This Star Wars webcomic of mine (from a comic I drew as a kid) kind of disgraces me as a designer! But it’s such a hard style to get right, for the particular, unusual content which it carries. I’d love to get your input.
Ordinarily, I prefer not to ask people for their opinions on my work, but I’m just too close to this thing and… it’s also complicated.
The webcomic is built around a comic book adaption that I did as a kid between early 1978 and about 1983. So between the ages of 9 and about 14 or 15 years old.
The current look is my CSS-tweaked version of a very plain and basic off-the-shelf Comic Press skeleton template. It’s difficult to get much more creative with it in terms of layout etc., so what I’ve done is mainly adjust the typography, colours and forms of the various widgets and content boxes, like rounding off their corners.
The Design Problem to be Solved
The problems as I see them from a webdesign point of view are mainly all about the fact that what’s being displayed/presented/exhibited in the website is pretty rough looking, at times very tatty, stained, and even partially eaten by Silverfish insects! The paper is nearly 4 decades old. But most of the drawings lack finesse. What this means is that:
- A ‘clean’ minimalist gallery-style website isn’t really going to fit the tatty looking content. It’ll make the content look even tattier by contrast.
- When I do a slightly tatty looking site design (like my other alienage11.com webcomic) it just makes everything look like crap 😀
My feelings about the current Dark version
Last week, I tried an experiment with my Webcomic. I split up the page that I’d yet to publish, into 3 strips, and published them on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I was going for more frequent updates, in a way that was more manageable within my time-constraints.
Realising it wasn’t working, on Friday, I quickly re-published them as one big page, ‘The Old Boy’ and got 30 Facebook ‘Likes’ within a few hours. That’s 30, instead of the 3 or 4 I was previously getting. People much preferred the old way!
I was all excited about the new comic strip format
I was actually really excited about doing this. One of the problems with my Between * Wars comic has been frequency and regularity of updates. because if there’s one thing that will lose you the readers that you’ve gained through your hard work and quality output, it’s going for indeterminate periods without giving more instalments. Your readers won’t know when or even if there’s another episode coming, and will get frustrated, lose interest and maybe even forget about you. Continue reading
As part of their artists’ profiles TV series, I spoke about Art, Illustration, Making Comics and the inspiration that we can get from our younger selves. Because our childhood interests and passions, can be the key to what we’ll enjoy doing when we grow up – if only we’ll listen!
Star Wars gets a very big look-in as a major inspiration and life-changer, to me, when I was a creative youngster. So, if you’re a creative person and you love Star Wars and comics; this is for you. I spoke a bit about 2 of my comics, the young Star Wars one: Star Wars age 9 – and my current grown-up 1970s nostalgia one: Between * Wars. Please check them out and follow them after you watch the video and read this article.
Above: My Artist Profile video feature on RTE TV’s Two Tube
In a Nutshell…
What the producers of the 2 minute piece took from it went like this,
“Two Tube went behind the doors of Illustrator John White’s Dublin studio and explored his diverse and colourful world of fine art, comics, illustration, and design; the secret is to always remain a big kid at heart!“
It was a fun thing to do at the very end of last summer, but it also focused my mind about a few things; particularly about us spending our life – and we only get one of those – working at what we enjoy.
Finding Our Own Voice – and the Web
I also spoke a bit about how we should try to find our own voice, creatively, and not be too intimidated by what other brilliant people are doing. Continue reading
I reflect on my 2015 Webcomic Award Nomination, from Irish Comic News
Ah well. I was being realistically optimistic about winning the best webcomic 2015 Award for my Between * Wars comic. After all, I’m pretty new on the Irish Comics scene. I only raised by head above the parapet this year and went out and actually met other creators! Continue reading
An updated look at the production process of my comic. The previous blog post about the process « can be seen here.
“Where do you get your ideas?”
That most often asked question… The « Peace-keeper strip idea came to me in a flash, as usual, but this time as I walked with my wife, Gabby from one building to another. In the space of 5 or 10 seconds. I mentioned a kid who used to be in school with me, and suddenly I had the concept of the whole strip in my head. Some dialogue and lot of images.
Developing the idea – scribbles
It’s time to take the comic a bit more seriously!
New Beginnings: a Fresh Start
Last July, I enrolled in the IGNITE Ireland Academy in Dublin. It’s a 6 month course in self-employment, and starting your own business. It’s basically Entrepreneurship. I love it! And I owe a huge debt of gratitude to my wife and son for their understanding and patience.
When I got to the 20th strip of the comic, I decided it was time to step back and review things. In this article on the artwork, I’m looking at the Faces & Characterisation.
People Like It!
Something that I haven’t sufficiently appreciated is how much people enjoy a well drawn facial expression. Which is strange, considering how much I also do, and how much I enjoy drawing them! Here’s a very old one ^ of mine which nearly everyone says is one of their favorites:
I think I know what type of house I’d like to live in these days. Something like this one, up the road from my own:
I’ve been enjoying having a go at designing two of the houses featured in the strip so far. The first that I attempted was Jim’s bungalow in the strip < PREMATH with the number ’77’ beside the front door. I really enjoyed that one, putting in everything that I liked. However, I didn’t really think very much – or at all – about the house as a whole.
* NOTE: This used to be in the Comic section but it’s not really a story or gag strip, so I’ve moved it into the blog to take it out of the comic continuity (getting big ideas about the comic now…)
Heroes 1 – 3. I won’t lie to you, I’ve put very little thought into their personalities and back-stories. You see, I’m trying not to delay things or get over-ambitious like I did with my other now-cancelled webcomic. I want to just get stuck-in. The characters will be a mosaic of various friends that I had, blended with whatever interesting ideas pop into my head as I go along. Who knows? maybe you, the readers will make suggestions based on your own childhood pals, and they’ll go into the mix too? Continue reading
This weekend I’m finally getting it started.
I worked on the comic a lot over many many months after I started a new job. I was feeling very down about life and finding it the most demoralising job and employer than any since 1999. The difference was that the 1999 job was killing me with stress and work overload and insanely long hours. This one was and still is to a certain extent the worst since then because of the demoralising element to it. At 43 years old, with 12 years experience at what I do, I was being told for the first time ever that I was slow. A bottleneck in the system, even. When I estimated that a task would take an hour, I was treated with astonished disbelief, and would be told that it was “a 5 minute job.” This, despite my 12 years experience.
An exciting creative distraction
Anyway, I was so depressed and annoyed actually, that I began to formulate a webcomic. The thoughts of this occupied me going to and from work – providing an exciting distraction from the usual feelings of low-self-worth and dread associated with my new job. Coffee break and lunch break [which I still feel uneasy about taking!] were spent drawing, scribbling and writing ideas for the comic. I was very very excited about it. This went on for a many months.
A slight improvement
The strange thing that happened then was that after about 9 or 10 months into the job, things started to improve a little. My boss was treating me better – although my output was looking more and more templated and less creative. This made him happier because I was getting faster. Let me just say that in 12 years in many jobs I had never been made to feel that I was slow before. On the contrary: one boss, of a good, successful web design company told me, in front of the staff that “You’re actually pretty fast!” But anyway, the work was polished, but boring and my new boss was a bit happier and treating me better. Having said that, I’ll never really be fast enough for him.
The Clouds lifts a little – and complacency builds…
So, my black cloud was lifting – a little – but one of the consequences was that the webcomic idea, formerly a way of releasing tension and privately venting my spleen – was now actually depressing to think about – in itself! It just seemed so negative – despite all of the comedy, which is pretty black admittedly.
Regaining Some Sense of Pride
But, in the last few months I’ve been thinking about taking steps to change careers and and get back to doing proper creative work. I’ve had some psychological boosts from good people. I had a MARVEL talent scout send me sample scripts to work on; a creative director and conceptual artist in movies actually took the time to phone me for an hour one Sunday night when he saw how frustrated I was [sincere thanks Paul!]; I recently got good feedback from a senior creative in a major eLearning/Gaming company and it’s clearer than ever that I have to leave the exponentially-growing army of web designers and do work that fully uses my talents. We’re ten a penny. And I can do more than that. I’ve always felt embarassed when people ask me what I do for a living.
“I’m an Illustrator and wbdzgnr…mumble.”
Pardon? A what?
“Ok. I’m a graphic slash web designer.”
I feel so ashamed. No pride whatsoever in my job or title. I figure that the graphic slash prefix makes it sound less rubbish.
A book that’s really helped me a lot is What Colour is Your Parachute? It’s one that – as a fed-up web designer way back in 2002 [!] – I was about to buy, but a friend who was perpetually unlucky in work told me it was rubbish, so I didn’t buy it! I wish to God now, that I hadn’t listened to him. I would have had a 10 year start. 10 YEARS. Who knows what work I’d be doing now and how many years of career-torment I would have saved myself.
Now I have it. And it’s a brilliant book. It basically says that if you want to get a job – a career that you love, it stands to reason that you need know yourself, what you love to do, what makes you unique and what skill and knowledge you have that can be used to get you into that place. It takes you through many probing exercises to build up the picture. The scales are falling from my eyes at last.
And you know what? I’ve decided that I’m going to do this webcomic after all as a part of a greater journey toward more satisfying and fulfilling work and a better life.