Once again I’m trying to figure out what I’m doing. Seems like I’m always doing that in one way or another but this week I’m talking about making comic books. I’ve been making comic strips and my Message Tee comics for a few years now but I haven’t made and comic book material in a decade or so. It comes down to the fact that it’s too much work for something I won’t get paid for and I’d rather spend that time on other projects. I think I have more to say with my painting and prints. Still, over the years, I’ve attempted to figure out a way to make some comic book stories that say something unique and don’t wear me out making them. I’ve never quite done that.

This week my interests in making comics were revived once again but the revival was because of comics I made in the past. About fifteen to twenty years ago I used to do a comic that I called “Organics”. They were all eight to ten page stories and they were weird. They were non-literal comics. By that I mean the pictures didn’t match the words.

I used to make the comics by first ruling out the panel borders on ten pages. Then I would scribble in pencil all over the paper. After that I would look into the scribbles and draw what I would see. It was sort of like finding faces in clouds. This was my way of using “Surrealist Automatic Drawing” to make comics and, I think, the first time I used that method of drawing extensively.

After drawing all the pages in this way I’d put them all in front of me and look at them. Then I’d put them in the order I wanted them to go in and I’d find the story that went along with the pages. The story was always some sort of narrative but there was no literal connection with the pictures. I tried to connect the stories with the rhythm of the pictures and make something that was different than usual. I liked them but most people didn’t get it at all. A few people liked them but most people didn’t relate to them. Eventually I grew disinterested and stopped using that method.

This week I decided to give it a try again. I was tired of drawing like I’ve drawn for the last ten years or so. That’s been mostly spontaneous small marker drawings, then pencil drawings, followed by ink/paint/marker. I decided to go back to finding faces in the clouds. Part of it was also me wanting to make some comics and remembering a time when I made some unique comics that weren’t a huge struggle. They were the ones I could do without worrying if they were good enough because people didn’t get them anyway. I wanted to be able to draw without thinking as much as as usually do yet also get something finished.

I’m still not sure if, in the end, I’ll have anything finished but I did pencil and ink two pages of my new Organics. I ruled panel borders for two pages, scribbled all over them, drew what I saw in the scribbles, and then inked the pages. I even partially wrote them. I was writing stuff down on index cards of all things as I was going along. I only have part of the story but that’s more than I’ve had in ages.

I also stumbled onto some of my past failed attempts and I think I can work some of that in too. I found a couple of pages from last year where I tried to make another new Organics strip that I completely forgot about. Instead of using my old method I tried making up pages by drawing spontaneous ink drawing as I often do. The pages were more literal than my old Organics one but still not wholly literal. I can see that I was trying to figure out a way to do them efficiently because they’re on 9×12 inch paper rather than my usual 11×17 inch paper. I didn’t like them in the end and stopped after finishing just two pages. I still don’t like the way I finished them but I see something in the early stages. I think I can go back and work them into something that can work with the two new pages I did.

Another idea that the non-literal nature of Organics opened up for me is to tie in some of my other weird drawings that have no place to go. I have a lot of finished ink drawings that never even got made into prints. One of them that I made last week was sitting on my easel and I thought that maybe I can make it into some sort of splash page for my Organics story. I’m not sure how but I think it can be done. I have a lot of orphaned stuff to choose from. I’m going to continue to draw some new pages but also think about where to put old things.

One more thing that has leapt to prominence with this new Organics work is my little red sketchbook project. I made little red drawings in my little red sketchbook last year and then last month tried to write a story that went with it. It didn’t quite work out how I wanted it to and I abandoned the story. I haven’t come up with a new one yet but I came up with an idea to tie the sketchbook drawings into my new Organics story. It’s not what I had planned for the little red sketchbook but I think it might work. We’ll see.

That’s where this whole project is at right now. It’s in the “We’ll see” phase. But I drew two pages. That proved to me that I will get an eight page story done. I’m not sure if any of my other ideas will get incorporated but I will get eight pages done. I’m sure of that now. That’s the surest I’ve been about making a comic book story in a decade.