Unshelved comic strip for 12/26/2004


Thank you for the many letters of condolence about my dog. To some losing a dog is just one of those things. To others it's no easier than losing a child. To us it's somewhere in between. We loved her dearly and she was an integral part of our life. Every time we drop food on the floor or someone comes to the door we realize she's gone, and that hurts. But as we adjust to her absence those pangs of pain are fewer and farther between. We managed to have a good Christmas, consisting mostly of quiet happiness sprinkled with a few tears. I drew a comic strip today and laughed at it, so things are getting better.

Practice Makes Better

We spent the last weekend before Christmas at the wonderful Sleeping Lady resort in Leavenworth, WA. We hoped for masses of snow but even the paltry six or eight inches there were enough for Theo to sled on.

While I was away I had a chance to think about the strip and talk about it with Sara, my wife and most trusted advisor. I realize that I am dissatisfied with Unshelved. It doesn't yet feel like a first-class comic strip. And most of that is the art. It's not bad and it's gotten better, to be sure. But it lacks a certain polish and consistency. I admit that I spend less time drawing than I used to, especially now that I am working a day job. But I believe it mostly comes down to practice.

I am not a sketcher, and never have been. I get bored sketching. I draw when there's a reason to draw. For instance, a daily comic strip deadline. As a result I have drawn more in the last three years than ever before. But that's pretty much it. Aside from signing books that's pretty much my entire artistic output. As a result I can draw Unshelved fine but not much else.

And that's a problem because when it comes to drawing something new I freeze. That, more than time considerations, is the reason I haven't started the Sunday strip. As conceived (and some of you out know what we have planned for it) it means drawing new stuff every week. And that scares me. So I keep putting it off.

Meanwhile I look at the artistic growth in strips like Penny Arcade, which has been exponential. And I know that Gabe sketches, because he puts selections of his sketchbook online. Good artists sketch, and that makes them better artists. And so, I've started sketching. Twice a day, for fifteen minutes each, on the bus. I'm drawing stuff I see, stuff in my head, sometimes Unshelved characters (but doing different things than usual).

I make no promises, but I have faith that this will accelerate the pace of improvement in the art you see. So if you see someone drawing on a bus, be kind. It just might be me.

This Unshelved strip

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