Art year in review: 2015 inkthrough and thinkthroughs

Summary of 2015 art with a picture for each month

So here we are, taking stock of how 2015 was from a creative perspective! So December isn’t even over yet, but I had lots of opportunity and triggers to stew over this. So here are my long-winded ramblings.

I was somehow able to keep the momentum going this year in terms of output. Above selects from each month are:

Behind the summary

In terms of my 2015 art goals, I actually managed to check everything off except for “make a Taiwan zine”. There were, of course, things that carried through from 2014 like playing with pen and water, trying materials like etegami and moving to shikishi, etc.

It was also a very purposeful and contemplative/introspective year in terms of developing my approach with brush pen artwork, and with comics as a storytelling medium. A few highlights below:

  • Big book projects. Two of the biggest projects I finished were Demon King! Urameshi (that Yu Yu Hakusho Yusuke fanbook I committed to doing last year) and Tiles of Toronto, an urban sketches collection/love letter to my home city. The former was a spillover from 2014; the majority of the art and conceptualization was done by December of that year, and the first few months of 2015 were mostly the last long haul of actually drawing the comics in the book, cleaning scans, assembling everything together, being obsessive, printing and proofing etc. Tiles of Toronto in contrast was a little exercise that started over the summer and ballooned into an actual book completed in time to debut at Canzine.
  • More brush pen. You can see my shift from mostly watercolour to mostly brush pen, more high contrast and somewhat looser work. Though I still have a long ways to go before I can let go of my tendency to overwork and over-detail (if that ever happens). I also made Wash My Dreams with Ink, a brush pen comics zine that I’d like to turn into a serial/multi-issue zine. Also did Inktober for the first time with the goal of one drawing a day. Deciding on a clearly-defined theme in advance was super handy in terms of being able to hit that target even after coming home from a long day at work!
  • Lots of nostalgic inspiration. Still managed a buttload of Yu Yu Hakusho fanart, unsurprisingly. And fanfiction, which was helpful in terms of reflecting on my writing style. On top of that, I finally read the entire Ushiototora manga from beginning to end. The two series provided lots of good food for thought in terms of approaches for storytelling, characters etc.
  • A webcomic. In August I started working on Now Recharging – something I never thought I’d be able to do. More on that in a bit.
  • TCAF in Tokyo. Getting to do TCAF in Tokyo was definitely a high point of 2015, and truly an incredible honour. The experience of exhibiting at Kaigai Manga Festa alongside so many amazing comics creators, exploring the creative tsunami/overload that was Design Festa, chatting with so many passionate artists/writers and thinkers of the medium … one can’t help but be inspired and thoughtful about it all!

Now Recharging, webcomics, and looking for focus

Around early August I had a personal incident that I won’t bother detailing here (plus it’s not really art related, aside from some of the resulting side effects). It didn’t affect my day-to-day-life in an outwardly perceptible way. It did cause me to do a lot of thinking (even more than usual) and obsessive research and reading. Long story short, from a creative perspective the “end result” was that, for the first time in my life, I managed to create a character that I actually fully care about: Emmie the android in Now Recharging. (Oh, and the story too. That’s important.)

It’s a challenge I’ve always had: that I’d never been able to care about characters I create as much as I seem to care about already existing characters made by other people. (I have various theories about why that is, including perhaps because it’s easy to ascribe deeper purpose and intent to almost anything if you weren’t involved in it, so it’s easier to feel like you’re discovering things and peeling aside layers of some fascinating complex creation. On the flip side, my own creations always seemed shallow because I know there’s basically nothing there unless I make more stuff up. Of course, every creator is different, and it seems like lots of people have no problems feeling passionate about their OCs. Plenty of material for another post.)

In a way, it’s like all the pieces were kind of there, just marinating or something, until I finally had a catalyst to figure out how to connect all these half-baked ideas, the things that appeal to me, and the things I want to do, in a decently coherent way that was also personally compelling.

I’m definitely a member of camp “I can’t do a page a day, but I can pump out 15+ pages in a week if I have to” so therefore webcomics were always kind of intimidating. But after much contemplation I decided it’s the most appropriate venue if my ultimate goal is to get a story out there and not sit on it forever. There are still lots of gaps, and I’m definitely still feeling my way around, but I decided what the heck, I should just outline it to a point where it feels “real enough” and get started.

That was in August/September, and it was an interesting experience to have it all quite fresh in my head in combination with the doing TCAF in Tokyo. Overall, the trip made me realize more than ever that I have a lot of “stuff”. Most artists seem to have a focused long-term project, or a couple of big projects, that they have spent years on. My work tends to be one-offs, and while they have some overarching or unifying themes, ultimately they’re just a lot – a lot – of different little disparate things. It’s never more painfully evident than when I’m trying to tetris all my stuff on a tight table space, or trying to summarize my work in an elevator pitch.

2016 art goals

I feel like the last few years have really been a lot about exploring, and now I’m finally at a point where I feel – I wouldn’t necessarily say comfortable about my work, but like I’m moving in a direction I feel good about, and more confident about delving deeper within this particular area. And finally having a long term project like Now Recharging that I feel invested in, and can build around, so the next few years will be interesting if I can keep it up and stay focused.

So with all of the above in mind, my 2016 art goals are as follows.

  • Finish at least three chapters of Now Recharging. I really, really want to get to a point where I can introduce the second main android. (I realize three chapters sounds pretty measly, but at the rate I’m working right now, it seems like a near-miracle if I can finish the first chapter.)
  • Complete my Taiwan book in time for TCAF 2016. This book is something I’ve wanted to do for a while, and I feel like one of the reasons I still haven’t is that I’m kind of scared about being able to do the idea in my head justice. If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, having an event like TCAF 2016 as a deadline always helps!

A third goal, “more brush pen, more inking, more loosening up my art” is something that will hopefully come through the more I doodle and draw with the brush pen.

There are other things I’d like to do (more My Life As A Maiji minizines, more Wash My Dreams With Ink issues, more everything aaaaauuughh), but the above are the biggest and will hopefully help keep things prioritized. The fact is, there’s always so much stuff I want to do, and so many more new things that distract me. Stuff always gets done, but not always what I intended to have done, and – you know, the old adage about quality and quantity.

Here’s to focusing in 2016. Everything else will be icing on the cake!