Above and throughout this post, preliminary artwork for Vattu.
Where do you get your ideas? is the question I have heard more than any other question, and other comic people I’ve talked to about it have gotten it a lot too. After writing the following I sort of realized it is the best I can do at an answer:
So finishing OoT, and gearing up to start drawing Vattu, and trying to solidify several nebulous ideas for another project into something workable, have got me thinking about ideas and how they work.
Between Rice Boy and Order of Tales I think I’ve gotten a sense for the process by which I work from idea to product, wide to tight. The experience of finishing the actual Work (years-long, grueling and usually boring, at the very least) and seeing it line up well with the Idea (easy, fun, and completely untainted by reality) is kind of interesting, and has only really happened for me with Order of Tales I think.
The little idea-seeds that start everything aren’t often very clear or very detailed, and if I try to articulate them to anybody else I realize they’re usually uninteresting outside of my own head. It’s a vague sense of the way that a story or a character or setting should seem: not specific enough to record straight to paper faithfully, but specific enough to know a direction, and to know when you’re off track. I think the major bottleneck for people asking the HowDoYouGetYourIdeas question is this: realizing that anything is fair game, and essentially training yourself to funnel your observation of the world into idea-generation. I do not know if that makes sense but that is what I do most of the time.
There seems to be a sort of purity in the idea-seed, which can be lost as it’s worked over and developed. For example! My ideas for things usually start with some mood or visual aesthetic; much less frequently with a discrete concept. Koark started as a sense of a tall, mysterious person, obsessed with fictions, visually dramatic but with a sense of awkwardness that sort of disarms the self-importance of him. I found myself looking back at that seed throughout my development of the character, and throughout the story. That seed is what got me interested in the character, and what got me interested in making OoT at all, so I guess I figured that there was something essential there, and I made it a point not to get too far off-track.
But getting off-track can be useful, too, can’t it? It’s easy to get stuck on something, or to get too attached to a character or idea or passage of the story. It doesn’t really help to invest these things with too much importance before they’re realized; I think it’s good to remain open to different arrangements for as long as possible in each successive stage of making the thing. Having somebody you can go over stuff with while it’s still embryonic can be helpful— I find myself making a lot of basic assumptions about the structure of a story long before it’s worked out tightly enough to make such assumptions, and it sometimes takes someone else’s input for me to realize I’ve been making them at all. If that makes any sense! I guess this is something that editors are for but I have never had one; I talk about stuff I am working on incessantly with my girlfriend Lela and she is very helpful.
Ok. It’s important to know that pretty much everything starts vague and simple, and when we say that we love the IDEA of a story, it’s more a testament to the skill of the creator in realizing that idea than it is to the quality of the idea itself, I think. I try to err on the side of underestimating the value of ideas, because it’s easier to have them than to realize them, and we shouldn’t get excited about them and burned out before we’ve started the actual work!
I want to write more stuff about comics. Maybe we can consider this Part 1 of a thing. Let me know if there’s anything in particular you’d like to read.