The Benefits of Journal Comics
The year was 2012, I had just returned from SPACE (the Small Press and Alternative Comics Expo) and, inspired by Chris Monday’s book Drink More Water, I had decided to challenge myself to do a journal comic every day for a year. When I started, I honestly didn’t know how long I’d be able to keep it up. Comics at this point in my life had become labor-some affairs that took weeks for a page to materialize, every panel was tediously thought over and second-guessed upon. I very quickly made a few decisions about the journals in an effort to not make the process cumbersome:
- The comics would be drawn in a 9X12 sketch book. Up until this project a vast majority of my comics were draw on 11X17 Bristol Board sheets which would be very expensive to use for a whole year. Working smaller would also allow me the luxury of not having to fill in as much space, which means I wouldn’t be working on a journal comic all day every day.
- Mistakes are okay/ no turning back. I think it’s important for an artist to become okay with their mistakes and just keep producing the work. There’s an old saying that goes “An artist’s style is made up of that artist’s mistakes.”
- If I missed a day I would make it up the next day (or at least I’d try). If it didn’t happen that was okay, this was supposed to be a fun experiment after all.
- Free-form writing. Up until this point most of the comics I made were working off a script, given the amount of comics I’d have to produce a script would be next to impossible to do. Plus, I wanted to enjoy the process and surprise myself.
- Brush pens. It had been a very long time since I had tried any other tool than what I was already comfortable with (micron pens) and I felt myself growing stagnant. I had been wanting to learn how to work with brush pens for awhile at this point, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to give them a try.
What are Journal Comics?
Before we get into the benefits, I suppose we should define the term and well, in this case, the answer is in the name really. A journal comic (also known as a diary comic) is a comic that is treated like one’s personal journal or diary. That can mean that the comics are confessional, inner-most-thoughts or describing an event(or events) that took place during the day. It’s really up to the author. For me, I just drew what felt right for the day which has given me some surprising results and some comics on subject matters that I never thought I’d write about (ex: Cheez Whiz)
1) Keeps you producing comics every day
One of the greatest things about making journal comics is that it keeps you making finished comics. Regularly producing finished material every day has a number of benefits and helps you develop good drawing routines. One of the things I noticed over time was that I was becoming faster at creating comic pages. This can be attributed to me gaining confidence as an artist. Before I started creating journal comics I was constantly second-guessing every line I put to paper which made every page take forever to complete. There’s something about producing a comic every day that freed me up. Every day I’d strive to make a journal comic the best I could but, if it didn’t turn out great or perfect that was okay because the next day I’d have to make another.
2) Allows you to experiment with storytelling, paneling, and different art supplies
Another benefit to journal comics is that it allows you the freedom to experiment. Journal comics have allowed me the luxury of trying out new storytelling techniques, panel structures, and a plethora of different art supplies and art styles. All of this has allowed me to continue to grow and evolve as an artist. And again, since I always knew that the next day I’d have to produce a new comic, I felt the freedom to fail.
Here are some of the tools I’ve played with:
- ebony pencils
- brush pens
- ballpoint pens
- varying sizes on micron pens
3) Makes you more aware of life as it happens
It’s very easy to daydream your day away but, when you have to make a comic about your life it’s amazing how much more you pay attention to what’s going on around you. Journal comics have honestly allowed me to stay more in the moment because an idea for a comic can come from anywhere at any moment. The other end of it is that making a journal comic has made me want to do more with my days because there’s nothing worse than a comic about being bored.
4) Allows you to get to know yourself better
One of the other many benefits to journal comics is that it allows you to get to know yourself better. Which makes sense since you’re documenting moments in your life. The other end of this is that you can look back at who you were and, if you spend a long enough period of time making journal comics, you can see how you’ve grown and changed and pinpoint events that led to that growth.