Comics production of 2013 assessed

Every year on December 9th I tally how much comics I have drawn in the past year (because I’m crazy that way). In 2013 I felt like I drew very little comics. Was my impression correct?

I only count finished pages, so while I have several pages that are only sketched at this stage and will be inked or watercoloured later, I won’t include them. I’ve included one-panel gag drawings before, so I guess I’ll include them now, too.

Number of pages and panels I have drawn since December 9th 2012:

Dog Island pages 13-18: 6/31
Hourly Comics Day comic: 16/45
Springtime on the Subway: 1/1
SHu SHu SHu SHu: 1/1
Electric Tsunamis: 47/139 (Based on the printed zine edition. I could be evil and count each screen of the e-book version, including all the screens with just one word on them, haha, which would make it 213/213 …)
How to make sawing wood a more appealing chore: 1/1
Last night at Netto: 1/1
Lovely, Lovely Hair: 4/15
Spirit animals: 1/2
Post-apocalyptic piggy comic: 1/3 (lol)
The Slow and the Relentless: 29/86 (at the time of writing still unfinished ’24h’ comic …)



(All-time total as of today: 939/4527)

“The kholy shit!”, as Tonya in The Slow and the Relentless would say. I felt like I barely drew any comics at all, but in fact I drew a pretty good amount of pages compared to the last couple of years. In 2012 I drew 111 pages, in 2011 – 102, in 2010 – 87!

It was just more concentrated in isolated bursts of productivity mainly on low-intensity comics (comics in smaller/weird formats and the hourly and 24h comics), with long periods of writer’s block and anguish over the bigger comics projects in between. This is also reflected in how the panel ratio has hit an all-time low this year, with just a 3.01 panels per page average.


Watercolour piggy

My day off

Wednesdays I don’t go to my dayjob, because there are too many people in the office and no space for me. So I was looking forward to finally being able to draw comics today …

But last night there was another heavy storm over Brandenburg, and when I woke up I discovered that a large bush in my garden had collapsed.

Good morning.

Noooo …

It was kind of cozy.

It was kind of cozy. :3 So nice to have the middle part of my garden completely sheltered from my neighbours. Maybe some day it will really be like that, when/if the cypresses grow up.

To save the cypresses, I started to cut down the fallen branches …

The other half was still standing.

The other half was still standing. My neighbour came to inform me that he had arranged for a guy with a chainsaw to cut it down in the afternoon. It made sense to cut it down, of course, since that part was leaning a bit against the fence and the next storm might pull it down, and if the wind was from the wrong direction it might even damage his roof. (Nothing got damaged this time, luckily.)

I was a bit annoyed that he just “informed” me that it was going to be cut down and didn’t talk about it with me first, but oh well …

I called my mum to whine about it and she gave me some pro tips about how to handle stupid older men who think you don’t know anything … V^(oo)^;V (Be cool and serious, calmly and assertively make sure that things go as you want them to.)

In the afternoon the chainsaw guy came by. Actually there were no less than FIVE guys who just had to participate … My neighbour, a friend of my neighbour (?!), a serious guy who acted like he was in charge and got annoyed at my meddlesome neighbour, the chainsaw guy, and then a random fifth guy who didn’t really do anything (??!!).

By all means, I could have done it by myself with my little handsaw, but it would have taken a little longer. So I guess it was kind of helpful … V^(oo)^;V

So after they cut down the other half of the bush I sawed up those branches too.
The bamboo shrub next to it had collapsed, too, so I might as well harvest all the dry poles from it.

All cut up

Wood, bamboo, leaves.

That’s only half of the leaves – the first half I already put in the hedgiepiggle hideout. The hedgehogs will have an epic hideout this winter. :3

Hello, neighbour's kitchen window

Hello, neighbour’s kitchen window. :os

My neighbour wanted the front part of the bush (with the whitish leaves) to be cut down, too, but I made sure it stayed …!! V°(oo)°;V That part is no danger to anything, dammit.

… And that’s what I did on my day off from work.


So today my website got hacked and all the contents wiped out. I’ve been restoring it from an aged backup, but some of it (like Dog Island) I have to rebuild pretty much from scratch. Whee!

The hacker also changed the login database, so I couldn’t access the WordPress admin, but thanks to these instructions I was able to change it back, with a new password. Just mentioning it here in case the same happens to somebody else …

Update, Sunday:

Okay, now it should all be as before. If you should find some missing graphics or broken links somewhere, message me!

2012! The year of extremes?

The year started with crazy hard work drawing as much comics as possible. I had two comics that were supposed to go to print in March. So I slept very little, abused a lot of coffeine, and lost myself in the higher purpose of creating the most awesome comics I could in this insanely short time frame.

One was my contribution to Swedish Comic Sin 3 – the first comic I have ever drawn with grey shading. It was also a bit challenging to draw in smaller format, and it certainly was challenging to draw sex scenes that would really do justice to the characters and their feelings. (But fun!!! :3)

Even more challenging was the other comic I had to finish – Driftwood, which I’d been working on since I was 15. V`(oo)´;V
Even if there were a couple of stupid errors in it (such as an unfinished retouch job on one page, ugh), and I’ve now decided to extend one of the last scenes a bit for the English book version, the book as it was published in Swedish is already incredible. V*(oo)*V

Those crazy months were not made easier by the fact that somebody gave me lots of psychological abuse, but I endured it and just kept drawing one page after the other and drowning out my brain. (And, by all means, it gave me some useful inspiration for Willie’s dad in Driftwood.) As for personal relationships, I figured they could go to hell for all I cared, because I had more important things to do …

A fan checks out the latest
(Frida Ulvegren reads my porn at SPX12 – photo by Ilan)

Then I went to SPX12 (or Stockholm International Comics Festival). On one hand it was a really positive experience since I got to meet many of my wonderful friends in the Swedish comics scene, and met some new friends as well. It was exciting to present the Driftwood book and see that people actually wanted to have it. :3 To top it off, my zine Tunguska #9 was awarded the prize for best zine of 2011 by the Swedish Comics Association.
On the other hand I also had to interact with some annoying and insane people. But Ilan was by my side and made it perhaps not quite as bad.

Otherwise, Driftwood got practically no reviews or media attention. I can only speculate about the reasons. Because the press release sucked? Or because a book “doesn’t exist” in Sweden unless it’s on Adlibris, which is too bad since Epix has a policy to delay release to the commercial internet bookstores? Or because nobody wants to read almost 400 pages just for a review? Or because it’s too weird and Swedish people don’t even know where to start categorizing it …?
However, it was surprisingly and heartwarmingly well-received in the libraries. It got a very nice review in the main library catalogue, a mention in the yearly catalogue for the best new children’s and young adult books for libraries, and has been acquired by many libraries across the country. The vast majority of the truckloads of comics I devoured in my youth were borrowed from libraries (Gothenburg city library especially in my heart forever ♥), so that means a lot to me.

Anyway, after I got home from Stockholm, I had to compensate for the fact that I’d taken 3 months off from dayjobs by working my ass off. Since my solar panel was busted and it wasn’t very powerful anyway, I had to spend most of my time in the city to work. So my gardening really suffered this year. But I was still able to grow some cucumbers and other nice things.

First cucumbers!

At one point early in the year I had to “blackmail” a client (a local comics publisher, and not the awesome one that I’ve been working for since 2006) because they were holding my payments. I’d agreed to do two jobs for them, and I’d had no previous experience with them.
They were 15 days late with the payment for the first job, and after several reminders to which they just replied “yes, we will pay soon”, I stated that I wouldn’t start the second job until they’d paid me for the first … at which they paid immediately. This made them extremely untrustworthy, so to make sure I did get paid for the second job, I demanded the money before I delivered the files. After that was settled, I will of course never work for them again.
Oh the joys of freelancing.

So anyway, during May-December I mostly did lots of dayjob work. I also completed the nearly superhuman feat of teaching my mum to work with InDesign and Photoshop so she could create and publish her first book all by herself!

But I did make some time to enjoy the finer things in life, too. (Hairy men, etc. :3)

I started drawing Dog Island – the sequel to Driftwood. But overall I drew very little comics. Of course, anything would seem pathetic compared to the first three months of the year … ;__;
In other art forms, I am teaching myself to play dombra (slowly but steadily). But it’s extremely embarrassing to play in front of other humans so that’s all I’ll say about that.

The Memorial to Romani victims of the Holocaust

In October, a strange thing happened: the Memorial to Romani victims of the Holocaust in Berlin was finally opened after 20 years of delay(!).

In the fall I moved to my winter residence in the city again, and continued working my ass off with dayjobs. But this meant that in the end I got the means to finally end a very strained professional relationship.

I went to some more festivals – Helsinki comics festival, Zinefest Berlin and AltCom Malmö – where I disseminated my comics and met lovely friends, old and new. ♥

Then Ilan and I organized a 24h comics marathon in Berlin, since there hadn’t been any this year at all. This Saturday we will have the opening party for the exhibition with the comics!

As mentioned, because of dayjob overload and other problems, my comics making had been suffering for most of the year, in stark contrast to how it started out. But it seems to have picked up again just before the year ended … :3

* * *
I’ve been thinking a lot about what to do about all the insanity in the world, with the rise of fascism, the disastrous self-destructive capitalism, and the lack of awareness about what we could actually do to make the future better. Just the other day I read a quite thought-provoking text on these issues, written by Malcom Tamale Kyeyune (in Swedish).

I met the new year on a rooftop with fireworks going off all over town around us, and an annoying drunk middle aged fancy sculptor person shouting into Ilan’s ear, “Berlin is the last place on earth!” (he must be new?) and “You aren’t Muslim, are you?” and “It’s just a joke!” …
Bodes well for the new year!

Comics production of 2012 assessed

So every year on December 9th I count how many pages and panels of comics I have drawn. This past year I wasn’t even counting as I went, or trying to achieve any specific goal, but I actually managed a few more pages than last year …

Number of pages and panels I have drawn since December 9th 2011:

Driftwood chapter 9 (from page 30): 29/190
Driftwood epilogue: 3/7
Driftwood deleted scenes: 4/34
Her 18th Birthday: 20/110
Hourly Comics Day 2012: 12/23
Dog Island:  13/81
Daydreams: 1/4
My garden and some of those I share it with (this year’s 24 h comic, which I finished just hours ago): 29/102


111 pages / 551 panels

(All-time total as of today: 831 / 4202)

Last year I drew a bit less – 102 pages and 471 panels. The panels per page ratio also rose a bit now, from an average of 4,6 panels per page last year, to an average of 4,96 panels per page – practically as high as it was in July 2007–December 2009, back when I didn’t draw (smaller-format) 24 hour comics and hourly comics every year yet.

Leading the reading

I have no formal education in arts or drawing comics, and a lot of my comics making happens unconsciously. Things I do are good if it just “feels right” or “makes sense” and bad if it “feels wrong”. Sometimes it can take a day or even a week until I find a solution to why something wasn’t working. At such times, I wish I knew more about the theory of making comics, so that I could know exactly why something isn’t working …

One thing I’ve started to pay attention to is how to lead the reader’s eyes across the page.

I started to notice how I do this during the editorial process of my Swedish Comic Sin anthology contribution. The books are made through collective self-publishing, and before the book is put together, everybody can critique each others’ comics and offer advice on what doesn’t work and how something could be better. Several of my fellow artists had problems with my frequent use of this type of layout:

It’s very common in Japanese comics – that’s where I picked it up – and I like to use it because it allows for variety in the layouts. However, there are great risks of a culture clash when Europeans read this type of layout!

In Japanese comics, the reading order is strictly set as demonstrated above, and I can’t remember ever having seen the rules being broken. But in the rare cases when European comics use it, there are no fixed rules for the reading order, so artists often use arrows to point out the (to me often ‘illogical’) reading order.  So when European readers are confronted with it and have no arrows to help them, they can get confused.

Now, I could scoff at them for being illogical and uneducated … Or I could compose my panels in such a way that there is no confusion regarding the reading order.

The page most people had a problem with was one where I’d sketched one crucial panel wrong, but didn’t bother fixing it before I sent out the sketches to the editorial collective:

Blue arrows: geometry (shapes, perspective etc.)
Red arrows: faces (and to some degree body language) of characters
Green arrows: speech bubbles and captions

This is how I fixed it in the final version:

I composed panel 5 in a radical “<” shape, picking up the lines from panel 4 and redirecting them towards panel 6.

If I did it today I may even have changed the cabinet on the wall in panel 4, since it has unnecessarily confusing horizontal lines that point towards panel 6 …

I’m not exactly a master of this trade, and I have a lot of room for improvement. But for everyone’s education I will post some more examples behind the cut, from my comic Driftwood!

(Continue reading …)

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