Casey Nowak and Dan Berry chat about tools, making money and finding efficiencies in your process.
Hi. Dan here. So you may have noticed that the podcast has been undergoing some kind of hiatus and has been following an erratic update schedule (to say the least). Here’s a short update where I talk about my recent situation and how I’m interested in developing the show. It’s only a brief update, and I’ll be aiming to be on a more regular schedule from now on, but I need your input. I wrote a version of this over on Patreon, please take a couple of minutes to give it some thought and let me know what you think.
Music by the astonishing Jim Guthrie.
Edited and Produced by Dan’s tiny* baby** brother Simon Berry.
Simon would like it known that although he is my younger brother he is both
* taller than me
** a full grown adult man.
I realised that a bunch of people I’ve interviewed over the years will be at TCAF this year. TCAF is one of my all-time favourite shows, and Toronto is one of my all-time favourite places largely because it is full of some of my all-time favourite people. Even if, like me, you can’t make it this year, check out these shows from the past few years.
Hopefully this helps you connect with and discover some great creators. If I’ve missed anyone, drop me a line and I’ll get it updated.
Hi everybody. Here’s a quick update on everything Make/Tell. I took September off working on the show so that my alter-ego Dan Berry the cartoonist/illustrator could meet all his deadlines. September soon turned into October too, so the show will be returning refreshed, full of vigour and raring to go in November. Thanks for sticking with me. It has been the absolute most busy I’ve ever been.
I also want to tease you with rumours of a new podcast launching soon in the Make/Tell universe. If Make It Then Tell Everybody is a show about everything that goes into the creative process, this new show is about everything that doesn’t. It’s a lot of fun to record and my co-host Hannah Berry (no relation) and I think you’ll really like it. It is silly. Keep your eyes peeled, there’s going to be a website/twitter launching in the next couple of weeks.
The Toronto Comic Art Festival takes place on the 9th & 10th May and I’ll be going! Here is a list of former Make/Tell interviewees that will also be exhibiting. I hope I’ve not missed anyone off! Listen to their interviews and then go along (if you can) and say hello! I’m there as part of ‘It’s Nice Out’ a showcase of commissioned work from the Lakes International Comic Art Festival, showing off some stuff I’ve been woking on and launching the 24 by 7 book collecting 7 24 hour comics I edited last year. I’m really looking forward to it!
Big news! I’m delighted to say that new episodes of the show are going to be transcribed by the amazing and very talented Renée Goulet. To see her in action, check out the transcript of the interview with Christopher Butcher.
Why is this big news? It means that the interviews and the many varied nuggets of wisdom, mirth and advice that they contain are going to be available in a more flexible format to a wider audience, not just people that do or can listen to podcasts. It means that they are a resource that will be searchable, accessible, quotable, easy to reference, share and fairly straightforward to mangle into a different language through something like Google Translate. It means the podcast has evolved into something more useful to more people than ever before.
This is all made possible thanks to the people who donate to the show through Patreon. It would simply not happen without financial support from the community that Make It Then Tell Everybody serves. Transcribing audio is not cheap, and when you have a back catalogue of audio interviews 3 or 4 days in length to transcribe, it is restrictively expensive for me.
At present I can only really afford to get new episodes of the show transcribed. I want to set Renée to work transcribing the back catalogue, so please head to the Patreon site for the show and sign up to donate a dollar or two per episode to help us do this. I need you. If everyone that listened donated one dollar per episode, it would financially cover the cost of transcribing everything many, many times over. It doesn’t take everyone, it’d only take a tiny proportion of Make/Tell listeners to make this work, and a modest proportion of listeners to make it a roaring success! Strength in numbers! Get enough tiny droplets and you have a whole ocean! If Patreon isn’t your thing, or you want to make a one-off donation, you can do so here through Paypal.
I know that this is something that not everyone might be in a financial position to do, so instead perhaps help spread the word. Telling people about the show and what we are trying to do is just as valuable to me.
I’m so proud of the podcast and I am so excited about what the coming year is going to bring.
I get asked questions occasionally about the process of making comics. I’ve passed this particular question on to a handful of the people I’ve interviewed for them to answer, and I’ll post up more as they come in.
How do you make the faces look the same from panel to panel?
I remember this being a big concern of mine when I started drawing comics, and I get asked this pretty frequently. Probably more of a concern that actually telling a story if I’m honest. I think this is a question that gets asked a lot because it is so apparent when the characters don’t look consistent. Here’s how John Allison, Viv Schwarz, Glyn Dillon and Sarah Glidden tackled this topic;
I’m not sure I ever worked this out in a scientific way. When I was a kid, I drew Transformers comics, and because I was a kid who liked the toys, I knew where all the different bits of their faces went. Optimus Prime had that barn door over his mouth, Jazz and Blaster had visors over their eyes, Shockwave had a hexagon head. Their blocky appearance made getting all those bits in line easier.
I think that’s still what I do. I know what shape a character’s face is, what shape their nose is, what kind of eyes they have, and I put them in the same place each time. And I know that if I don’t properly work out a new character today, and try to draw them several times in the same comic, they don’t look the same each time. It’s not magic, you just get better at copying yourself.
I draw my characters without worrying too much beyond a simple set of rules about their individual proportions, concentrating more on their stance and expression. Then I check all the drawings, comparing them carefully and correct them in Photoshop where they are too far off.
I allow myself some room for variation because my characters tend to be a bit amorphous, their whole shape changes with emotion and their features wander a bit – that’s what I’ve observed happens in animals where feathers, fur or loose skin allow for a lot more expressive shape shifting. I am allowing that for my human characters to some extent as well because I think it reads just fine. I’m also making all the characters in any given story look quite different so that they are easy to recognise even if their shape varies a bit.
I couldn’t keep the faces completely consistent anyway because I myself can’t recognise real people by their features and have to memorise their voice, smell, stance, hairstyle and so on instead. I think that actually helps my drawing more than it hinders.
Glyn Dillon (Interview here)
A few days ago on twitter I mentioned I was going to put together a frequently asked questions page for this site, which prompted amongst others the questions below. I’ve answered them from my perspective and experience, so they are by no means definitive, but feel free to chip in (constructively) in the comments.
Where do I find the ‘perfect’ pen?
Speaking as someone who has been on the hunt for that elusive ‘perfect pen’ for many years now, I feel somewhat qualified to answer this question. The answer is ‘I don’t know’. I can explain from my perspective and see if that helps, but the short answer is ‘I don’t know’. This all depends on what your idea of perfect is. It took me a long time to work this out. When I started drawing with any sense of purpose, I was under the assumption that better tools would make me a better artist. I tried a huge variety of pens and other drawing tools without any real idea of what it was I was looking for. It was like walking into a shoe shop and trying on every pair of sports shoes, sandals and slippers without knowing what purpose I needed them for, but assuming that I’d know when I found it.
The key thing that you need to know when trying out different tool in this hunt is to know what you are looking for. The criteria I started with was waterproof ink, flexible line and comfortable to draw with. This meant I was looking for either a brush or a fountain pen with a flexible nib. This narrowed the range of possible pens I was looking for, and it became easier to rule certain pens out for not being flexible, being uncomfortable or uncomfortably expensive. Scouring pen forums, asking advice on twitter and reading reviews other people have written have all been informative and helpful, but only to the point of knowing someone else’s opinion. I found it particularly useful to spend some time talking to a pen dealer who exhibits at pen shows (yes, they exist) who was incredibly helpful.
To recap, I think it’s a very good idea to have an idea of what characteristics you want your line to have and how much you are willing to spend. It is also worth asking yourself why you want a new pen as well. Are you trying to achieve greater efficiency in your process? Trying to bring a particular characteristic of line into your work? Or. Are you looking for the kind of pen that can draw horses best? I’m afraid those pens don’t exist and what you really need to do is spend more time drawing horses.
If you are collecting small strips together into a book, how do you create a ‘flow’ / select the order?
A very good question. The answer to this one is also ‘I don’t know’. It all depends on the content of the strips. Can they be themed? Are they continuous or can you drop in anywhere? Are some longer than others or are they all one page strips?
My advice here would be to start by making the order logical – perhaps in date order. Then read it through (actually read it, don’t skim it) and then make edits from your impression of how it reads. Trust your gut. Remember that if you have ‘reveals’ or punchlines on pages that are visual or spanned across multiple pages, you want the impact to be on the left-hand page so that it is revealed on the page turn, rather than on the right hand page where it is revealed before you’ve read the setup. The hardest bit is making cuts. If you show your draft to someone and they don’t get it, the problem may not be with them, your strip just might not be that good. At this point, you need to be merciless and cut anything that isn’t working.
If you are left handed how do you prevent your big fat hand from smearing all your beautiful ink pictures to a blob?
There’s a short answer and a long answer to this question.
The short answer; by not rubbing your big fat hand all over it.
The long answer; You get taught when you are a kid that you start at the top left of the page and work to the right and down, which if you are left-handed means you are going to be resting your hand where you’ve just been drawing, resulting in that ghastly smudge. There’s no rule saying that you have to particularly start anywhere on a page, so my advice would be to plan your drawing out ahead of time and start from the top right hand corner instead. It may be worth exploring ink and paper combinations that dry more rapidly. I’ve found that Platinum Carbon ink and cold pressed watercolour paper dries fairly quickly, but it’d be worth trying out a few variations to see what works best for you. That or scheduling frequent and prolonged coffee-breaks between sections of drawing to allow it to dry.
Strategies for how to keep going if your life is a mess?
Again, I think that this all depends on context. How much of a mess are we talking here? If your situation is serious and the wellbeing of others is at stake, I’d say prioritise that over drawing. If it is one of those existential malaises, an eternal ennui that hangs over you like a cloud, then again, think about what you’d rather be doing. If the answer is ‘I’d rather be watching television’ then do that. If your answer is ‘I’d rather be drawing/writing/etc’ then do that instead. Plan your time ahead and figure out what you can achieve in the time that you have. I remember reading about the 1833 factories act and the idea of the 8 hour day, which meant that people had in every 24 hours 8 hours work, eight hours recreation and eight hours sleep. That seems like a huge amount of time each day to me, so figuring out what time you have, what activities make you happiest and the best way to cram one into the other works for me.
How do you come up with your ideas?
The eternal question. I think it cuts to the core of the creative process without ceremony or blowing too much hot air around. The short answer is still quite a long answer, and it is a three-parter for me. I read somewhere a while ago about the idea that creativity has three prerequisites – the physical, the cognitive and the aspirational and this works for me.
The first prerequisite for creativity is the physical means for expressing it, the ‘ability to make lines on paper’ stuff. I often get ideas from the physical act of playing with art, with materials and with processes. The act of producing ‘stuff’ for me sparks off new ideas that bump into other things I’ve already done and make new ideas.
The second prerequisite is the cognitive problem solving aspect of creativity. This is the ability to think creatively around a problem, brief or topic. This is the stuff that only lives in your head until you put it on paper.
Now, you’d think that these two by themselves would be enough, but the without the third prerequisite, the motivation to put them both into practice, you don’t do anything.
Each of these three aspects of the creative process can live alone without the other two, but just drawing aimlessly, having grand plans that come to nothing or even just the ‘one day I’m gonna…’ impulse don’t really cut it for me. When the three come together, you not only have ideas but you also put them together.
The shorter answer is to say that a lot of coming up with ideas is recognising when I’ve actually had an idea. It is very easy to dismiss an idea before it has had a chance to flourish, and it is a skill to take the seed of an idea and recognise that it may need developing until it is good.
I’ve been exploring ways of trying to help pay for the podcast for a while now, so I’ve set up a Patreon page.
Patreon is a relatively new site that helps people fund the creators that they like. It basically works on strength in numbers so here’s what I’m asking for.
If you want to (this is all entirely optional) then you can opt to donate a dollar or two (a dollar is about £0.60 at the moment of writing) for each new episode of Make It Then Tell Everybody that I do. The idea is that enough people get on board that individually, the amount is barely noticeable, but to me on the receiving end, it will make a huge difference. To cover all my hosting costs, I’d need about $40 a month. Anything more than that goes towards an equipment upgrade and travel to do interviews in person. The holy grail of this is to get enough people donating that I can afford to get each episode transcribed. Not only would it be a valuable resource for reference, it would mean that the podcast would be accessible to deaf people too. That sounds like a good idea to me. Wouldn’t you like to help me do that? Head over to the Patreon page and give it a read.
I’ve been running Make It Then Tell Everybody for a little over a year now. When I started I wasn’t sure that the show would last this long. I was worried that I’d run out of people to talk to or questions to ask or worse, no-one would be listening.
I was exhibiting at the Thought Bubble festival this year and was genuinely touched by people coming to my table to tell me how much they enjoy the show, how it had helped them cope with their insecurities as an artist and how it had introduced them to the work of people they’d not heard of before. It was really great. Thanks Everybody!
So here’s what I want.
If you enjoy the show, please donate some money to help me pay for it. I’ve got server and hosting costs, equipment to buy and travelling to do more interviews in person. It’s not an enormous amount, but it certainly adds up to a few hundred pounds over the course of a year. In 2014 I want to upgrade my equipment, do more interviews in person and cover all my technical costs.
If you do a one-off donation, that’s great, thanks! If you do a recurring donation each month, that’s also great! Thanks Very Much!
On the 7th December, we’ll be doing a live Make/Tell at the ever so fancy new library in Birmingham. I’ll be talking to Philippa Rice, Vivane Schwarz, Lisa Wood (aka Tula Lotay, aka Thought Bubble Festival organiser) and Martin Steenton of Blank Slate Books. There’s a helluva lot of stuff going on at Volume. Click here for more details. There’s a Birmingham Zine Festival going on, so be sure to get along to see not just the best library I’ve ever been in, but also get along to pick up some awesome books from your favourite artists.
Ok, here’s a couple of things. I’ve put together the means to send out a monthly newsletter. It’ll have a recap of the month’s episodes, some behind the scenes stuff, happenings and updates on all things Make/Tell. It will possibly be the best damned email newsletter you’ve ever signed up to. Think of it like a newspaper that gets emailed to you or a pen-pal you don’t really write back to or one of those family letters that get sent out at christmas, only every month. Perfect. There’s a handy box in the sidebar just to the right here, so go and do that.
I’m drumming up donations to help cover the cost of travelling to do more interviews in person. I think you can tell from the shows so far that I prefer chatting face to face. Not only do I get more control over the sound quality, it’s much nicer to talk to someone in person instead of through a screen. If you like the idea of this, donate whatever you want to help me do this. If you are completely happy with the show exactly as it is, then still consider donating a quid or two. It costs me money to do this show, and your donations mean I get to keep doing it. What I’d really like is for people to set up a recurring donation so I can plan stuff ahead. That’d be cool.
Talking of planning ahead, I’m planning on producing a handful of shorter more polished shows on specific themes. It should be fun. The working title for these is ‘Be Specific’.
So in summary, give me your email address and your money and I’ll keep recording myself talking to people.
This Saturday, the 4th of May there will be a live Make It Then Tell Everybody as part of the Illustrato.rs Lineup event at the Mall Galleries just off Trafalgar Square in London, next door to the ICA.
I will be joined by the wonderful Richard Short, Karrie Fransman and Posy Simmonds, author of Tamara Drewe and Gemma Bovary. We’ll likely be chatting about the blurred lines between comics and illustration, but who knows where the mood will take us.
The event is free, but has limited places, so arriving early is advisable. Plus you’ll want to get around the Independent Comics Fair which is also part of the Illustrato.rs Lineup show. Oh, it’s Free Comic Book Day too. So the best thing to do would be to set aside the whole day so you can dedicate your full attention properly to comics for the day.
I don’t know if anyone is at all interested, but I got interviewed by Steve Morris over at the Beat.
A comics lecturer and creator, Dan Berry both writes and draws his own work — such as the forthcoming The Suitcase from Blank Slate Books. But on top of that, he’s also launched a podcast fairly recently, in which he sits down with a number of writers, artists, creators, in order to talk about creation, process, and publishing. Make It Then Tell Everybody is the name of the show, and it’s quickly become one of the must-listen comics podcasts available. Informative, fascinating and warm, it also has some belting pastoral theme music.
That’s a nice thing to say don’t you think? Read the whole thing here.
What is it for? Well, this is a relatively inexpensive way for me to offer something other than an email of thanks for a donation to the show.
These prints are part one of a longer plan to bring out more beautiful Make It Then Tell Everybody items designed by the wonderful Kristyna Baczynski. We’ve got some very cool stuff planned, watch this space.
A while ago I asked if people would help support the show financially by donating £1 each time they enjoyed an episode of Make It Then Tell Everybody. It doesn’t require a lot of money per month to cover the ongoing costs of hosting the site and the podcast files, but it’s a slow steady trickle out of my own pocket that I was hoping that my listeners would help me cover.
Well, people certainly did that. You listeners have been very generous with your donations and it means that I’ve been able to afford some new equipment with a drastically reduced burden upon my own pocket. The show was previously recorded on a Zoom H1 portable recorder that I’d sit equidistant between myself and the interviewee/my laptop, which while perfectly adequate, didn’t give me the flexibility or control over the quality of the show that I want. I toyed with the idea of running a kickstarter to try and pay for this equipment, but I’m not entirely convinced that it would have worked and the idea of trying to fulfil incentives alongside every other thing on my long to-do list sounded like a frankly crippling hassle.
So, I’ve taken the donations and splashed out on some new equipment, taking solid advice from my audio wunderkind brother Simon. He plays ‘Simon’ from the very funny comedy podcast Tim & Simon. It should mean that the production quality of the show will increase. For the Skype call interviews I’m still limited by the quality of the connection but everything else, it should be just grand.
For the nerdy or the interested, I’ve got a Tascam DR-40, two Rode M3s, a couple of desk mic stands, a couple of pop shields and wind guards, all the appropriate cables and nice padded case for it all.
What I’m trying to say is thank you. If you want to continue to help support the show, please donate. It helps me out. If you come and see me at any of the festivals I’m appearing at, I’ll happily chat and sell you some MITTE merchandise (Currently in development – keep an eye out, it’s going to be really nice stuff)
I really want this to continue to develop. I’d like to do more interviews in person, live shows and other stuff that is currently just a gleam in my eye. I can only really do this with your help, so thanks!