State of the Art: June 2020

My process for making comics isn’t at all consistent, despite all the time I’ve spent working on them. Every time I start a project, I change up my approach. The common denominator to all of them is how complicated I make things for myself in the name of appearing and feeling “professional”. I often get in my own way by changing my own goal posts time and time again, and I get down on myself for not meeting these standards that no one is putting on me but myself.

It’s got to the point that I get so wrapped up in the process of how comics “should” be done that I psych myself out and the damn thing never gets made.  It happens even with simple one-page journal comics; though the process for these pages is probably the most consistent out of everything I’ve done. Start with a new page in my Canson mixed-media 7″x10″ sketchbook, measure out the margins and the horizontal gutters, sketch out the vertical gutters, ink the panels, sketch the comic itself, ink the speech bubbles, ink the comic, scan the comic, fix it up in CSP, and maybe splash on some color. Easy, right? Even so, I have a difficult time working up the gumption to just start.

One of the most expressive comics I’ve made in past years was from about five years ago. I was still teaching at an awful conservative school up in Maine for less than minimum wage and with a joke of an art budget. I was pretty damn miserable one night and couldn’t figure out why. So, I made a cup of tea and grabbed my sketchbook to draw.

It’s still one of my favorites to date because of all the small moments where nothing is being said. There’s breathing room in this comic that I struggle to capture in my other comics. I wonder if it’s the loose, sketchy drawings, or if it’s that I didn’t use panels, or if it’s some other reason entirely. I’m not sure. But I engaged with making that comic in a way that I’ve since been reluctant to because it’s not “professional” enough. I have so many journal comics that have gone unmade due to this hangup, and I’m quite tired of it.

I’m going to work on figuring out a new way to engage with my journal comics that doesn’t serve as a hurdle to jump over. I want a process that allows me to just draw what I’m thinking or feeling without getting caught up in worries about how I’m perceived. I’ll get there!

Author: Katie McMahon

Katie is a comic artist and illustrator living in rural New Hampshire in a town mostly populated with elderly folks and roving gangs of sassy turkeys. She enjoys reading comics, playing board games and RPGs, drinking fair trade tea and coffee, discussing feminism and social justice, and cracking the best groan-worthy jokes the internet has to offer.

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