16
Apr

What’s In My Bag

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For years, I carried a Timbuk2 messenger bag as my daily carryall, but - once Parker was born - I decided to make a switch. The messenger bag had become rather cumbersome, especially when I had a diaper bag strapped on my other arm while carrying a car seat. Even though I had sworn off of them back in 2005, I decided to reexamine the standard backpack.

The reason I abandoned the backpack was due to its style; I just didn’t think they were cool anymore. But, now that I’m a 33-year-old man with a small child, I’ve decided that functionality is much more important than form. Fortunately for me, I found a bag that is more convenient and looks super rad, too: the Booq Mamba Daypack.

What I like about my Booq bag is that it has a minimal design. There are not a lot of pockets, which I like because I tend to forget where I put stuff. There’s a laptop sleeve and a tablet sleeve which come in handy for things other than devices. I use the laptop sleeve to store a folder I use for church, and the tablet sleeve is great for letters and small documents. There are a couple of small interior pockets that I use for my wallet and iPhone, and a place to store my pen when it’s not in use. The large compartment holds a couple Moleskine journals, a thineline Bible, my glasses case, and my pencil bag. There’s also an outer pocket where I store some odds-and-ends stuff.

Here are some pics of my bag and all its contents:

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One of my favorite features of the bag is this interior key holder. It’s nice not having to keep them in my pants pocket.

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Looking down into the main compartment.

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I don’t carry my Macbook with me everday, but this bag has a nice laptop sleeve for when I do. Furthermore, I can still fit all my regular stuff in the bag when the Macbook is in tow.

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Here’s my bag with all its contents laid out.

What’s in YOUR bag?

14
Apr

Dummy Book Pages 6-10

I’m working on the dummy book for the children’s book I wrote. Here are some detail shots of pages 6 through 10:

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On page 6, Myron gets ready for his big journey! This is his dinosaur backpack - the PERFECT backpack for adventuring!

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Myron’s Mother makes her first appearance on page 7. She helps Myron put together a very special lunch for the King.

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One of the reasons the dinosaur backpack is so great for adventures is because it’s a trusty place to hold lunch bags - which is why Myron’s Mother trusts the bag with the King’s lunch on page 8!

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Myron hightails it out the backdoor on page 9 and the adventure begins!

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The first place Myron passes through is the creepy Elmwood Forest on page 10!

I feel like I’m gradually getting better at drawing Myron as I progress through the dummy.

What do you think so far?!

13
Apr
Quick self portrait. Straight to ink. #wesdraws #sketchbook #creativity

Quick self portrait. Straight to ink. #wesdraws #sketchbook #creativity

11
Apr

My Thoughts on STRIPPED

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Last week, I got my copy of STRIPPED in the mail. It’s a documentary about the business of comic strips that was funded through Kickstarter. It’s garnered a lot of media attention and critical praise lately, and, believe me, it’s all well-earned. Much like the Jeff Smith documentary, this movie will get lots of repeat viewings; it’ll be great to listen to while I’m drawing.

I wanted to take a few moments to offer some thoughts regarding the doc. The film spends a lot of time talking about newspaper syndication vs. web publishing, and I really don’t want to add more contusions to that long-dead horse. What I want to do is point out something that’s fairly obvious: 

The “problem” behind the “webcomics vs. print comics” argument is not unique to comics. 

The problem is plaguing everyone from record labels to movie makers to retail companies, and the problem is this: there’s an industry-standard business model (i.e. newspaper syndication) that is obsolete, but the new publishing format (i.e. the internet) is difficult to monetize. Thanks to the internet, it’s never been easier to amass an audience. It’s also never been more difficult to make money from them, especially if you’re an artist.

So what do we do? Man, I don’t know. I haven’t been able to figure that out. I’ve followed all the advice I could get, but none of it worked for me. No two creators are doing it the exact same way, so it’s really hard to analyze what works and what doesn’t. All we can do is keep trying different things. Ask questions. Take risks. Mix stuff up. Keep twisting the dial until we find the combo that opens the lock.

The industry-standard business model is dead, y’all.

But don’t be discouraged, OK? Promise me you won’t be discouraged. Because people are doing it. They’re making a comfortable living by publishing their work on the internet. It’s not impossible; it’s just difficult.

So hang with me! Don’t be afraid to take risks. Don’t be afraid to fail. Don’t be afraid to do the exact opposite of all the advice you receive. There’s a lot of us out here trying to make this work, and we’re all blindly bumping into walls, too. 

The playing field is pretty even. Be encouraged.

09
Apr

Working Through Discouragement

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As surely as biscuits go with sausage gravy, so too does discouragement come with creativity. 

I’ve actually found that the amount of discouragement an artist feels is directly proportional to his/her ability. The more discouragement he/she feels, the higher the ability. The less discouragement he/she feels, well… you get it. Don’t believe me? Just watch one of the audition episodes of American Idol. The contestants who think they’re amazing are the ones that suck the most, whereas the contestants who actually have talent are sobbing in a corner because they think they’re awful. It’s a fascinating paradigm.

So, what do you do when you’re inevitably stricken with discouragement? How do you plow through so you can get back to work? Here are three tips that work pretty well for me. Maybe you’ll find them useful, too:

Quit comparing yourself to other artists’ talent! I do this all the time. I admire A LOT of artists, and I can waste a lot of time looking through online portfolios and tumblr pages. But there comes a point when my admiration starts to fade into discouragement. Instead of being fascinated by a cartoonist’s linework, I all-of-sudden feel like I’ll never be able to ink as well as her. Before too long I’m reevaluating all of my artistic progress and eventually decide that I’m not good enough to keep trying.

Silly, isn’t it? Believe me, I feel dumb just typing it out. But I bet you’ve felt that way hundreds of times, too. You wanna know the best way to defeat that feeling? Stop looking at other people’s art! Eyes back on your own paper! You’ve got work to do!

Quit comparing yourself to other artists’ successes! Not only do I admire others’ artwork, but I oftentimes admire their success. Which isn’t a bad thing, but, left unchecked, can become very unhealthy.

Jon Acuff says we need to stop comparing our beginning with someone else’s middle. In other words, we can’t expect to have the same results as someone who’s waste-deep in their career while we’re still getting our toes in the water. It takes time. It takes work. For most of us, it seems to take a lot more time and work than it takes for others.

Keep at it. You’re not alone.

Force yourself to work! The best way to plow through discouragement is the simplest and the hardest. When we’re discouraged, we don’t want to work. We feel like we’re not worthy of the work. But that’s how discouragement wins, and you don’t want discouragement to win.

Trust me, you’ll be AMAZED at how fast your discouragement will fade once you put your pencil back to the paper. You quickly forget about what it was that made you feel unworthy. You get back into a groove. You find your voice again. It’s exhilirating.

Know this, my fellow creatives: Discouragement will come, but she can be beaten. Her bark is much worse than her bite.

What methods do you use to overcome discouragement?

07
Apr

Dummy Book Pages 2-5

I’m currently working on the dummy book for my children’s book pitch, and I thought it’d be fun to share some of the artwork with you. Here are some detail shots of pages 2 through 5 of the dummy.

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Page 2 and 3 form a two-page spread. The image is an establishing shot of Myron’s house. I’ll put the title on page 2 and the text on page 3.

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Myron makes his first appearance on page 4. He’s a thoughtful little dude. My son, Parker, has a sleeper covered in stars; hence Myron’s star-patterened  PJs.

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Page 5 features a map a la every-fantasy-book-ever-written. Had a lot of fun drawing this page, and I’m debating whether or not to use it as one of the finished pages for the dummy. We’ll see. I used a map of Middle Earth for reference.

I’ll post more artwork from the dummy book, soon! In the meantime, what do you think so far?

04
Apr
This morning’s warmup sketch #illustration #cartooning #sketchbook #creativity #wesdraws

This morning’s warmup sketch #illustration #cartooning #sketchbook #creativity #wesdraws

04
Apr

Even More Character Designin’

This is Griff, the warrior character featured in my children’s book. I went rounds with this guy, and I never really pushed myself to finalize his look before drawing him in the dummy book. I got the look of the character going in a direction I was happy with and then I just jumped into dummy book production. Thus, dummy-book-Griff looks a little different than design-phase-Griff.

Here’s a bunch of design-phase-Griffs:

02
Apr

When Your Hobby Is Not Your Hobby

Merriam-Webster’s definition of "hobby" is as follows:

:  a pursuit outside one’s regular occupation engaged in especially for relaxation

One of my pet peeves - and it’s a tiny pet peeve - is when people refer to my creative pursuits as “hobbies.” I can’t be too critical because these people are well-intentioned, but it still gripes at me a bit.

In line with the above definition, my creative pursuits definitely fall outside of my “regular occupation” and I do find drawing to be incredibly relaxing. But I can’t say that I do it especially for relaxation. On the contrary, I’m trying to make money at this. I want this to be my job. No one tells an unemployed person that submitting job applications and resumes is a hobby. So why are my attempts at monetizing my creative endeavors viewed that way?

If you’re a creative person and this kinda thing irks you, too, here are three signs that you’re more than a mere hobbyist:

You’re a student of your craft. You’re good at what you do, but you want to be better. So you read books and listen to podcasts and reach out to folks who do what you do except they’re way better at it. You push yourself to be great because you know it’s the only way you’ll stand out in a field saturated with creatives who have the same aspirations as you.

Your art is a top priority. You’re more than just a “Weekend Warrior.” Throughout the week you find ways to squeeze in every ounce of work you can. You get up early and you stay up late so can you create for an hour or two while your family is in bed. You work on your art while your kids are napping. You communicate with your spouse and find random pockets of time to work on your craft. You don’t simply wait for opportunities to work on your art; you make it happen.

You’re hustling*. You’re not just creating art, you’re putting it out there for the world to see. You’re pitching ideas to the gatekeepers in hopes of getting your foot in the door somewhere. You’re looking for ways to monetize. You’ve got bills to pay and mouths to feed; may as well fulfill those obligations doing something you love.

So there you go. If those three items describe you, then take heart knowing you’re not a hobbyist. You’re a pro.

Now get back to work.

*I’m not a fan of the word “hustling” in regards to “working hard.” Whenever someone tells me they’ve been hustling, my first thought is that they’re selling drugs out of the back of their Kia Optima. Anyway, you get the drift.

31
Mar

How To Be A Family Man While Chasing Your Creative Ambitions

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If you’re like me, you find that it’s a constant struggle to balance your creative ambitions with your responsibilities as a husband and father. It can be tough, but it’s not impossible. To be honest, I’m still figuring a lot of this out myself, but I’ve got a few tips that I think might be helpful if you’re experiencing this quandary.

Before we dive in, a couple things to note:

  1. As I said, I’m still figuring things out. So the following advice should be taken with a grain of salt. Nothing beats open and honest communication with your spouse and children.
  2. I’m writing this post from the perspective of a married father of a newborn son to other married fathers, but I think the advice is pretty universal. Just substitute with pronouns that are more applicable to your situation.

OK. So here are my vital statistics: I’m 33-years-old and I work full-time in sales. I’m also very active in our church where I serve as one of the pastors. Commission/freelance work is feast or famine - I’m either buried in it or I’m completely open. My wife, Kari, works three days a week so she can stay home with our 7-month-old son, Parker, during the other four. 

Here are my ambitions: I want to be a great husband. I want to be a great father. I want my creative endeavors to either provide a comfortable livelihood for my family -OR- be a healthy supplement to my existing income.

With that said, here’s my advice for investing time into your creative endeavors while maintaining a healthy family:

Prioritize: Chasing a dream means that we’ll need to constantly assess and reassess what is most deserving of our time - our most valuable commodity. There’s some stuff that’s a no-brainer: your wife and kids. There’s some stuff that you don’t necessarily love, but you know you gotta do it, i.e. your day job.

Once you’ve identified those intangibles, then you can start sorting through the tangibles. What are the things that consume large amounts of time that could be spent on your art? Is it the internet? Video games? Sports? Hang time with friends? Make a list and start pruning some behaviors out of your routine. Remember, spending less time on things you like gives you more time to spend on things you love.

Create a routine (to the best of your ability): Once you’ve established your priorities, you can start identifying pockets of time in your day/week/month when you can work on your creative passions. I try to look for times when I’m less-likely to be needed by my wife and son. Kari is off on Mondays and Fridays, so I get up around 5AM, shower, walk the dog, and go to my basement studio so I can squeeze in an hour-and-a-half of drawing time before work. I still get up at 5AM every Tuesday through Thursday, but that’s so I can watch my son while my wife gets ready for work. There are some evenings when I can work on my art, but these days I’m usually way too tired to focus after 9PM.

In addition to my Monday/Friday routine, I take full advantage of pop-up opportunities. For instance, a couple weeks ago on a Friday, my wife took Parker out-of-town for the day to visit one of her friends. As soon as I got home from work I made a bee-line for the basement! 

Be “All In”: No matter what you’re working on - whether it’s your creative endeavors, spending time with your family, or hustling at your day job - be “all in.” Make sure every one of your priorities is getting 100% of what you have to offer. That means forcing yourself not to daydream about your creative projects while shuffling pages at your job, playing games with your kids, or spending time with your wife. When you start to feel stressed and burdened and overwhelmed, that’s a good indicator that it’s time to reassess your priorities again.

Of course, communication is key to being successful on all three of these points. Be willing to talk with your spouse and get a creative “check up” every now and then. Are you balancing your creative endeavors well? Are you spending enough time with your family? Do your wife and kids feel loved? Ask these big questions, take the answers to heart, and adjust your schedule accordingly.

You’ll be a better man for it.

How do YOU balance your creative endeavors with your family life?

Wes on Wes

Husband of Kari. Father of Parker. Driver of Volkswagen Jetta. Eater of meat. Creator of cartoons.

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