Mot Just Arted

Mot BuchananMot Buchanan OhioRegistered User regular
Hello all!
Some of you may know me from the pin trading threads a while back.
Some of you may even know me as the balloon guy that made the giant Fruit Fucker at Pax East last year.
A few of you may know that I also draw things sometimes.

Stripsearch lit a fire in me that pushed me to start working on improving my skills. Seeing other people doing what I want to do was very inspiring.
I had hoped to start my own webcomic starting with 2015, but between the day job and doing freelance work on the side I haven't had the time to practice that I really feel I need.
My hope would be to get to a place where I'm posting a new comic at least every week instead of once a month like I am now.
I thought that this would be a good place to come to for help from my betters and my peers.
I know some of the areas I need to practice, but I'm also open to some constructive criticism.
The only way I can get better is to find out where I need to improve.
So.. I give you the comics I've done so far.
Be gentle.



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    Mot BuchananMot Buchanan OhioRegistered User regular
    I guess what I'm looking for is tips on not just where I need to focus on to improve my art, but also ideas of how I could have made the joke better.
    Also, any tips people have to help with time management and staying on top of projects would be very useful.

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    acadiaacadia Registered User regular
    Alright, I'll bite! Initial disclaimer: I do not say any of this just to be mean or discouraging, so I hope you don't take it in that way-- we're all here to help each other improve. Always have to be careful to make sure that any poster understands that, so we can skip the step where you get defensive and justify some of the shortcuts (usually artistically, it's harder to critique writing) you take before eventually seeing the virtue in what we're saying and start taking steps to improve. That said, I probably won't be mean anyway, so let's just get on with it, eh?

    It's hard to write comedy. Hell, it's hard to write at all, and have whatever it is come out feeling genuine. Some great advice I was given was to write a little extra script before and past whatever 'moment' you want to convey. Then, go through it to find the beats that would work best and flow the nicest and have a good idea of how the panels after each other work together as a whole. It's a lot of extra work, but it'll help you in the long run, and also give you multiple choices. If you feel the 'punchline' in the last panel is too obvious, sometimes just putting it in the middle of the comic, and then addressing it or adding onto it in the last panel can squeeze a little more juice out of a situation. Just an example.

    Seems like this is a slice of life sort of deal, which I've done before. I know how hard it can be to essentially be conveying 'real-life' funny into what comes out feeling like a stilted comic. Just do it a ton and it starts to feel more natural, and given appropriate context the jokes will land better. Much easier to deliver comedy when you're familiar with the characters (think George Costanza season 1 vs. George season 5). Like, I understand that the blond character (who I'm going to assume is you) getting his hair cut would be more shocking than the girl character (who I'm going to assume is your girlfriend/significant other) which might illicit a reaction similar to what you show in the final panel to that comic. I get it (dude character has long identified with his long hair and obviously it took a while to get to the point to have long hair so him cutting it is an event to be noted), but I don't know the characters, so it doesn't really land with me. Especially with this type of comedy, that historical context is important. I gotta be attached.

    ALL that said, your writing is nice and tight, and actually quite good. You're not too wordy, which is huge.

    Now the art. I think this is definitely the weaker skill of your two on display here. It looks much like about a billion other webcomics out there. Derivative of Mike (who is derivative of Steven Silver (who is derivative of whatever whoever who gives a shit))) without much construction work. In comics like these, consistency is key, if you're gonna have a 'stylistic' style (think Scott Kurtz with PVP), your characters have to look the same from panel to panel. Your people change shape depending on whether or not they're wearing clothing. Your bodies are more or less generic 'body' type shapes with a randomized head shape plopped on top of it and facial features pasted somewhere on that head shape. This will obviously improve with further practice, but I'd suggest thinking about learning some classical realistic straight up drawing (e.g. draw this thing, try to draw it as accurately as possible, not a cartoon version of it, but just try to draw what you see). The better you get at that, the more effective your stylized drawings will be. Your drawn characters are actors acting out the script you wrote. You want good actors, right? Ones that give nuanced performances, where sometimes a weird look can get a laugh? Get better at rendering the human form (not just that, but everything, really), and your thoughts will come across clearer on paper.

    So I guess the moral of all this is practice. Keep practicing, you'll get better. You're already pretty good, so you know, keep it up.

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    IrukaIruka Registered User, Moderator Mod Emeritus
    First off, welcome to the AC

    Your expressions are a big detractor right now. Pretty generic. The comic is not the worst drawings ever, but it has that feeling of someone who's looked at a lot of webcomics and doesn't have much in terms of outside influences. By that I don't mean you need to go out and find a unique style, but rather that it seems like you are absorbing the mistakes of the artists you are looking at rather than trying to understand the fundamentals and making your own. Things seem mushy and inconsistent, not a lot of solid structure to your cartoons.

    For an idea of what I mean: https://forums.penny-arcade.com/discussion/180484/july-monthly-enrichment-character-construction/p1

    Getting your comic to look "good" isn't always 100% necessary for a funny comic to be successful, but the more control you have over your visuals, the better off you are in a general sense. There a plenty of huge comics out there that are more about hitting the right mood and humor than being hugely technically proficient at drawing, but to accomplish that, you need to be excellent on pretty much every other front, so humor, timing, and readability

    The jokes and timing, that's harder to critique in a meaningful way. It's a bit subjective, and you'll need to decide what sort of things you want to do to make sure your are hitting the joke you want. Watch comedy, ready comedy, listen to comedy podcasts, and try to tune in to whats funny thats out there, and what's funny to you. If you keep hacking at it, you should find your voice.

    For these strips specifically, You have a few (like the cheese and the hair cut) that aren't a huge punchline, and the weak drawings don't really help set the right tone. It takes some work to get an expression right to me getting some better skills in cartooning will push you forward. You'll also be able to leave the dialog out and let your characters expressions do some talking, which really helps trim the fat and get to jokes faster.

    I would listen to Gabe and Tycho work out strips in their podcasts, it can be really insightful on how the process actually works and not people think/say it should work.

    Anyway, I hope you push yourself and keep posting.

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    Mot BuchananMot Buchanan OhioRegistered User regular
    Thank you both for being the first to offer some advice.
    This will not be a post where I try to defend my choices. That was always very frustrating in art school when a classmate would just say "that's my style" like that made it all better.

    I suppose I should have added in the context that these comics were just what I'd been doing for my wife and I, and posting them on Facebook or my own website.
    It hadn't really occurred to me that some of those strips don't make much sense unless you know me. It seems silly in retrospect, but now that's something that I'll be keeping in mind.
    The only feedback I was getting was from people that did know me, and would understand the jokes.
    The strip about cutting my hair wouldn't be very funny at all to people who didn't know what I regularly grow it out to donate it. I feel foolish for not seeing that sooner.

    This is one of the main reasons that I wanted to start posting here. To get feedback from people that didn't know me and had no reason to avoid hurting my feelings.

    The comics are very much supposed to be in the slice of life style. I'm still trying to find what I want the look of them to be, which may account for a bit of the changing look of the characters. But In reality I think that most of the blame for that can be laid at the feet of not enough time practicing.

    My character design professor also accused me of being very generic with my people. He would encourage me to push shape more and experiment to find better versions of the characters. I think that I stuck to the more generic human proportions because the webcomics I like also keep to those standards for the most part... but that isn't a very good reason at all.

    So, I will take these comments to heart and get back to my drawing table.

    I will keep posting stuff from time to time, and hope that I keep getting solid advise like I have already.

    In the spirit of trying to become part of the community of this board I've read over many of the other threads, and I'll do my best to find useful things to say in an attempt to contribute.

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    IrukaIruka Registered User, Moderator Mod Emeritus
    @acadia happened to beat me to the punch, so don't let our overlapping advice get you down. It sounds like you have a good mindset to get to business, so for sure keep posting, we'd love to try and help.

    The AC also has another section, here: https://forums.penny-arcade.com/categories/art-assignments-and-resources I really suggest taking a look at the comic resources masterpost, as it has some great books to check out.

    I can't emphasis character construction enough though. Learn to draw some golden age cartoons through construction methods, and you will understand more thoroughly why your characters are so inconsistent. There's more of a volumetric, underlying problem here. Drawing more will help, but you'll need to do more than just try drawing your characters differently to get at the issue. Its something that's important to note.

    Something to note about slice of life comics, I don't know very many that limit themselves to three panels. Unless you are really committed to the format I'd maybe give yourself some room to breathe. You are basically in gag strip mode, but it sounds like you want people to be introduced to your life. Thats something to consider.

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    Mot BuchananMot Buchanan OhioRegistered User regular
    It's been forever since I've been to the forums, but I want to try and get back into spending time her more often.
    Here is a dump of stuff I've been working on.

    As always, I'm open to critique, advice, and comments.

    The bulk of this is stuff from my sketchbook. I've managed to do a drawing every morning for the last month. I've never been able to keep up something like this before... I always stopped the monthly drawing challenges around day 8 or 9, so I'm really pleased with myself for sticking with it.


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    GethGeth Legion Perseus VeilRegistered User, Moderator, Penny Arcade Staff, Vanilla Staff vanilla
    Geth detected banned alias
    Reason: magicmot

    The machine has no feelings, it feels no fear and no hope.
    Mot Buchanan

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    IrukaIruka Registered User, Moderator Mod Emeritus
    @Mot Buchanan Sorry, Geth doesnt like alt accounts, but you havent made any posts from it.

    If you could resize your images though, these are all giant.

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    Mot BuchananMot Buchanan OhioRegistered User regular
    I'm not sure how to resize them once they've been posted.
    I can however post smaller versions in the future... provided I'm not banned without warning again.

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    GethGeth Legion Perseus VeilRegistered User, Moderator, Penny Arcade Staff, Vanilla Staff vanilla
    Geth detected banned alias
    Reason: magicmot

    Control is as much an effect as a cause. The idea that control is something you exert is a handicap to progress.
    Mot Buchanan

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    zerzhulzerzhul Registered User, Moderator mod
    @Mot Buchanan should be fixed now.

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    IrukaIruka Registered User, Moderator Mod Emeritus
    Thanks @zerzhul.

    @Mot Buchanan Please resize and reupload the pictures. It makes it really hard to comment on the thread when opening it up takes ages and the images themselves cant be seen without scrolling. 1000x1000 pixels is generally big enough. 4k 1.2m is a bit much.

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