Hourly Comic Day — What I Learned

Hourly Comic Day is an informal, annual event started in 2009 by John Campbell. It takes place on February 1. Here’s a really good post about it by Sarah McIntyre. I had never taken part in it, and kept hearing about it after it was over, so last year I marked my calendar. As you may know if you’ve been reading this blog a while, I’m kind of art-challenge-crazy. So last Thursday morning, I woke up full of anticipation and big plans. I fortunately didn’t have anything I had to do except a band rehearsal in the evening, so I was champing at the bit.

Well … Hourly Comic Day turned into Hourly Comic Two Days. I scripted as the day passed (because it was loosely based on my day) and did about 3/4 of the sketching and half the inking by the end of the day, but had to finish the day after. I got most of the lettering done as well, and probably would have finished except that Photoshop and/or my computer was being buggy and I had to keep restarting.

I’m having mixed feelings about the whole thing; like I cheated or did it wrong because I didn’t get it all done in one day, and didn’t actually sketch every hour. On the other hand, I got a 12 page comic out of it, a fluffy (haha, pun!) little story based on the Quadra Cats. It was excellent exercise for my storytelling muscles. And refreshing to allow myself to draw that fast, not putting much thought into perfecting things. Here’s what I ended up with, before the computer stuff:


The pages are the same size as the ones I use to make the Quadra Cats webcomic/books, 8.5 inches square, just regular 20lb photocopy paper. I used a blue pencil, and a Pigma FB brush pen that I happened to find in my pile o’ pens and didn’t know I had, and some old Pigma Micron brush pens that were half dried up and the nibs all floppy, but still OK to fill in the blacks.

HCD Process.jpg

Yes, I actually scripted it. Ideas kept popping into my head, and I just wrote them down as they came up, under the loose theme of invisible cats following me around through whatever I was doing, making a nature documentary on us humans. Of course Alien Cat has a unique viewpoint, and Tux is there to straighten him out on his more outrageous assumptions.

Hourly Comic Day 1-TEXT.jpg

You can read the rest of the story here.

And now for what I learned from this exercise, ideas for next year, and questions raised, in no particular order:

  • I can draw breathtakingly fast when I want to. (who knew drawing could be so aerobic?)
  • I can ignore the howling hounds of perfectionism entirely when I want to, and with great satisfaction.
  • It’s a different state of mind entirely from my usual patient, zen-like process, in which I encourage myself to slow down.
  • It’s really fun to draw that way; I wouldn’t want to do it all the time, but I might do it some more.
  • The resulting loose drawing conveys the sense of the story just fine, somewhat to my surprise. Balloons for the words are also more-or-less unnecessary.
  • Old felt-tip brush pens can be used for textured shading if you don’t mind it looking sort of crude.
  • The Pigma FB brush-pen that I picked up somewhere is much to my taste and now I’ll have to buy cases of them.
  • The fast-draw thing has implications for my work-flow — it’s possible I could just ditch thumbnails entirely in a short story.
  • I really enjoyed the scripting part. Sometimes I think I would like to just be a writer. But then I wouldn’t trust anyone else with the art. Maybe that’s something I should work on: entrusting someone else with my story.
  • Next time I might try just going directly to ink. Or, as one person suggested, drawing in pencil and bumping the contrast in Photoshop. I should practice both of these.
  • Doing this once a month might be a good discipline. I’ll have forgotten all of this by next year.
  • I could try unfamiliar mediums for this, as long as I’m in the non-perfectionist mode.
  • More preparation would have been good; I wasted time getting out the paper I wanted and deciding on tools and format.
  • I’m not sure if it ought to always be autobiographical daily-life. If not, could I script it in advance and just draw by the hour?
  • Maybe I should try a panel an hour instead of a page an hour.
  • I find that I really want to clean the whole thing up, maybe colour it, and make it into a viable story. Is this perfectionism, or just the urge to continue the fun of creating?
  • I found that I had no time to stop and scan or photograph, let alone post the stuff as I put it out.
  • In fact I didn’t want to post it until it was done.
  • I forgot to eat. This is noteworthy because I almost never forget to eat unless I’m so immersed in something that it is taking over my soul. (“Hourly Comic Day ate my soul — true confessions of an artist”)
  • Setting aside the whole day for just comic-making would have been good for getting it done, but then I wouldn’t have had the nice scenes with the band rehearsal.
  • What if I did a fast-panel-a-day in this state of mind? Would it be a good warmup or just a distraction?
  • I’ve been starting to know this already, but it really hit home that doing this work is a kind of addiction for me, a repeating and reliable source of all those sweet brain chemicals which make me come back for more — even better than sugar or imported cheese — despite getting stiffer by the hour from sitting. I really didn’t want to stop. This could lead to me freezing in place at my worktable like the Tin Woodsman. I need to acquire a similar attachment to exercise.
  • I had really vivid dreams during all this. I think my story button is stuck in on position.
  • Lettering in the computer saves my hands. As long as I’m typing out scripts anyway, it sure is easier than hand-lettering. On the other hand, it’s a bit harder to plan the space to leave for it.
  • I’m thinking of making a zine of this story.
  • It was a heck of a lot of hard work.

And now it’s back to my more normal art-making processes. But this was a good shake-up of business as usual, and I know I’ll keep coming back to the things I learned from this.

3 responses to “Hourly Comic Day — What I Learned

  1. When I was doing my first comic, I had challenges with inserting the text and always did it on the computer. Took me forever to draw the panel, so being about to crank out a 12-page comic is admirable. I was thinking yesterday, I need to create more to get my comic out. I’m encouraged.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m so glad this is encouraging! Yeah, it does come easier the more you do it — I need to do more of this speedy stuff, just for the practice. It’s amazing what your hand knows how to do, when you get out of its way. It’s not Great Art, but is a really good way to get an idea out in tangible form without getting hung up in all the myriad possibilities.

    Leaving enough room for text is always my biggest challenge! I’ve been using several different methods, and should put that on my idea list for future posts. I actually kind of like the way the digital lettering looks here; I’m going to take a poll and see what people think about changing over the Quadra Cats to that. I may add some balloon borders in Photoshop.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Pingback: Meeting the Art Challenge | Karen Gillmore Art·

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