|"Sink or Swim"- Full page panel from 'Soldier Legacy' issue 4.|
This week I had a out of the blue, no-holds barred quickie review by Australian comic artist Tim McEwen (Greener Pastures) on the earlier issues of 'The Soldier Legacy' (2 and 3) which got me thinking. Not in a bad way, just in a reflective way.
Don't get me wrong, it was a great little review, and I'm always very appreciative of Tim's feedback, support and encouragement. In fact, it makes me strive to be better. It was nice, but I'd be lying if I said it didn't make me feel amateurish when I read it. Though, in saying this, I'm fine with this. It's reviews like this that remind me why I don't chase other reviews unless I'm lucky enough for them to come my way (Like this, thank you Tim!), or I seek out specific art-related reviews from local or international professionals/writers or editors I have great respect or an affinity for. Why? I guess I see many reviews that fly around that just touch on what they "like", or they tend to gush, and ignore the problems of the piece, which really doesn't help the writer and artist/s at all in my humble opinion. I know my work is far from perfect, and has a specific audience in mind; being built up on reviews is not what I'm aiming to do with my development- I love constructive criticism and encouragement with a solid base. My aim is to learn, promote an Australian character-centric story, and improve as a storyteller. And hell, over the couple of years, I've spoken to some favourites of mine (McFarlane, Capullo, Romita Jr, Simonson, Perez, Higgins, Waid, Royer, Jenkins, Scott, McKenny etc.) and if they suggest things, it's like one of the commandments past down from the mountain. If I can pull it off, I'll certainly adopt it!
What Tim says is true, and something that I always admit on my journey in sequential art: It's my learning process. Particularly when I have to take on all facets of the comic production, there's much to learn, but I take on all the roles as a necessity. Try to find a writer, inker, colourist, letterer and someone to package the book together in the time frame I want, and for the front-end payment I earn just pencilling (zip) and I'd never see the work in print. I "crash-coursed" writing, colouring, lettering, and print prep to begin with (using what I'd learnt in uni), and am still experimenting and refining as I go, particularly in pencilling (which is my focus) and trying to find my feet with something I hope speaks to people in a certain way, but be entertaining to see and read. And I have to say, before the TV ad, Black House, overseas trips, pro feedback, meetings and emails etc. I didn't think my "retro/poor man's Kirby/cartoony" style was appealing to anyone, especially considering the "pseudo-photo realistic" style that is in vogue in comics at present. Regardless of the drawing ability I'm working on, the storytelling is the thing I'm constantly aiming to improve, and with each issue I try to experiment and adopt the advise or method used by other artists and writers/recommendations by editors to see if I can create a more engaging, clear story, streamline the modes of production, or improve on how the page comes together. Composition, Camera selections (according to conventions), the pose, and expression are my current interests, not how ripped my character looks, or how bang on to a photo reference it looks. I can't draw like that comfortably, or have the patience to do so anyway :P
In a sense, my attempts in our local scene stem from the theory that in order to learn and improve, you "do". And if that means a "warts and all" journey in development in the process, then that's ok- it's much like the "up and comers" in the late 30's/early 40's who we look up to now. These guys produced work with very little time to "noodle", sketch, or reflect between issues- it was draw, publish, learn on the fly and keep going. I'm trying the same thing- Really, if I just drew pinups and a page here and there, "studies" and such, waiting for the day were I felt I was "good enough" to release my work, I doubt very much I would ever do it. That's just me though, I'm sure others will get there, and there seems to be a Zeitgeist in recent years of self-published efforts hitting the scene, and joining the ranks of guys who are still slogging it out . It's very encouraging. Thankfully I have Black House spurring me on for a bit over a year now, a mentor and close friends to garner support and feedback, and a small, loyal and slowly growing support base of readers and fans who I feel from the comments and emails I get are counting on the next installment.
We are here in life to try; try in many aspects of our existence, be it our job, our hobby, our family life, our aspiring profession, whatever. This is one of a few things I'm committed to, to see where it takes me. 2 years down on this 'Solder' Journey, and I'm pleased at where I'm at, the people I have had/ still have contact with, and the opportunities, both past and present I had/have, and the ones on the horizon. :D
We Soldier on.