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The Squint

Some before and after drawings. Before I could learn how to spell and after I finished art school.

Some before and after drawings. Before I could learn how to spell and after I finished art school.

We’ve all done it. Look at a piece of art, a page, or a whole book and we turn our heads sideways and “squint,” sometimes metaphorically, until it looks good to us. We do this with our friend’s works and also with our own.

Growing up, I was always drawing. I would often create something I was so proud of that I would fail to see its flaws either because I didn’t know any better or because I didn’t want to, hence the squint. Then a year or so later, I would look back on that work and groan at how horrible it was. Thinking that my latest pieces were far superior and as good as they could possibly be, only to have the same realization a year or two later. And this would happen again and again and it still happens today.

The first time I hired a “professional comic artist” to illustrate a comic story, I thought he did a fantastic job! Two years later, I can see now how the layout and blocking could have been much better. But that was my fault as I did the breakdowns.

I guess we’re always growing as creators. At least we should be. Hopefully learning, and getting better. But how do we see the shortcomings in our work sooner rather than later? Possibly even before we wrap up production and go to print?

Critiques! Ask other creators you know and trust to give your script or pencils an objective look over. Offer to pay them. But often, they will just ask for the same favor in return.

DO NOT ASK FRIENDS AND FAMILY because they will squint too. Asking random people in a Facebook group often doesn’t get you deep enough feedback, especially for multiple pages or a whole book. Better to ask certain people specifically. Even better if you’ve responded to their request to review their work in the past.

If you’re serious about becoming a professional comic book creator, you have to be serious about improving your craft. Don’t be shy about getting constructive criticism. I do it too but I’m working on it.

Steel yourself for the worst, but often the comments are not as bad as you think they will be. And often the insights you gain will be eye-opening. It shouldn’t be about making ourselves feel better about the work. It should be about making the work itself better.

They say in order to be a pro, you have to make comics all the time. The other half of that is that you need to get feedback all the time. Good, detailed, honest feedback from other creators. The more experienced they are than you, the better. They don’t squint.

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