The Way of The Artist – Part One

Rene Arreola drawing comics on iPad

With the “The Dreamer and The Dreamed”, what you see at first is what you get.

“The Dreamer and The Dreamed” is a mysterious introduction story to this world I am creating called The Realm Ethereal. It introduces the lead female character Casia (Minohr). To a greater degree, it also introduces the Ethereals: Om, Oda, Ena, and Kor.

The storyline was totally written bass-ackwards.

I jumped into this project with my artist’s mind-set and not really a writer’s mind-set. What does that mean? When I create and draw my own comics, I draw first, write second. Because I’m an artist, I believe this approach plays to my strengths. But when I say “draw first”, there’s much more to it than just drawing.

In my head, I’m working within a plot-style narrative as I create.

Realm Ethereal Chapter One thumbnails

I script the pages I have drawn only after I have completed the artwork. This is because at the start of a new project, I sketch or doodle to gather my ideas. I need to have ideas to kickstart a concept. It’s a valuable part of my process.

My desire to create the art is what energizes me initially. In the case of “The Dreamer and The Dreamed”, it was the abstract idea of this girl looking to become an astronaut so she could soar up into the cosmos that sparked the initial drawings. This drawing spread like wildfire, burning hot, fast, and furious. After several drawings and a painting, I feel this visual connection to a story.

After drawing these colorful characters and strange environments, a loose plot begins to percolate in my head. At best, it’s a rough guide that gives my sequential storytelling (comic book art) guidance. At worst, I’m making it all up as I go along. I’m learning, most of the time, this approach leads to happier art-making for me personally. At least, this is the case when I am writing my own stories that I draw myself. Little by little, the story begins to present itself to me.

“The Dreamer and The Dreamed” is barely a chapter one story.

To be honest, I feel like calling this first chapter a “sketch”. The main outcome being a cluster of loosely connected ideas, images, and actions that I want to explore further. All of this while I deepen and search for my connection to it all. The whole process solidifies the more I draw new characters and as I draw those characters repeatedly. Repetition is key.

I want to feel as if the characters are telling me the story. I really don’t want to plan too much at this stage. I want to record and story-tell. I keep telling myself this because it keeps it fun for me. When it comes to this introduction story about The Realm Ethereal, I will refer to it as a cobbling of ideas and a collection of plot and visual sketches. I will also use this introduction story to further figure out who these characters are and how their environments motivate their actions.

This overall approach will change with the next Realm Ethereal story I create. Why? Because once this train picks up some steam, it’s going to be easier to get to places a lot faster. Because the introduction sets up and motivates me to take these cobbled up ideas and refine them. Because of this, I am prone to give further structure and form to the plot and art. Eventually, a story begins to emerge. And more importantly, I am compelled to actually draft a tale. Once something gets rolling and momentum picks up, I think it’s important to plan. But in the beginning, when it’s slow, I try not to force things.

Being prepared is great, but rushing when there is no sense of direction is no fun.

I’d rather rush to get the artwork done, then let it stew for a bit. The story will eventually materialize. For me, writing takes much longer. The Realm Ethereal thus far has sort of been on slow-cook. I’ve been creating the artwork all this time, for over a year. It’s been a process of plot re-treading and visual development. I’m looking to turn up the heat for the next phase of this tale because it feels like I’ve finally found a direction for the story.

Welcome to the way of the artist.

In my second article, I’m going to delve into what I’ve learned over the past year working full-time to craft The Realm Ethereal. Stay tuned, or subscribe to my email list to receive notification when this happens.

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Rene Arreola © 2020