Thursday, September 2, 2010

Kevin Cannon's Tips for Surviving Twenty-Four Hour Comic Day

Good advice never goes out of style. Here again are Kevin Cannon's very sensible production suggestions. You wanna finish your 24 pages? Read this.

Obviously there's no one way to draw, but here are one man's tips:

- Have your paper ready and, if possible, pre-ruled.

- Come prepared with drawing materials.

- Come with a list of things you want to buy from the Wet Paint booth (it's only open for a few hours). At the same time, let Tim (the owner) know what kinds of materials you want him to stock for cartoonists.

- Bring a lamp and extension cord for direct light.

- Pace yourself. You have to carve out time for meals and bathroom breaks.

- Try doing a page every fifty minutes. That gives you 240 minutes to rest and recoup and eat.

- If you're chatty, you're shooting yourself in the foot. Don't be surprised when you end up with only 20-30 minutes to draw each page.

- Some people like to pencil the whole book and THEN ink. I HIGHLY discourage this. Try to COMPLETE a full page every hour. This lets you accurately budget your time.

- Do as little penciling as possible. Nobody's going to win an Eisner with these books, so why not jump into the inks right away?

- Bring comfort items: extra clothes, an iPod, a cushion, etc. Better to bring too much stuff on your first time.

- On the flipside, don't bring a bunch of unnecessary crap. Things are going to be tight this year and space -- especially table space -- will be at a premium.

- Wait until you get home to erase.

You will get distraught and tired and want to quit. Some tips on surviving the full 24:

- Split the day into chunks. I like to think of the day as 3 8-hour shifts.

- Set goals for yourself. "When I finish 12 pages I'm going to gorge on cookies and walk around the block."

- Listen to your body, it's going to tell you when you should eat and drink. Avoid caffeine if you can help it.

- If you're a coffee addict, only drink coffee in the mornings. That is, drink up Saturday morning, but then not again until Sunday at dawn. This will keep you on an even keel and it will give you a reason to push hard during the wee hours.

- Imagine people who are not as fortunate as you. When it's four a.m. and you want to die, think about some guy out there who's working the third shift at a dirty, poorly-lit machine shop. Drawing comics doesn't seem so bad now, does it?

- Keep an eye on someone who's better than you. Watch their progress and use their success for inspiration. Ask for tips. Tell them how much you like their comic.

- Keep an eye on someone who's worse than you. Man, wouldn't it be embarrassing if THAT person finished the full twenty-four hours and YOU wimped out? Yep, time to keep drawing.

- Don't drink alcohol. You'll feel sluggish the rest of the event. Limit your drug intake to stimulants.

- Bring a lamp and extension cord. Bright, direct light will keep your rods and cones all fired up and give you more energy.

- Change your environment when you feel restless. This could mean physically moving your spot, putting on some headphones, or even putting on a clean shirt.

- Document your progress. Take photos, give interviews, blog.

- Tell your family and friends to check the 24-hour comic day blog (the one you're reading right now). You'll be more apt to keep working if you know that your Aunt in Dubuque is going to check the blog before she goes to church on Sunday morning.

I started drawing "Far Arden" as a series of 24-hour drawing marathons. After my fifth straight monthly marathon I woke up to a numb drawing hand. The numbness extended from my fingers to my elbow and lasted for two days. I was freaked out at first, but then angry. Angry atmyself because this situation was completely avoidable:

- Keep your drawing hand and arm loose. Catch yourself if you're gripping your pen too hard.
- Put padding on your drawing tool. I bought some colorful elementary school foam pencil holders at OfficeMax. They look retarded but feel great.

- Shake out your arm once an hour. Stretch your fingers, flex your elbow, massage your meaty palms, etc.

- Eat often and eat healthy. That crap-filled candy bar you ate at Hour 2? It's going to start tearing at your stomach lining during Hour 17.

- Drink lots of water. More water than soda, anyway.

- Help out your immune system by downing some echinacea. Do this by taking a multi-vitamin or drinking a "Green Machine" Naked Juice.

- Keep it fresh: bring a toothbrush/paste, deodorant, clean socks, whatever.

- Take a walk in the fresh air. Get your heart-rate up once in a while.

- No sleepy, no drivey.

And a relevant question from last year's blog posting:

diana green said...

A question for Zen Master Cannon:
I did this last year at MCAD, but only finished 11 pages in 14 hours. This is partially because I was a wuss, and partially because I was working full size on 11 x 17 Bristol.
What size do folks usually work on the Challenge? Does it matter?
Sep 20, 2009 6:10:00 PM

kevin said...

Diana -- People work at all sizes (I've seen quarter-page size all the way up to huge sheets of bristol). But more often than not, the large sheets end up being a burden, or at least result in small page counts. I HIGHLY recommend working small, like half-page size. Try a page or two at home and see what you can comfortably finish in 50 minutes. --Kevin
Sep 20, 2009 9:34:00 PM

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