Pride of lions

29 Aug

A few weeks ago I started a comic strip called “Big Schtick.” It was more like me venting ideas about running. However, I changed directions when I saw this would get old pretty soon. Within a few days I penciled together a cast of 5 characters, of whom I know little, not even what they look like exactly, even less how they act and reaction to situations.

Pride of lions

It feels like throwing myself into a pit filled with hungry lions who didn’t have anything to eat for weeks and weeks. Not good.

I will muddle through, but let that be a lesson to you (and myself) to do a test run of your web comic before publishing it. On the other hand, I would never have started this comic if I kept waiting for things to click. I guess I’m someone who needs trial by fire to get off his lazy behind and actually do something.

Like creating a web comic.

In need of character

24 Aug

Maybe you have noticed I started a web comic some weeks ago now, called “Big Schtick”. It’s a translation of the Dutch language web comic, called “Stok achter de Deur” and deals with the sport of running. In the first three episodes I (sort of) vented my ideas about running, but I guess this doesn’t scale. At some point those ideas will dry up or become boring. So I need some kind of continuity. I thought a character cast would work best.

Truth be told I had a joke, but I couldn’t get it to work with anonymous characters, like with the previous episodes. I thought I needed identifiable personalities. So making a virtue of a need, I decided to make them the cast for the comic itself.

The Jolly Bunch

Meet the Jolly Bunch. It’s a group of friends who like to run together, three guys and two gals. I haven’t solidified their characters, but here’s the general idea:

  • Jon, the little guy, is a prankster. He likes practical jokes, which make the others laugh and keep their spirits up, even if the run is a bit boring.
  • Pete is the seasoned runner. He has run many races and the others rely on his knowledge about running. He can outrun all of them, but he always comes back to join them.
  • Bob is the newcomer. He has a weight problem and his doctor told him to start running to lose weight. The others always make fun of him, but he’s still a valued member of the group.
  • Nat is the friendly, outgoing one. When pesky non-runners try to mock them, she always tries to let them see the runners’ side of the story, so they understand.
  • Sara is the youngest of the bunch. Her boyfriend doesn’t want her to run, but she does anyway. Maybe she loves running more than anything and her boyfriend can only play second fiddle. Nevertheless, she always is on her cell to tell (or text) she loves him.

All this is still in beta. A lot of things can still change and probably will.

Thanks for reading and if you have any advice for me (and I really need it right now!), or want to ask me anything, don’t hesitate to leave a comment.

Big Schtick – Coach

22 Aug

Big Schtick - Coach

The sport of running is very prone to injuries, much more so than for instance swimming or cycling. This means you need to train responsibly and for most this means training under the guidance of a coach.

Now top athletes can pay personal coaches, but less talented runners usually take part in a running group, either physically or virtually. Most, if not all, track & field clubs offer programs for runners of all levels and they supply a coach to guide the runners in group activities, called training sessions.

If you’re serious about running, you will probably also run on your own, and some coaches (but not all) will help you with that as well. Of course, all this is not free, but because you’re with many, it’s affordable.

Sometimes when I see how coaches approach training I can only frown.

Especially male runners want to train hard and far, which actually goes against common wisdom among experienced runners. You’re supposed to train according to what your body can recover from just enough to do the next training session without getting injured or burnt out over the weeks or months. However, since for many men their weekly (or twice-a-week) training session is their only outlet from office life; they want to release their tension and lose themselves in training, like a mental short break. Many coaches give in to that urge and make their training too intensive, too tough.

Then there is this common belief among runners (both beginners and experience runners) that in order to run faster in races, you need to run even faster in training (but shorter, of course). Few believe that taking it easy on the speed is better on the long run. It prevents excessive training load and lets it adjust to slowly increasing demands. Yes, even if you keep training the same, but moderate, you will get faster, by virtue of your intent to be faster. If you lack this intent, no amount of training is going to make you faster than a certain initial bump in speed when you start a training program. It’s mostly between the ears.

I hope you like the comic and keep reading it. Until next week!

Big Schtick – Information = Knowledge

15 Aug

Big Schtick - Information = Knowledge

Many runners pride themselves in their achievements. They keep track of the speed, distance and how often they train. It sometimes seems to take on a life of its own. Stats don’t make you a better runner, running does.

Okay, okay. I used to think having fun while running is the only thing that counts, but I too have fallen prey to the soothing words of marketers and have bought equipment to keep track of my achievements. Now I can share with like-minded people.

However, it’s not the same as actually running. I mean looking back at what you have done is different from being in the moment. This may sound very Zen-like or hifalutin, but it’s not meant that way. Having fun while doing something and not having to justify your actions is liberating. In most things we do in life, we are dependent on others. However, when we run, we propel our bodies by pushing against Mother Earth and we do it on our own. This is what is so fun about running. At least for me and if I listen to other runners, for many of them as well.

That doesn’t stop me being competitive, though. I enter road races with the intention to beat others. However, it’s all in fun and play, since there’s no money involved (at least, not at the level I’m running). It’s largely pretending to be better than others.

I hope you like the comic and keep reading it. Until next week!

Big Schtick – Motivation

8 Aug

Big Schtick - Motivation

Welcome to my first ever web comic! It’s going to be a rough ride, since I’m new to this. The comic combines two passions, drawing and running. It appears both in Dutch on my Dutch blog about my running hobby and in English on this blog, “So Much to Do, So Little Time.”

Runners all had their reasons to start running and especially keeping at it. It’s a serious commitment and it isn’t all fun, but the return on investment is great, since you have more energy in your daily life and most runners like to commiserate about their hobby (for most it is a hobby, not something they earn money with, or too little to matter much).

In this week’s comic you can read some of my reasons. My father died from a heart condition, while my mother had a propensity to be obese. Combined they offer a challenge, which I hope to overcome by keeping fit, although there’s always this fear I’ll get sick from overeating, which I do on occasion.

I hope you like the comic strip and keep reading it.

Things I made that stood out – July 2011

4 Aug

We are in August now, so I guess it’s good to take a little step back and see what drawings I made in the previous month stand out to me and why.

Chibi girl 2011/07/07

An artist I follow on Livestream is Hitomi. While she drew in Easy Paint Tool SAI, I drew along in pencil on paper. This is so different from what I normally draw, that I think it stands out only for that.

My Little Chicken 2011/07/09

Inspired by watching My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic on YouTube, and how my brain works, I drew this My Little Chicken. I did quite some digital clean up, while retained as much of the sketchy character of the original as I could. For me it popped out between the images, so that’s why I picked it.

Fashion dog 20110709

This was a combination of two things, the clothed figure sketches I was doing for quite some time now and the Preston Blair exercises I’m doing since July, after a long hiatus. It stood out to me, because it’s so imaginative.

Cry of hopelessness 2011/07/11

This cry of hopelessness was one from the heart. I would like to do so much more, but something is holding me back. I know what it is and that I can’t do anything about it: personal limitations.

Daily scribble for 2011/07/15

Here’s a digital drawing that totally stood out for me. Although there are several things wrong with it, the fun of the subject jumps out at you. These are festive mice!

Enter the dragon 2011/07/19

This was my contribution to Tuesday Sketch 2. The subject was Bruce Lee. Others seemed to like it, so that’s good enough for me.

Horse

This stood out to me, because it was drawn on an iPad with the app Procreate. It encapsulates what I was busy with at that time (drawing horses, inspired by MLP).

Cat doing duck things 20110731

This one, titled Cat Doing Duck Things, stood out to me, because it started a new mini-project for me, trying to redraw a pose drawn by Carl Barks, of Donald Duck comics fame. His poses are clear as water. If I only could approach 10 % of his level of craftsmanship, I’d have a career in cartooning.

That’s it folks!

Story

31 Jul

I’m trying to get better at storytelling, so I’m looking for little signs about the craft. Hurray for podcasts!

After listening to Mur Lafferty’s interview with Tracy Hickman on I should be writing, Hickman did an offhand remark about story and realism, that story is how the world should be, not how it is (or what I thought, could be).

Then, after listening to Comic Book Outsiders, with special co-host Stacey Whittle and host Steve Aryan, where they talked about the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher, there was another offhand remark. If you go from one book to the other, some time has passed and while reading the book you get a hint of what has happened, off camera, so to speak.

It was a subtle hint to write another blog post, before all of this fades away in oblivion. I just can’t keep all of this in my brain. I need to dump it onto my blog for later reference. So here it is.

A story is an amped up anecdote

Compared to anecdotes told among friends, a written story should be amplified for dramatic effect. Personal anecdotes are only interesting for those who know the storyteller intimately and can related to him or her. If you are writing for a wider audience than your friends and family, you need to step outside the bubble of personal life experiences. You need to stylize what you tell, so it will be more accessible for people who don’t know you. They can use their own life experiences to fill in the blanks you left in your story on purpose.

This means you can’t simply let the words flow from your mind to your keyboard, but you have to craft your story. What you can assume known amongst your friends (and if not, they can ask while you are doing the telling) has to be conveyed to a reader somehow. However, if you merely state the facts, most readers will get bored, because facts have little emotional impact, do little to engage. It’s all about packaging the facts that are required to understand the story. Therein lies the craft of fictional storytelling.

So you don’t want to bullet point facts. You may assume anyone above the age of six has some level of storytelling ability and you can and should make use of that ability. Hence you can assume some level of sophistication when it comes to relaying story facts in imaginative and novel ways.

That’s as far as I dare to go. Nuggets of knowledge about the craft come in little chunks. I suppose this is because most authors have little to no insight in their creative process, at least at a level that is useful for novice writers. They can tell you how they write, which could be totally different from how you best write.

One thing is certain, though. You learn how to write by actually writing, not by merely thinking about writing. Even so, you should do so with the intent to entertain your reader, to grab his or her attention, while (and hopefully beyond) reading your story.

Tell it in your own words

What does that actually mean, “in your own words?” To me it means that you interpret the story, give a spin of your own. If it’s a factual story (an anecdote), the amount of imagination you will put into it will be low. However, if it’s a fictional story, you can put as much imagination into a story as you want.

Now I have ventured out into unknown territory, where I have no authority (at least not yet). I feel lost and unsure of myself. I know I’m not yet ready to write stories that are worth publishing.

This is actually a good thing. How many novice writers are sure they are about to write the next bestseller, while they’re clearly not ready? They couldn’t write themselves out of a paper bag.

So there seems to be more to storytelling than merely retelling in your own words. I’m puzzled, at a loss. What am I to do next?

Ack!*

Yes, I’m here, but I’m still not sure what’s next.

I promise I will tell you once I know more.

*Sign of presence, answered with the same word by anyone present.