The State of Things – Summer 2016

Let’s get the sad news out first– I won’t be making it to Otakon this year. Last week I was having killer tooth pain. Went to the dentist to find out that I need to get a root canal, and due to a stupid insurance loophole, the first day I can get my root canal is August 11th, the day before the con. Not to mention the expense of the procedure (over $1000) will require everything I’ve saved for the con (and so much more ulgh), being able to talk to people will not be in the cards that weekend either. So I made the call to not go this year. I’m really upset about this, because this is the last year of Otakon in Baltimore, and I’ve spent 17 years of my life going (almost) every year (I think I get a pass for the years I was in Japan ^^;;). But here’s to next year in DC~! As long as you can get to the con via Metro, I’ll be there :D

 

Now the serious announcement.

 

About a year ago, I made a choice. I was hot off of finishing the pages for NASA, and I needed to quickly decide what comic I was developing I would start as a webcomic for SPX. I had two projects “ready” and I had to choose which one to go with. I chose Tokyo Heart Story for a number of reasons. Now with a year of work under my belt, and only 13 pages to show for it…  I’m starting to think I made the wrong decision. It’s been a year since I started working on THS, and I’m still in the same corner I wrote myself in before even starting the comic. And it’s completely frustrating to me that I can’t make this story work, to the point every time I start to work on it again, I get stressed out all over again trying to make the pieces fit.

(But to be honest, I was nervous about it before I even launched it– the night before the site went up, I literally had a panic attack on how not ready I was to launch. This has been a constant state. I thought it was just nervous jitters, but now I know better.)

Mix in with all of that a crisis of the state of where my art is, and a drive to try to level up my drawing skills, and well, you get a mess.

Which is exactly what I feel like I am right now.

A hot mess.

So, I spoke with my circle of trust this week, and discussed the feelings and frustrations I have, and how it feels like this is holding up everything else in my life (both personal and creatively). They unanimously agreed that perhaps a hiatus would be a good choice– maybe even a permanent one. I’m not sure about that, but one of my friends suggested working on another project I have cooking for a while, and see if that either clears the block for THS, or takes over and well, then I have another project to work on. And I have to agree that sounds like a better plan. So for the next few months I’m going to be focusing on sharpening my skills, while trying to get some development work for a different series. And if I find myself starting to draw THS stuff again, all the better, right?

This decision was not one I came to easily, and I’m trying to take a positive look on this and not just have it be a project I quit. I love all of the characters dearly in THS (esp the last one that has yet to be introduced, despite being a main character T^T), not to mention the story is a very personal one for me. And maybe this is the root of my issue? Maybe it’s too personal of a story that I’m not ready to share with the world. Hmm.

 

Anyway, this blog will continue to be updated and all of you will be able to see what I’m working on. I’m trying to focus on next year, and the year after that. For the first time, I’m making a life plan. And it seems pretty great.

Thank you all for the support you’ve given me for the last year. I hope you will continue as I walk into this next chapter.

SPX, Inktober, and Web Comics, OH MY!

Inktober Best Of

So much has been happening both in the professional and personal side of my life! It’s been bananas! After SPX, I took a much needed break, as my life since March has been comics and sickness, and that’s pretty much it. But then October started, and that means Inktober! I’m a bit behind on my days, but I’ve sworn to myself I’ll get 31 (non comic) ink drawings done, even if it leaks into November– which it is going to. My running list of completed illustrations can be seen here. Instead of floundering on what to draw each day this year, I decided on a theme of Dragon Age pairings, the usual and the unusual, and it’s been a joy to explore. While I’m not 100% satisfied on how all of them have come out, I want to make a collection of all of these when all is said and done, redo-ing the ones I’m not happy with. Not sure how it’ll be collected, but I’ll figure out something!

Oh, yeah, and SPX happened! There where so many of my old SCAD classmates, we had a mini SCAD SEQA reunion, and it was marvelous! I also got to finally meet so many people face to face, like Trungles, Paulina Ganucheau, Kevin Panetta, Kata Kane and S.M. Vidaurri. I also made a slew of new friends, like Gale Galligan, Rachel YoungNgozi Ukazu, Sarah Dill, Larry King, Kori Michele, Ray Nadine, and Denise Clamors— not to mention, I got to meet my personal hero Kate Beaton, and got to make my idiot of myself in front of her while babbling to her about how important her work is for me. Because it is so important. I got one of my books by her signed, and still grin whenever I see it on my bookshelf.

Sadly, everyone was busy, so I didn’t get to spend too much time with anyone! We all had our own tables to attend, so our conversations were just stolen free moments out of the weekend. I think next year, I’m going to head down a day early, even though it’s so close to where I live, if only to spend actual time with people and talk for more then ten minutes! Things went better than expected for me table wise. I didn’t have much to offer comics wise, but I did sell out of a few things. Next time, I’ll have more comics available! Also thank you to everyone who came over and talked Dragon Age to me, because yes I love being a DA geek, and can talk about it endlessly, as some people learned!

 

And now webcomic things!

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October 15th the official web launch of Tokyo Heart Story happened! You can finally read it on the internet with your very eyeballs. The comic will be updated bi-monthly, starting with a (very small) update this Sunday. I have one (hopefully) final medical procedure for the year tomorrow, so while I was hoping to have more pages done this Sunday, it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen this time. I will make up for it in later updates, I promise!

And finally, in other web comic news, the GPM comic is now up on the NASA website! Go take a gander at what I’ve been working on since March, and talking endlessly about! It’s an adorable comic, and I learned so much from it, it’s amazing! I also received some print copies of the comic, which holding in my hands feels so surreal. I worked so hard on those pages, and to see them so nicely printed and beautiful, it was just amazing.

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It’s crazy that November is right around the corner, but here we are! I have so many things planned for the end and the beginning of the new year, I can’t wait to share it with all of you in the coming weeks. I felt like I have grown so much as a person and as an artist this year. I am still in a phase where I am not happy with my art, but that means I just have to keep pushing, right? ONWARD!

SPX!

Blog, let’s stop meeting like this okay? But I guess it’s good that I’ve been too busy to write? Right?

 

SPX IS IN THREE DAYS, EVERYONE!

Ever since I finished the GPM comic, I’ve been fully focused on getting things ready for SPX. Namely…

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TADA! The first seven pages of my new webcomic will be making it’s debut this weekend! Tokyo HEART Story has been something I’ve been working on for several years on and off, so it’s really really awesome for me to finally have printed pages of it in my hands that I can share with the world X3

I finished the final touch ups of formatting the book this weekend, and spent Sunday evening collating, folding, and stapling. That’s right, every one of these books was hand crafted by me (like 95%, since I didn’t print them personally, but I did everything else lol). This is the first time I have prepped my zines myself, as I’ve always had the printers do it. I feel very attached to this comic, so I wanted to oversee the presentation myself, which meant even folding everything page by page. Yes, it’s a little crazy, but the books look so cute, so it was totally worth it.

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I have a very limited number of these books, so if you would like to buy one from me, please find me early! I also made some fabulous Tokyo HEART Story postcards to give away.

Along with the preview, I will have postcards of my paintings, prints, and copies of the SugarNinjas volumes I’ve appeared in, and I’ll also be taking commissions at the show. I’ll have some watercolors, a selection of Copics (maybe?), and I will have blank paper covered Moleskines and a few shikishi if you are interested in a commission on one of those.

If you are coming to the show, please stop by table 83 and say hi! I even made a map!

 

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This will be my first comic convention I’ve ever tabled at. In the past, I’ve always tabled at anime conventions. I cannot express how nervous but excited I am about this weekend. I finally get to meet people I’ve been talking to online for year(s), and be a total comic nerd the whole weekend.

P.S. you can also talk to me about Dragon Age, but I may never shut up about it so… do so at your own risk!

On Failure

A few weeks back, my friend Fredrik sent me this great email about failure and how to overcome the inner critic. The email was so awesome, and so inspirational, I asked if I could post it on the blog. So, with his permission (and a few edits to a few remarks about conversations we’ve had), here is his email. Read, be inspired, and go create something!

 

Hi.Your last blog post got me thinking a bit. I posted my suggestion to go for broke on a comic project, but didn’t really elaborate on why. That was because the reasons are difficult to summarize in an online comment, and I knew that if I started to go into details I would ramble on for far too long and construct a mammoth message of dubious intelligibility. I actually find this stuff fascinating, so I’ve decided to go ahead and construct the message anyway, only in the form of an e-mail. In the hopes that you will also find it interesting or even helpful, I’m even going to send it and subject you to it as well. These ideas are drawn from a ton of random articles and things I’ve read over the years, and I’m going to include some of them for context. You’ll probably be too busy to actually go through all this junk, but if you ever feel demotivated and are actively seeking out distractions, maybe this will at least be a little more on topic than random facebook spam. I don’t know if any of these points will actually be new to you, but a reminder could still be helpful.So, what I’ve been hearing from you is that this project is something you want to do and the main obstacle (life distractions aside) is a creative block. Further, that this creative block likely stems to a significant extent from a fear of failure. How, then, to overcome this fear of failure? One possible angle is to change the way we look at failure.

All this is essentially an exercise in perspective. To that end, before focusing on failure, let’s try to establish what is needed for success. Most of this is drawn from a blog called Study Hacks […] The primary focus of the blog is identifying paths to success for students and knowledge workers, so maybe not an obvious fit for your situation. However, what it’s really all about is learning to optimize your brain and environment for learning and training skills by maximizing impact and minimizing time and effort. That is something common to all areas of human achievement, so I think the concepts discussed here are both relevant and applicable, even if the specific examples are not always so.

Well then, how to achieve success in a creative enterprise? Everything I’ve read on the topic points to the magic ingredient being a highly developed, specialized skill. So far, so obvious, right? To do something awesome, you need to know what you’re doing, and once you know how to do it you can keep doing it over and over again. But why do so many people go to such lengths to achieve great skill and so few accomplish it? This is where things get tricky.

A key component could be the application of what is here referred to as Deliberate Practice. In essence, it’s not enough to simply work hard at learning, you have to do the right kind of work. Moreover, if you’re doing this type of work you’ll end up needing to spend less time doing it to get results. Apparently this type of work is difficult by definition – if it doesn’t actually feel awkward and difficult, you won’t get the same benefits. What it boils down to is that to achieve the skills necessary for great success it’s not enough simply to practice what you already know – you need to be constantly pushing yourself by focusing on the things that are difficult. And if you’re focusing mostly on things that are difficult, it should not be surprising to find that you’re going to fail. A lot.

What all this means to me is that you are simply going to fail. Period. You’re going to fail, I’m going to fail, everyone is going to fail. Whatever project you, or I, or anyone attempts, it is always going to fail, in that it won’t be as good as it possibly could. But that is exactly what you want. Any activity that includes the possibility of failure can be turned into an opportunity for deliberate practice. So whatever your next project happens to be, and whatever point in your career you happen to be at, don’t see it as an opportunity to succeed and show the world how awesome you are. See it as a golden opportunity to fail repeatedly and as a necessary condition for making all your future projects that much more amazing because of it.

Now, obviously these methods aren’t some kind of silver bullet. It’s still entirely possible to fail without learning from it, and to learn without failing in some way (depending on your metrics for success). But I have found, for myself at least, that looking at challenges in this light takes away some of the sting of uncertainty. Maybe things won’t turn out the way you hope, but that won’t mean your time was wasted. More than anything, reading about the mechanisms involved in achievement in this way helps to bring them down to earth and seem that much more attainable – it’s not an epic struggle, more of a daily grind. Hopefully it will help you too.

I’ve also put together some thematically related TED talks, because I will take any excuse to go around watching those. These are less directly on topic, but have a similar underlying message.

Sting deals with writer’s block. Apparently no one is safe!
Everybody should be more wrong all the time!
Everybody is lazy and makes excuses!
Embrace your failures!

So, in short – if the only thing stopping you from pursuing this project is writer’s block, it seems like it would be a good idea to do it anyway and just try to power through it. A poor execution would be more beneficial than no execution, as long as you get some good practice out of it. And a product can always be improved later.

Anyway, I’m sure you’ve been through this sort of thing before. I’m not trying to tell you what to do, but I am quite curious what your take is on all of this.

My take on this was that this was an incredible resource, and I’ve already thanked Fredrik a bunch of times for sending it. Here’s to powering through and failing! … okay that sounded better in my head.