At least it is today in my studio. All too often we fall into a daily grind of having to be places we’d rather not be and doing things we’d rather not be doing. It’d be great if we could slack off all day every day and magically stuff gets done behind us. But until life turns into a Walgreen’s commercial we need to be proactive about enjoying ourselves while we work. Yes, the comfort of routine and ritual can be great for getting into a creative mood but it’s also good for we artists to remember we’re supposed to enjoy what we’re doing.
Bill Watterson said in his commencement speech to Kenyon College, “It’s surprising how hard we’ll work when the work is done just for ourselves. And with all due respect to John Stuart Mill, maybe utilitarianism is overrated. If I’ve learned one thing from being a cartoonist, it’s how important playing is to creativity and happiness. My job is essentially to come up with 365 ideas a year.Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â If you ever want to find out just how uninteresting you really are, get a job where the quality and frequency of your thoughts determine your livelihood. I’ve found that the only way I can keep writing every day, year after year, is to let my mind wander into new territories. To do that, I’ve had to cultivate a kind of mental playfulness.”
While there’s plenty of actual work and labor in making cartoons, we need to approach it with an amount of levity and fun. If comics aren’t fun to make on some level they aren’t going to be very fun to read. One of the biggest criticisms I had of my work in college was you could see where I was getting bored. I took all sorts of care with the foreground characters, for example, but when it came time to give that kind of attention to the background, “Ugh! I just want this to be over!” *SCRATCH SCRATCH SCRATCH* By not developing the work to the full extent of my potential I was cheating myself as an artist and cheating the viewers. But how do you make tedium not boring? A big part of it is to not let yourself become frustrated. You find fun and joy wherever you can. If something isn’t working, try coming at it from a different angle. When tuning a guitar it’s easiest to move the string even further out of tune to know which way to pull it back in. The same goes for drawing. Don’t like where the line work is going? Change it up. Even if the next line is absolutely wrong, at least you’ve narrowed the playing field on where it shouldn’t be.
Lastly I want to recommend some music. Or just noise if that’s your thing. I rarely have the TV going while I work because I focus my attention on what I’m doing at the time but sometimes re-watching things I enjoy is relaxing. I know I’ve seen them all but I keep enjoying the Angry Video Game Nerd video reviews regardless. The nice thing about being on the web is that other like-minded folks are on there and sometimes we all congregate in the same place. I’ve often said Ustream.tv is like the Denny’s of the webcomic world – If you’re up at 2am stop by and you’ll see everybody else is there. Dave Kellett, Tom Brazelton, Scott Kurtz, Mike Krahulik, Kris Straub, Abby Lark, Fred Gallagher, Brad Guigar, DJ Coffman, Evan Dahm, Magnolia Porter, Lis Boriss, Lar deSouza, Kory Bingaman, Paul Southworth, David Malki, Scotty Arsenault, Charlie Trotman, Joel Watson, Meredith Gran, and plenty of others use it. On Livestream.com you can also find Kris Straub, Greg Dean, David Willis, as well as some others if you bother to look. It’s fun to peek behind the creative curtain and sometimes you just wanna hear some voices while you draw.
For getting in a party mood I really want to recommend Red Voodoo by Sammy Hagar and the Waboritas.
It’s a great party album with Sammy’s touring band, the opening track is live, and it’s all-around solid and fun. I also recommend anything by the Aquabats. I know I blast Charge! quite regularly.
Costumed superhero punk/ska? How can you go wrong with that? I also highly recommend the Foxboro Hot Tubs’ Stop Drop and Roll.
The Foxboro Hot Tubs are chiefly comprised of members of Green Day, however this record is swingin’ 60s-styled pop rock that will usually wake you up if you’re in a funk in the morning. And lastly, I’d like to suggest The Epoxies – Stop the Future.
There are plenty of other fun scifi punk/new wave bands out there, but the Epoxies put on a great show when I saw them and listening to their music just brings me back to the sound of synth keyboards, loud guitars, and the laser pointers mounted on said guitars shining in your eye.