Another Week At The Mill

January 21, 2013

A preview of JB episode to come

The week ahead looks to be a bitter cold and snow covered waste land. Which is good news for me! Will be churning away all week on customer orders and getting stuff out out out of here. I remember what a wise master once said. I believe it was Jim Lee when he was a guest of a short lived 'artist spotlight' type show hosted by Stan Lee. Totally paraphrasing here... "The comic industry is a great career cause its creative, fun, but its also VERY production heavy."

This general notion is always in my head. And I see it a lot in what I do whether its comic pages, character art, or even just logo/t-shirt graphics. If you think about any one job as 4 parts, I'd honestly say the creative part is about 1/4th the order. Once you get the idea, and the pencil sketch idea down and approved, it becomes the other 3/4ths of the order... which is pure production. From rendering crisp final pencils to articulate everything, then to inking over everything and filling in all the shades, there's room for more articulation and a little creative adjustment but its purely production oriented. Then especially the colors, from the mind-numbing flatting and separating colors to trial-and-error special effects and lighting preferences for that specific piece. But I suppose somewhere in the midst of the shadows and highlights and tweaking the lighting of the whole piece there's a lot of creative freedom there.

Sometimes, it really just feels like a mill though. Sure there's different characters, different depictions and backgrounds and poses. But when you get past creating the pencils, it becomes production to finish it out with that crisp completed look. So I guess my point is, to some who don't do anything like this, it might seem like just doodling for fun and getting paid, but there's a real serious production-heavy side to it that accounts for all the hours involved. And the better you want it to come out, the more time that goes with that. Whether it be inking slower/ more precisely to how articulate you want the background. All that.

Plus there's the sacrifices, the hours needed to produce the work. The production doesn't always necessarily (pretty much always) fall into an 8 hour work day. Most times its a 12-14 hour work day just to keep up with orders and deadlines. To get that quality customers expect, one must put in the hours it takes to keep that quality time and time again. There's also the butt-loss syndrome. All the time sitting in that chair and tooling away. Sure one gets up moves around stretches and takes the dog out to poop as often as possible. But the real truth is, your belt just won't stay up as well as it would if you weren't squishing the life out of your buttox all the time. I credit a bud named Steve for bringing the idea of 'butt-loss syndrome' to mind. I might be saying it wrong, but yeah.. there's  definitely a little casualty in any desk-heavy job.

So I'll wrap this up with saying... think twice when you see that finished work from any artistic boy and girl and thinking its just a silly mindless job of doodling whatever you want and getting some money for it. No... for most of the professionals I know out there, its long hours of making decisions throughout the creative process and basically churning out your best work as much and as good as you can to keep the work coming and to get the work done so your not loosing money on more hours than need be.

Its often very exerting... but the best reward is when the customer gushes over it at the end, and you hit the mark, and all those hours and sore hand muscles and red-watery eyes are rewarded by a job well done :) Or  theres also the other reward, of finishing said job, and no matter what the customer thinks of it, you noticed a new technique or improvement in your skills. Always exciting to notice yourself that you've hit a new mark or level.

That goes into a whole other story about acheiving a level, and the hardwork needed to maintain or move higher. Just a couple days off can knock you down a couple levels. The discipline needed for this stuff is amazing and probably unrealized by the average joe. But thats another essay for another time.

Food for thought. Now on to your regularly scheduled work week!

Also don't forget, a new Jumping Boy has posted this morning! Over at


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