My art cards in nine card sleeves.

Art Cards

It’s April 4, 2023 as I write this and I just finished up all of my “Drifting and Dreaming” comic strips for 2024. Fifty two strips. They run here on Sundays. That’s pretty far ahead and I’m glad to have them done. I’ve been doing the strip for over a decade and since I don’t make any money at it I have no idea how long I’ll keep doing it. It’s a struggle to get any kind of creative work done so I’m always happy to finish something. I may not have much in life but at least I can get some art done.

For the last few years I’ve been getting the strips done during the first six months of the year and then getting my “Message Tee” comic done during the second half of the year. Sometimes I draw new T-shirt people for my Message Tee comic and sometimes I recolor and repurpose old T-Shirt people drawings. We’ll see about this year.

For “Drifting and Dreaming” I always draw new stuff. I make the strip by writing and drawing what I call my “Cartoon Art Cards.” An art card is a drawing made on a baseball card size piece of paper. Artists sell and trade these drawings. I use them to make comic strips.

I make all sorts of art cards but the cartoon ones consist of me drawing a strange looking character from the shoulders up and then writing something pithy that I letter in a word balloon above his or her head. Usually they’re talking directly to the reader. Sometimes I write the word balloon first and then draw the character. It all depends on what I feel like doing at the time.

My method is that I make a quick sketch of the character in pencil and then draw it again with a black marker. For many years I didn’t even bother with the pencil sketch and went right to ink and that made for some really weird drawings. But then I got bored with the repetition of that and changed things up by using a pencil first.

After I draw the character in ink I color the drawing with markers. I usually use my Copic marker set but sometimes, just for a change of pace, I use Sharpies or some random other marker sets I have. These cards are small (2.5×3.5 inches) so the color is pretty simple . Fancy markers are really necessary.

Two of the three panels are cartoon art cards but the center panel is a regular art card. That means it’s a drawing, often a color drawing, with no words on it. It’s a play on the set up, pause, punchline structure of a comic strip. The center card/panel with no words is the pause.

There is also a small story told in words at the bottom of the strip. The Middle Story. I write that story in just a few sentences. I found out a year or so after I started this strip that what I was doing was called “Micro-Writing.” I didn’t know it had a name.

The first thing I do when writing that part is to write the “Middle Story” end line. “Toast some bread for the Middle Story” or some such. After writing ten of those I pick ten names and type those in. I like to name the people I write these short tales about and so it helps to get all the names out of the way first. After the Middle Story and names part I write the actual micro-story.

I make these art cards and finished strips in sets of ten. I write, draw, and color ten cards and then scan them. After that I do ten more. Since there are 52 Sundays in a year I need 104 cartoon art cards and 52 regular art cards to get my strips done for the year. That usually takes a few months. It takes up to eight hours to get ten cards done.

After I have them all finished in their physical form is when I start writing them. Ten at a time. But I don’t write them with any of the art cards in place. The writing is done by itself with the art section kept blank. It’s only after I finish writing ten of them that I put the art in place.

I have a binder with sleeves in it that hold all of the art cards. The same kind of binder (with sleeves that hold nine cards) that people keep their Pokemon cards in. Except mine holds original art. I use little pieces of post-it notes to keep track of which cards that I’ve used. I pick a card, lets say card 798, put a post-it note on the card sleeve over the card, find the digital scan of that card, and then paste that scan in place in the final document with the writing in it. I do this with three cards and I have a finished strip.

First I pick the cartoon art cards on the left and right. The figures on them are almost always facing the middle. When I draw the cards I make three out of the ten face left, another three face right, and the final four are facing the center. The ones facing the center can go on either the left or right but the other ones are always facing the center.

After I get all three cards pasted into the file with the writing I repeat the process nine more times. Once ten of them are done I move on to the next ten. After all fifty two are done the last thing I have to do is output them as their own files to be posted.

I have a macro/Photoshop action that I use to output them. I hit a button and it saves a strip as a jpeg to be posted. It also gives me an opportunity to name the file. I always put the name of the strip, its number, and the year/month/day that it’s going to be posted. I keep a calendar open to keep track of the dates.

So that’s the process. It takes a while but it’s spread out over time. I like to make some art cards over the year but sometimes after cramming it all into a few months I get burned out. Maybe I’ll make a few this summer. We’ll see.