Drawabox AMA - "I'm already Uncomfortable, so you may as well Ask Me Anything"
6mo
Stan Prokopenko
Irshad - or Uncomfortable, if you know him from Drawabox - is a concept designer, illustrator, game developer, programmer, and for lack of a better word, a self-taught instructor who has been teaching the fundamentals of drawing for just short of six years. He doesn't know how he got here, but here he is, so you may as well ask him some questions. Want to know what it's really like working for a small no-name studio? What about the ups-and-downs of drawing a web comic? What about his opinions on the idea of talent, or the notion of a "dream job"? Everything's fair game, so ask away, starting NOW! The answers will start flowing at 1PM PDT.
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Jme
6mo
Hey Uncomfortable, it's me, one of your fledging DaB students. My question is, how do you "know" when you have reached the intangible threshold of "good enough" to start using a platform and trying to build a following? Too soon, and I'd imagine you do more damage to your potential career than good, but given that it's incredibly hard to judge your own art (or maybe if you can't, that's an indicator that you're not ready to start throwing it up on instagram or wherever), and especially if you're always in a space where you feel like other people on those platforms are always "better", how and when do you take the risk? Side note: I'm finally getting to the end of DaB and you throw this new Science of Drawing Course up, thanks for nothing...there is no finish line. Looking forward to it.
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Irshad Karim
Hah! Drawabox is the starting line! It's the tutorial zone, you're only just breaking free of your box prison and going out into the world. Make sure you pack sunscreen. So I think the main issue here is a single erroneous assumption - "I'd imagine you do more damage to your potential career than good". I honestly don't think this is true, or at least not as true as you might think. There are things you can do now that can mess with your career going forward, but none of them have to do with drawing badly. Rather, it's things like being a jerk - and even that fades with time - that'll mess with future opportunities. There is however a reason one *might* avoid posting their work to social media, and that comes back to the things you may have seen back in Lesson 0 of Drawabox. It's the tendency for students to be obsessed with the end result of their work. Social media kicks that into high gear, causing us to think a *lot* about not only how something's going to turn out, but how it's going to be received, and the worst part is that it starts creating a clear connection between how many views and likes and whatevers our work gets, and how we feel about it in general. It quickly overshadows the joy we may have experienced while working on it, if we allow it to. Often times just being aware of this, and being in tune with how you're feeling is enough to counteract it. To celebrate your shitty drawings for what they are and what they were, and to continually fight against the bitterness that rises in us whenever we feel we haven't gotten the attention that we deserve - or worse, that we don't deserve the attention we received. If you feel you can keep that under control, and guard your sense of self worth in that brutal social media hellscape, then strap on your red cotton onesie, grab your guitar, and hop onto the roof of your weird speaker truck. It's time to ride. As a side note, I would check out the answer I gave to Pedro Kaponautas below on the topic of when the right time is to start a web comic. Similarly to you, they asked about the threshold of skill at which it would be appropriate. My answer was similar, but there are additional points that may be of use to you.
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purpledun
what's your best advice on portrait drawing ? and making drawings that actually look like the people you're trying to draw
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Irshad Karim
When it comes to portraiture, I think the most important thing is understanding how the face is made up of a lot of separate "planes". Beginners will usually try to draw the face as a sort of singular flat surface, but as one gets a better grasp of the major planes in which it can be divided, they can better understand how the face exists as a three dimensional structure.
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purpledun
hello so I'm like doing drawabox rn and it's kinda driving me insane im on the rotated boxes part of lesson man I just want to know how I'm supposed to apply this stuff to my drawings like how do I apply boxes and ellipses and circles to my drawings when I draw I just draw things the way I see them and that's the only way I know how even outside of drawabox literally every beginner drawing video talks about boxes and spheres and ellipses and I just don't understand how to apply that stuff to my actual drawing
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Irshad Karim
The way Drawabox is designed isn't as a small-scale tutorial. It definitely includes things in it that will individually improve aspects of your art (mainly as individual tools, like the ghosting method, the concept of drawing from your shoulder, etc) but as a whole, it's a course that is meant to put you through a series of exercises, in a particular order, in a particular quantity, that is designed to rewire your brain as a whole. The main concept Drawabox focuses on is teaching students to understand how the things they draw on this flat piece of paper, actually exist in 3D space - how it's made up of simple forms, and how those forms relate to one another within that space. Outside of Drawabox, you don't need to push yourself to actively try to apply what you're learning - if the course works as intended, it's going to gradually sneak its way into your work by changing the way in which you see the world, and the kinds of habits with which you approach drawing as a whole. Long story short - relax. Just focus on following the instructions to the letter, including the instructions on the rotated box exercises which state that you're probably going to have a horrible time with that exercise. Try it once, and move on. There are exercises in the course that are specifically assigned at points where you're not expected to be able to pull them off especially well - it's part of the process.
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Pedro Kaponautas
Hello Irshad! I can't tell you enough how Drawabox has helped and is helping me improve my drawing skills, and I'm very thankful for all the great work you have being putting out for these past years. Now here's my question: I have interest in drawing webcomics, but I'm still a beginner, how can I tell when my skills are developt enough to the point where I can draw a comic that doesn't look awful.
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Irshad Karim
There's no actual point at which your skills will be developed enough to where you can draw a comic that doesn't look awful, for the simple reason that drawing comics is an entire beast of its own. What you're asking is essentially this: if I sit by the poolside and talk about swimming long enough, how long before I can jump into the water and swim a lap? In order to get good at drawing comics, one must first draw comics badly. It really comes down to the same principle I talk about back in Drawabox Lesson 0 - the idea of "being ready", and how we tend to be so focused on not making asses of ourselves. In being preoccupied with saving ourselves the shame and embarrassment of drawing badly, we avoid doing it at all - outside of the bubbles provided by courses where every step is neatly outlined and we're always told what the next step is going to be. But alas- there is no hiding from it. Whether you do it now, or you do it a year from now, you will have to step out there and fall flat on your face - regardless of how good you are at your exercises. The advantage to doing it now is that you *know* you're kind of shitty at drawing, and so when your comics come out poorly, that'll just be a normal thing. But what about a year from now, when the work you do in your courses is actually getting pretty good? How much more will it hurt to have your comics fall far short of your expectations, despite all of the hard work you put in? Lots of people have done this, and at least some of them have decided to throw in the towel as a result. Now this doesn't mean you *have* to go publishing your web comic and showing it for all to see - but you should at the very least be producing them, to get a feel for all the considerations that go into making one. But if you *do* want to publish to a website, or to a platform like WebToon or Tapas, there's something else to keep in mind: I've been working on a web comic for over 3 years, and even now, I'm pretty sure that if I spent the time working on it working at a grocery store instead, I'd probably have more money to show for it. Don't get me wrong - I fully expect my comic to blow up *one day*, but I expect it to take quite a few more years before that can happen. The thing about web comics is that it's all about reaching a critical mass - that means, reaching the point where your audience is big enough, and enthusiastic enough, to fuel its growth without your own intervention. It's where you lose control of its growth. That's when it explodes. That's when you've succeeded, and where you get "reimbursed" for all the long hours for pennies. That sounds like a lot of drudgery, pinned on a hope and a dream, but it's actually kind of freeing - it means that web comics are, at their core, a waiting game. As long as you put the work in to update *regularly*, and that you hold to the commitments you make to your audience, what you do now beyond that doesn't really matter. In the fullness of time, your art will get better. Your stories and writing will get better. And as they improve with that practice, you'll accrue more of an audience. Sure, you might be embarrassed of the first pages, but look at all the web comics out there with their dogshit archives. You're reading them *now*, and you don't like them any less because they started out trash. So, if achieving that critical mass is just a matter of time and consistency, then the sooner you start, the sooner you'll get there. The fact that your art doesn't meet some arbitrary standard is irrelevant, and it's only holding you back from doing the *one* thing that'll take you that step closer to success. Just understand that it's a very, very long road, and that means your endurance needs to come from somewhere other than external gratification - that is, the attention others give you. You need to tell that story for yourself, because for a while, you're probably going to be its only reader.
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Anton
Berserk?
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Irshad Karim
Not really my cup of tea.
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Jeremy Carter
Hi Irshad! For years I have told myself I am "not ready" to start applying for art jobs and that I want to keep training before I attempt to enter the industry in a real way, despite friends/fellow peers having told me that I am good enough. I truly do feel unprepared in many areas of drawing and expect after a couple more years of training I will indeed feel ready. But felt like I have stumbled into producing a couple portfolio-worthy pieces that make it seem like I know what I'm doing lol. Was there a point when you felt, "Okay, I feel I have enough skill/knowledge in this particular field that I am ready to apply for positions," or is the "I am not ready" mentality holding me back? Thanks!
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Irshad Karim
So the thing to keep in mind is that the position of a junior artist comes with it two distinct responsibilities. First, a junior artist is expected to have the capacity to follow the instructions of their art director, to do fairly menial tasks roughly in the vein of their area of study. In any studio that's going to have more than a single artist (which unfortunately is where I worked), the new junior artist fresh off the street isn't expected to perform miracles. They're there to sweep the metaphorical floors. Secondly, a junior artist is expected to *learn*. To benefit from the experience of their seniors, and to gradually expand in their responsibilities over a period of months, and even years. I think you have a bit of an inflated expectation of what it really means to be a junior artist in a team. I mean, a lot of people do, and so they immediately disqualify themselves before they've ever applied. But the fact of the matter is, that's not your responsibility. Don't do the hiring manager's job for them. If you want a job, and you have a portfolio, send your application in. If your portfolio isn't good enough, they will toss it aside and forget you ever applied. What is there to lose?
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Attila Mityok
Is it a healthy, or positive long term set goal to one day become a show runner for an animated series, with creative control? What are some of the compromises to personal vision and just how hard does one need to work and have the patience to find the opportunity to show your peers and potential clients your own ideas and pitches?
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Irshad Karim
So if I'm understanding you correctly, you're asking if the goal of having creative control is a healthy or positive one. The longer you are with a team (and the more experience you have in general), the more latitude you're going to have to offer your own thoughts and ideas. When you start out at the bottom of the totem pole, as a junior artist, you're not likely to have all that much creative freedom, rather you'll be there to help support someone else's vision. That doesn't mean it's bad to ultimately aim to become the one with creative control, as long as you understand that this is something you earn over time - that is, over the course of years. When you start out as a junior artist, it's not so much that you're compromising personal vision as much as... your personal vision isn't really a factor. It's not being compromised, it's just irrelevant. As you deliver on your responsibilities in a reliable, consistent manner, you will likely be given more latitude and control. It varies, of course. Some small studios just don't have much of an art team, and so an individual artist - even one relatively new to the team - may have more opportunities to speak up, to offer their input, and so on. But even there, one needs to understand their role in a team. If you join a team and spend the whole time itching to take hold of the steering wheel, then that is probably going to have a negative impact on your ability to perform in your responsibilities. The studio isn't there to bring your vision to life, after all. To be completely fair, I don't really know how animation studios work - so perhaps there are opportunities for individuals to provide their pitches. Being that my experience is from working at an indie game studio though, those kinds of opportunities were basically non-existent. Having been there for six years, I had plenty of creative input on how we worked to achieve our clients' goals, but those goals were still defined by the clients. There were a few instances where I did concept art for game concepts that I was particularly enthusiastic about, but they were all invariably shelved. We only spent time on those when client work dried up - and as soon as it was back, they were set aside for another rainy day. All that said, if you want creative control and have your own ideas you'd like to bring to life, definitely pursue them on your own time. Just be careful - if you work for an animation studio, and work on something on your own, make sure your employment contract does not by default give ownership of what you make to your employer. There could be some complications regarding non-compete clauses, and other such legal nonsense.
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misbha
When someone is studying by themselves with books and online resources, what are things that they should keep in mind and is it possible to actually be industry ready when you're self taught?
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Irshad Karim
Nothing is impossible - but that doesn't mean that there aren't things that are very, very difficult, and fraught with dangerous pitfalls. Whenever someone talks about studying "by themselves", it raises the need for some clarification. Do you mean working entirely in a vacuum, on one's own, trusting wholly in one's own individual capacity to understand the material they're studying and their ability to identify their own mistakes, without feedback? Or do you just mean, relying on those resources and seeking feedback from online communities? 'Cause that's a pretty big distinction. I would *never* recommend anyone work in a vacuum, completely on their own. There's no good reason for it, and it leaves one susceptible to misunderstanding the material they're studying, and working for long stretches off those misunderstandings. Now if you mean going the no-school route, working with a community of people pursuing the same kind of goals, critiquing each others' work, and basically making your own school - then sure, you can get there. The structure school offers does help, but it really isn't the end-all be-all, and it has its own pitfalls along the way. What matters most is that you're open to feedback, that you're highly disciplined and self-motivated, and that you DON'T just obsess over your weaknesses. So many students - especially those who like to think themselves to be particularly driven - will focus entirely on their weaknesses, and leave no room to acknowledge their strengths. It's a great way to lead to burnout. The biggest thing with self-taught students is that a lot of them go out of their way to make things harder than it needs to be. I feel like it might be the whole "suffering artist" nonsense - but hopefully it'll fade away into the cultural irrelevancy it deserves.
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monkeybini
what do you think on the mindset of art shouldn't be fun? there are parts in the art process that isn't fun like line art or blocking in a sketch with color for visual appeal or visual problem solving some things and research etc. what are your thoughts? i try to keep my mindset on art as some parts in the process wont be fun and to have a goal or expectation for what i'm going to draw like wanting to just learn about values and even if it may not look like what i hoped for i reached my goal. think of it more as school work. what are your thoughts on this type of a mind set. do you agree, disagree? think it could be added upon and what's your mindset on drawing? how do you approach it?
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Irshad Karim
So while I think your wording is a bit misleading, I think I agree with the sentiment behind what you're saying. It's not that art shouldn't be fun - it's that there inevitably will always be parts that aren't necessarily enjoyable. Some of it's just boring. I mean, you're talking to the guy that forces people to draw 250 boxes. I'm the king of not-fun. Drawabox itself, is a course that leans very heavily into the idea of learning to draw being like learning anything else in school. There are, however, a lot of people out there that feel entirely turned off by the prospect of doing *anything* related to art in a way that isn't fun - and I feel in avoiding tediousness, they're missing out on quite a bit. But for some people, they simply aren't in the right point in their journey to sit down and do the boring stuff. That said, one should balance things out. Where we do plenty of boring stuff in Drawabox, I leave it to the student to adhere to the "50% rule" - which states that for every hour you spend on courses (be it drawabox or anything else), you should be spending an equal amount of time drawing just for the sake of drawing - basically to help people learn how to enjoy drawing on its own, without worrying about how things turn out. But again, based on what you've written, I think this does line up with what you're saying - so yeah, I can say that I agree with the meat of your view on this.
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Uku Kivisild
Hi Irshad, do you think it is more important to progress through classes and not stay stuck on each one for too long or getting to grips with a topic before moving on? and why? It also applies to learning the figure since I struggle to move on from gesture but I have decided to progress anyway and just keep coming back to it.
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Irshad Karim
So in my experience, when we're introduced to a new topic, or we're reintroduced to an old topic after a while, we tend to pick things up very quickly. As soon as it starts to get stale, as soon as we just stare at the same thing constantly, the efficiency with which we learn diminishes quite a bit. Long story short, I wouldn't stay stuck on the same thing for far too long. That doesn't mean you can't visit it regularly - one of the most important things when learning figure drawing is literally just mileage, but if *all* you're doing day in day out is figure drawing sketches, then that might not be the most efficient approach. So yeah, I strongly support the idea of learning a concept, continuing forward, then circling back regularly to continue practicing it while continuing forward. A good example of this in Drawabox is the concept of texture. We have students tackle it in Lesson 2, but then students have the option of pursuing the 25 texture challenge... which is *literally* just one of the texture exercises done 25 more times - but I encourage them to do this in parallel with the rest of the course, rather than all at once. Here's one I critiqued today, which shows their progress over the course of *many* months: https://imgur.com/a/qUAmmaX
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Weijak
Hi Uncomfy! I have two questions, do you plan on doing streams again? And also, seeing that you´ve always been having different proyects at the same time (work, DaB, webcomics) what some important things you take into account when planning your days/weeks or scheduling what you do. Im currently doing graphic design in Uni and I sometimes feel like I could be using my free time more for drawing but I also Im afraid of burning out. Anyways, I hope you are having a good day!
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Irshad Karim
Hey there, Weegee. So, on the topic of streams, I do, but they've been a pretty low priority thing for me. I put them on pause primarily because I was putting so much of my time towards both the Drawabox overhaul and my work on the course I made for Proko (which dropped today! https://www.proko.com/course/the-science-of-deciding-what-you-should-draw/overview), and now with my apartment flooding and Scylla and I being temporarily displaced, it's all kind of up in the air. I will in all likelihood return to it, but it's gonna be a while yet. We'll be back to a point of stability in September... unless something else goes wrong. I think I've had the good (and perhaps, in some ways, bad) fortune of hitting a point in the development of Drawabox that a *lot* of opportunities hit around the same time that it would have been unwise to reject. Proko was a big part of that - when Stan reached out to collaborate together, first on the Aphantasia video, then this course, the opportunity was too good to pass up - although to be fair, my imposter syndrome alarm is going off like crazy right now. The way I used to see things, I had three jobs - at least for the last few years. My day job at Silverback Games, Drawabox, and OGMA - which is pretty much what you listed. OGMA itself took up that block of time I used to commit to doing things for fun, with no real pressure. Illustrations, working on my game development projects, etc. That was certainly unfortunate, but it was for a good cause, since it was basically a shared project I worked on with Scylla, while we were still long-distance. Since then however, it's turned into this giant thing of its own, although one with a workload we've been able to reduce quite a bit, down to just one day per two weeks. Last summer, I was able to really wind down my work at Silverback, but that is also the same time that Stan reached out, and my responsibilities with Drawabox also increased, both filling the void - so it's like the free time I promised myself I'd reclaim evaporated, and I've been joking to myself that I burned out many months ago. That's my secret, cap. Now, the main difference is that unlike before, none of these projects are just continuous things that will go on for the forseeable future. The Aphantasia video's done. This course is done. I may work on other courses in the future, but definitely not for a while. Even my overhaul of the Drawabox material will be finished eventually, and updating Lessons 3 and 4 will allow me to hand off those critiques to TAs, freeing me up even further. So whether I'm just fooling myself or not, free time is on the horizon. To actually address your question though, I think that block I kept free, which eventually got eaten up by OGMA, is *incredibly* important, and we all owe ourselves some down time to keep from going nuts. It's not that we can't work during that time too - it's that it is a block of time we should not commit to anything long term. A block of time where no matter what you choose to do, you have the permission not to feel guilty. Draw, play video games, read a book, go outside, join a cult. All is allowed, in your free time.
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Lee Davis
How would you get started putting out a web comic? What are the basics a noob should make sure they are doing, whether that's art wise or story wise or promotion wise etc, and how would you try to gain a readership? Thanks!
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Irshad Karim
The most important thing to keep in mind when it comes to comics is an understanding of what it means to have "succeeded". It's not when you get your first hundred readers, it's not when you get your first thousand. It's not when you make your first dollar, or when you sell your first piece of merch. It's when you hit a point of critical mass. Critical mass is basically when your comic (or anything else you might put out there) is basically able to grow on its own, without a continuous injection of attention from you. It's.... a long way off. My comic's been around for three years now, and we've got a solid 18,000 subscribers on WebToon, and all that is great - but we still haven't succeeded. Not yet. But we will. As long as your content is good enough to promote further growth (with your own continual investment of time and effort), as long as your audience is engaged enough to stick around and wait for the next page, and as long as you don't throw in the towel, hitting a critical mass is inevitable. It may take a year, it may take five years, it may take ten - we can't say how long it'll take. But it will happen. The reason this matters, is pretty simple. It means that no matter how you choose to start, starting now is better than starting later. But that doesn't answer your question. I think there's a few things that can really help with getting started on a web comic, though none of these things are going to catapult you to popularity. Firstly, the days of standalone web comics are kinda dead - I mean, we went that route too, and we still are sure to update ours regularly, but the biggest shortcoming is that it's not designed for people to get automatically notified when your next page goes up - so you'll probably be forgotten once they've gone through your backlog. Sure, there's RSS feeds (which.. some people still use, I guess), there's that INCREDIBLY annoying browser notifications thing, and there's mailing lists, but these aren't built into the platform - because there is no platform. So, putting your comic on something that allows and encourages people to follow you is important. WebToon, Tapas.io are good bets - they have different kinds of audiences, and for us Tapas.io was a total flop but WebToon worked out pretty well. But there are other options - Instagram, for instance, is great if your comic format allows for it. Not all do. Each platform will have formats that they cater to more effectively, and their audiences will respond better if you stick to their conventions. That doesn't mean you necessarily have to - our comic for example is not remotely close to a webtoon vertical scroller, but I don't really feel like it hurt our chances. While I can't speak to most platforms, I can speak to my experiences on WebToon, and there are some things to keep in mind there: do not expect "fairness". Moral stories predispose us to expecting things to be fair, but they're not - and frankly, we're not really entitled to fairness. Every platform is a business, and they will always operate as such. To this effect, WebToon has two classes of comics. There are the comics in their ad revenue sharing program, which actually have ads displayed on their comic pages (they're quite small and non-intrusive, but they're there), and there are the comics that haven't reached that threshold of subscribers/views, or haven't opted in. This distinction isn't actually about *you* making money - rather, it's about which comics earn WebToon their revenue, and in turn, which comics they want their readers reading. If there are no ads rendering on the second group's pages, then they must provide WebToon with some other kind of value, and they do. I can't necessarily guarantee that this is *true*, but it makes perfect sense and aligns with what WebToon's own "advice for beginners" things offer: those smaller comics, of which there are thousands, are how WebToon brings in readers. If you're a new comic, that's your job - you bring in new users, the sign up, and eventually they get enticed away by some other comic on the platform that is going to make WebToon revenue. They expect these smaller comics to attract users by posting their updates to their social media mostly - twitter, facebook, instagram, etc. anything to bring people over. Of course, being that they're small comics, their followings are also small - but we're talking about thousands of comics doing this, and as a whole they end up bringing in fairly decent numbers for WebToon as a whole. Eventually, some of them might really hit it off, but it's not because WebToon helped them by featuring them and giving them away to access the readership on WebToon. Pretty much the only way to get attention there is to update frequently, because each time you update, you end up back on the top of the "canvas" page where people can find new comics to read. All the other feature spots are pretty much reserved for comics that can show ads, and earn webtoon money. Now don't get me wrong - I still think WebToon was great for my comic, and I think it can be very useful in general. The very fact that people can easily subscribe, and then will be notified on their phones when you update, is incredibly valuable. What all of this does mean, however, is that it's a long up-hill climb before you pass the threshold where webtoon is going to help you out themselves. The threshold being 1000 subscribers and 40,000 monthly pageviews, which is what qualifies you for the ad revenue sharing program. So, what did we do? Advertising, baby. Specifically, we had a considerable amount of success using Facebook's targeted ads to put our comic in front of people we thought would be eager to read it. We worked within WebToon's expectations - bringing visitors to their website - but we did so in an accelerated manner. Obviously, it isn't free, and therefore it's not an option for everyone - but it's at least something to look into. Facebook ads are pretty accessible, and *relatively* in expensive. In that they're still expensive, but if you use them well and consider your targeting, you can get a lot of bang for your buck. You can even target people who are already on WebToon, and therefore are already familiar with the platform. So here's what we did - we jumped onto WebToon after.. I forget, maybe a year and a half or something of being on our own standalone website, so we had a decent backlog of 75 pages (so obviously quite a bit for people to sink their teeth into). Once we hit around 315 subscribers, I pulled the trigger and dropped $300 on facebook ads. Obviously that's no small amount of money, but if it's something you save up for *while* you build up your backlog, knowing what you're going to be spending it on, it can be manageable. That $300 in ads didn't propel us past the finish line (the 1000 subscriber/40,000 pageview threshold), but it did push us much closer, and made passing it a realistic goal. Once we did pass it, and got into the ad revenue sharing program, that's where things started to grow more on their own, because now WebToon had a stake in our success. I think we hit 3000 subscribers not long after that. So! I've obviously rambled a lot, and at this point I'm not even sure how close I am to actually answering your question, but burgers just arrived. I hope this has been helpful to you, and has given you an idea on how to think about promoting your comic. The answer being "spend some money" obviously isn't ideal, and it's also not the whole thing. You need to have enough of a backlog so that you have a higher chance of each ad click you're spending on yielding a long-term reader. You also need to consider doing everything you can to engage with your audience - responding to comments, giving your audience somewhere to talk to you (a discord server, perhaps?) and obviously your comic needs to be interesting enough for them to want to read. That doesn't mean it needs to be amazing - in fact, the art itself is probably the least important part of a comic. As long as it's not outright offensive to look at, they're only going to spend a handful of seconds looking at it - the rest is going to be reading the dialogue, and then absorbing the story itself as you move through. To that end, my writer is actually the one having the greater impact... even if I'm the one pouring 12 hours a week into making pages.
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Mary Verzosa
Greetings Irshad! How do you schedule your time when drawing for 'Orc and Gnome's Mild Adventures'?
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Irshad Karim
That's a really good question, and scheduling in general I think is incredibly important when it comes to anything that requires you to commit to producing content regularly over a long span of time. I mean, obviously scheduling is important - but what I mean is, schedule is *king*. Nothing takes priority over your schedule. If it's a question of putting out something high quality and overshooting your deadline, or putting out something adequate (or even arguably poor) and meeting your deadline, it's the deadline that wins. Reason being, if you don't keep to your schedule, it *will* get away from you - and before long, you'll find yourself easily overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of work that is demanded of you. From there, it's just a hop skip and a jump to either sacrificing your health, or sacrificing your ability to update regularly, when your audience expects it - and neither is acceptable. My schedule has changed over the course of working on this comic, based on what I knew I could commit to. Right now things are a little scattered because of some flooding in our apartment that forced us out while they repair things, but normally I'll work on the comic on Wednesdays, committing the whole day to hammering out two pages of what is basically black and white. We do have colour illustrations, but because they demand different amounts of time, I squeeze them in on weekends or on other days where I can. One interesting point is that I discovered that I work faster if I'm working on two pages simultaneously, on the same canvas, than if I work on the pages one at a time - so I started working in "spreads". This made completing two full pages in a day much more feasible, though sometimes it still demands some very late nights. That's... mostly my own fault though, for getting distracted and procrastinating.
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Alex Esbenshade
How is your back? I've been doing freelance storyboard art for a year now - I'm 29 and I feel 49.
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Irshad Karim
I saw this question yesterday, just as I was hunched over my Cintiq and working on a page of my comic. Honestly, I don't think my back has suffered nearly as much as it really should have, but I may just have low expectations for how my body is supposed to feel at 31. That said, there are certain things I've done for the purposes of ergonomics that some people feel to be excessive. Not for my back so much, but more for my legs. I installed a custom keyboard tray which has an adjustable height, and sneaks in under my cintiq. The cintiq itself hangs over the edge of the desk, putting it at a relatively comfortable height for use, while still letting my type (though I can't really see the keyboard that easily). This saves me from having to sit too high, and have my legs dangle. When I was working in-office before, I wasn't able to create a setup this... unique, which made things difficult. At one point, adjusting my setup caused me to put immense strain on my legs without realizing it. Then I walked home for the evening, and by the time I got to my apartment, I couldn't walk a few feet without limping terribly. Long story short - invest in your ergonomics, find what works for you, and listen to your body.
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MJ Nixon
What are things about your job that you find cumbersome or annoying? How do you overcome these challenges? What percentage of your time would you say you must spend on tasks that aren't really want you want to be doing but you feel are necessary to the job?
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Irshad Karim
So my job in particular was.... somewhat unique. I was hired as a concept artist/illustrator, but being that it was at a small studio, my employer was eager to take whatever he could get out of me, so I also did a lot of programming, level design, graphic design, animation, 3D modeling, etc. But that's not really what you're asking about. What I found most bothersome was the fact that what you produce is not guaranteed to ever see the light of day. Your best work could be on a game that ultimately gets shelved for budgeting reasons - or maybe it just doesn't fit in well enough in the end, and it gets cut. I've got tons of illustrations and designs that I'm extremely proud of that I simply can't show. Some of them, fortunately, I do have permission to show (they're in my profile/albums), but there's plenty more that may as well be locked in a vault. At the end of the day, it's important to understand that a job is just a job. You're trading your time and skillset to someone else, for money that you can use to make the time you have left as enjoyable as possible, or to help support other things that are important to you. Don't ever forget that. It's easy to lose track of it and figure that low wages or ridiculous overtime is acceptable because one is working their "dream job". That's not to say there aren't circumstances under which that might be acceptable, that's not the issue. The issue is that we are often prone to just assume that to be the case, as a matter of course. Make sure you're always weighing what you're giving up, what you're getting for it, and what alternatives there may be available to you now or in the future. Being employed is no excuse to take a passive role in your own life.
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Daniel Richardson
Is it realistic to pursue art even when your family discourages it?
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Irshad Karim
All family situations are different, so it really depends. I think it makes a little more sense to break things down into components. For example, for a lot of younger people, "family" means funding - in which case, they may be willing to support you financially should you go down one path, but not another. If we're looking at it all pragmatically, rather than dramatically, then it certainly closes *some* doors. I myself did not pursue my degree in art. I went to college and got a bachelor's of information technology, specifically a degree in interactive multimedia. While this wasn't necessarily a case of my parents discouraging me from pursuing art (they weren't encouraging on the matter, but it was more that I was discouraging myself), the fact of the matter is that out of high school, illustration and concept art were not things that I had in my future. Once I graduated at 22, I went to work as a game programmer, though not a particularly well paid one. I still drew often, and far more seriously after I graduated as I started to come to the conclusion that this was something I wanted to pursue as a career. Despite the delay, now that I had a job (although I was fortunate enough to live with my parents so I could save up my income) I was in a much stronger position to make certain choices for myself. This circles back to the fact that family equates to funding - and if you can fund yourself, then you're in a better position to make your own choices. I worked for 15 months or so making mind-numbing educational games for toddlers, saved up a good bit of money, and funded my own career change - including a six month stint at Concept Design Academy in Pasadena, California (across the border and across the continent from my home). That was the path that I took, but there are a lot of other options, especially now - ones that are a hell of a lot cheaper, too, though they may require you to bring your own discipline to bear. Online classes come with less pressure to perform than in-person ones, and courses/tutorials without instruction come with even less. But the sources of information and training are there, along with online communities that can at least *somewhat* make up for it. So, if my assumption of family equaling funding is correct in your situation and that is the totality of it, it is realistic. If however your parents are actively forcing you to go down a different path - even then, pursuing art can be realistic, in your free time now, and later more seriously. It's merely a matter of delaying things. It really is remarkable how much freedom comes with full-time employment, so long as it's not the kind that demands inordinate amounts of overtime. School, with its irregular class schedules and its mountains of homework, was just difficult to work around. Once I started working full time, I was able to find 3 solid hours a night to work on my art, and it made a meaningful difference all while still being able to put away money. Now, there is still something to be said about pursuing another career path, and doing art on the side (either as freelance, or just as a hobby). To that point, however, you may want to read the response I gave to Andrea below on the topic of "dream jobs".
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herve801
Hi.What are studios looking for in new illustratoon portfolios.
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Irshad Karim
That's a tricky question to answer. Not least of all because while I did participate in hiring, and have even directed job interviews, our need for illustrators and concept artists were pretty low, given what a small studio it was. But more than that, I think studios themselves are not a monolith - they all have their own needs and requirements, dependent on what kinds of projects they work on. There's probably more consistency when you look at larger studios, but small indie studios are like the wild west. Before I continue, I do want to be very clear - on this topic, I may well not know what I'm talking about. I worked at the same studio for 6 years, and while I was hired as a concept artist and illustrator, and did fulfil those duties as part of my employment, I also basically did whatever else my boss required of me (programming, 3d modeling, web development, graphic design, animation, etc). My case is very unique, and therefore so are my experiences. So if anyone working as an art director contradicts me, trust them over me. There are some things that are really required in any studio, and of any junior employee - your portfolio should, above all else, demonstrate the ability to produce work in response to concise instructions, and the ability to iterate on your results based on feedback. A beautiful end result is a great way to catch a potential employer's eye, but even at my studio where we didn't hire any other 2D artists during my tenure, we got a pretty hefty number of people sending over their portfolio. An illustrator being able to produce good work is important, but our ability to work with them, and for them to enact the vision of their art director with as little friction as possible is extremely valuable. Instruction, guidance, and revisions are inevitable, so being able to see signs that a candidate will be able to work from a brief, accept criticism and apply revisions as directed, is very valuable. How do we achieve that in a portfolio? That's where my advice gets kind of uncertain - art directors may need to look through a ton of portfolios all at once, and they don't necessarily have the time to see a dozen iterations on a single piece. What may be beneficial, however, is to provide a very quick brief that they can *choose* to read, alongside the resulting piece - and if the portfolio is digital, a way to look at the iterations separately should they so choose. Another point that is particularly valuable to smaller studios is versatility. Knowing that an artist is more than just a one-trick-pony, and that their skillset can be replicated in a variety of areas, that they're up to date on modern techniques (using 3D to rapidly iterate is a big one, even in my small studio), and so on are all big selling points. Just remember that what you're demonstrating here is your ability to use tools - not that the tools themselves are making the choices for you, pigeonholing you into a result over which you have little control. Anyway, I apologize for the somewhat discordant response - this, as I mentioned, isn't an area I should necessarily be offering advice, so make sure you take it with a hefty serving of salt.
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Tobias Degnebolig
following your 50/50 rule do you recomend that i actively try and focus on the structure (build the drawing up form structure), or shall i just try and draw freely and let it slowly come natural to me? its kinda hard to think that its gonna come naturaly to one at some point xD
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Irshad Karim
Drawabox is a *heavy* course, and it's going to put you through a ton of work, and through all of it, you're going to be forced to think actively about how you're applying the techniques and tools you learn within its bounds. So, when you go to tackle the other 50% - drawing just for the sake of drawing, there's no need for you to do anything other than drawing in whatever way you feel most comfortable. If the course is doing its job, then as you go through the mileage it forces upon you, it will steadily rewire your brain, changing your habits, and altering what you find to be most comfortable. It's like playing an instrument - everything we do to practice develops instincts and muscle memory, and when we just jam for fun, we don't have to really think about it at all. Of course, it's a long road full of practice to get there, but jamming from the beginning is also important to stave off the stiffness that can result.
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Kalp Bhavsar
How do you decide on what story to tell with your work?
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Irshad Karim
That's a tricky one. I suppose this question could be interpreted in one of two ways, so I'm going to start with the easier one. The easier interpretation is that you've got a ton of stories to tell, but don't know which one to choose. If we assume that all these ideas feel equally interesting to you, then I suppose the next thing to assess is well they cater to the tastes that are currently dominant. In other words, what's popular right now? And what seems to be gaining popularity? This is basically market research - study the audiences you think you'd like to target, and figure out what caters to their tastes without requiring you to change the core spirit of the idea. It can also extend to what kinds of formats are popular. When it comes to something like web comics, right now comics that can be produced in long, vertically scrolling formats are very popular thanks to the push of webtoons and tapas, as well as the tendency for people to consume content on their mobile phones. Another factor to consider is just how much a given story will demand of you, both in the short term and the long term. If it's your first project, and you're choosing between a long form comic that has you pinned down for half a decade, then maybe that's not the best choice. Maybe you've got another idea that is less a continuous narrative, and more a series of overarching beats captured in a series of independent illustrations. Maybe something like that would still demand a few months, but it's a commitment that could be more easily held to - and more importantly, if it falls flat on its face, it's something you can move on from more easily. The other interpretation of your question is that you have no ideas, and are just finding something to create. That's actually something I talk about in the course I dropped on Proko today - you'll find it here: https://www.proko.com/course/the-science-of-deciding-what-you-should-draw/overview but there's a free video from the course that is especially pertinent to this topic on Proko's channel: https://youtu.be/VEct8qwybXU. We all have ideas, but they can almost feel so vague and unsubstantiated that they barely feel like ideas at all. In that video, I talk about how we can use them as a starting point and actually explore and flesh them out, by asking ourselves a series of questions, answering them, then allowing those answers to yield to yet more questions. It's really more of a brainstorming technique, but regardless, it can help you develop more concrete stories to explore from the faintest of notions.
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Andrea Rubbini
Hello Irshad! Do you still practice regularly some of the exercises taught in the DaB curriculum? And yeah, what are your opinions on the notion of a "dream job"? Thank you, you are a great teacher.
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Irshad Karim
Honestly? I don't practice them nearly as much as I should - but on the flipside of that, I think by teaching this material over the last few years, my actual fundamentals have developed *far* beyond where they were when I started sharing what I knew. It really goes to show you how much one can learn through teaching. While it's unfortunate that the time Drawabox demands has limited how much I could actually pursue the goals I had as an illustrator (I used to spend a huge chunk of my time drawing and practicing, but now it's mostly just doing critiques) it has definitely creased my confidence with the material. There are areas where my technical skills wax and wane (if you look at some of my demonstrations, I make mistakes all the time), but those aren't that hard to sure up, given a few hours to shake off some rust. As to the matter of a dream job, I think that as much as the idea of one can spur us to achieve great things, it can also cause us to end up with an amount of tunnel vision. It's easy to forget what a job is - no matter what industry you work on, or how excited you are to go to work every day, a job is first and foremost an opportunity to trade the time and skills you have, for the means to pursue what you want with the time you have left over. To put it simply, we sell our time so we can have nice things, and be happy. People get really caught up in the idea that we *have* to pursue a job that we love, a job that will ensure that we "never work a day in our lives". But that's a *really* high bar, not just for ourselves, but for jobs as a concept. No job is going to make you happy *all* the time - and there are plenty of jobs that are on paper pretty awful that we can learn to appreciate and enjoy. It also means that by pursuing a dream job, you're also expecting that job to give you things that *other* aspects of your life should probably be doing. Even if you've got a dream job, you should probably still have hobbies - and what happens when you find that you'd rather be home doing those, rather than at the studio working on the next big game? Does that mean you *didn't* achieve your dream job? Should you now be miserable? Of course not, and most people do ultimately realize that. But it takes time, and this endless pursuit of "being the best" so that we can achieve that supposed dream job has us shutting so many doors that could make us just as happy, and at much lower cost to our mental health in the long run.
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