A not-entirely-short history of these 22 pages

Kiss the Poison Tree has 22 pages up in its archives! Phase 1 is complete. Now where do I go from here?

I’d like to continue with this project enthusiastically, because it’s gotten the most positive responses of any comic I’ve drawn, and it’s not even a month old. The question of how best to do that is a complex one.

I know I can’t maintain my initial pace of six pages a week. I suspect that even with the excitement and natural flow I seem to have while working on this project, I won’t always be able to produce a page on demand. My automatic response to this is that I should build a buffer. But I don’t think that the months-long buffers of my other comics are right for this project.

Instead of relying on the steamrollers for my motivation, I’ve been powered by a combination of pure inspiration and excitement about sharing my new thing I’m working on. I’ve heard a lot of people talk about how great it is to get their work out while it’s still fresh in their minds. I guess I haven’t been able to fully appreciate that until now.

This is one of the many aspects of Kiss the Poison Tree where it feels like I’m finally doing things right. There are so many things I’ve heard from other comic artists about how they do things, how they come up with stories and stay motivated. With the artists I admire most, there’s often a passion behind their words which I’ve envied. They draw comics every day because they love comics. I’m starting to feel like one of those people, and that’s pretty amazing.

I’ve always had a talent for the technical aspects of art, and I’ve always known that I had the potential to be a great artist. But I had potential for so many things. A marvelously moldable brain full of a desire to know how to do all kinds of things.

In high school I loved science and math, as well as art and literature. When I went to college, I selected my path from a fork in the road. Science and math were laid down and never picked up again except as tools for artistic ends. But even with that decision made, there were too many options to choose from, too many things I knew I could be good at if I sat down to focus on them.

One day I was a songwriter and I wrote a most marvelous song. I was talking to a songwriter about it and I told her I loved my song but that I was afraid I would never write a song again. She told me not to worry, I would. She must have thought I had some talent there. But I guess the passion wasn’t, because I never really have written another song, not like that one.

I wrote poetry and I threw pottery. I took and developed photographs. I painted, I sculpted, I designed some tattoos, I explored every art and craft I could get my hands on. None of them really took.

I came out of college with a vague desire to write novels, and ideas borrowed from friends, but still no real passion to express something for myself. All these tools, and nothing to build.

It’s been almost seven years since then, and everything I’ve done between then and now has felt like practice. I didn’t know what for, or even what medium I’d wind up working in. I picked webcomics for a few reasons. I wanted motivation to practice often. I wanted the flexibility to switch between words and pictures if one started to bore me, which they did. I imagine a builder would get tired of hammering nails if all they did all day was practice their technique. When you’re nailing down shingles to make a roof it doesn’t feel so much like the same moment over and over. It feels more like accomplishing more with every swing.

I haven’t gotten bored of these pencil drawings for more than a day or two in these first 22 pages. It’s almost as if for the first time, it’s not about the pencil. The pencil and the paper and my hand are all just the surface layer of something bigger that’s going on.

The question of whether I chose the right media to practice with doesn’t even make sense. The fact that I did choose, and I have been learning these tools for so many years, means now I can use these tools without having to stop and think about how.

Oh, man! I didn’t know all this was in my head! I sat down to write a completely different blog post than this. It was going to be about the pros and cons of a three-days-a-week schedule and the dilemma I’m facing in deciding whether to write ahead or not. Well, maybe you can hear about that later. It’s clear to me now that I must continue with this project with everything I have. My usual analysis, calculation and weighing of pros and cons just isn’t making any difference when I go to put it on the scale next to this huge pile of my-muse-just-showed-up.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go follow my fish.

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