My blog is honored to present this guest-post by Barbara G. Tarn. Barb is a fantasy writer and artist who loves to create new fantastical worlds. While there are writers in this world who dabble in art, and artists who dabble in writing, she’s good at both. Every once in a while she brings her two skills together to write graphic novels and comics. In this post, she discusses her evolution as an artist and an author. This post is a glimpse into a self-taught and self-motivated person, who often inspires me to stay true to my course. I’ve always admired people who have the courage to charter new paths and discover new destinations, despite knowing that the beaten path offers comfort, ease, and security. Barb’s courage is all the more exemplary, because she walks her chosen path with a smile on her face and because she can laugh at stuff that could leave a lesser person, bitter and disappointed.
My Dear Readers,
I welcome Barb on my blog. I recommend that you visit her blog at CreativeBarbwire.WordPress.com and follow it. She blogs quite regularly. If you are writer or an artist, or just someone looking for a spark of inspiration, you’ll love her posts.
The Self-taught Creative
I’m self-taught and proud of it. Yes, I went to school (up to the Italian equivalent of high school), I attended an illustration course (and failed the second year when we started using brushes), but then I started working in the most un-creative environment possible, and most would have forgotten their dreams and dropped the pen and the pencil.
I didn’t. I know I’m not a talented artist – if I were, I’d be an illustrator or a comic book creator by now. I didn’t go to art school, so my hand can never do what I see in my head, sigh. I love realistic styles, but I can’t draw them, so I had to find my own way.
I kept drawing because I enjoyed it. It’s the passion that kept me going, both for writing and drawing. I did illustrations for most of my stories, started many comics – improvised, so I kept going until I got bored – and especially when I was in my teens, I mixed prose and art: if I couldn’t draw the scene, I’d just write it down.
I slowly specialized in fantasy settings. I love the Middle Ages, so I have plenty of pictures of castles and books on clothes to get some inspiration. I still can’t draw animals, so my characters tend to travel on foot or through magic spells. And I keep experimenting.
I’ve become proficient at tracing from pictures (so I do portraits of celebrities to decompress from writing and drawing and life), but regarding comics and graphic novels… well, I went through many changes. I also learned to do a sort of script to make sure the story unfolds in a correct number of page, that fits print publication (my first complete comic had 21 pages… what was I thinking I’d put on page 22? An illustration? An author’s note? What?) – although this is less important now with webcomics and ebooks.
A little history: I grew up in France with their varied world of “bandes dessinnées” for all ages and tastes. But I also read Donald Duck stories (always hated Mickey Mouse, LOL) and the Peanuts and Marvel comics – and in the 1990s we had the manga invasion. So my style started “realistic” (like comics), went through a manga-like stage, then settled into something a little more personal – between The Peanuts and a comic book (if you can find one without overmuscled superheroes, that is!).
This was best expressed in Fleur de Lys, which I hope to scan and upload soon. On that one I even did my first attempts at coloring with Photoshop (although I will probably publish it in B&W, as some e-readers are still B&W only, like my Kindle).
The whole evolution can be seen on Mercenaries?! – when I finished it in 2002 (started in 1997), I started redrawing and coloring it because I couldn’t let those characters go. Mercenaries?! is 500 pages and if I republish it (it was a photocopied fanzine that sold 10 copies at Italian comicons in the late 1990s), I’ll have to figure out if I should use the new beginning – having a drop in quality after about 20 pages – or do it in chronological order with the new color beginning at the end or in a separate booklet.
Noticing how inking sometimes “ruined” the pencil, I did one comic in pencil, then with Photoshop made it look like ink by toying with the levels and then colored it (Lady Ice on Smashwords free B&W downloadable version and on Facebook online color version).
My current graphic novel, S.K.Y.B.A.N.D, is the next step – it’s all in color from the beginning (check the WIP post on my blog)! It has pages in prose with an illustration next to it (for those long conversations when not much happens) and, like Lady Ice, it has a more realistic style, as the Fleur de Lys style is more for humorous comics and this is a serious (and adult-oriented) story.
I reduced the frames number to an ideal 9 (maximum, can be less for opening scenes). I use a European sheet format (A4), which means it would look weird on an American comic book. And I’ve gone back to inking on paper and then coloring on Photoshop. But it’s taking me a long time to finish (three more chapters to go) because it comes after the prose writing and I’m not sure I’ll do another afterward. Well, maybe another funny one like Mercenaries?! and my personalized style, who knows.
Like everything else in life, it takes passion, practice and patience. If you don’t think you can write the story, partner with someone who can. If you can’t draw, find someone who can – I’d love to do some sci-fi or contemporary comics, but I can’t draw technology or even a car, so if anyone would like to try working with me, let me know. I had some good and some bad experiences working with artists, and enough time has passed since the last very bad experience, so I’m willing to take another chance.
Schools might be good, but if you don’t have the passion to keep going, you’ll never make it. You need to dream big, but keep realistic expectations. If you’re naturally talented (not like me), you might find a job at a publishing house (Marvel, Disney or their equivalents in your home country). Or you can do a web comic, or publish an e-book.
Just don’t give up. And keep learning and experimenting and mostly having fun. If it becomes a chore, it’s time to quit. Happy creations, and thank you Shafali for having me again!
Barb on this blog
Barb on DeviantART
Barb on Facebook