“Why do men feel threatened by women?” I asked a male friend of mine. (I love that wonderful rhetorical device, “a male friend of mine.” It’s often used by female journalists when they want to say something particularly bitchy but don’t want to be held responsible for it themselves. It also lets people know that you do have male friends, that you aren’t one of those fire-breathing mythical monsters, The Radical Feminists, who walk around with little pairs of scissors and kick men in the shins if they open doors for you. “A male friend of mine” also gives—let us admit it—a certain weight to the opinions expressed.) So this male friend of mine, who does by the way exist, conveniently entered into the following dialogue. “I mean,” I said, “men are bigger, most of the time, they can run faster, strangle better, and they have on the average a lot more money and power.” “They’re afraid women will laugh at them,” he said. “Undercut their world view.” Then I asked some women students in a quickie poetry seminar I was giving, “Why do women feel threatened by men?” “They’re afraid of being killed,” they said.”—
Margaret Atwood, Second Words: Selected Critical Prose (1983), pg. 413. (via bydbach)
You’ve probably heard the punchline before, but here’s the full context for the quote. (via muffinw)
My teenaged daughter has recently started a webcomic. Could you give her one piece of advice that has helped you and one piece of advice that absolutely has not? Please indicate which is which. Thanks!
Good advice: Make your comics and put them online, then make more then keep doing that without stopping for at least 2 or 3 years before you expect ANYTHING in terms of recognition or readership.
This accomplishes several things. 1) It keeps you from viewing your work as precious. Don’t obsess over one piece, draw and redraw, correct and perfect it all while never posting it. You get better by making MORE comics. Not by making the same comic over and over. 2) It gets you accustomed to the cycle of creativity. Have an idea, refine it, make it, put it up, repeat. 3) It gets you accustomed to taking and responding to feedback and criticism. The more work you post the more readers you’ll get and the more opinions you will start to receive directly or indirectly about your work.
More good advice: ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS be kind. Be kind online, be kind in person, be kind to your readers, be kind to your fellow artists, be kind to the world. This is important above all else because 1)Being an online persona means YOU are the product you are selling. If your product is a total dickbag, the only people who buy it will be total dickbag enthusiasts. 10 years down the road and you realize all of your readers are assholes and you’ve hand picked them because of how you acted. 2) Your peers talk about you when you aren’t around. They decide who to work with on collaborations, who to bring in on new opportunities and who share hotels/booths/wonderful experiences with at conventions. Word will get around SO VERY FAST if you are not a nice person and you will start to wonder why fun projects keep passing you by. 3) Can anyone honestly come up with a reason to NOT always be kind? When looking for a default behavior, you can’t do much better than this.
Even More good advice (lightning round): Don’t worry about merch. Worry about making good comics. Dont worry about getting more readers. Worry about making good comics. Don’t EVER compare your perceived success to that of your peers. You don’t know their situation, or how they came about what you think they have that you might want for yourself. Just worry about making good comics. Never envy your peers money, readers or success (sounds a lot like the last one right? That’s because it’s super important.) Instead, envy how hard they’ve worked and try to emulate that. Also, just worry about making good comics. Don’t try to find success by doing exactly what another artists has done. We all have different paths to success and you’ll do better finding your own rather than copying someone else (in art as well as in business). Also just worry about making good comics.
The worst piece of advice I ever got: Get an invitation to the cool kids table, i.e. Get in with this certain clique and you’ll be instantly welcomed into the secret world of webcomic success. This secret club, community, group, whatever you want to call it DOES NOT EXIST. I spent too many years waiting for artists I admired to take notice of me that I eventually started to obsess over making them like me. Spoilers, it never happened and I had nothing to show for all that worry and grief. I gave absolute strangers power over my mental well being that they didn’t even want and certainly didn’t deserve. Don’t worry about making “powerful” friends. You will make more friends in this industry by BEING a good friend first. Offer help, offer support, share your audience with artists whose work you admire. Be honest, be genuine and be kind. Repeat that 1000X in your head every day until it’s the only thing you even understand anymore.
By the way, the person who gave me that terrible advice was me.
I really enjoy your sketches from your figure drawing class and think it would be really fun to draw from live models. I've never taken a figure drawing class but have taken a few art classes and was thinking of attending a local figure drawing group. This group, however, doesn't have an instructor. Should I go anyway? I don't really know how these classes work so I assume I could just draw the model however I want but is there a "wrong" or "right" way? Thanks!
I’ve never had an instructor. I don’t really have any formal education at all past 5 years of high school and still dropped out somehow. So while formal instruction—and thus instructors in general—are largely absent from my development, I do kind of miss them. There are a lot of holes in what I know about what I do—most everything I’ve learned from listening to smarter people, asking questions, and then of course, most importantly: drawing a lot. Like a lot, all the time. Oh wait what was the question?
We don’t have an instructor in our figure drawing group, but then again it’s at a bar/gallery and it’s free. I set myself different challenges and that works pretty good. When there’s a boring pose I either try and zoom in and draw just one cool part—say, just the side of the head, or a foot, or something you don’t always think about—or if the pose is really boring or I’m just bored drawing the model, I’ll draw other people in the room, which about half the time is even better than drawing the model. I’ve been trying to draw more in pencil lately, work out forms and lighting, things I don’t think about much. Once I get tired of that I’ll go back to drawing with simple lines, maybe trying watercolor some more. The important thing for me is, in this order:
1) Don’t be bored, don’t not enjoy drawing
2) Don’t think about make pretty drawings, just think about seeing and drawing
3) Drink two delicious beers, three if you’re feeling wild.
Pleeeaaaaase tell me you've done some Blood Meridian art?
Is this you, Mom?? I’ve never read Blood Meridian. I’ve actually never read any Cormac McCarthy, actually. The closest I’ve come is listening to The Road as an audiobook back in 2008 or so while in a deadline swirl to finish my first published comic. The comic was about a little boy whose superpower was making other people fart, so inking a bunch of kid faces and fart clouds while listening to an excrutiatingly well-told story about dystopian cannibalism was… wearying. I’ve fallen out of the habit of reading “good” books somehow. I wonder if all the comics I read have dumbed me down somehow for the joys of prose and language and strucutre. The last few novels I remember reading were all trashy genre page-turners like the Song of Ice and Fire books, stuff like that. I’m in the middle of reading Herzog right now, but while every sentence is like a perfect, beautiful gem, I only get about 3 pages read a night before falling asleep.
Anyway, great seeing you at Thanksgiving, Mom! Love you! xoxo
“The universe is no narrow thing and the order within it is not constrained by any latitude in its conception to repeat what exists in one part in any other part. Even in this world more things exist without our knowledge than with it and the order in creation which you see is that which you have put there, like a string in a maze, so that you shall not lose your way. For existence has its own order and that no man’s mind can compass, that mind itself being but a fact among others.”—“The judge on the extraterrestrial, on order, on teleology in the universe,” “Blood Meridian” chapter XVII (via bowtiemoustache)
Hey Dustin! Ashton Dame here. Have there been any significant things that have made you stop producing art almost completely for a time? For instance, moving somewhere new, break-ups, depression, death in the family, etc. If so, what helped you get back on track with creating? I just went through somewhat of a "burnt-out" phase. As a creative person, when I'm not doing something imaginative those phases in life where I am unable to create can feel particularly hard. Can you relate or am I nuts?
I go through a pretty regular cycle of falling out of love with comics. For as much as we’re in a wild Xanadu of experimental, literary, high quality next level comics, it feels like there’s more terrible stuff out there than ever. But comics culture is based on fan-culture at its roots, and internet culture at its tips, and putting together the most Likes for your “art” means you’re good, and anyone who disagrees is conveniently labeled a “hater.” When we talk about comics criticism the conversation gets about two sentences in before a line is drawn and everyone parses every phrase for maximum personal affront. I don’t know. I’m not blameless here.
Not to mention I’ve not exactly set comics on its ear with my own work, most of which is self-involved, trifling, or just banal, even if it’s on its way to moments of greater value. I have my own need to grow out of easy, established patterns. Comics feel like they’re for babies sometimes, but it also seems like we act like babies a lot, from artists to critics to readers to whoever.
On the other hand, people like Annie Koyama, Chris Pitzer, John Martz, Joe Lambert, Chris Butcher, Shelton Drum, David Brothers, and a bunch more like them make me very happy to be part of this community, warts and all. One of the nice things about being part of a family is they can’t throw you out, and you can’t throw them out. And I still believe—passionately, deliriously, improbably—that comics is an artform that can do things simply not possible anywhere else, can balance and play with the concrete and the merely implied, and can elevate an idea past its origins and into a whole universe of interpretation. That’s pretty exciting.
Hi Dharbin. I'm a wanna-be cartoonist in the Piedmont Triad area, a few hours drive from Charlotte. Do you know of any good regular cartoonist meet-ups going on around here, or perhaps just a place they tend to congregate that's friendly to newcomers? I've been drawing for a while, but I'm a total newbie when it comes to getting things published, going to expos, and that sort of thing. I'd like to get up to speed, maybe get some advice. Socialize, even? It'd be nice to have peers to talk to...
There is one in Charlotte called Sketch Charlotte, although weirdly I’ve never been, even though I know the group and they’re all great and it’s held in a restaurant that’s like a 10 minute walk from my house. I wouldn’t worry about getting stuff published necessarily—I mean, there’s almost nothing easier with all the different tools out there for self-publishing, web publishing, e-publishing, etc—but yeah finding a group of people you like to talk shop with is key. Key!
You wouldn't know of any similar sketchbooks out there that are available to the public? Alternatively, a guide to making your own sketchbooks? His books look very nice to work with. To end: love your art!
Joe sells sketchbooks at some shows, and I’m going to guess that if you emailed him, maybe through his site, he’d sell you one if he has it. I’m just guessing. He doesn’t charge enough for them, so whatever he’s charging you, you should add a tip.
Hi Dustin! It's Ford. Do you have plans for any longer form comics in the near future? Vaguely remember something being mentioned a year or so ago. Also what comics are you reading lately or recommend?
Hey Ford! As I mentioned earlier, I’m working on more diary comics, and am gathering notes for some longer projects, including a long memoir project.
I can't speak from personal experience, but I'm pretty sure every artist I know would say that meds for depression (or anxiety, or ADHD...) enable them to function, and they would not be able to make art or accomplish much of anything at all without meds. Feeling shitty constantly is not conducive to making art. I can't imagine anyone I know ever saying that depression has any benefits
Another county heard from! I’m going to guess that, as with most things, diff’rent strokes for diff’rent fokes, one size probably does not fit all. For me, I’m down for whatever baby, I ain’t afraida no pill.
I love drawing and I'm encouraged to practice more but I'm weird about keeping a sketchbook. I want to keep one like a diary kind of. But I'm kind of scared to. I'm always concerned, as though everything I draw in it has to make sense if someone else other than me were to see it. I'm very critical of it and I don't know what to go about drawing or if I'm doing things "right." I guess I'm asking, do you have any tips on (comfortably) keeping a sketchbook? Do you ever feel embarrassed by yours?
May I suggest that you DO keep a sketchbook, but DON’T show anyone ever, ever? If it makes you feel better, plan on destroying it when you’re done. Think of it like you’re practicing piano: no one records their piano practices and plays them for people. You’re just practicing. Get a real dumb, ugly sketchbook. Deface the first page with something real dumb and ugly. Relax and use it as a tool, not a crutch.
I do all my drawing with “traditional” media. I’d like to do more digital drawing, especially in the compositional/roughing stage, but it’s hard to recalibrate. I’m almost 40, my brain is like a small block of cement up there.
Ive been admiring your sketchbook scans,especially the figure drawings. Do you erase the pencil marks under them, or do you just go at it with straight up ink? im taking my first official drawing class, and we've been doing a bunch of figure stuff. which is fun, but the teach wants them to be painfully tonal to the point where there aren't any outlines. so it's a breath of fresh air looking at your figure drawings, where it looks like you focus mainly on the outlines, capturing the simplicity
I try to avoid pencilling then inking my figure drawings. I’m pretty new to figure drawing, so it’s been (slowly) a good way for me to loosen up my drawing a little bit. Which is one of the reasons I like doing them in pen straight to paper.
If you’re taking a class, I suggest doing whatever the instructor tells you to do. I’ve never really had any art education or classes, except in high school, and I really feel the lack of formal training. It’s not that your instructor knows more than you (he or she might though); it’s that being forced to work outside of your comfort zone will make you better and smarter and more able to pivot and twist in your drawing, instead of plodding along like a dodo. Even if the class is dumb and you make zero cool drawings, the experience of forcing your brain into a new shape will be well worth it.
Hi Dustin. What are some of your favourite or most memorable request for hour our 20 minute drawings? And how much do you plan these drawings (for example weighing up ideas/researching?) thanks. From a big fan and collector of your work. H.
The things I enjoy drawing the most for those hour drawings are people or animals, or more often, animals as people. The things I like to draw the least are other people’s characters. I mean, I do it, and it’s occasionally fun, but it’s harder to make the process interesting unless I’m really into it or have a great idea.
The only time I research a ton is if someone asks for something I’m not really familiar with, or a likeness that’s hard to nail. Sometimes, like for this Day of the Dead drawing, I do a bunch of research and it’s fun. Like for instance, all the Aztec stuff. Super interesting.
Just a note after seeing your reply-- **every** single artist I know (& I know a LOT) who has gone on anti-depressants has found themselves unable to make art & eventually dropped them, saying they prefer the depression to not making art. It happened to me, too-I lost a year of art. Frankly, they don't help that much, either. Doing anti-depressant routines has been much more effective (at least for me)- walks, a journal, yoga/stretching, meditation, etc--very helpful!
Food for thought I guess. I draw and make art and so forth because I enjoy it and it makes me happy—if I had to choose between being happy and working in a factory or being miserable and making art, that’s a pretty easy choice to make.