We’re more than halfway through 2017, so I thought it would the perfect time to share the re-evaluation of my goals for the year. At the start of the year, I assessed how I finished 2016 and where I wanted to go from there. I set my 2017 goals to work towards becoming a better storyteller, illustrator, and overall, better person.
Here is that list.
Focus on Finishing Personal Projects,
Rather Than Getting Stuck in Perfection & Over Analyzing
Consistently Keep My Blog
Write Every Day
Share a blog post every Thursday
Create a Webcomic
Focus on finishing one page at a time
Finish One Page Per Month
Share progress updates on the blog
Draw Every Day
Draw 100 Cycles
Read at least One Factual/Historical Event Book Per Month
Stay Up-To-Date on World Events
Analysis of Original 2017 Goals
How well have I held up to those goals? I believe I started the year out strong, working on illustration projects, growing as an artist, and continuing my career as a graphic designer. Looking back thus far, I wish I would have included my design career and an illustration project that I’ve been working on. For example, I spent a lot of time illustrating my first children’s book this year.
Illustrating a Children’s Book
I partnered with a coworker/friend from my previous full-time job to illustrate a story she wrote called Maggie’s New Home. It’s a sweet story about a dog moving to a new place, meeting new friends, and learning to feel at home in her new environment. As an illustrator, it challenged me greatly. We both had a rough vision of how the book might look. Internally, I didn’t feel I had enough mileage to complete the task but I remember someone once said, “Don’t Wait Until You’re Ready”. So I decided to take on the project. It ended up being an amazing learning experience of what it takes to be a professional illustrator and showed me areas where I need to improve to become a better visual storyteller. If you’re interested in buying a copy of my first published work, it’s available on Amazon for 10.99. If you decided to get the book and enjoy it, please leave a review.
When it comes to personal projects, I’ve held up well too. I completed a smaller project and kept my daily tasks. However, I had to break my commitment to a larger comic project that was going to take most of the year to finish. I broke the commitment, not because of how long it was going to take, but because I didn’t feel the story aligned with my vision as a storyteller. As the story lost its purpose, my interest and joy for it began to wane. How can I expect someone else to enjoy my work if I don’t enjoy it? The act of working on it is a different story. There will always come a time when your project gets difficult and that’s when you’ll find yourself growing the most.
I started off the year okay. I had several blog posts written and shared them somewhat consistently for two months until my schedule flew out of order after pulling an all-nighter on a project for the first time in years. I was trying to rebalance my schedule for most of May. In June I had a better handle on my schedule again. However, I was focusing on my comic, personal writing, and considering vlogging the process of creating my comic. I still wasn’t satisfied with the way things were going so I took the Seanwes course 30-Days to Better Writing to get me back on track. I finished July with a clearer vision of the direction I wanted to go as a designer, illustrator, and storyteller. As for my blog, I was planning to get back into doing it on a consistent schedule similar to what I did early on. I felt like that was too formulaic and not how I wanted to share my work-in-progress. I will elaborate on it more soon.
Create a Webcomic.
I had been working on the script and started thumbnailing a comic I titled Aster since May 2016. The story got much better than where it started and I was looking forward to having it see the light of day until I got this feeling that it wasn’t a story I wanted to tell. Maybe someday I will want to tell it. That being said, from January 2017 to July 2017 I was consistently working on either the script, character design, or thumbnails for this, with the exception of May. I planned to have a few pages done by the end of August to start sharing it online. I was considering sharing it on Webtoons or Tumblr, in addition to my website.
I also planned to share the progress on my blog until I started sharing time-lapse videos of my warmups and smaller illustration projects. That’s when I thought, wouldn’t it be better to vlog the progress of making my comic by taking on the 100 Days of Making Comics Challenge? That turned out to be a whole other animal. I thought I needed to have my YouTube Channel consistently branded from the channel page to my video intro and outro, and video featured images. That was easy enough, but recording and editing the videos was where I got tripped up. Recording and editing other people came much more naturally to me than looking at myself, hearing my own voice, or keeping the videos concise and engaging. When I couldn’t do that I decided to focus on what I could do which was making the comic. One day I’ll be up for the challenge again, but for now, I'm going to blog my progress and work on the comic.
After reevaluating my goals as a storyteller I found my goals aligning with another story that I had been thinking about and researching for since February. Since then I’ve written a twelve-page script. I’m nearly done thumbnailing it and working on character designs. By the time you’re reading this I should be done with all of those and move onto tight pencils and inking. I also have notes for how I want the protagonist to grow and where I believe his story is going. I’m looking forward to sharing my concept art and work in progress when I’m closer to sharing the introduction to this story.
Draw Every Day.
When I was in the thick of it I attribute my drawing every day to having a warm-up session prior to working on any illustration projects for myself or clients. My most consistent warm-ups have been figure drawing, however, I like to practice shapes, lines, dimension, and perspective too. I would also record my warm-up sessions and sometimes the process of working on actual projects. That is something I plan to start doing again. Today I am still making an effort to draw every day despite not always achieving that goal. A few things I would attribute to helping me keep this goal is drawing in a sketchbook instead of always on my pen display. There’s something about touching a pencil to paper that can’t be replicated digitally. In addition to that, I would say taking an illustration course or doing master studies also challenges me to draw every day. Taking courses helps you get a new perspective on the way you approach your composition or characters. Master studies allows me to zero in on the nuances of the art I like and understand how I can incorporate some of those things into my own art. When it comes down to it, you have to do whatever it takes to get you drawing every day by using deliberate practices to grow as an artist, while having fun while doing it.
Read at least One Factual/Historical Event Book Per Month
I never got started with this. I set the goal but neglected to clearly define a plan of action. I didn’t outline a specific moment in history that I wanted to learn more about. Whenever I would go to the bookstore or look online, I would be paralyzed with indecision. Looking back on those times, I think using this goal as an opportunity to dig deeper into researching past events, people, and places similar to the stories I'm writing is be the best way to take action on this goal.
Stay Up-To-Date on World Events
This year I feel like I’ve watched the news more than ever. The political climate of the US and its international relations is in a place I didn’t imagine ever seeing. I believe everything will work out for the best with everyone taking a stand in the way they find most effective. Outside of the political chaos, there seems to be just as much on the ground locally. So much senseless crime. That being said, the news always makes sure to have a handful of sweet neighborhood features about good things going on, a ray of sunshine amongst dark clouds. It’s been refreshing to make more of an effort to watch the news, especially when it comes to social issues related to inequalities and seeing people come together in hope of making a change. I don’t know that I’m any more informed about world news by watching it on tv versus visiting the news station websites. Either way, its good to stay informed.
I started writing this blog post prior to Hurricane Harvey hitting. Instead of editing what I wrote above I decided to add onto it. The devastation of a catastrophe like a hurricane is unbelievable. It’s been amazing to see people coming together to selflessly help one another. The way people and news stations have been able to use today’s technology to aid in the search and rescue efforts is remarkable. Too often people use technology for mindless consumption, isolating themselves from real human interaction or to tear one another down. Thank God, that people are coming together in unity for the greater good.
My Current 2017 Goals
Make a Comic
Get a Full-Time Design Job
Before writing this blog post I had been doing a lot of self-reflection during my morning writing on how to move forward with the goals above. During this re-evaluation, I based the evolution of my goals on where I want to be as a person, graphic designer, artist and a storyteller. I also wanted to simplify the list. That being said, just because something isn’t on my list doesn’t mean I won’t be doing it anymore unless I actually state that I won’t be doing it.
Goal No. 01: Make a Comic
I’m still making a comic, however, I have a solid idea of the stories I believe I need to tell at this point in my life. Before I was taking every idea I had that seemed like it would be interesting and somewhat meaningful. Whereas now, I want to focus more on capturing honesty through the growth and struggles of the protagonist's character and the world around them. I feel like I was trying to do this before but I was trying to force it and it came off as unrealistic. People would tell me the stories had heart, but something was missing. It was as if I was trying to tell someone else's story. In doing that, I made the story unrelatable even for myself. I had written a twenty-something page script for my comic, ASTER, but I didn’t know where to go from there. I had taken the character to a place I had never been. Sometimes I believe that is when I needed to do more research and ideation because I didn’t know my character Aster well enough to know what she would realistically do next. Since I’ve made the decision to work on TJÖRN I feel more in touch with the character and where he’s headed. It’s almost like I’m writing about myself, except there’s a science fiction element to it.
One of the things that helped me get to that place is thinking about the comics and cartoons that had an impact on me. My favorite cartoon of all-time is Nickelodeon’s Doug so I did some research on the show and its creator, Jim Jinkins. I discovered that Doug was based on Jinkin's experiences growing up. He also viewed it essential that each episode contains a moral. On top of that, he wasn’t just the story guy he was actually the illustrator behind the characters original designs and that the show was also inspired by Peanuts. I also felt a connection to Jinkin's theme for the series, “a world where everyone took honesty seriously."
Goal No. 02: Continue Blogging
I’m going to continue writing my blog, however, I want to rethink how I’m approaching it. I want to approach my blog as a journal and document what I’m learning through doing my projects, daily sketching, and my independent art studies. I’ve thought about this before, especially when I first saw the Gary Vee video, "Document, Don't Create", last year. As I was writing this post he released a follow-up video on how to start documenting. Both of the videos are below. (Forewarning, Gary Vee swears a lot.)
When I first considered blogging, everyone I was following recommended creating a catalog of blog posts before I got started. In theory that sounds great. It will help you save time and stay consistent, especially for a large company, but it seems a bit insincere and calculated for an individual. I believe I just need to schedule a short chunk of time, 10 to 20 minutes, to grab a few sketches or finished pieces from a project or course I’m taking and write a few paragraphs about what I learned in the process. Let me know if that sounds interesting to you?
Goal No. 03: Get a Full-Time Design Job
I wasn’t sure how to approach this one. I didn’t put it on my original goals list. It was just something I knew I needed to do. At the beginning of 2017, my wife and I left our full-time jobs in Northeast Ohio to move back to Southern California to be closer to our family here. We had been looking for jobs here for over a year and had some promising opportunities. However, it seemed like most companies and organizations wanted someone already here. I figure companies are thinking, why go through the process of tests and interviews with someone from out of state when there is an overabundance of experienced people right here? So we saved up enough money to be okay for a year while living with my in-laws and started looking for jobs when we got here. The experience has been mostly good so far and a great learning experience. The first few months we were riding the high of our new adventure and I have some client work as a self-employed designer. During the summer my wife was hired at an awesome place where she’s passionate about the work they’re doing, loves her co-workers and the work environment.
My search is still in progress. I’ve had some opportunities that seemed like a good fit but they didn’t work out. From the beginning of my search to now, I’ve relearned a few important lessons and learned some things I feel I should have known already.
What I mean by this is to focus on places that seem like you would be a good fit. Even when I was applying to places that I wasn’t particularly interested or seemed like a good fit for me, I customized my resume and coverletter to the specific needs of the company and did my best to appear interested in the position. However, if my application ever got in front of a real person it probably didn’t take them long to see through it or my portfolio website to decide that my work and overall personality wasn’t a good fit for them.
When you find those places that you believe would be a good fit for you, the next step is to communicate with them outside of the job application form before applying. See if you have a mutual friend to someone in the company to connect you to HR or an Art Director. Let them know just how interested you are in the position, the company's mission, vision, and products or services. Almost like a prologue to your coverletter.
To be more specific, by simplifying, I mean putting less time and attention on side projects, passion projects, and courses that aren’t helping you get towards your goal of getting a job in the certain field or industry. It also depends on what your day looks like, are you working somewhere full-time already and have limited evening time or working part-time and have more time to spare? Either way, you need to consider the amount of time you’re putting into everything you’re doing.
Prior to my recent job hunting, I’ve heard and read advice similar on several blogs, podcasts, and YouTube videos. However, I took it with a grain of salt because it wasn't something I had to do in the past. I’ve been implementing some of these tactics during my 2017 job hunt but the results have been minimal so I’ve decided to lean into the advice even more than I have been. If anyone is interested in hearing how it goes, let me know and I’ll do a follow-up blog when I’m on the other side.
Goal No. 04: Continue Learning
In the design and illustration work that I’m doing, I’ll be growing and learning from experience. However, I also need to make sure that I incorporate time for deliberate practice and learning into my schedule. Sometimes that looks like doing master studies or drawing from life, while other times it will be taking a course or focusing on a single thing that I need to improve. After all, Bruce Lee said, “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times”.
I don’t think I’m leaving anything out and this is already a long post so I’m going to bring it to a close. This will be the last post written in a long-form style. It’s still going to take time to put things together. However, I’m looking forward to simply documenting what I’m making rather than focusing on creating content and writing something that has to be meaningful.