It’s not all bollocks!

The last week or so has been a bit of a creative non-starter for me. I feel like I’ve hit a bit of a block on Heads! and a few other things have dragged me down further in relation to it. But I’ve found a few ways of getting myself out of that frame of mind and back in the creative saddle.

I’m currently working on issue three of Heads! ahead of the second issue being released at the start of 2019. I was very excited about this particular issue, as it’s where the story expands, more characters are introduced and the key players really start to come into their own. But designing a new character and also a building whose appearance is essential to the plot (trust me…) turned out to be a taller order than I expected. It left me feeling a under confident in a lot of the artwork I was producing and as a result I lost all faith in everything I’d done with the issue. By this point I’d made significant progress with 11 pages of a 26 page comic. The thought of scrapping it all and starting again was about as desirable as the prospect of continuing with it as it was – in short, I was stuck where I was.

Luckily, I am not shy about showing things off, even if I’m not very happy with them. I appreciate that it can be hard to put your work out there and particularly to ask for criticism and advice. But rather than put things out publicly and ask for help, I chose my audience. I showed pages to my long suffering other half, who puts up with a hell of a lot of diva tantrums from me in general. She’s really good at pointing out if something isn’t working, and since she isn’t an artist she is a really good gauge for whether a reader will be as disappointed in a page as I may feel about. I went to my incredible artist friend Heather Chapman. We always show each other pieces of our work we love / hate and often illustrate together. Heather gave me some suggestions and considerations, while appreciating my gut feeling as an artist. I then showed my writer friend Craig Jex. He’s worked on comics projects with me and is also a filmmaker, so he’s a creative but not an illustrator and therefore was able to look at it all from a professional point of view but also as a reader.

I got a number of things from choosing these people.

  1. All three are nice people and would be truthful with me if they thought I had drawn something that wasn’t up to my usual standard.
  2. They all had different ideas for how I should approach a change. These ranged from changing the composition of an image to pointing out how the placement of a speech bubble could cover a non-essential detail that wasn’t quite right.
  3. They all pointed out the things they liked about the work I showed them as well as the things that could be improved.

It’s that last point that made the most difference, and is the thing I’d say is less likely to happen in a public arena. I got the criticism I needed but was buoyed up by hearing that the vast majority of what I had created was hitting the mark – or as Craig put it “You always pick something you don’t like and assume the whole issue is all bollocks. It’s not all bollocks!”

This really helped me move on with the issue. One particular page needed a re-think and having a bit of confidence back allowed me to experiment with some ideas and find a composition which is so much better. I know some people will think my choice of critics was too safe, but these people also know what I care about in my work. There’s loads of areas that my work could improve in, some of which I actively try to get better at and some of which I really don’t consider to be of importance. The people close to me know that I don’t want my work to look more like Jim Lee or J Scott Campbell, they know I don’t care about making things more hyper-realistic and that I find occasional continuity errors to be quite amusing things to definitely keep in. So, rather than point out lots of things like that, or looking for faults for the sake of it, they looked to see if the pages I showed them looked like good quality Rik Jackson comics pages, and they told me the good and the bad things that I needed to hear.

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