Habit Forming

30 Sep

As a cartoonist, I’ve often always wondered about my time spent on the actual business/craft of doing what I do.  What am I talking about?  Well, I constantly used to think (and still do) about others in my profession and how they spend their day.  Do they take the occasional ‘check the email’ break (like, about 50 times a day – like me)?  Do they wake up early/late?  How about other activities?  Do they do anything but work?  How about donuts?  Do they eat a lot of donuts?

I’m reading a fantastic book by Mason Currey called Daily Rituals – How Artists Work.

He has everyone from Mozart to Hemingway.  A huge list of authors, poets, musicians, writers and artists of all nature are featured.  And what’s striking is the big variety yet all the similarities, too.

My ritual is pretty much the same.  At least during the week.  Weekends things get a bit flipped around.  Here, I’ll get into it a bit.

I typically am up at 5:30 in the morning.  First things first – I feed my cat, Tiger (who usually gives me a wake-up call at the same time).  I head to the gym – usually jogging for 20 minutes or using the elliptical.  I try to lift weights three times a week as well.  No, this is not easy.  I’ve never considered myself a morning person and don’t think I’ll ever really be one.  However, I feel much more productive waking up early – no matter how torturous it is.  Admittedly, I’m good at fooling myself that I’m a morning person and I think that’s the only way I pull this off.

After the gym, I get back, brew some coffee and shower.

Mornings are my main writing time, so usually from about 6:30 to 8:00 is writing.  And when I say writing, it’s mostly just for my cartooning work. This is also the time of major coffee consumption.

8:00 I’ll start my marketing.  That means scheduling posts on social media, making contacts, connecting with clients/editors and stuff like that.

About 10 AM, I’ll try to hit the drawing board.  I usually start with my syndicated comics.  It’s kind of a nice exercise for me to start with such familiarity.  Client work often consist of new territory that I’m not quite “awake” enough for this early.  It requires a lot more thinking whereas my regular work is more of a natural flow.  You wouldn’t want to learn to ride a unicycle before a bicycle, right?  It’s kind of like that.  Or maybe that’s just a bad analogy.

Anyway….

I usually work until noon.  Then, it’s lunch time and getting random things done time.  This can include sending invoices, paying bills and making phone calls.  My lunch is about 5 minutes long (usually in front of the television).  Often it consist of mac & cheese, leftover pizza or whatever I can muster up.

I’m then back to marketing, client work and regular cartooning from 1-5.  All the coloring and things like that get done around this point.

It’s then dinner time.  After dinner, I’m currently back to work on a graphic novel I’m writing.  Also, I’ll spend some evenings doing things like this (a blog post).

I’ll chill out around 7-8 and usually watch some TV.  Then, about 9 or so, I go read.  If I’m lucky, I’m in bed by 10.  Boring evening, I know.

Weekends are TOTALLY different.  As a person who works in his home all day, the urge to get out and do something completely takes over my psyche by Friday afternoon.  I love to get out and enjoy some local brews, watch some football and basically hangout with people.  It’s very liberating and I believe healthy.  You can’t stay cooped up in a studio without getting out.

Sunday’s I like to do NOTHING.  Although, there are times where I do feel like doing something, so I will (which I often times regret considering I have a busy Monday regularly).

That’s my ritual.

A lot of writers and artists are similar.  In the book, it mentions some of the writers who work only a couple hours a day.  Or, take three months off due to no creative flow.  And some artist are night people – others day.  But, they all – for the most part – had some sort of ritual.

I’m glad I’m not alone to times when I do check my email, slack for a minute or two and basically feel like I’m not productive.  One thing about creative work is it’s not a constant.  In other words, when I’m writing, I often have to stop for a minute, check the mail, grab a water – something.  That breathing room is important to me and makes me more productive.  When I mentioned my routine, you have to envision me taking numerous breaks throughout that.  Yes, I get very wrapped up in any artistic activity I’m doing, but the occasional break happens frequently.

I also enjoy listening to funny things or music when working.  The Howard Stern Show is quite amusing these days.  Or, I put on some rock, classical or whatever I’m in the mood for.  That varies a lot (although, time at the drawing table on my syndicated work is usually talk radio of some sort).

Another book I’m reading is Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit.  She mentions what all she has done to achieve what she has (she specializes with ballerina’s and does choreography).  She’s the woman behind the dancers in the movie, Amadeus, and also wrote the Broadway musical Movin’ Out.  I’m not a big musical (as in Broadway musicals) person, but like any creative type, she mentions a lot of good insight on the creative process.  Again, it helped me know that I’m pretty normal doing what I’m doing.  I begin to wonder sometimes……

So, anytime I’m taking a break and thinking that I’m slacking off, I now think back to these books and other artists creative habits.  Some artist hit the bars (daily), some go for walks all day and others do – well – other stuff.  I hope I shed some light on kind of what I do.  I get asked that a lot.  Also, I still get the feeling many people think I sit at home in my pajamas all day just drawing funny pictures.  They would never consider what I do a profession.  However, there are thousands of illustrators, cartoonists and other artists out there.  How am I different?

What is different is my ritual – which I think is cool.  I wouldn’t want to copy some other persons ritual at all.  That wouldn’t make it unique.  And that’s no fun.

What’s your ritual?  Is your ritual NOT having a ritual (the book mentions a few artists like that)?  Share your thoughts!

I’ve been writing. Just not here.

20 Sep

This blog has always been a fun arena for me on random things.  And it still is!  That being said, I’ve actually been blogging quite a bit recently.  More than ever, some might say.

Where?

Not here.

I’ve been focused on actively getting involved in my community in the Miami Valley in Ohio.  So, I started up a new blog:

Drawing Around Dayton Hi-res

It’s a blog dedicated to my work in the area.  I’ve been having fun with it and hope to really attract new local businesses, people and more.  I think anyone from around here – or not – might enjoy reading about some of my art/cartooning that takes place in my home town.

Will I be blogging here?  Oh, you know me – of course!  Not too sure on a set schedule of post, but anytime I have a random thought or idea I want to express, well, you’ll be sure to see it around Nate Ramblings.

If you want to check out Drawing Around Dayton (which is updated about every 3-4 days), you can go read it HERE.

I Know I Am

1 Sep

I am definitely an artist. 

Okay, let me elaborate a bit more – I KNOW I’m an artist.  Like, as sure as I am my name is Nate (er, actually, it’s Nathanael).  It’s in my psyche.  I have an artist mentality.  I just have noticed it coming out more and more.  I talk art/comics every chance I get.  I’ve been more vocal about my work when I go out on the town.  I’m the type of guy that would have a bumper sticker that says ‘I’d rather be painting’ (but I don’t, because I’m not a big fan of bumper stickers).

It’s great – and frustrating – all at the same time.

When you’re forced to devote your time to other projects to pay the bills, it’s torture when it’s not something you love doing.  ANY other profession, job, etc. is not going to be suitable for me.  Nope.  I draw things.  I paint.  And I’m working like crazy daily upping my craft.  I was not meant to be anything else.

I’m going through a re-branding stage right now with a lot of my comics and work.  I’ve got a big new business venture on the way, marketing strategies, a new site and more in progress.  And I think combining absolutely everything I’ve worked my entire life toward, I’ll be able to completely submerge myself into my passion and not have to think twice about working on something that I have no thrills doing to keep the lights on.

So, amongst other artist, I can see where the frustrations come from.  It’s not easy making it in this cold, harsh world of bills and groceries, but it’s totally doable.

When you have a passion, I say just go for it.  Hell, I just turned 35 and there are a lot of things I thought I’d have accomplished by now, but I haven’t.  I’m sleeping good (well, unless I have too much coffee) knowing that I’ve tried. 

Anyway, in fear of sounding like a motivational speaker, I’ll stop with that.

My point to this whole rambling is it’s interesting to see my artist mentality come out more frequently.  Not too sure what totally sparked it (I used to be pretty hush-hush on my art/cartooning).  I think it’s a good thing.  Gotta get my name out there a bit here in my good ol’ community.  And I feel like I am.  I think soon I will in a bigger way (beyond just around here). 

For now, I still struggle with frustrations of doing what I have to to get my finances in order, but I see the end of the tunnel soon where I can truly focus in on the projects I want to do and can devote my hours to that instead of wasting them on nonsense. 

Life is short. 

Draw hard, play hard and eat your veggies.

Robin Williams – My Thoughts

14 Aug

Okay, so I actually have a serious blog post (not that any of my previous ones weren’t, but you know….)

Obviously, unless you’ve been completely in the dark, you have heard about Robin Williams suicide.

It’s hard to imagine that he actually did this to himself, but on the other hand, I can see how it happens.  And it’s a bit scary that it is so sporadic and can occur without notice.

I’ve never been depressed – at least I don’t think so – but I have contemplated suicide a few times in my life.  I think it’s called just feeling down – not depression.  I mean, these thoughts happened even as far back as a kindergartner.  Let’s be honest, I think a lot of people out there have, including maybe yourself.  Would I do it?  No.  It’s just been a passing thought when things aren’t going well.  And as a kid, I used to joke about it.  I believe especially a lot of artistic people (actors, musicians, artist and cartoonist) go through this.  It’s not easy.  I have no clue what Mr. Williams went through, but I can understand it.  I’ve had times where the whole cartooning career has felt utterly hopeless and thus life itself.  And it’s tough when you have such a strong passion.  Various situations come up like devoting 40 hours a week to a day job, all while thinking that my time would be much more valuable spent creating art.  Bills aren’t paid, projects run dry and goals aren’t met.  It can be brutal on the psyche.  And sometimes it’s been further than career, like relationships, health, etc.

BUT, I’ve learned to press forward.  It’s not always easy.  For example, last night I was feeling extremely down.  I had a goal in mind that I wanted to hit by the time I’m 35, and it didn’t happen.  And I turn 35 tomorrow.  I originally had this goal to be hit at age 30.  So, it was a bit doomy and gloomy for me.  I’ve got one day to accomplish this sucker and, well, it’s not looking likely unless a miracle happens.

The thing is, when you put stuff in perspective and realize things don’t always happen on schedule, you can feel better about things like not meeting a goal deadline.  Hey, we’re all human and I think every person on earth – successful or not – goes through this (not getting things accomplished that you wanted).  Giving up is the ultimate failure, and lots of projects of mine that didn’t land on schedule eventually came through.

Back to the ‘scary and sporadic’ part.  It scares me because I know depression runs in my family and I like to say now that I would never get to the point of Robin Williams, but is there a moment when something like that just takes control and you end up doing?  I’d like to think not, but easy for me to say since I haven’t been to that point.  And it scares me not just for myself but everyone else I know.  Everybody goes through bad times and it makes you wonder if it will be a breaking point.

Anyway, deep stuff….

I think a key part to dealing with a lot of this is to be honest and just put it out there.  So, my way is – say, a blog (hey, you’re reading it, right).  There’s a few tricks.

Hopefully anyone contemplating suicide – like, seriously – calls the help number and it doesn’t happen.  Get help!  I couldn’t imagine what a family and friends would go through.  That would be the toughest part.

R.I.P. Robin Williams.

Goodbye, Blue

12 Aug

Well, pen – er – pen nib holder, it’s been a great run, but you must retire now.

As a cartoonist, I still continue to draw the ol’ fashioned way with a dip pen and black India ink.  Using a dip pen requires nibs.  And nibs require a holder.  Hence, a nib holder.  I don’t know though… I like to refer to it as simply a pen (quite frankly, I don’t know its technical name).

At any rate, one that I have used for the past couple of years is, well, retiring.

This pen has been through the ringer.  It’s responsible for hundreds of comics, MAD Magazine cartoons, work for clients, greeting cards – basically everything.

Last week, an important function of it broke. 

There’s an inside piece that holds the nib in it.  Anyway, I don’t want to get too in-depth, but it broke and it’s pretty much unrepairable (although, for a temporary fix, I did try stuffing it with a paper towel).

So, it’s done for.

That means that, unfortunately, I had to break into my wallet and purchase a new one (for a whopping $1.77).

I must say though, that was a pretty good run it had.  I know I’ve thrown it a few times out of frustration, have accidentally stepped on it and haven’t always cleaned it as thoroughly as one should, but despite our abusive relationship, we made some pretty good art together.  (Boy, that sounds like a Lifetime movie.)

We’ll see how well the new gal, I mean pen, holds up.  If it can make it through my violent tirades, I’m sure we’ll get along just great.

In memory of Blue (yeah, we’ll just call it that), here are some photos.

photo-9

Above:  After a crazy career, here is Blue’s last visit to the drawing table.

photo-8

Above:  Trying to keep it functional, I stuffed some paper towel in there to try to hold a pen nib.  That didn’t work too well.

Happy retirement, pen!  May the rest of your days collecting dust bring nothing but happiness and ink-splattered joy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Evolution of Comics

29 Jul

It’s pretty clear that comics evolve.  Intentionally?  Nope.  It just happens (if you don’t believe me, go look at early Peanuts comic compared to what they became).

My work has actually evolved more than I thought.  And when I say evolve, I’m talking about the look, writing and basically everything.

If you look waaaaaay back, there is a dramatic difference.  Like, big time.  But, I’ll save that for a different blog post.

Today, I’m going to show you some material from about five years ago.

As many of you know, I’m in the process of launching my own site where ALL my comics will be available for licensing, prints, etc.  I’m stoked.  I’m so excited to have a place for my clients to browse my work – pain-free.  Currently, it’s not as accessible and instantaneous as it needs to be.

So, that being said, I’m editing and going through my old stash of material.

Some of it, eh, not bad.

Other ones, yeah – I’m not too sure.

BUT, I’m always shocked by what cartoons strike a chord with some clients.  What I consider not too great often times works well with a particular publication, premise, etc.  A lot of the examples I’m about to show you were actually considered for Reader’s Digest and other magazines.

Anyhow…

That means I use all of my material I’ve compiled over the years.  Yes, even the old stuff.

Below is a look at some of the older cartoons I’ve created.

You’ll notice I feature a lot of kids and a lot of yellow.  My target audience at this time in my life was magazine/print publications.  So, I tried to add the ‘cute’ factor and make them as family friendly as possible.  Well, most of them.  The battered PC probably wouldn’t make the cut in Woman’s World.

And if you’re a business, individual or anyone interested in licensing my cartoons, I do have my work available via Cartoonstock currently.  You can click through my archives at this link (CLICK HERE) and it’s a great place to see a mix of the old and new so you can compare.

A Souvaneer (1)

Appliance Birthday (1)

Are we there yet (1)Battered Windows (1)Bland Cooking (1)Blender Fun (1)Father's Day Comic (1)Its Burning (1)Sandcastle Foreclosure (1)

Beach in Hawaii

24 Jul

I wrapped up my newest oil painting last week.  This one was commissioned – not just for the fun of it.

My client had a photo of a beach scene in Hawaii.  I worked with the image and created this on a 36″ X 48″ canvas.  Not typically how I paint (going off a picture) but I had a blast creating it and I like the way it turned out.  Of course, next time I wouldn’t mind actually going to Hawaii to paint something like this.  Oh well.

The person who commissioned this is happy and all is well.  That’s always good.

So, here it is.

photo-4Above:  Beach in Hawaii, 36″ X 48″ oil on canvas

One thing I learned in art school (waaaay back in the day) is to draw what you see – not what is there.  I use that principal with all my work.  However, I did emphasize the waves on this painting a bit more intentionally than normal.  Mostly because the client really wanted a strong focus on this part of it.  So, yes, I drew what I saw.  But I did add a few highlights knowing damn well that they were waves.  Please don’t tell any of my old college art professors.

photo-6Above:  A closeup of the beach/waves.  The paint is still not totally dry, by the way.

I absolutely love doing commissioned work and hope to expand my clients.  Yes, I am a cartoonist, but more and more painting has become a real passion as well.  It always has been, but I’ve experienced some-what of a reemergence of it.  I guess it’s just a nice change of pace from just the silly gag cartoons and comics.  So, if you’re in need of a painting, well…..

More to come!

In the meantime, here is the painting being displayed in the clients business office.

photo-5Above:  Yes, it needs a frame.  One is coming soon.

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