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Some Things, Off the Top of My Head, an Artist Should Know

Please don’t take my extended absence personally: I barely wrote anything in 2017. Let’s change that this year.

(2019 Edit:  So much for that.)

But this post, as the title says, wasn’t planned. It started out as an answer to a Reddit post asking what you should study if you want to go pro, but as I kept writing, I realized it was turning into a blog post.

So here you go: a list, from memory, of what I think an artist with ambition should be reading up on.

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Build a Studio from Nothing

Early this year, I moved a thousand miles and had to rebuild my bedroom studio from scratch, and a couple months later, my laptop bricked itself, forcing me to replace it and all its programs.

So I took that opportunity to tackle one of comics’ oldest questions: What are the cheapest supplies you need to make a good one?

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Where Great Art Comes From

Originally published on Hey Design, which has been down for a while, although I can’t tell if it’s officially dead.   I wanted to preserve it in some form, but there’s really no reason to listen to the opinion of a then 25-year-old on this.


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Meaty Yogurt: Does a Lead Have to be Likeable?

Originally published on the defunct pop culture site Nerd Underground.  Text pulled from Wayback Machine, but images lost to time.

I don’t know if I still agree with it.

— 6/13/19

Hey! This is the first of a series of themed comic reviews I’ll be doing, each one posing a driving question or issue, then discussing how one series either answers it or gives us a viewpoint through which we can examine it.

Let’s start with the perennial favorite of whether or not a protagonist has to be likeable. It’s one of the most debated topics in lit; no idea why, though, since the conclusion’s always the same: “Nah, just compelling.”

What makes a character compelling? It’s not morality, since some of the most popular titles of late have intentionally vile protagonists. In most of these stories, the writer presents us with the bad guy, and as the show goes on, has them do more and more of the kind of dirt you’d want to see a real person executed for, but challenges you to keep liking this fictional one, or at least understand their reasons and stay with the story. And it often works.

But what about when it’s not that cut and dry? So, let’s look at a series whose lead sits in a gray area: Meaty Yogurt.

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What to Do When Someone Steals Your Art

Originally published on Hey Design.  It’s not about webcomics, but it might be of interest, since uncredited reposts are standard practice in the webcomics world, costing us a ton of potential publicity.


There’s not much point to art theft: you can’t pay the bills with upvotes.  And it’s not very sustainable over the long term, either: pretend to be a master long enough and people will notice no one’s ever seen you actually draw.  And for the people who profit off it:  First of all, you’re the worst.  But secondly, is what little you’re probably making worth knowing the truth will get out someday?

…But it’s still rampant online.  Plenty of people think everything on the internet is in the public domain, and they’ll take what they want, no matter how it affects you.  In the words of Deviantart, disabling right-click downloads is like “putting a padlock on a paper bag,” and despite how many artists take issue with their stance, that part, at least, is true.

However, there’s still plenty you can do to make it harder on thieves, minimize the damage, or even make it work to your advantage.

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Linking Binge II: Linking out Loud

Here is another thing.  Note that it’s been an unusually long time since the last thing.  That’s because I’ve acquired a day job and two additional freelance gigs since my last post in early April.  Yeah, it’s been a weird two months.  I’m writing this at 4 am, knowing full well I have to be up in a few hours, but desperate to prevent at least one more follower from forgetting about my existence.

The two of you who still follow Yume-Hime have noticed that it’s currently in the middle of its longest hiatus to date as well.  I haven’t given it up—its half-finished 21st page is taped to the drawing board in my room, leering down at me in judgment every day—but…   Sorry.  Nothing else to say here but “sorry.”  Should have said something on the comic’s site itself.

Anyway, in a last-ditch attempt to capture your interest, here’s some content, mostly pulled from the Webcomicry Tumblr.  You like content, right?

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Less Than A Thousand People: Jojo Stillwell on the Comics Industry

This, too, was originally published on x-eyed content farm Nerd Underground.  I was curious about whether the shop pictured is still open, so I Googled the name and number.  Turns out it is.


Webcomics collective Hiveworks is on track to become one of the big success stories of the comics world, if it isn’t already. The various series they host pulled in twelve million uniques in January alone.  But this isn’t about that. It’s about the other side of comics.

Last night, founder Jojo Stillwell tweeted that “The entire professional comic industry in America could fit inside an auditorium if you count people over $30k/year.”

When questioned (by me) about the capacity of that auditorium, he replied that it would be “not more than 1,000.” And yes, this includes indie, self-published, and even crowdfunded creators.

Simply put: despite the huge shadow it casts on the culture, the actual comics industry is pitifully small. And there’s a reason for this: despite how well Marvel’s currently doing, the business as a whole has been in slow decline since the boom of the 90’s ended.

I’ve known this for a while, but I’ve always had questions about it. Why? Can this be gotten over? And can indie creators fare any better than mainstream ones in such a tough climate? So I asked him, which led to a discussion on marketing, comics’ future, and his advice for creators who’d like to get into the business.

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The Horror Process

First, a disclaimer: Although horror might be my favorite genre, I’m no expert on it.

In fact, a lot of readers would say I’m the last person who should try to teach anyone about it.  Two years ago, I wrote a story, a spontaneous rework of a crappypasta, and submitted it to them.  When I’d showed it to friends and posted it on critique sites, the response was universally positive, but when it went up on the site, it tanked, debuting as one of the bottom five stories in its history, and only managing to eke up to 5/10 stars after several days.

As for the comments…  You can see them.  Most of them didn’t bother me too much, since they misinterpreted my intent in writing it, but the one that really caught my eye was the one that described it as a forced attempt to be scary without knowing what that meant.  In hindsight, that was dead on.  I didn’t know how horror worked at the time; I thought it was like any other type of fiction, but with more bad stuff happening.  I had a lot to learn about its unique plotting, atmosphere, and methods of building tension.

This is probably why it fell flat with that particular audience, despite succeeding with others: it works as amateur transgressive fic, but not when presented as horror, and the realistic feel I tried to give it ended up being its biggest problem.  If you look at the plot, it’s just one thing happening, then another, then another, without much continuity between them.  …You know, like real life.  But, also like real life, it doesn’t make for a very good genre story when told as-is.

So, why am I airing out a flop I’m still embarrassed by?  Both so you can learn from my mistakes, and as a”before” for the “after” that is this article.  Since then, I’ve tried my best to learn how it works, and part of my reason for writing this was to collate my own notes into something coherent.

The most important thing I’ve learned is that it seems to follow an identifiable process.  A lot of people have given us clues to this: Stephen King shed some light on it when he talked about the difference between a mere gross-out, the horrifying, and the truly terrifying.  Someone else, I can’t remember who, said horror hits you in the brain, the heart, and the stomach all at once.  Both of these are parts of the “formula,” but now I’m going to try to explain what I believe is the whole.

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Tell Better Stories With Memes

…OK, both the title and the page image are pretty misleading on this one.  I’m actually talking about memes as Richard Dawkins originally defined them: bits of knowledge passed from person to person via word of mouth and various media.

Figures of speech are memes, writing styles are memes, and tropes are some of the most persistent memes of all.  In fact, you could argue that stories are just meme golems.  Where do all these bits come from, though?  Both reality and fantasy in equal measure: life inspires art inspires life and so on, and memes travel freely between them.

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Linking Binge

Since full-length posts take so long to write, I’m going to be periodically doing posts featuring links from around the internet that should also be of interest to webcomic creators, just so something’s going up here in the interim.

Today: Monty Oum, life drawing, running, fonts, who’s linking to who, story arcs, and an email list.

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