studying faces and expressions and hands and all the different ways you can bend your body, as well as trying to create faces with recognizable and easily copied features. And then learn to pay attention to those features and stick to them.
Making ofPosted by Kalle Wed, April 06, 2011 21:38:30
(Posted originally on May 5th, 2006)
This is so far the low point of Mostly About Food. Updating once a month, what's that supposed to mean? Not once a week, as intended, not even twice a month. One comic in April and then another one a month later... Well, yeah, I was on vacation around Easter and worked on some other comics and other features for this site, but still.
Maybe I wouldn't be as disappointed with myself if much of my time away from the drawing board had not been dedicated to a certain character named Snake. You see, he is the star of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, which is a video game I got a couple of months ago and can't let go of it. Now I've played it through twice and the urge isn't all that strong anymore, but it's not completely gone. It's a great game, I can't understand why I didn't get it straight away when it came in 2004. Then it wouldn't have disturbed my drawing activities now.
Why am I explaining this to you? Being smart and sensible people with intelligent hobbies, you don't even know who Snake or what a Metal Gear is. I guess I have to admit that I'm a geek. Or if not a geek - I have no interest in or understanding of any kind of technology - but a freak. Yes, I'm a freak and I like to play. Games are fun.
Making ofPosted by Kalle Wed, April 06, 2011 21:19:05
(Posted originally on Apr 22nd, 2006)
Now I feel like I should draw another “Unforgivable Inactivity”, since there hasn’t been much action on the site and the latest update did not work properly for quite a while. However, this time I don’t feel quite as guilty, since I have been on holiday without access to the Internet. Not being able to update and correct the unsuccessful publishing of The Exploding Omelette doesn’t mean that I haven’t been working on the site. On the contrary, I have been drawing new comics and preparing the launch of my Worldwide Food Comic Awareness Campaign. No, I’m not going to give you any more details about that. You will learn all about it in due course, at least if it is successful.
Making ofPosted by Kalle Wed, April 06, 2011 20:38:32
(Posted originally on Apr 3rd, 2006)
I don’t remember when exactly I got the idea of opening a food comic blog. I did have a bunch of ideas for a cookbook, which I’ve been developing for the last 5 years, but it wasn’t going anywhere. I also had some ideas for 50-150 pages long comic albums, but drawing those would have been way too work-intensive. Drawing comics – at least with my technique – is quite cumbersome: you brainstorm for ideas, then try to arrange the ideas to some kind of a manuscript, pencil a sketch on an A4, then pencil a more detailed page on an A3, ink it, text it, erase the pencil marks, make some final corrections and then you have one page ready. The thing is, I’ve lost my interest to the story when the first sketch is done and then I start to think about new stories. Yes, I’m a starter, not a finisher. Given my short attention span, three to four panel comic strips would suit me better, but I don’t have any funny ideas for three panels at time, one strip every week. Which is sad, because that - I assume - would be the best way to get your comics to newspapers and thus getting paid for your hobby.
Then I got the idea of illustrating the cookbook. Or turning it entirely into a comic, which again would have been problematic for the reasons stated above. I guess the big picture got formed after my encounters with two things: the Global Comic Jam and a bunch of food blogs, which I stumbled across in late summer 2005. I found GCJ after reading a newspaper article about it and the guy running the page seemed to have a similar kind of problem as I: too lazy to draw an entire album. Unlike him, I wasn’t keen on the idea of letting somebody else modify my stories, but – as ridiculous as it may sound now – I took the idea of slowly building up a story (or many stories) on a website as groundbreaking. By publishing one page a week the tediousness of the project would be decreased, since each page would be a milestone in itself (as opposed to needing to finish the last page, before anybody would see any of it). Also, the inevitable and sudden rush of readers to my website would create enough push for me to keep on updating the site with approximately one page a week. I still find it hard to accept that I had not come to think about it before.
Then I started reading food blogs. I had in my ignorance dismissed blogs as some kind of diaries, where attention-craving women complain about their boyfriends and how they munch too much chocolate. So I never got into the blog thing before I saw an article about the most interesting blogs covering this and that topic. I clicked further to the Accidental Hedonist and found it all very fascinating. Not only did I get hooked on the blog itself, but I realized that I could work on a whole range of small stories by blogging – that the story wouldn’t need to be linear, just write whatever you feel like and then something else next week. Return to any given story or character whenever you feel like it. Also, the great amount of food blogs sort of convinced me that there could be a demand for my comics as well.
With these two revelations it didn’t take me long to brainstorm my own food comic blog. In a couple of months I had expanded my cookbook script and written down ideas for at least 200 pages. I had over 20 different categories or issues to cover. Some of the storylines could easily yield more than ten stories. There would be recipes, short stories with link to recipes, shopping notes, product tests, restaurant reviews and all that kind of stuff that food blogs have. Some of the comics would be funny, others would just have a feel-good atmosphere in them: easy, witty comic infortainment. My goal was to open the website with ten one to two page comics by the end of January 2006.
Of course, I fell far away from that goal, not that much time-wise, but very badly material-wise. By now, my drawing method had turned even more time consuming: write the script, draw a sketch to figure out the size and placement of the panels, pencil each panel on A4’s with pre-printed borders, draw over with black pens and magic markers, erase pencil marks, scan to computer with one panel at time, colour the pictures (that’s a really slow process), resize and assemble them, draw speech bubbles and add text. Not quite as straightforward, as I would like it, but so far I haven’t been able to figure out a smarter way to do it. Buying a USB drawing pad might help.
So, I decided to lower my expectations and opened the site with two comics, layout being a bit more ascetic and amateurish than intended, no links and no title (which wasn’t fixed until last week; great big thanks to Ninette for helping me out). Well, at least it was a start. Not that I’ve gotten all that much further from that, but at least the site is sort of running. The next steps are to find readers whom I don’t know and who don’t yet know me, to improve the layout, add the ability for readers to comment the comics and to make the page googleable. It is a bit discomforting to key your name or the name of your website in Google and not being awarded any links to said site. Fix, fix, fix. Sadly, I am not very experienced in DTP, so all this will require a lot of time, studying and assistance.
All in all, I really hope that this website will turn into something. By “something” I don’t necessarily mean 10 000 hits a day, steady income from the ads and a book deal with a great big advance (although I wouldn’t mind any of these). I just want it to become something that I can be proud of and that will keep me drawing food comics at a steady pace, which hopefully would improve my skills both as a comic artist and as a food enthusiast. Ah, well, time will tell.