009: Fire in the Belly
In which we discuss Creative Discipline and why you need it
Housekeeping….Button update: I will ship the first batch of buttons by Wednesday the 25th. Prepping the shipping now…
There’s still a little time to get in on this run, I will disable the link sometime Tuesday night, so if you want them, grab some here.
HEY! What are you doing right now?
Honestly, when was the last time you picked up a pencil (or stylus) and drew something? For many of you, it’s been a while. This is just your friendly reminder to….
draw. every. damn. day.
I’ll let you in on a little secret…
There’s one big factor that sets artists apart.
It can mean the difference between being a pro, or a hobbyist.
It’s True Discipline.
Your art may be amazing, but maybe you get frustrated, or feel confused when an artist who draws in a simple style, even stick figures, becomes more successful. Maybe you’ve been grinding for ages and a newcomer pops in and skyrockets beyond anything you’ve done in 20 years.
Let me pause there a minute and remind you…
You should learn to never feel that way. Envy is poison.
When I say “we’re all in this together”, I mean it.
Our work is so devalued in the world, that we only do ourselves an injustice when we tear fellow artists down. Be mindful of this…. okay, back to the topic at hand…. DISCIPLINE!
The difference between that person and you is…
You make your own luck.
You might say, well, these creators just got lucky. No.
It’s discipline that makes the luck happen.
I’m not talking about hustle culture here. That can get very toxic and lead to burnout. No human being should work non-stop. I’m talking about working smarter, and with purpose.
It might sound romantic, or energizing or maybe terrifying, when you hear about a legend like Jack Kirby who could crush 5-6 pages a day, or come back with a full issue after weekend. New characters and all.
“One Piece creator Eiichiro Oda is known for his work ethic. He claims to only sleep from 2:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m., take no time off, and work on his manga for basically all his waking hours. Since launching the series in 1997, Oda has only rarely put the manga on hiatus to take care of himself.
Some people just quit when they hear that.
You need to know those creators are rarities— truth is, they worked smarter, with purpose AND could do so with great speed.
I guarantee you the speed came in the roots of applying creative discipline.
Stay humble. Be your own legend.
Nobody likes the guy who’s working out all the time and bragging about it or telling you what you have to do to get in shape or survive.
Once you are energized and seeing your own results, it’s easy to want to be able to share it with the world, or close friends you’d like to see succeed. But you should only offer advice like that if you’re asked. And you should only give it, it out if they are really ready to hear it.
Most are not.
Are you ready?
How I learned discipline
Back in the early 90’s, I was around 16 years old in Palm Springs, California, and daydreaming about “breaking in” to the comic industry. I met some writers at the local comic shop (Mike and Andy) who were in their 30’s. They needed artists for their spec scripts, and they humored me and collabed, even though my art wasn’t near ready for prime time.
These were my first real mentors in comics.
Andy really studied the craft of comics, and knew it well. He was the one who introduced me to the 9 panel grid layout of Dave Gibbons on Watchmen. It was the 1990's though, and I was super into the very “surface” and flashy Image Comics that were just coming out.
At that time, foolishly I admit now, I found masterpieces like Watchmen and The Dark Knight too dark and boring to look at. Andy insisted I study beyond the shiny surface of modern comics, and dive deeper into composition, timing and tone.
I would tell him I was totally going to study, but then I’d just go home and draw action pinups, or Spawn looking bad-ass.
One day he called me up randomly on a Sunday afternoon on the phone. Remember, this is the 90s, so you had no cell phones, Messengers or internet. Just good old fashioned wired phone.
“Hey what are you doing right now??”
Andy inquired. I said something to the effect of “just chilling”.
Andy was upset. He asked me if I had done the homework pages he wanted, and I was annoyed back at him and told him I just didn’t feel like it that day….
I remember him telling me that when I don’t feel like it is the best time to focus and do it.
He correctly said, if I couldn’t train myself to draw on command, how would I expect to ever make it in comics or be some big hotshot like the Image guys?
He told me that I should just go do something else and return his books to him.
“I thought you had the right stuff, but I guess I was wrong.”
His little reverse psychology / Jedi mind trick, worked like a charm.
I was mad at first, f#$ that old guy!
Just looking for free labor for his stupid scripts!
He’d never been published! Why should I listen to him!!….
Then the feeling sunk in….shoot, what if he’s right?
I’m not gonna make it. Is this all a pipe dream?
Then the realization set in.
He IS right.
At that very moment, I was just wasting time watching TV or playing Nintendo.
I was mad at myself.
After an hour of pouting and stewing, I pulled out some bristol board and tools and I went to work.
I drew his stupid pages, and the next day I walked up the street and hand delivered them and returned his books. He just smiled and said ‘what took you so long?’
After that, I was continuously doing regular sample pages for submissions. I was also helping those guys work out their scripts for pitches to publishers. I totally was not ready for prime time at the age of 16 or 17. My art still sucked.
They had to have known that I wasn’t ready, and they worked with me anyways. Not out of desperation, but because they saw something IN me. The fire in the belly.
What about you?
Do you put off to tomorrow what you could do today?
Instead, learn to draw. every. damn. day.
This week’s prompt CAMPFIRE. Draw it as you wish. Maybe it’s roaring bonfire. Maybe it’s smoldering embers. Maybe there are cowboys or campers? Tag #drawordiechallenge so I can find it!
When I say you should draw every damn day, I don’t mean it has to be a masterpiece. It’s about the action and routine. Here are _ quick things you can do to draw daily in just minutes.
#1 Do a SCRIBBLE CHALLENGE. You can do these anywhere, in minutes. See how I do it here.
#2 Quick life drawing / gesture draw. Use QUICKPOSES.COM to do timed sketching or challenges. THIS is what makes you truly fast. You’ll be like Oda in no time. 😂
#3 Post and review. Even if it’s on a private instagram or portfolio, keep your quick drawings and gestures so you can look back and see where you’ve improved. The more you draw fast
#4 Flesh it out. You might scribble a little pose during a lunch break that looks interesting. Draw it again and flesh it out into something bigger.
#5 Re-Draw . Go back through your old sketches, and re-draw something again.
Do one of those every. damn. day.
It’s back to the drawing board for me...and I hope for you as well.