Ask Jam - FAQ
Placeholder for the FAQ - most commonly asked questions for Jam as a person and an artist.
How do you make your comics?
I make all of my Wasted Talent comics with natural media.
- I draw them on 9x12" Strathmore bristol 400 series for marker (thick paper), or 9x12" Canson 140lb cold pressed watercolour paper for watercolours.
- I draw the comic in pencil, first using a 4H wood pencil and then using a BIC mechanical pencil with 0.7mm HB lead.
- I ink the comic using a Pentel PocketBrush pen
- I letter them by hand using a Sakura Graphic 1 pen.
- I erase the pencil lines using a staedler white eraser.
- I clean up the inks and add detail with a Sakura Micron 0.1
- I colour the comics using either Copic Brush markers or Sakura watercolours.
- I scan the paper using a flatbed scanner at 600dpi
- I use Adobe Photoshop to clean up the scan, mostly using the "Levels" tool.
- I reduce the size of the image to 72dpi for the internet.
There's a more detailed tutorial for inking in the bonus content of book 1, colouring in book 2, watercolours in book 3. You don't need any of these things to get started, just grab any pencil and any paper and get going! You'll figure out the materials you like along the way.
Sometimes I make other comics using a wacom cintiq and Clip Studio.
When did you start drawing comics?
I learned to draw as a child and made my first comic in 3rd grade. When I was in elementary school I drew comics about my cat (mostly inspired by Garfield). I drew a lot of comics in high school -- mostly manga. Then I just failed to stop drawing them, and I am continuing to fail at this.
Did you go to art school?
No, but my mother was trained as an art teacher, and I practiced a lot. In high school, I took some private art lessons, some art-based summer camps, and also "advanced-placement" art classes in high school. I took a break on art education while I was trained as an engineer, but I continued to draw comics. After University, I took some continuing education courses in design, and life drawing, and a few through the Schoolism program -- which I highly recommend. These days, I mostly I just study whatever I'm interested in on youtube and try to practice as much as I can.
I consider myself mostly self-taught.
How long does it take to draw a comic?
On average, a single page of comic takes about 4 hours from start to finish.
Do you have any advice for someone just learning to draw/is it too late to learn how to draw?
It's never too late. Although I had the benefit of an early start, I have a few artist friends who learned as an adult. By approaching it with an "adult mindset", they were able to catch up in two years what I had spent my entire childhood mastering! They also had the benefit of avoiding bad habits that are very hard to break.
Have courage, pick up a pencil, and just try to reproduce what you see. Try to do this every day. Draw animals, draw buildings, draw photos of people. If you can, attend a life drawing class.
What are the main influences for your work?
- I first started drawing by copying books with lavish watercolour illustrations of animals. As a child, my favourite comics were Astérix (Goscinny/Uderzo), Garfield, Real Life Adventures, and Bizarro.
- In high school I read manga extensively, and I was especially struck by Ranma 1/2 by Takahashi Rumiko. When I learned that this comic had 38 volumes... AND the same woman had written Inu Yasha and Maison Ikoku... I was inspired to pursue comics more seriously. (I didn't understand anything else about the manga industry at that time.)
- I played a lot of Pokémon (red/blue... I was a bulbasaur starter) and Final Fanatasy 7 and I think those also had a big influence on my writing style. I started writing fancomics about these, in great part due to my close friendship with Jak. I also read a LOT more manga, most notably X1999 and other works by CLAMP.
- Later in high school, I discovered indie comics, and was inspired by Jhonen Vasquez's Johnny the Homicidal Maniac. This changed my perspective on what comics could be, and also resulted in me adding a lot of black to my work (lol). I was also inspired by the comedy of Invader Zim.
- In University, the world of webcomics was just getting off the ground. I was especially inspired by Questionable Content by Jeph Jacques. I watched a lot of anime, like Naruto, Cowboy Bebop, Macross Plus, and Serial Experiments Lain.
- After University, I got very involved in the webcomics community, and was very deeply influenced by many of the other people who were prolific online in that era (2005-2015). I also met Jonathon Dalton, who introduced me to the world of indie comics. I started attending conventions and meeting many other indie creators (here in Vancouver and around the world) whose work has deeply influenced mine.
- These days, I still read a ton of manga and indie comics. I'm also inspired by fandom, internet culture, SciFi movies and comedy TV shows, my own life, my travels and tech/my career. You can hear more of my comicsthougts™ on the Tradewaiters Podcast.
How do you get your ideas?
Whenever something funny happens, I write it down. I'm also inspired by wanting to help people -- I like to write comics that teach what I know or answer questions.
There's a more detailed tutorial on writing for comedy in the bonus content for book 4.
How do you start a webcomic (putting your comics online)?
Don't worry so much about the whole web aspect... just focus on drawing good comics that people want to read. Upload them wherever is easiest for you - to twitter, to tumblr... anyplace where people can find it and let you know if they like it.
When you're ready for a website, search for something like a "gallery template" or a "comics theme" for an existing type of website (like wordpress or something simple). The more you can teach yourself to code, the better, but most people get by without any coding at all! The best is if you can own and control everything, but that requires a lot of knowledge and resources.
How do you get readers/did you advertise?
I started getting readers through word of mouth - people I knew in university started sending my comics to other universities. I focused on making comics that were funny, and posting them regularly. As I got more serious, I stuck to a regular schedule, and started to make friends with other cartoonists. I promoted my work at conventions that I could travel to.
How do you get a book published?
I self-published my book. I recommend looking for a print-on-demand publisher, and only printing as small an amount as you can. You'll need to format your book for print using something like Adobe InDesign.
Do you get paid for this/how do you make a living in comics?
The largest proportion of my income is what I get directly from readers - through Patreon and book sales - online and at conventions. I get a small amount from advertising. It isn't enough to live on, and I work full time as an engineer.
How do you find the time to draw comics and work full time?
I prioritize this work, and I have to sacrifice other things in order to make it possible. It's very difficult. I draw while I watch TV. I don't play videogames or have any other serious hobbies. I also don't have kids. These days I wake up at 6am and I draw for awhile before work. I draw most evenings after work.
What advice to you have for someone just starting their comic?
- Draw a four page comic, and finish it. Then draw another one. Keep doing four page comics until you don't hate the last one you did, and then maybe you can do slightly longer ones.
- Ink with a brush
- Don't skip drawing the backgrounds
- Use spot black
- Put your comics online, any way you can, and try to get people to read them
- Make physical zines, and try to get people to buy them
- Make friends with other creators