In my last entry I may have crossed the line a bit too much into teaching you what I am being taught, dearest readership of zero people. That is not my intention. I started out last week by telling you that in six hours with Ty Templeton (you can find his course at http://www.comicbookbootcamp.com daddy-o!) I learned more than in several semester’s of college art and creative writing classes, and now I understand the reason for it. Those CEGEP courses I took at John Abbott College in Quebec weren’t actually teaching me skills. It wasn’t imparting knowledge upon me. In my excitement over having actually learned skills and wanting to put them to use and demonstrate them for you, I may have crossed the line a bit too much and all apologies and reverence are due unto Ty for finally connecting the dots in my mind.
Back then, when I was really learning nothing, classes were structured in a bizarre way to teaching skills. My art classes would have us sit in a circle around an empty space in the centre of the room and just stare at some random object, or my own hand, and try to just inherently recreate that in flawless detail. It infuriated me. It still infuriates me that they took no time before that step to drill some skills into my head. The writing classes were similar and may have even been worse. It would be all “share your story with the group on the class web portal and then we will discuss the story” and inevitably the discussion would be derailed by someone who found something inherently disturbing about the subject matter or wanted to nitpick word choice. We never got down to structure, building blocks, believable story arcs or anything essential to the understanding of how to craft a good story. At that point, and up until now, everything I had learned and knew about story structures and pacing and creating enjoyment in the audience had been gleaned from absorbing material, taking it in and deciphering its inherent algebraic formulation, and attempting to replicate it without fully understanding what I was doing or why It mattered that I did it.
After class today I had a discussion where Ty echoed my feelings about those classes I had taken from his own youth. He hadn’t learned anything in similar situations, so that when he created his own classes he wanted to actually impart direct, comprehensible, structured knowledge onto us. This brought me back to something which I have had to recognize in myself, and something I laid out for you back in entry #001 – in at least some fashion. To be able to improve, you need to know what you need to know and seek out the resources that will educate you in a manner that is effective.
What this entails, essentially, is doing research. Now, I’ll happily admit that coming across Ty’s courses was not the result of me doing research. My discovery of his Comic Book Boot Camp system (if you’re in Toronto or the surrounding areas and you want to get into comics, take his courses. No matter your skill level, you’ll learn something, I’d wager) was PURE serendipity. I was merely at the right place, at the right time. I couldn’t be happier for it. I had gotten to the point where I felt lost without proper guidance and his classes almost feel like mentoring more than education. But, that being said, I had at that point reached the conclusion that I knew I needed help with both drawing and writing in such a way that I could no longer teach myself strictly through buying books and watching tutorial videos on youtube. It wasn’t helping me the way I needed to be helped, and a few minutes on Free Comic Book Day at a local shop of Ty explaining (pitching really) myself and some other lookieloos on his class and I knew that this was the direction I needed to head in.
But this hasn’t been the only time wherein I have identified what I need to know, researched it as best I could, and gotten help when I have hit my personal limits. In my efforts to get a comic book project off the ground I have had several failed attempts at collaboration, shared creation, so many years ago I attempted to go the route of paying artists to do work based on my scripts and concept art. Since I would be getting money involved, and wanted to protect myself and my intellectual property, I looked into what I would need to do in a contract to protect my investment. So far, and I won’t name names, the majority of artists who have signed contracts with me have decided to try and not complete do the work I had contracted them to do and keep the money I had paid them upfront (I like to give some upfront to help cover costs they may incur during the process and then the remainder upon completion). Having a written contract between us has protected me and gotten my investment back, hassle-free, in one specific instance where the artist recognized that she did not have the legal upper hand at all considering the terms of the contract to keep my money without completing even 1% of the work she had been contracted to do. My position was strengthened by the contract’s existence.
Most people I have spoken to have had, in the creative fields at least, some kind of similar situation to mine and I feel lucky to know that, due to my dogged determination to have a contract, I have protected myself. And when, more recently in my life, another, longer working relationship fell apart and I anticipated complications even with the benefit of a contract existing between parties, I knew I had to seek help and learn what I needed to know from someone who knew more than I. At that point I turned to the internet, fired up my googling skills, and found myself a free legal aid clinic for artists in Toronto, scheduled a meeting and got myself educated. I left that meeting with a massive weight off of my shoulders, the weight of ignorance and uncertainty, and while my end result is still uncertain the fact is that understanding my options and having a game-plan to move forward on are tremendously important in struggling towards your goals. If I had never visited http://www.alasontario.ca/ I would still have a pit of confusion in my stomach. It is never a bad thing to ask for help, to reach out to find someone who can help walk you through the skills or information you don’t have an understanding of but you know you need to move forward, to resolve your problems, and strive for the next level.
You’re likely to stumble often in pursuit of whatever your chosen career is, particularly if it is in an industry that is so remarkably subjective as the creative arts can be, and that involves as many egos as these industries have, all competing to have their own needs met. It isn’t a sign of weakness to use the tools, people, and resources available to you to get a leg up. It is intelligent. Learn from others. Don’t try to do it on your own, it will only frustrate you.