Get Off Your Butt and Make a Comic Strip

an Editorial by Kent Holle

One thing that’s common among comics fans is that a huge percentage of them want to be part of the action. Some feel they could be artists. Many more think they could try their hand at writing if they could just get their break. Well friends, I’m going to tell you the biggest teaching tool you could ever hope to have. Something that not only teaches discipline and skill, but adds to your portfolio; the daily comic strip.
 
When I was younger, I began a 5-times weekly strip in my local college paper and it was a huge learning experience for me. Let me tell you why in two parts:
 
Artists:

1.) Want to get to Carnegie Hall? Practice. Want to get better at drawing? Do a comic strip. Having to produce a new, finished piece of art every day will sharpen your skills like crazy. And if you are pushing yourself and not just doing it to get it done; if you are truly trying to improve, there’s no better way to go about it. You’ll find yourself cruising through plateaus faster. Couple that with some art classes (how better to incorporate academics into a real world environment?) and you’ll look back at your pieces from three months ago and cringe over how you used to draw.
 
2.) It teaches you to not treat your art so preciously. Sure there are strips that I’ve done that I think are better than others. Some that I can’t believe I drew, they came out so well. But rather than dwell on how good or terrible your finished product is, you’re already moving onto the next day, the next piece, the next challenge. I have had a big problem worrying about screwing up my own artwork because I have always felt that my pencils are better than my finished inks. But rather than worry about it, I’ve had to simply try to improve my inking along the way. And it has gotten better. I still get OCD about it, but I don’t let it stop me.
 
3.) Speaking of which, it teaches you a variety of art skills. If you draw it by hand, you learn to ink. If you draw it on the computer, you learn to use a stylus or a Cintiq if you have the means. You find out how to incorporate Photoshop or a shareware equivalent. If you decide black and white isn’t your style, you learn to color and make palettes that are pleasing to the eye. And assuming it’s a one man show, it teaches you to be a better writer.
 
4.) Your graphic storytelling will improve. As you figure out how to make a story flow from one panel to the next, you’ll figure out how best to arrange panels and text to the advantage of your narrative. Because of the temporary nature of the medium, you can experiment more, giving you a laboratory of the comics format. 
 
Writers:
 
1.) The first thing you learn is that you have to economize your words. You show me a comic script that’s almost the same page length as the finished story and I’ll show you a writer who’s never had to draw. You learn to say things clearer, more concisely and with an editor’s razor.
 
2.) Whether it’s meting out information, plot twists, cliffhangers or punchlines, you find out that you need to keep things moving and give your audience a reason to come back. Not every movie needs to be Raiders of the Lost Ark, but it’s a masterpiece of storytelling economics. The kind that can be learned through serialized fiction, of which comic strips can be a part.
 
I could go on. But frankly, I’d like to exercise the same economics of words I was just talking about. Here’s your challenge; for six months, write and draw at least five comic strips a week in any format or story type that interests you. If you want, only do it for yourself. If it motivates you, share them on the internet or with family and friends. But get moving. You can’t be in the army if you don’t have your boot camp. And this is the most fun, creatively uplifting boot camp you could ask for.

 

3 Responses to Get Off Your Butt and Make a Comic Strip

  1. Doug August 4, 2011 at 9:18 am #

    Kent, you are right in so many ways.

  2. Doug August 4, 2011 at 10:24 am #

    Wrong link. Very wrong link.

  3. Christopher August 4, 2011 at 11:03 am #

    Well said, Kent.

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