Category Archives: Kool Aid Gets Fired

The Power of Doodling

I love doodling. I find it to be a great activity that allows an artist to let thought flow more freely. Whenever I have the chance to doodle in prep for an illustration, I always find the end results to be richer and more detailed. Story elements also creep in. My visual language to express a character expands.

For cartooning, I think doodling is a valuable exercise. Kool Aid Gets Fired came from a doodle of Kool Aid having a moment of existential crisis. Many of my background characters come from doodles in sketchbooks. I doodle something that I feels really captures the visual essence of what you might think such a person looks like. When I drew the little guy down in the right hand corner, I thought he looked like an everyday background office worker, someone who pretty much comes in, does their job, and goes home.

His final incarnation in Kool Aid he had glasses. But the basic idea for what many of my office workers would look like came from this doodle. To me (and everyone is going to see different), it says, he’s been at his job not just years, but a few decades. Not fully beaten down, but definitely a corporate cog that knows his place.

As contrasted by this doodle, who I always thinking of as Ken Newman, bright, shiny, energetic, looking for ways to make a change and improve things. Often I will take a doodle and expand on it, working out how the character might look expressing different emotions.

Sometimes a character from a doodle ends up in a full illustration. I’m not sure if I specifically used the person on the left in the drawing on the right. The one on the left was a women who got onto the train with her chello and bags and insisted on squeezing into the space. I was trying out some new brushes in Painter for this. Clearly the way I drew the head stuck in my head for the crowd scene I drew.

When I worked in offices, often my meeting handouts would end up covered in doodles. Often they were of co-workers.

I think that moving forward, I’m going to devote some time to just doodling each week. No specifics, no goal, just a journey.

Expectations

If there is one thing I wish I could just beam into someones understanding is not to expect anything in terms of freelancing. More so, don’t expect anything to just suddenly be the thing that changes everything! Even the person who seems to become an overnight sensation didn’t just pick up a pencil, and the most amazing illustrations or comics come flying out.

Doing something that is successful, is great. It really makes you feel like it was worth it. Take Kool Aid Gets Fired, my comic. I did that 4 years ago, and it’ still doing well. A local comic store has probably sold close to 70 copies. For a mini comic, that’s actually pretty amazing. Add to other stores that sell it and when I do conventions, I’ve sold quite a lot of copies. All the reviews of it have been very favorable, save for one.

It even got written up in Pop Candy, an online column that’s part of USA Today. This translated into about 480 visits to my site, and 7 sales. But that’s fine. I haven’t gotten any jobs because of Kool Aid. But that’s fine as well.

I’m working on a Kickstarter Project. Our goal was first $1500. We got that in 3 days, so expanded the scope of the project, and in the end, we needed $2,250, and ended up raising over $4,300. Not bad.

Each time I have a success, it makes me feel great. But I don’t have any expectations that it’s the one thing that will suddenly open the flood gates to never having to fight for work, or better clients.

I do hear some illustrator friends talk about how frustrating it is that something they did, which still gets lots of attention, hasn’t brought in any additional work by catching someone’s eye. Yeah, that happens. With the Kickstarter, a few friends would suggest that maybe they could do something like that, only what they wanted was to basically get paid to draw. Kickstarter doesn’t work that way. You need a clear focused goal. Not just, I want money to do my webcomic/blog/take pictures and post them.

The fact is, you should be doing all that stuff because you want to. That you can’t go a day without drawing/writing/taking photos. Sometimes you have too, but the desire should be there.

In some ways, you shouldn’t have any expectations of what you will get from doing something, other then what you are doing. If you are writing a novel, you do want it published. But your expectations should be just to end up with a novel when you are finished. When i do an illustration, that’s all I’m going for. Same with a comic. Yes, sometimes I have flights of fancy. But I don’t ever think, Man this is the Graphic Novel that is going to change the format for ever. Why I might even get a Pulitzer Prize!

Heck I don’t even think, people are really going to love this! I just think, Wow! I wrote and drew a whole Graphic Novel! That’s amazing in and of it’s self, considering how often people fail to do anything.

They say it takes about 12 years, as a freelancer, to get to the point where you can call the shots on what kind of projects you want to work on, or pitch your idea’s for your own projects. Along the way, they estimate 80% of people taking this road in life, give up at some point, because it’s just to frustrating.

I keep that in mind when after finishing some huge project, suddenly find myself with nothing to do. At that point, my expectations are to simply keep drawing and pushing my talent and skills to the next level.

Just when you thought you were done…

So, the last entry, I showed some goblins standing in a field near a forest. I thought the illustration was done, and sent it out to some friends for opinions. For the most part, they agreed it’s there, but that I could push it a little more. So I did. Here are the two versions, and the second version, I agree is much better.

However, The top one is closer to style of this illustration:

I wanted to stay closer to this flatter style of illustration. I did find myself getting more and more detailed as I worked on the goblins. Take the sleepy goblin in the back on the right hand side, he’s leaning against his spear. I had to go back and flatten his face some, because the level of lighting and details I had on it were more realistic in style then say the goblin sitting on the rock.

And I certainly feel that the grass moves much farther away from the style below.

Not that I think the after version is a failure. I love it. I’m glad I took those extra steps and pushed it even more. The far right goblin, picking his nose, I think his feet and legs are awesome. They have a real sense of space, direction and shape. I love the sitting goblin, his face, the legs. I feel I managed to really make each goblin have character.

What is lacking is any sense of story, as they are just standing around by some trees. So, now I have an idea to do a second drawing of these goblins around a camp fire, as if bedding down for the night. It will also let me do some lighting from a strong source, as I’m working to expand my skills and learn something about light and coloring.

NYCC

So, NYCC has come and went. I shared a booth with several friends, and even did my first panel, which turned out better then I hoped. It was at 6:30 Saturday, we walked over around 6, and got there 15 minutes early. There was a large crowd waiting to get in. We asked if they were here for the panel, and they were, and I got nervous. It was a lot of people. So many in fact, it became standing room only, and people got turned away.

But everything turned out great, and I got some good laughs, and after people said I was really funny and did a great job.

I had decent sales for the show. Last year, which was actually in February of 2009, I sold more books in less time. I made the cost of being in the con back and then some. So another good thing.

A person who works for Diamond distributors asked if I had any thing more then Kool Aid, because she thought my sense of humor was really great and wicked, but that mini’s are a hard sell for them. Which I totally understand. She gave me her card and said when I have something ready, to get in contact with them.

I didn’t get to go to the Marvel party for freelancers, it was invite only, and I didn’t know the people you had to talk to personally to get an invite. Besides, having only done one 8-page story, I might have felt like a gate crasher, with more experienced freelancers there.

The week after the con has been good too. I got several direct orders for Kool Aid, one of which was because it was reviewed on Pop Candy. I wouldn’t be surprised if most of the orders where because of that site, since they all came on the same day, the day the review hit. I will send her a thank you, as it’s important to let people know what they did had an impact.

I also got another re-order from a store for Kool Aid. I love reorders, it means the store feels they can keep selling them.

And then X Magazine asked if they could get a copy of KAGF to review in their magazine. I said sure, and asked if a PDF would be better, which they said yes, because it helps them with tight deadlines. So wooosh! Off goes the PDF. Note to people, have a decent but manageable file size PDF of your work that you can send for just such a thing.

I would have been happy to send a printed copy, I do set so many aside just for that. But I always offer a PDF. One it makes it them not have to wait for the actual book, there is no postage, and if they want to run art, they can use the actual PDF for some decent printable art.

So if you don’t know how to make PDFs, I suggest finding a friend or person that can, and asking them for help, and then offer a little something, because setting it up correctly and all that, takes time.

I do love doing these shows, to see what comes out from them, other then sales. If you are doing these shows to make money, prepared to be disappointed much of the time. If you do them for fun, or a little vacation if you travel far, then whatever you get out of them is a bonus.