Doug TenNapel; Birdie.
My baby bird was alive and well yesterday… this morning, after all of this time raising her, she didn’t make it. Sad. Repost in memory.
Doug TenNapel; Birdie.
It’s easy to be a jaded artist. It’s easy to be a distant artist. I resent the claim that those of us who are not jaded somehow had it easy in becoming not jaded. I find it difficult to show sentiment and vulnerability, especially when today’s open media finds people who love to use vulnerability as an excuse to stomp on others.
My stories are very emotive and they come from a real place. These aren’t situations I’m making up, they reflect real life occurrences that inform my plot and character. There is a safer way to tell stories that guarantee I won’t be hurt by my audience and that would be to act distant and refuse to interact with them, or to only pursue content that everyone will approve of. I hate safe content more than anything, because it’s the ultimate insult to the artist to tow the line of culture instead of reform or inspire it.
I can even come up with a story that looks like I have outrage on a subject but I know it’s the correct subject to show outrage about, so it’s really just another form of safe cliche that bores me.
The artist has to dig deep, shedding culture like a bathrobe before diving into the pool of soaring ideals. These are the dangerous stories. The most terrifying thing one can tell a jaded kid isn’t that life is horrible, but that there is a real, reasonable hope and glory that can be known and embraced. I laugh at the local art shows that depict the usual blood bath of political commentary, porn, shock value and nihilism. Snore. Gee, I didn’t know that life was difficult. Thanks for the enlightenment.
But just because my heart is on display, it doesn’t mean that I leave the gates open wide. There are monsters and bigots that shouldn’t be trusted with your craft. Not everyone’s opinion is informed by wisdom, clarity or even a 4th grade reading level. In my early 20s I read this scripture that changed my art life forever:
Proverbs 4:23 “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”
This is where I part ways with the existentialists because they display their heart but leave it unguarded. There are the general rules I’ve established in guarding my heart regarding public vulnerability. The best one is that it’s never better to withdraw just to avoid criticism. Be publicly happy, sentimental, and lavish praise on the good, because haters shouldn’t be given control of anything.
The only criticisms that can really hurt me are true ones. The truth often hurts, and it ought to! In fact, most lies are constructed and entertained to avoid hurting people with the truth. So here’s to sentiment, vulnerability, and soaring jolliness in the face of the critics! Man, I’m ready for a pipe.
Took my kids hiking today. Found a garter snake, a king snake, velvet ant, 23 mountain tomato worms, a skink, and we observed an ant hill. I taught the kids how to climb rocks, walk down loose gravel and turn logs away from you when looking for things in case there are rattle snakes. We shared water, and I taught them about body metabolism during exercise. They’ve been running with me 1 mile a day for a month, so they’re in good enough shape to make it two miles uphill. I’m in charge of homeschooling today since Mom is out of town. My method is very hands on since their usual day has a lot more bookwork. I’ll close the day out by teaching them how to pray and why we pray. Not a bad day.
I have to discipline myself from blogging too much. Many comic creators marvel at my work ethic, but the real secret is that I’m probably the laziest man on Earth. Being self aware of how my nature really just wants to eat junk food and play Warcraft all day (I’ve never played that game, not because it’s bad but because it’s so good) I know that I really just want to do anything but work on comics.
My friends were upset when I unplugged from Facebook for the year of 2010. They acted like I cut my hands off. But with Facebook, Twitter and blogging in my life there is always a convenience distraction to keep me from working. It’s not very good for my work ethic.
In general, the internet promises certain things, but rarely delivers them. It promises human interaction but in a new way. Fail. This is not human interaction in that my closest friends are people I see face to face. I can’t imagine relegating my friendships to not being able to touch the other person, hear the tone of their voice and even enjoy a moment of silence on a back porch smoking a pipe. There’s a lot more to life than just the text we scrawl out. We’re not a mass of ideas, we’re people after all.
The internet promises notoriety, and while that is true for some, it takes a way with one hand what it gives with the other. If you spend 2 hours a day blogging and tweeting, that’s 2 hours a day I’m not writing good stuff, or at least making my stuff even better. Which will better propel your career, 2 more hours of polish, creation, execution or talking about my amazing thoughts on a blog? If you have to ask, you’re probably not very good.
My pal, Ethan Nicolle and I talk a lot about comics. One thing I’ve learned from him is that you can try to make money, or you can work to be read. So much thought is put into monetizing webcomics and blogs that the work itself starts to take a backseat. Who would I bet on to succeed in comics, the one who worked on being good for 2 hours a day more or the one who talked about making comics and prematurely focused on making money off his new creation before he or she was even known for making good work?
Now excuse me while I stop posting about comics today, and go make a comic.
These days, it’s hard for a story teller to get noticed. There is a sea of information and work gets lost in the shuffle. The question isn’t, “How do I make a book?” as much as “Once I make a book how can I get noticed?” Well, in case I haven’t asked for your help yet, tell your friends about my books! Wash, rinse, retweet: http://tennapel.com/comics.html
My fans (and critics) might like to know that I read every review of my books that I can find. Even more important is that I listen to what they’re saying.
I always assume that there’s something to learn from every reader, and I don’t see book making as a one way street. It’s a form of communication. I’m not saying that I take a vote on what to make next, but I do like to see what plots and characters bring enjoyment and which ones aren’t coming across as I intended. There’s only one way to understand if I’m making them right, and that’s by listening to my readers.