Monday, August 31, 2009

Being good at being imperfect.

To a comic artist, being perfect is a must, at least in my mind. Since the beginning of my senior year I have been producing a comic project for web publication, and eventually printing into book form. While in school I had the freedom to work and work on the first 33 pages of this project without any contraints or feelings of fear, there was no website at the time, there was no weekly deadline. Everything was to be done by the end of the school year.

This, unfortunetally, created a difficult situation, when I begin to work on something with safety nets such as the ones I had in school, I find it difficult to adapt once the nets are taken away, as they were when I graduated and began to do the comic as a weekly, color sci-fi adventure. So far things have gone decent, I have managed to crank out 24 pages just in time to keep up with the now depleted 33 I drew for my senior portfolio. But, just as with my original story, there are errors, not BIG GLARING errors, but small things. A panel I don't like, a black section that is not black enough, borders messed up, ink or white out in places it shouldn't be, normal things that happen during page production under a deadline. During the school year I just passed these these kind of things off as normal mistakes, that I would get back to later on, which I did.

I spent a few days repairing pages I didn't like during the last week of classes. This procedure turned out to be a very good investment, and dramatically increased the presentation of my work. Now facing the completion of another 24 pages, I am having trouble accepting the fact that there are errors and things are not perfect "The first time around." However making perfect pages is nearly impossible, due to the fact that I am human and DO make mistakes. Even making 5 pages perfect on the first go is near impossible. I have no idea where I got this crazy idea.

It has been a while since i've been in school, and as I said earlier, there is no safety net, no brilliant instructor pointing these little things out to me. Perhaps the transition between having an instructor to assist in pointing out errors and finding errors on my own creates this tension? This could mark the beginning of one's journey to being a self contained professional. It is my responsibility to not only make the pages, but to ensure that they are done to the best of my ability, if not the first time then during the revision period. Somehow I forgot this in the period of 4-5 months since I finished my degree.

My revision process was something that was both helpful and practical. It did not involve redoing entire sections of the comic or tossing pages. Usually it involved going through each page and cleaning up messy lines, whiting out mistakes, darkening blacks and occasionally redesigning a panel or two (perhaps becasue of an unwise storytelling decision or just bad lettering). For some reason I have been thinking I could go without these steps and just consider my pages "done". I kept saying to myself "You don't have time for revisions now, just make more pages" and just kept drawing. The pages I've done are some of the best i've ever made, but STILL regardless of that, they need some cleanup and revision, there is even one panel I hate and want to redesign. So while driving to work today I asked myself, "Why am I being so upset about not being perfect? and second, why don't I just take the time to go back and do some repairs?" The realization that the world won't end because I made mistakes on my comic hit me and I decided to continue the process I invented for myself last year, lesson learned.

No one is perfect with their art and there is no shame in mistakes. You would think i'd know that after how many years of doing this. There is also no shame in ADMITTING to making mistakes. Trying to make pages perfect on the first try is a good goal but will not always happen. The fact that I feel I should be perfect says something about my self esteem. Hopefully in the future I will slow down and remember to go back and give my pages the attention they deserve.

Tim Sparvero

1 comment:

Matt Triano said...

Hey Tim!

In reading your thoughts on 'perfection,' I find that I share a similar mindset--at least I used to. I'm sure you remember how laborious every page of mine was during school, how much hatching and line density went into every panel; and I couldn't have told you at the time why I was doing it. I just thought (and I can say it clearly now, having left that approach behind) that if i threw everything I could into every panel--if it was all covered in scratchy, barely representational business--that I had succeeded in as much as I had put 100% of my effort into 100% of the surface area. I had created wallpaper, to a certain degree, and this seemed like efficacy at the time. My turnout was fairly tiny, in school, because of this outlook--twelve portfolio pages for my entire senior year, minus 18 I meant to do but couldn't find the time for, is most definitely an example of ineffective time management.
'Being good at being imperfect' is a fantastic way to approach your work, I think--just as long as it doesn't distract from improvement or experimentation. And as it happens, 33 pages in as many weeks is quite impressive when there's at least four other classes for which you've got to produce work--that's no easy feat, Tim, so well done. Now you don't have those studies to work around, but it's still not an open schedule for you because you work (still at the paper, yeah?), which is full time I assume and takes up at least 30-40 hours per week. This is a lot to contend with, sir, and I think 25 pages in 25 (or more) weeks is impressive, on a story you're writing and lettering as well! I think the publication deadline you set for yourself need be realistic, most importantly. But more than that--does the story work? Are you absolutely happy with your storytelling and your drawing on any given page? Sure there are mistakes and odd blobs of this or that hanging about to 'fix'--and that's great because you recognize the changes you could make, and then do it!
Klaus said, as advice on planning, "Think about what you're thinking about." And Mazz told us to "Keep the story as loose as you can for as long as you can, because change is inevitable."
Perfection is impossible. Unless, of course, you intend to be perfect. Then why not try it, hey?
Let me know how it goes...
Hope everything's great on your end, sir. Cheers.