For those who don't know, I've been doing recap comics for Riot Australia summarizing the events of the OPL (you should really watch the OPL by the way --> oce.lolesports.com). I've been doing it 2 splits now, and since the 2nd split just concluded and they're off to the Wildcard Qualifier, I figured why not look at the first one side by side with the latest one and try to draw out a few observations on How To Be A Better Artist.
The difference, I'm sure you can tell, is noticeable.
First of all I got a lot better at doing action-sequences - you occasionally saw that in the LCS recap comics I managed to get done this split, too. But I also got a lot more creative with my framing, angles and composition, as well as my storytelling pacing and draftsmanship (a fancy word for sketching).
Which brings me to what I really wanted to talk about: How To Be A Better Artist. This advice isn't from the mouth of a reclusive mountain guru who has communed for a hundred years with the muses of art, it's just a few observations from a working artist that might help you out.
- BE PATIENT WITH YOUR PROGRESS
Progress as an artist is fickle, and it doesn't always happen smoothly. For a lot of people what'll happen is they'll stagnate for months and months and be frustrated, then suddenly have a breakthrough and experience a lovely period of improvement, followed by more stagnation and frustration. This is okay. This is normal. Be patient with it, even if you don't FEEL like you're getting better, you're gathering those EXP points. Hang in there and you'll level up.
- BE CONSISTENT; BE DESPERATE; BE UNDER PRESSURE
Okay, caveat, I'm about to argue that a certain level of stress and pressure is good for your work, but PLEASE, if you can, put your mental health first and never feel as though being overworked and miserable is the "right" way to be an artist. PRACTISE SELF-CARE. TAKE BREAKS. DO NOT HURT YOURSELF. Alright? Good. Anyway, pressure and desperation is good for you and you should seek it out, within moderation.
OPL Rewind is a challenge because I'm under contract with Riot AU and I must deliver. My contact at Riot has the patience of a blessed saint (I know, I've tested it often enough), but ultimately I made a legal commitment to produce a recap comic of the games of the week, every week. And sometimes those games are amazing and dramatic and memetic and it's easy to figure out the beats of how it should go, but much more often I ended up staring at a blank 3200x18000px canvas quietly screaming in my head because I had no freaken idea how to turn any of what had happened into a visual narrative. And then I went ahead and did it anyway. Because I have a deadline, and it is non-optional.
We often think of creativity as something emotional, something that happens naturally or not at all. We think of it as something that can't be forced or coerced, but which must be gently invited into your head with tea and mood-music and a stress-free environment. This, like so many things, is a load of bollocks. Creativity and art are skills, like carpentry or civil engineering. Yes, many of history's great artworks were produced by sensitive souls in the grip of senseless creative euphoria, but that is not the only way. Put yourself under a deadline, be consistent, and BE OKAY IF WHAT YOU COME UP WITH ISN'T PERFECT. This will kill a lot of the romance of art, perhaps, but it will make you work faster, smarter and better, and should the creative muse cast her spell of inspiration on you some gorgeous day, those skills will only help you realize your vision better.
- STEAL SHAMELESSLY
Okay another caveat is in order here: DO NOT STEAL OTHER PEOPLE'S WORK. Bad idea, also illegal, do not do it, please do not get arrested.
When I say an artist should steal, I'm not just stealing a quote from Pablo Picasso, I'm telling you not to lock yourself away from learning opportunities out of some sense that you're supposed to "figure it out on your own." Look at the OPL Rewinds above - I did not become better at action-framing and use of speedlines out of thin air. I read Dragon Ball, I read One Punch Man, Bleach, Spider-Man, Donald Duck comics and watched action films. And I looked at how those works use framing, how those works set up a punch and resolve it, how they lead into one another. I looked at how One Punch Man uses anatomical distortions and blur, I looked at how Dragon Ball poses its characters to convey speed and clashing. Again, never steal someone's ACTUAL WORK, but absolutely learn from their approach to art. Break down their work, take it apart to see how it's put together, and then incorporate what you learn into your own work.
What you should never do is get trapped by a feeling that you're meant to be figuring everything out on your own, that if you just sit down and go into your own head for long enough you can work it all out for yourself. You probably can, but it's not so much taking The Long Way Around as it is building an entirely new road around The Long Way Around to avoid accidentally stepping on someone else's faded footprints.
- JUST PRACTISE A LOT
This one sounds a lot easier than it is. Practise is difficult, frustrating and time-consuming. And it's the only way any of my other advice will make a damn bit of difference to your progress. Neil Gaiman once said the only way to write a novel is to sit down and put words on paper one after another until it is done. So it goes with art. Put the color on the canvas, and keep going until it is done. Not until it is perfect, just until it is done.
So yeah. Like most people who give advice, I don't always practise what I preach, and this list is as much a reminder to myself to do these things as they are tips for anyone else who happens to read it.
Still, it felt good to put the words down, one after another.