Art Dump / Art Thoughts

I remember when teenage me used to put out art dumps, accompanied by loose updates on my progress as an artist. So I’m bringing it back.

My villagers in Brookham Island. This is an outdated drawing – half of these animals have moved away and been replaced by others.

It’s been a rough couple of months. The act (and the thought!) of creating is so unintuitive now, like squeezing water out of a rock. Every time I think ‘hmm I should work on XYZ’, I immediately space out on the interwebs or go to sleep; which is fine, except there’s a graphic novel I gotta finish. x_x DEADLINES!!! ARGH!!

Though I’m besieged by the Deadline, I’m also not beating myself over Not Being Productive. It’s maybe a good thing that I am struggling tbh, after having read this tweet:

So many ppl are advocating the adoption of a new skill while in self-isolation but no one is talking about the prospect of not being able to utilise that skill in the future because it triggers a post-traumatic stress response because you learned it while afraid for your life.

Imani Barbarin

I figure, I’m probably experiencing trouble with my process because my brain is actually protecting my creativity, and my book, from being spoiled by trauma and stress. I imagine the “ideal” scenario of forcing myself to work on my GN, to push out drawings despite the brain struggles… which may be great for getting things done, but what comes after this is all over? Will the burnout be terrible? Will I be able to enjoy the fruits of my GN without recoiling from the pandemic memories? These consequences frighten me. And now I think, y’know what? This is okay.

My banshee girl, Catherine.

I only got enough brainjuice to play Animal Crossing, which has been a comfort in these strange times. I like having a hobby where I can simply create on a whim, without any pressure or obligation except for my own satisfaction. That was my relationship with drawing a few years ago before it became a career, and that old dynamic is one I wish to reintroduce into my practice. So far, progress is slow. I still have to draw/write for work, and that often eats up the little energy I have, leaving none for whimsical experimentation or study.

But if I was able to restore my reading habit within two years, then reclaiming my practice is deffo within the realm of possibility.
(I had fallen out of reading since college, partly due to study/work and mostly due to the consequence of being online. It’s only recently that I relearnt the art of maintaining an attention span for a big novel, and to read more than 30 books a year. I am gonna hit my 50 books for 2020 goal soon!)

My dear son, Ilias.

I feel a lil bad for having so little energy. It meant not being able to properly celebrate my webcomic’s 10th birthday, which was between March 30th to April 1st (it’s 3 days long because 1) I don’t remember exactly when I officially began the project 2) TWIDI debuted online on March 31st). I wanted to do a series of illustrations featuring each of my characters. Then I ghosted them. Lol.

It’s not a heavy guilt though, because TWIDI is 100% all-for-me, currently divorced from any current professional obligations. Once upon a time, I imagined TWIDI would be the Big Thing that would define my entire career. In a way it has, indirectly though The Carpet Merchant – it is definitely the reason why I’m able to work in comics now. But for its entire life, it’s always been a sanctuary for me to experiment with my craft – with characters and a world I am familiar with. Through school and all the ups and downs of real life, I always treated TWIDI that way, as a chill passion project. So after the end of TCM Vol II in mid-2018, I finally cut the thread that obligated it to create an audience, a brand, future revenue, readership loyalty, etc aka any semblance of ambition. Now, even if I drop the ball on stuff, I don’t mind. I can do my series later.

Even though I had no energy to draw, I wrote a very long, incredibly sappy essay about what TWIDI meant to me in the past decade. I miss my kids!!

Concept art for Alexander Comic. Some notes on clothes for these characters.

I’ve been thinking a lot about craft, my voice and what I aspire in both my art and my career. This conversation’s been in the work since began (and even a little before) and is probably the central theme of this blog. Guess I’ll own it.

As I hinted in my last post (the Artist Ask Meme thing), though I am confident and satisfied with what I am producing, I’m looking to level up. I’ve reached the point in my life/career when I am due for a massive improvement, similar to the one I experienced between the ages of 12 and 14.

I remember how I did it. I used to draw everyday in my sketchbook, engage in studies, and experiment with style and technique. I wrote frequent updates on my Deviantart journal detailing the kinds of things I wanted to improve on, and the kinds of exercises I did towards said improvements. I posted art a lot, to show my DA friends and get some feedback.

There Can Only Be One Unicorn

I want to do this again. Which is why I’m bringing back the art dump + art thoughts combination.

Here are a few things I am looking at:

  1. An improved sense of anatomy. Not for the sake of accuracy, but for my character acting. I want to draw bodies and poses that are grounded, expressive, and effortless. Gestural, almost. I’m also not as good at turning bodies, especially the head, in a 3D space. And I’ve gaps in my knowledge on certain areas of the body.
  2. Pushing my naturally graphic style further. I feel I’ve been holding back somewhat (maybe due to work – making art for a client requires consistency). I want the time and space now for my style to stretch its legs and go wild. I want to see what it can achieve. How hard can it hit? How grand can it become? What possibilities can be unlocked? What new ways of drawing will I discover?
  3. Expanding my shorthand/style/memory bank. I need to observe more. I have to learn more about what things look like. And I gotta draw and stylise them.
  4. Colours. I’m very confident with colours – it’s definitely what I consider my strongest skill. But it doesn’t hurt to get better. I would like to learn more ways to render, and find more opportunities to use colours graphically.
  5. Misc: perspective and composition.

Doing all these requires a lot of time for study and experimenting. I’ve a few resources in my back pocket, and lots of inspiration. What I need now is time… and the brainjuice.

One thing that is also preventing me from going all out is this feeling that I need to see how the response is to my work in 2020. 2020 is supposed to be my debut year – the year when all 3 of my books are released. I had so many things lined up to commemorate all this, and to develop my career (talks, panels, etc) to the next level. Obviously, the pandemic took those away. And now I am uncertain about the progress of my career. Like, yes, I have books out, but will people remember me? Will they know to invite me to festivals and cons? It’s not the fading-into-obscurity that I’m worried about; it’s wondering how long I can maintain the freshness of this position I’m now at in the traditional book industry. To come off the high of an Eisner nomination, then a book deal with a major publisher, and suddenly disappear for 4 years (the disappearances being: the year I had to work on Seance Tea Party, the 2020 that is now cancelled, and the 2 years gap before the next traditionally-published book) … considering how fast the internet moves, I don’t know… I also feel like I have to know that what I have already done is a good foundation before I move on to bigger and more ambitious dreams.

Basically, I am in an unstable spot to become unleashed in my practice. But one can argue that now is a good time to do so. Since I have so much time and space, given that many things in my schedule are cancelled… I could disappear and return with hopefully something more mature and surprising. Besides, I have been talking about poofing from social media for ages. Maybe this is the time?

Then again, I have books to promote, so I can’t abandon social media either. Sigh. I am between two places.

Anyway, yes I am keen to start the work of levelling up. We will see how it goes.

Until next time.

Hello, hello

Reimena Yee is a graphic novelist, artist and flamingo enthusiast.

She writes and illustrates quite a few webcomics and graphic novels. When not making books, she lulls away her time with essays on craft, life and experiences in the publishing industry. Some of her thoughts of art and life are rather unstructured and will evolve over time as this blog matures, as they should be.

Currently committed to being Alexander the Great's death doula. Is a nerd for all things spooky and historical.

Melbourne / Kuala Lumpur

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