Odori Park, by Chris Watkins Odori Park - Blog


On Thursday night, I finished the fifteenth of the thirty comics I’m creating in my “one-a-day” personal challenge. Being halfway through, it seems like an appropriate time to share more lessons learned (your mileage may vary):

  • It takes me an average of three hours to make a strip. That includes writing, thumbnails, lettering, penciling, inking & finishing. There’s really nothing I can do, short of changing my drawing style, to speed this (aside from whatever incremental improvements my speed gains through drawing these characters repeatedly over time).
  • Repurposing old art as pencils for new (a prior idea I listed) doesn’t do anything to save time. It takes just as long to find the right pose and modify it for context as it does to just pencil the art from scratch.
  • It’s turning out that pencils aren’t really even the time consuming part. Inks are, because I’m concerned more with final appearance at that stage.
  • Penciling on good old fashioned paper (I had been penciling and inking directly in my tablet PC) actually gives me more accuracy, and a bit more speed, since I can see the whole image at once, and can spin it to my heart’s content. (Maybe this would be different if I were working on an ultra big ultra swanky Wacom Cintiq instead of a tablet PC laptop screen.)
  • If I can’t reduce my overall time to completion of a strip, at least I can break it up. Keeping a notebook in my pocket allows me to write on the fly, and I can refine, thumbnail, and pencil over lunch. This means less work in a single sitting, and more opportunities to make use of little pockets of dead time through the day. All hail productivity!
  • Photoshop actions can potentially help save me time in the finishing step, for applying sepia hues and saving out versions, as long as I create the actions correctly.
  • It pays to be loose in the inking stage. I gain speed, quality, and enjoyment. It pays to be a bit more precise in the penciling stage. I can’t make up for poor underdrawing in the final rendering.

More to be shared as I sally forth! Thanks to everyone who’s sent me ideas, suggestions, and cheers of support–it means more than you know! (This daily comic thing with a day job and family is hard work. How Corey Pandolph and Brad Guigar manage their prolificity is beyond me…)


  1. Samantha

    I am so glad you are sharing this with us. (P.S. 3 hours including the writing and layout is AWESOME. You don’t need to shave any time off that, to my mind.) I can’t wait to read your final thoughts when the challenge is completed (see how I nudged you to make a post when you’re done?). I think every cartoonist should do this and once school starts up again, I will challenge myself, too.

  2. Chris

    Thanks, Samantha! The only reason I’d like to pare down from 3 hours is that I realistically only have 1 to 1.5 hours per night to work on a comic, on a good day. During this challenge period, I’ve been sacrificing sleep to make the daily goals, and… it’s painful :) But I’m glad I’m doing it. Even a failed challenge would teach someone a lot.

  3. Whitey

    You are my hero, man. If I can get an hour of drawing in in a day, I’m doing great. 3 hours would be heaven. And I don’t have a wife or kid. But maybe that says more about my (lack of) time management skills than anything… Speaking of which, I should get some stuff done now…

  4. Chris

    I hear you, Whitey. I can’t keep this daily grind up over the long haul, but I’m starting to think periodic bursts like this might be helpful.

  5. Bearman

    I usually have about an hour to crank something out (and it usually shows). I do everything with a Wacom (not the cool Cintiq but the dinky one). Never found the same line control that I get with a pen and paper.

  6. Chris

    Do you draw in Photoshop, Bearman? One of the problems I have with tablet drawing (Wacom, Tablet PC, or otherwise) is the jitteriness that’s particularly pronounced in Photoshop. (I’m eagerly awaiting the stable release of InkScape .47, for its eraser tool–the last thing I feel it needs to be a serious competitor for my comic-drawing app of choice. Perhaps because it’s vector-based, its line quality is quite nice, and jitter-free.)

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