In the first four months of 2021 I’ve been working on my comic strips for 2022. My weekend strips that is. “Drifting and Dreaming” and “Message Tee.” A lot of the D&D strips are for this year since I was going to run out of them in June but I made 60 of them to stretch into next year. The MT strips I’ve worked on so far (and haven’t finished yet) are all for 2022. I don’t expect to finish them until fall. Or maybe earlier. We’ll see.

It was last year, 2020 pre-Covid, that I started making a years worth of “Drifting and Dreaming” strips at a time. I decided that I would work on them during my commute to NYC. I had some time when I was waiting for a train where I could sit in the station and draw. Over the course of January to whenever we shut down because of Covid I managed to get a lot of work done. It was in April or May 2020 that I finished up 52 D&D strips.

My “Message Tee” comic is made up of a drawing of a person with a message on their T-Shirt. I originally planned to do 52 drawings and then repeat them with new messages on them. Instead I ended up making about 200 drawings over the first four years of the strip. Then I went back to my original plan and recolored those 200 drawings and put new sayings on the shirts over the following four years. Then last summer I got the itch to make new ones.

Fresh off making a years worth of “Drifting and Dreaming” strips and with the Covid Summer of 2020 in front of me I decided to make some new “Message Tee” drawings. By the end of the summer I had 52 new drawings ready to be made into comics. It took part of the Fall to write and finish them.

One of the ways I managed to get 52 new drawings of people in t-shirts done was to keep them simple. For the first 200 drawing I made I mostly didn’t keep it simple. I drew them on 9×12 inch Bristol board and inked them with a brush. That’s how I normally do things but it’s time consuming and maybe too much work for this strip now.

Part of my simplicity scheme was to work small and in a sketchbook. I had a couple of 5×8 inch sketchbooks that I got as party favors at a friend’s Bar Mitzvah. The paper in this sketchbook was not the same as high quality Bristol so I couldn’t use my brush and ink in it but it was good for my black Sign Pen marker. That’s a simpler tool and just what I needed.

This year, since I was working remotely, I decided to get done those two strips that I got done last year during my commute. I wanted to get “Drifting and Dreaming” done over the first third of the year and then work on “Message Tee.” I’d work on Monday mornings when I’d be commuting and on Tuesday nights since I set up a Zoom Drawing Club for that night. Some friends and I would gather remotely and hang out, talk, and maybe draw for a few hours. That was fun.

I make my “Drifting and Dreaming” strip from individual art cards that I draw. Each strip is three cards so I have to draw 156 art cards. 104 cartoon art cards and 52 regular art cards with no word balloons on them. That takes a while.

When I’ve finished the cards I have to write “The Middle Story.” A short two or three sentence story that runs along the bottom of each strip. It took me a couple of weeks to get all those done. Then I have to assemble the digital files of all the art and Middle Story into the final cartoon. I think I finished them in April. Except I made 60 of them rather than 52. I don’t know why. I just wanted some extras.

After I let those D&D strips rest for a while I started on the “Message Tee” drawings. I looked back at last years sketchbook and was surprised at how fast I got the initial black and white drawings done. The first one is dated 5/27/2020 and the last one 6/1/2020. That’s less than a week for 52 drawings. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to duplicate that pace and didn’t even want to try. So far I’ve drawn 38 people standing in t-shirts in seven days and that seems fast enough to me.

I’m keeping it simple again this year. A new thing I’m doing is to divide the paper. I draw a line on the bottom of the paper, a line for the left edge (the spiral binding side), and then a line down the middle of the page. That center line really speeds up figuring out proportions and keeping things symmetrical. I don’t know why I’ve never done it before. Or maybe I do. I’m quickly doing it with my new gridded ruler. I never thought of it before buying that ruler. New tools can help you see new things.

I rough out the figure with a soft 4B pencil that’s pretty blunt. That way I don’t get caught up in details. Most of the bodies are similar so I mix up the faces and hair. I like to keep the faces simple so I use various circles, dots, and lines for the eyes and mix up noses and mouths too. I try not to take more than ten minutes with this part. I can even go faster if I’m into it.

After that I get out my Sign Pen black marker. It makes a single weight dark black line. Here is when I make the finished drawing. I work out all the final detail. After that I get a thicker black marker and add line weight to the drawing. Nothing fancy. I’m just looking to give it a little bit of depth.

After I did the first 26 drawings I scanned them in and set them up in Adobe Illustrator to be colored later. That was a lot of them to do in a row so I did the next set of scans after 10 more drawings. That seemed more doable. I have yet to start coloring any of them. I’ll do that after all 52 are drawn. I’ll write pithy sayings for the shirts after they’re colored.

Keeping it simple is the only way I’m getting these drawings done. Some things don’t demand complexity and trying to make them complex only gets in the way of getting them done. Getting things done is the end goal so clear a path for yourself. I find that’s the only way to get things done.