The Measure of an Artist

Happy New Year! Here’s this bright shiny year, as full of promise as an blank sheet of paper, and maybe as scary too, for the same reasons. Thankfully, we all go through this transition together, so we’ve got lots of company in the arbitrary yearly soul-searching. I think it’s good for us humans, to stop on the road every now and then, look at the hills stretching out behind us, and check the map for the next stage of the journey.

Sometimes I feel like I’m working really hard, and getting nothing done — I know this is common, because I read so many artist’s blogs and newsletters, and it comes up a lot! So this year I thought I’d physically take a look at what I’ve done in the last year:

Stack O' Art

Yup. Seven and a half centimetres of art-on-paper! This includes 48 pages of Mermaid Music, 48 pages of Quadra Cats (plus covers), three art challenges, a handful of illustrations for a book, and various oddments I did for personal projects.

So. Not too shabby. But I really had to spread them out and look at them. I was going to put everything out on the Music Room floor together (it’s the biggest room in our house), but they wouldn’t fit! So I started with Mermaid Music:

Mermaid Music pages

That’s actually about half as many pages as I would have liked to have done last year; I’ve been feeling bad about that, but looking at them this way cheers me up a lot!

Then there were all the miscellaneous comics and challenges and illustration. They don’t look nearly as fancy as the more uniform pages look, but it still takes up a good part of the room. I forgot a few pages, too, and a few have gone to new homes.

Pages of Art

And then there’s The Quadra Cats. I essentially completed, start to finish, two books in 2017, though one has yet to be printed. The entire first three books are up as a webcomic, though — you can read them for free! I couldn’t lay all the pages out on the floor, because they are primarily digital, and so I don’t have physical finished artwork for them.

The first thing I did with them was start the webcomic site in February 2017. I had already printed book 1, and it seemed a shame not to be giving it more exposure. I had dithered over it for almost a year, and decided to go for it. I was already working on book 2, and didn’t think it was going to go much beyond that. But a funny thing happened on the way to Federation Headquarters…

QC2 all pages

The book I thought I was making turned out to be twice as long as the first book, so after scripting it, I decided to make it two books. I finished the third book last month, and will be running a Kickstarter to fund the printing.

QC3 all pages.jpg

So that’s what I managed to accomplish in a year, as far as the art goes. What you can’t see is all the writing: scripting the comics, writing blog and newsletter posts (although you can see those if you look at the home page, or subscribe to the newsletter), Facebook posts, Instagram posts, Tweets. I also keep a journal, which is not specifically art related, but really helped me in going back for a review.

Every year since 2000 I’ve started the new year with a new journal. I don’t use a physical one, but type on my computer, because my hand can’t handle lengthy writing sessions and goes to sleep (for some reason this is different than drawing — but it does the same thing when I’m lettering comics). It’s useful in other ways, too; I can do word searches to find things I want to look back on or see when they happened, and best of all, I can read it — my handwriting not being what it once was.

What gets recorded is a mish-mash: a diary of what I’ve done, lists of things to do, creative ideas to play with, dreams (this year’s had a lot of those for some reason), complaints, health notes, whining and crowing. It’s kind of like a letter to the future me. My 2017 journal was almost a novel: I wrote 70,830 words!

At the end of every year, I review the entire year’s journal entries, making notes of what I accomplished and what I didn’t accomplish that I still might want to do. I try to take note of trends that might be hindering me or helping me in those things, and incorporate whatever I learn from that into plans (I hesitate to say resolutions, because the word makes me twitch) for the next stage of the journey.

I’m not quite ready to talk about these analyses, and the resulting plans, daydreams, and goals (therein lie more blog posts, I’m sure) — but I will say I’m optimistic about this year after looking back at what I was able to accomplish over the last, despite some health issues that seriously interfered with my work. I guess like any kind of journey, it helps to look at the odometer occasionally!

So stack up your art, or your writing, or some physical manifestation of whatever it is that you do — and get out that ruler!

6 responses to “The Measure of an Artist

  1. Great work and accomplishments! I can’t bring out the ruler since I take photos and all but I would love to add male dolls into my strip. That’s the plan. I know I could’ve been more productive. I’m embarrassed.


    • Aw, thanks! There are different ways to measure things — I just thought this would be kind of amusing. Your dolls are so much work, and I’m sure setting up and editing the photographs is at least as time-consuming as drawing, if not lots more. You have no reason to be embarrassed; I’m really impressed with what you do! Remember that stuff on social media and blogs often looks intimidating when we compare ourselves to each other, but we only see the tip of the iceberg of that other person’s life. Don’t worry about not having done more; celebrate what you accomplished!

      (Also: I pretty much knocked myself out with this this year, and I think an upcoming blog post is going to be about scaling back to a more sane level)

      Liked by 1 person

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