It took me a long time to understand this, but the day-to-day job of the artist is not ‘making art’, it is filling sketchbooks.
As Austin Kleon says, “filling my sketchbook” is a perfectly legitimate answer to the question “what are you working on right now?”
The sketchbook is a sort of creative engine: with every page, I fill the pistons make another revolution; like any engine, it works best when used often; it is hungry for fuel, meaning I have to be better at seeing and recording the world around me; the art, whatever that is, will be the…
Why making art is a cosmological miracle.
When I was researching my sci-fi show Parallax back in 2017, I spent a lot of time learning about xenology.
Xenologists think about biology, chemistry, physics and so on as they might relate to alien species, and my own thinking was that if I could learn to speak like a xenologist, I could talk about life on earth as if it were alien to me.
I filled five whole sketchbooks in 2020 — and my drawing ability has improved significantly. I even drew my first comic!
This is down, in many ways, to changing how I use my sketchbook.
Before I begin, I should say I am not a trained artist, just an enthusiastic amateur. This process, new to me, won’t be new to the professionals among you but hopefully it will be inspiring or helpful all the same!
First of all, the frustration.
A sketchbook is supposed to be a place where an artist (of any kind) can play, experiment and practice. It is…
In my experience, a good idea almost never appears fully formed.
It’s more like a vast gas cloud in space: a feeling here, a colour there, a quote, a couple of chords that float past your nostrils and evaporate. Whatever it is, you like it, but you can’t attach it to anything yet.
In the passing of time, those gases slowly condense to form liquids and eventually something solid.
Like the good universe itself, patience is necessary.
In her book Big Magic Elizabeth Gilbert has this great way of describing ideas as floating sprites in search of human partners:
I have thought about this advice, from designer Frank Chimero, a lot over the last year: once through, cleanly.
It’s very simple: when you are beginning a new project, create it in a format that means you can complete the idea in a single sitting.
If you are developing a screenplay, begin with a one-page treatment that lets you tell the whole story from start to finish in one single sweep.
If it’s a comic, begin with very rough thumbnail pictures that, again, get you from start to finish cleanly in a single sitting.
Once through, cleanly. It’s such an…
How Jason Lutes masters visual storytelling.
On my desk sits a framed page of storyboards from Hayao Miyazaki’s film Spirited Away.
Spin the frame around and on the other side is a print from Scott McCloud’s graphic novel The Sculptor.
With minimal self-help fluff, he presents a tangible and usable process for building good habits and getting rid of bad ones.
The big revelation for me was Clear’s distinction between goals and systems.
Our outcome-orientated society cares about goals. We are told to identify big glorious ambitions and break them down to manageable chunks in order to achieve. We complain when we don’t have any direction in our life and look enviously at people who are working towards some big dream.
“If only I had an idea…
A simple straight line that will elevate your visual storytelling
One day, when I was storyboarding a complicated film for The New York Times, I realised something about how visual stories function.
A non-exclusive list for filmmakers, graphic novelists and other sequential artists.