A very important matter to discuss…on July 24, 2010 at 12:27 pm
This morning I was thinking of where to go next with the webcomic’s storyline. For a while now I’ve been thinking about adding a female rogue to the gaming group (I’m not telling you who would play her), and I was trying to figure out what an addition of yet another character to the group would imply. Basically, it’s just a lot more work.
COMMISSIONED has never really been my main source of income, I’ve never really been good at merchandising and stuff like that. Fortunately, with the recent addition of Dern as our new marketing director that might change. You might see books and toys and stuff like that in the near future. But up until now, it has been what’s connected to the webcomic that I make money off of. Stuff like commissioned artwork and donations and other projects. In a way, the webcomic is just a medium through which I promote myself as an artist. This is why when the time comes to prioritize I always place the webcomic above everything else. It’s what gets people to see my work, it’s an incredibly powerful promotion tool. And for an artist, that’s essential. But it also leaves me with a dilemma each time the webcomic accomplishes its secret art promotion objectives and I get art commissions. I either have the time to work on the art commissions, or I have the time to work on the webcomic. As you might’ve noticed from the past COMMISSIONATHLON, doing both and keeping the same level of quality just doesn’t work out.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody that COMMISSIONED is more about the art than about the jokes. I don’t really think of myself as being specially funny. I mean, I hope that the comic at least makes people chuckle from time to time but I don’t believe you’d have to travel far to find a funnier webcomic than mine. The writing isn’t really all that great, either. I rarely finish storylines, and the ones I do manage to finish aren’t exactly candidates for a Nebula Award. But I’m OK with this because I focus mainly on the artwork. I at least try to make a joke with every comic strip, of course, and I don’t like it when other (humor-based) webcomics don’t even try to be funny. But I’m pretty much convinced that my strength lies in the artwork.
This may sound a bit conceited to most of you, but I’ve never really thought of myself as the regular webcomic artist. Let’s face it, there’s plenty of comic strips out there on the web, and what do you see when you surf through most of them? Half-assed art, rampant copy/paste, missed or random updates, lame jokes and random scribbles labeled as “artwork” and intended to pass off as actual comics. It’s no wonder that webcomics haven’t managed to be taken seriously by all the other forms of sequential art, even webcomic artists don’t take webcomics seriously!
A lot of these webcomics are incredibly successful. And looking at them all I can think of is that they don’t deserve it – at least not to a certain degree. I’m sorry if I’m hitting a bit too close to home for some of you, but if you can’t at least maintain a friggin’ update schedule or a level of quality that isn’t even imposed on you but that you can actually choose for yourself then you don’t deserve the respect of your readers. You could even say that you’ll update once a month or whatever. But some artists (and I’m reluctant to call them by such a name) can’t even manage that. It’s not a matter of quality over quantity, either. Look at some of the largest and best webcomics out there. They never skip a beat! It’s a matter of professionalism. If you can’t keep up then you remain an amateur. And amateurs should be treated as such. I should know, I consider myself to be one.
But I do aspire to being a professional, so on the other hand, while I have never really thought of my work as the “best of the best”, I at least try to make COMMISSIONED one of the best webcomics out there. Sure, there’s plenty of rubbish to go around, but there’s also some incredible stuff to admire. I try to follow in the (giant) footsteps of artists like Mike Krahulik, Scott Kurtz or Lar de Souza, artists that are not happy with just being at the top of their field but are also constantly working towards improving their technique. You see them not just treating their work with respect and professionalism, but you also see them trying out new things, interesting projects and basically just getting better at what they do with each stroke of the pencil. And yeah, I try to emulate that. I see amazing pieces of art like Sean Wang’s “Runners” and I think to myself: “I wish I could do something like that – on that level”.
And that’s precisely the thing: I can.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud of what I have accomplished with COMMISSIONED. I feel that I have managed to produce a webcomic of decent quality and in the almost 6 years I’ve been at it I have never missed an update. I enjoy looking at my work from the beginning and seeing how I’ve improved along the way. But I know I can do better. I feel good about the comic and I believe it’s good as well. But I’m not satisfied with “good”. I aim for “awesome”. Perfection is impossible, but that doesn’t mean we’re excused from working towards it.
During these past few weeks I’ve found myself lamenting the state in which I’ve had to upload the comic strip, constantly pestered by the sensation that if I had a bit more time I could have crossed that line that separates “good” from “awesome”. This last week I tried to simplify the comic, make it easier to draw. But in the end that just didn’t work. I’m not like that. Time is the artist’s enemy, and so I find myself at a crossroads here. On one hand, there’s the fact that I like giving frequent and constant updates. I wish I could update COMMISSIONED every day, but I have to be realistic. On the other hand, there’s the constant desire to produce the best comic I can produce. And to be able to work on other things, produce artwork, record the Audiorants and who knows? Maybe even aim for illustration jobs with gaming companies or stuff like that. But then I’ll have to face the facts and admit: I can either simplify COMMISSIONED or make the webcomic I want to make. And that second option will require more time.
Like I said before, I’ve never really thought of myself as being like most of the other webcomic artists. One of the other things that makes me think like that is that I don’t suscribe to the notion that since none of you are paying me to draw this webcomic, that I can do whatever I want. I am lucky to have readers like the one’s I’ve got. Readers are the reason a webcomic exists. We post these things so you can check them out – otherwise why post them at all? My readers have not just helped push COMMISSIONED to a rather respectable position amongst the current (vast) selection of comics on the web but they have also made donations and helped out when I needed it. Thanks to my readers I have stuff like gaming consoles or even an iPod. I feel that when the time comes to make important decisions like the one I’m trying to make right now I owe it to my readers to at least ask for their opinions and possibly for their blessing.
It’s like this: I’m thinking about (starting this week) changing COMMISSIONED to a schedule of either twice or once a week so that I can work towards making it a better comic in every aspect.
I’ve done this in the past, when I went from daily to three times a week. And I did it for the same reason. And also, I like to think I delivered on my promise. Now I want to go even further and make it even better. Don’t misunderstand me, though. It doesn’t actually take a week to produce a COMMISSIONED comic strip. The idea is that I can also work on producing more commissioned artwork (you know, the stuff that pays the bills) and not have to lower the comic’s quality in order to do so as I’ve had to do in the past.
But I don’t want to just make this decision and leave all of you to “deal with it”. I really would like to know if any of you are with me on this and will support my decision along the way. I would honestly like to know what you all think.
So that’s it. Thanks for taking the time to read this incredibly long rant where I took forever to get to a point, but I need for everybody to understand where my mind is. I do not plan to end COMMISSIONED any time soon and I want to make it the best webcomic that it can be. So thank you all.
NOTE: Before anybody says it, this all has nothing to do with my recent work on “Hello with Cheese”. Drawing those other comics barely takes a couple of hours out of my week and if that was really the problem, I’d just sleep a bit less and problem solved.