Three things

I do love drawing comics, but after 16 years as a professional (and after leaving a long career in IT about 10 years ago – 10 years of it as my only job) I feel it’s time to do something else. I admit this is as much about the current drought of work that I’m sitting in as it is about anything else. (Year before last was the busiest I’ve ever been, last year was the most lucrative I’ve ever had, this year is looking like the least busy I’ve ever been with the worst year financially every – made worse by the fact that last year was so good. Freelance is hard yo!) but it’s also about pushing myself more – sure every page is a struggle, but there’s lots about my old day job that I miss – working with people, training people, figuring out why stuff wasn’t working (there’s a good part of IT support that’s basically very low-stakes detective work )

I love what I do, but if I could find a way to do it 9-5 with a regular pay cheque I’d snatch it right out of your hands.

Anyhue, as it happens three things fell on me this week that at least made me feel like I’m more than just an artdroid. They were things I’ve done a little before, but these felt like higher stakes – or at least I was pushing beyond my comfort zone.

Teaching comics. I’ll feel on a surer footing when I get out of the writing part and in to the drawing part, but it’s been a challenge and I think I’ve done ok with it. I really enjoyed it, would hope that I can find some more work like it here in Belfast. (Hey if you’re looking for someone who can teach how to write/draw comics in Belfast, give me a shout!)

Acting. I did a cold read for a friend who’s developing a play. Felt stupidly nervous and way out of my depth. Having done a bit of acting (nothing major) watching two other people who clearly knew what they were doing and then dreading the moment I had to say anything. That was horrible. Where the hell did my confidence in acting disappear to? I think I warmed into it, not sure if I did anything but read lines as though I was saying them. Can’t think that that’s acting.

Storyboards. I’ve now done a couple of storyboards, it turns out that, despite my concerns, I’m actually on pretty solid footing doing them (whisper: I’m even good at it). I’ve been telling stories visually since I was about 7 years old. It’s just a bit odd to wrap your head around the idea that they don’t want a finished piece of artwork. I consider my value as an artist in producing finished art, and while I’ve always considered my story telling as my real strength as an artist – you’re still trying to produce a finished piece of art. Storyboards are all about that story telling without the finished art and for a director it’s your skill as a visual thinker that are valued. It’s weird to disconnect them, but fun to just kind of finish a thing with a director and go – “so… that’s finished then” without spending the next month drawing something in detail.

I like it. With a bit of luck I’ll find some paying gigs on that front. Northern Ireland seems to have more and more TV product coming out of it, and it could be a good supplement to comics.

Anyway, that’s the notes from the drawing desk as it stands right now. I may well change my tune tomorrow.


Author: PJ

PJ is a Belfast based comic artist, and has been for some time.