the Fear of Failure
This week I decided to take a break from the “Crafting a story” series for a short interlude about what I`ve recently learned about comic making and art making in general.
I had to face a hard truth this week, (at least for me) and that is, that my comic will probably not look exactly like I imagine it. In fact, sometimes it will look horrible to me, because I`ll have a far nicer image in my head than I can produce at the moment. I`m not saying this in a fit of pessimism, it`s simply a comparison of my skills at this very moment and the images I have in my mind.
Now this statement has a point, look at the page below:
There`s a reason I added in this specific page from the Janaija comic. And that reason is the glorious, empty, totally slacking off, first panel. Look at it. No really, look! What did I do there? Right, I just completely skipped the background! Now, not every panel needs a background, or a full background, don`t get me wrong. But the first panel of this page totally does. I left too much room for just all that empty space. Then why didn`t I put it in? It`s simple, I dread perspective. And on that note I dread drawing tables and chairs especially. They might look like simple objects to you, but man are they a pain for me to draw! There are tables in that panel, but they look awkward. My first reaction to hard stuff is always to shy away from it. And it makes me laugh now to see that first panel and think: “did you actually think that people wouldn`t notice?”
Not long after this page I got into an “artist block” (fancy word in my case for “Fear of Failure”) and have not drawn very much after this. (And this is a few years ago, go figure.) Which means that my drawing abilities have not yet progressed very far.
I`m polishing up my comic script for Reminiscence at the moment and now the vision for the comic gets clearer and clearer in my mind I see all the things I have to draw, and I see the things I`m not comfortable drawing and the things I don`t have any experience with whatsoever.
Though this might seem like quite a negative post, it`s not! Let me clarify: I think it`s good I became aware of this because if I, during the drawing process, suddenly run into this problem (and I will) my first reaction probably will be to stop working on the comic again and doubt my ability to do this. Now, I can prevent myself from going in that direction. I`ve thought up some strategies to deal with this fear of the Ugly Pages.
1. Rehearse. I`m currently enrolled in the Oatley Academy course the Magic Box. In it, Chris Oatley talks about how to prepare for a digital painting. He says: “dancers and actors constantly rehearse for a performance, why don`t we artists do this?” I caught myself thinking that I have to get everything right the first few times I do it. This is simply impossible. I can not expect me to know how to draw everything. And some things are just plain hard to draw.
Chris “rehearses” a painting by extensive study of reference, doing loads of thumbnails and at least four or more colour compositions before a painting. Even in the final painting itself does he think about each brush stroke before he makes it.
Bottom line: slow down. Take your time (especially on personal projects) and prepare before the final performance, it`ll go much smoother in the long run. (And you learn a lot.)
2. Calculate in the failures. Nobody gets everything right the first time. So I might as well get realistic with myself. There is this great video that I once saw that, unfortunately, I cannot find anymore. But in it, a boy makes a sort of contraption in which one thing sets off another thing and so on. Think the game “mouse trap” if anyone remembers that. It was a school assignment and the kids had to calculate in advance how many times they would fail in getting it right and how many times it would go right. The boy in the video made a scoreboard on which he predicted the wins (a few) and the failures (a lot) and then set to work. The first few times the experiment failed, but he didn`t get distressed or angry with himself. He simply scored his findings in the “fail” column and tried again. Great was his victory when he got it right much sooner than he anticipated. Even greater when he got it right not soon thereafter.
I will make some horrible drawings, some pages will have awkward anatomy or perspective in them. The design and the environments will not always be the best or come out as epic as I want them to be. This comic was meant to be a way for improvement as well. Not every page will be as good as I have it in my mind. But they will get better on the way.
3. When you`ve done your best, let go. Sometimes, you have done your best and there`s nothing more you can do. Jon Acuff said in his book Quitter, that “perfect is the enemy of done.” Sometimes you have to let go before it is perfect, because it will prevent you from delivering.
I will have to slow myself down, and I will have to settle for what I can achieve when I do my best. (and not more) But that`s ok. I will get there.
As for that page, after I got some feedback, I drew the next page with the backgrounds where they should be. And I spend some good time on them, they didn`t came out that bad:
Question: what is your typical response when you have to do something you`re not sure you can pull off? Do you avoid it? Or sink your teeth into it? Something else? And does that response help you?
Action: take something you`ve been putting off (weather it`s art or something else) and prepare for it for a while. Also, when it`s something that may not go right the first time, take into account your how many times it will probably take you for it to go right. (maybe this will be an eye opener for you and it will show you that you`ve been too pessimistic or a little too optimistic.) Then try to do it. Did you feel more confident?