As I write this this evening I’m a bit tired. More tired than usual. I’ve been writing these blogs in the morning for the last few months but as I sit here feeling fatigued I felt like hitting the keys on the old keyboard. Maybe it’ll perk me up. It’s been a tiring day today and I’m not even sure why. Twice I had to lie back in my chair and rest for about twenty minutes. I mean, really kick back and almost take a nap rest. That’s unusual for me. I think that thunderstorm that woke me up at 4 AM disrupted my sleep more than I realized it did. I was even so tired that I was getting wobbly-legged at the end of my bike ride this morning. That rarely happens. Yawn…

I had a hard time getting anything creative started this week but I did manage to get some things done. How’s that for a contradiction in terms? I wanted to get something done on the iPad comic I’ve been working on but it was no go. I had nothing. I also wanted to start a new painting but for whatever reason also couldn’t make any headway on that. Once again I had nothing. So I pulled out some of the character drawings I had already drawn for future “Message-Tee” comics and inked them. Sometimes the simplicity of the choice between black ink and the white of the paper is what gets my brain going.

I worked on a lot of “Message-Tee” comics last year. I have finished comics stockpiled and post one a week here on my site. So earlier this year I started making some new drawings for future strips but haven’t worked on them in a while. I had about twenty five different character drawings done in pencil. That is a pretty good amount of work but I had yet to ink any of them. I was busy with other stuff all summer and wondered if I would ever get to them. Then this week happened.

Maybe the reason I haven’t worked on “Message-Tee” in months is that I like to have a stockpile of drawings to ink. When I can’t get anything started it’s good to get some drawings finished so it’s good to have drawings laying around waiting to be finished. So far I’ve inked twenty of the twenty five drawings this week. At times I hit a cruising speed with them and the ink, paper, and I became one with each other. The ink flows off the brush without me even thinking about it. When that happens drawing in ink can be like meditating or chanting. It’s a place where I become unaware of my separation from the work. And then it stops. It’s a fleeting feeling.

Along with inking all those pieces I also had to do the production work on them. That’s rarely fun to do. It’s a necessary evil and there is no becoming one with anything to be found. It starts with scanning the art. That’s the easy part. Place the paper on the scanner, load the preset scanning parameters, preview the art to make sure it’s in the right place, hit the scan button, and wait a minute or so for the scanner to do it’s job. Repeat as many times as you have drawings. Simple.

I have a nice scanner. It’s an Epson GT-15000 and can scan 11×17 inch drawings. It’s a little old and Epson doesn’t even support it anymore but I got it refurbished for fairly cheap and with the help of some third party scanning software (Vuescan) it’s been a workhorse for years. It makes nice scans and I hope I never have to replace it.

After scanning I have to set all the pages up to be colored. This takes a bit of work and is tedious when I have a lot of drawings to set up. I color this strip in Illustrator and I’m kind of particular about how I like to work in that program. It’s kind of technical and involves how Illustrator makes shapes from bitmapped images but, years ago, I figure out some actions (automatic macros) that set up the images how I like them. It’s not quite as automatic as it would be in a perfect world and I have to pay attention to things as I set them up but it only takes three to five minutes to do. Of course that’s per drawing so multiply that by twenty drawings and you’ve got a pretty tedious hour to an hour and a half on your hands. An hour and a half of having to pay attention to repetitive and boring little details. Welcome to life.

Take a break. That’s the best advice I’ve gotten while doing this sort of work yet sometimes I forget to do it. I just want to power through and get it all done but that’s not always the best bet. I think I got about two thirds of the way done with prepping the pages when I forced myself to take a break. Powering through was failing me as the tedium was starting to drive me crazy and give me a headache. It’s hard to explain how meticulous and dull such work can be. But after a ten minute break I came back and finished up the last third of the work lickety-split. That taking a break thing really does work.

I still have five of my “Message-Tee” drawings to ink and then I have to color them all. That’s not such a “One with the universe” thing either so I’m not sure when I’m going to get the coloring done but at least it’s more fun than doing production work on the drawings. I also could start doing some more drawings for the comic. I’ve been doing the pencil drawings in a sketchbook I bought for just that purpose and I haven’t flipped that open since the springtime.

Now that I look back on it I think it took me two years to develop my “Message Tee” strip. I may have all the steps down now to make one but it was a long time coming. I have to remember things like that when I get frustrated trying to come up with exactly how I am going to do this new iPad comic I’m working on. It’s always good to fall back to the known when the unknown gets too confusing.