Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The points system

It takes a certain brand of crazy to attempt the daily cartooning route. The need to constantly produce - and produce work of quality - brings with it quite a bit of stress. All it takes is one bad day to throw a daily cartoonist into the downward spiral of schedule slip, and I'd been tempting that fate for a long time.

I had gotten into a bad habit. Instead of running a healthy comic buffer, I left script problems bog me down and reduce me to day-to-day cartooning. For most of the past month, it was not uncommon for me to START drawing the comic at 9pm for a 12am deadline. I can think of at least two times when I made it with less than five minutes to spare, one time my internet went out on me at 11:30pm without my comic uploaded and, of course, the times I had to put out an uncolored comic at midnight. Not only was that method of production risky, but the constant working without a net led to stress and a few rush jobs that were not fully developed.

But this is the new, productive Chrispy at work now! I'm making a conscious effort to restore myself to old glory and push even farther into awesomeness. It's time to bring order back to the chaos that my production process had become.

The problem with doing a comic start-to-finish every day is that you have to work on all comic levels at the same time, and that's usually not how artistic types work. We are moody folk. Sometimes we are full of ideas, so we should spend our time scripting and not wasting that momentum in the tedium of drawing layouts. Conversely, sometimes the brain is full of static and doing a less-creative task like lettering or inking is best to restore order. Sometimes all you want to do is draw for hours with nothing else dragging you down. Sometimes the thought of coloring a comic seems unbearable because it means moving to the computer in the bedroom and not being able to watch playoff hockey during that time. All cartoonist have that problem.

My solution of the moment is to introduce a point system. I break down the comic process into four steps: Scripting, penciling, inking and coloring. Every time I accomplish one of those steps, I give myself a point. Four points equals one successful comic made. Every additional point means the building of the buffer that is vital to this process' success!

The second I have a buffer, I have given myself the flexibility and breathing room to use the system properly. If I don't have to complete a comic that day, I can focus on whatever my strength of the moment is.

For example, Tuesday was a penciling day. I penciled four comics and did the layouts for four others. Monday the goal was coloring the three strips I had inked on Sunday. All this was set up by a massive scripting/drawing session on Saturday. On my desk right now are three inked strips ready for coloring, one strip ready for inking and four strips ready for penciling. There is a text file forever open on each of my computers to catch all script ideas I have. I have options! It's been MONTHS since I had options!

The best part about having options is having less stress. I don't stop at four points anymore. When doing a full comic a day, the final posting seemed like the end of the job. I would go off and do something else, sick of cartooning for the day. By working on what I want to work on, I keep pressing on. I did my four points of penciling today and pressed on with inking the strips because I was excited about the process.

The more points you get, the more everyone wins. I'm trying to keep this momentum as long as I can, because if I can get it fed the glory of the past shall be reclaimed. The more buffer produced with Precocious, the more side projects I can pursue, the more focus I can give to positive things like catching up on my reading and writing inane blog posts that go on forever while proclaiming the obvious as if it was something just invented!

Like I said, everyone wins.

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