Hi. I'm TBSkyen and I draw stuff on this website.
I guess we knew that.
But I felt like I should reintroduce myself because Caster Comix this year have been so sporadic, it kinda feels like I haven't really "been" here at all. There's a few reasons for that. I don't keep it a secret that I suffer from intermittent anxiety and depression. It's not "bad," that is: my mental issues never seriously endanger my health and safety, but they can put a serious cap on the mental energy I have to devote to creative projects (or indeed ANY activity other than "functioning").
That's been part of why Caster Comix have been sporadic. It's also had to do with the LCS, my favourite esports broadcast, losing a bit of its lustre for me this year. You've heard this song and dance before on reddit, I'm sure: "I just don't feel like it's as fun and engaging," yadda yadda. The long and short of it is the dual stream setup and MASSIVELY INCREASED number of games being shown have stretched my free time to its very limits trying to keep up with it all, and it ended up becoming more of a chore than a treat.
Additionally, the LCS broadcast has only ever been getting better, slicker, more professional, and counterintuitive as it may seem that's actually made it harder for me to engage with it. Part of what got me into it in the first place was this sense of weird, niche, trailblazing thing that was figuring itself out as it went along. Also Joe Miller and Deman and Jason Kaplan. Ah, Jason... you were underappreciated in the LCS... *sighs*
So I've had to reformulate my relationship to it as "a thing", and find a new way to approach it as a subject of comics. That approach has, largely, defaulted to LCS Recap Comics, which itself ended up going stale for me by the time I had drawn my 58239th Hoodie Guy Running Against A Colored Background. I created the more cartoony, distinct mascot designs to make it more interesting to me to make comics about the LCS again, and it worked quite nicely. Mental health and other commitments kept me from really executing on it, but for June at least I managed a pretty decent stretch of daily comics, which was far more doable than I thought.
In all, 2016 has been a year of rediscovering my limits as a creative person. One of the VERY HARD limits I've run up against is my inability to do one thing at a time. It's commonly accepted wisdom that you should choose a task or project and commit to it and if you spread yourself too thin across multiple projects you end up doing none of them right.
I have been committed to that concept for, christ, decades now, and I think 2016 is the year when I finally started to understand that it's simply not true - at least not for me. I need diversity in my activities, I need to have projects going on, or else I burn out on whatever I'm working on. I'm someone who is tremendously vulnerable to distraction, and the best counter to that is to make sure that what's distracting me is another creative project and not, say, binging Dragon Ball Z Abridged on YouTube.
So I started a Star Guardians webcomic, and in the process started optimizing the Caster Comix site setup to allow for more comics and more creative projects at a time, doing a lot of under-the-hood work to get it ready for... well...
I want to understand my creativity better. I want to know what makes me tick, what gets me going, and which habits and patterns in my life are either helpful or a hindrance to it.
To that end, I'm going to be giving each month of 2017 a "theme," where I'll try altering some aspect of my normal routine to see what happens. The first of these will be No Fun January, which I will start January 3rd and (hopefully) run through to the end of the month. For the duration of January (or however long I manage to keep it going), I will be setting strict limits on my leisure time and available distractions: No gaming, no YouTube binging, no Netflix, no Reddit, no social media refreshing.
Now, I'm not setting any goals for productivity; no "comic a day" or exercise quotas. All I'm going to do is take away all my primary sources of distraction and procrastination and see what happens. Maybe I'll be productive, maybe my very humanity will slowly unspool before my very eyes. We'll see.
Depending on how it works and what I learn, I'll try a different theme next month - my working title for February is Full Force February, where I will be setting strict productivity- and exercise goals. We'll see how it shakes out. Hopefully I'll learn a lot more about myself and how my brain works re: creativity, and with a little luck we'll get a ton of nice comics and artwork out of it. My ultimate goal by the end of 2017 is to have developed a real working understanding of my creative process and how it really works, which hopefully will help me take more control of when and how my inspirations strike.
A Website Full of Comics
If you head over to the Other Comics section of the site, you'll see 3 things in there: Star Guardians, Tim & Craig and Depression Comix.
Tim & Craig hasn't updated in a dog's age (it needs a soft reboot) and Depression Comix are an experiment in venting when my mental state goes down in the dumps. I'm still doing some behind-the-scenes work to set everything up, but by the end of 2017, I want castercomix.com to have become a creative hub for my projects, rather than a website for esports comics with some side-projects skulking in the wings.
It's all very hush-hush tentative right now, but I'm working on reviving a couple of old projects, as well as a new one. Without promising too much, I can tell you there's two slice-of-life comics, a fantasy epic and a comic/novel hybrid about old Norse gods in the mix all sorta trying to get organized in my head. Exactly how I'll find the time to work on everything, I have no idea, but depending on how my monthly themes shake out I might be able to create a solid plan for putting it all together. No matter what, I want at least one of them off the ground and running by year's end.
I'm also considering maybe putting some funds towards commissioning artwork for my projects from other people. Which leads us neatly into talking about...
Panama (er, Patreon)
It's been neglected for a while now, the poor thing, and it's been steadily losing money because of it. I've still not really "figured out" Patreon, despite putting a substantial amount of work into testing out models for running the damn thing.
The primary problem of the thing is that to attract donors you're theoretically supposed to offer a bunch of exclusive content as rewards, but to get anyone interested in it in the first place you have to put out a ton of work for "free" to build interest and audience. So it becomes a weird double dip where the work you produce as rewards can't be used to attract more people, and the work you use to attract people can't be used as rewards, and no matter what you do some amount of your effort feels "wasted."
My current rewards model has not worked the way it was supposed to. The way it goes right now, if you support the Patreon you earn credits towards custom art commissions of your choosing - something which got a very positive response when I announced it. But, weirdly, almost nobody has used it. I have a rather substantial number of supporters on Patreon who have built up a TON of commission credit and never cashed in on it. My attempts to engage the Patreon supporters with Patreon-exclusive activities and art raffles have also largely fallen flat.
My hope was I'd be able to build up a Patreon community of people for whom I'd regularly create custom content, and that would finance my continued work on the more public projects, but that simply hasn't happened. Of course, my rather sluggish rate of output on the Caster Comix - which are, after all, the main attraction - certainly hasn't helped things. All of this is entirely on me.
Patreon is a circle I still don't know how to square, but come 2017 I'll be looking at overhauling the rewards system in cooperation with my Patrons, and hopefully finding a way to engage and attract people to support me more on the platform. I really really want it to be a good value proposition for everyone involved - I want it to be worth it supporting me, not just an act of support or charity.
- It was a spotty year for creativity, with some realizations made towards the end.
- 2017 will be the year of Theme Months, where I throw different modes of behaviour against the wall of productivity to see which one sticks.
- I'm going to be starting more creative projects, and focusing less on being dedicated to any one of them.
- Caster Comix will be just one project on castercomix.com instead of the main point of the side.
- I still don't know the right way to run my Patreon, but I'm going to continue trying to figure it out.
Have a happy new year, and I'll see you in 2017 where hopefully people will stop dying entirely and US internal politics will have no negative ramifications on the world at large.