Sunday, December 03, 2006

Cartooning 301: The Eleventh Hour

A lot of people make jokes (or complaints) about seeing Christmas stuff for sale in the stores in August, sometimes accompanied by Christmas music, and the cry goes out "It's too early!!". I have to laugh, or at least crack a smile, because like other illustrators and Cartoonists, August is often when Christmas is on our mind. Why? Because that's a good time to begin working on Holiday cards, whether we are employed by the Greeting Card industry, or like myself, creating special cards from our studios.

Perhaps it seems early, but this year it almost wasn't enough! Creating a card from scratch is just soooooooooo much work. Most people look at a cartoon and, in it's simplicity, do not see the hours of work that may have gone into it. The same goes for Holiday cards, and before you ask, let me say this: I do it because I enjoy it.

Yes, I enjoy it, even though it may take 2 or 3 weeks, or even months, to create a Holiday Card. And I do it for my audience, as well as for myself. HappyGlyphs Comics is still a small studio, although we now have several books out. Being a small studio, there really isn't much that I can do to show my thanks for the support my audience gives me, so I create a special card that I send out each year. It really means a lot to me, and thankfully I do get a few responses from people, telling me that they enjoy the cards each year.

Interior illustration from my 2004 Holiday Card

Usually I try to have the cards written, illustrated, printed, addressed, and sent out soon after Thanksgiving weekend. This year? I just finished illustrating them!!
And it's December!!!!

It's been a tough year, and thankfully, I have been very busy with Freelance work. Yes, my Studio work has suffered by being placed on the back burner, and I may have lost a few casual fans by not putting out as many cartoons as usual, but hey, I have to pay the bills, and besides, I really do enjoy my Freelancing gigs. I have some great clients, who give me some great jobs. Also, this year's card was a real doozy to create.

I actually have a small file of ideas for Holiday Cards, each with a lot of potential. Each year is different, though, so I go with whatever mood I am in. Also, last yeas card was phenomenally successful, and I am still getting compliments on it. ( Thanks! ) So this year I have the difficult job of following up on THAT card.

So let's tally up the stress level: Busy with work, tough act to follow, and I came up with a heck of a card this year, both in the writing and illustrating. No, I'm not going to reveal the card here, at least not for many months, since I want those of you who get them this year to be surprised.

So here's what I came here to write about today: the Eleventh Hour!! That time when a deadline draws near, and panic sets in. Yes, panic. We all experience it at one time or another, and sometimes it's good for us. Others, it can be disastrous.

I actually flirted with disaster this year as I started to doubt the design I had chosen. I try to set aside at least one uninterrupted week to work on a card, but this year a lot of work came at me at once, so I've honestly been working on this card since August, which is a long time to be staring at one concept. Like my 2004 card shown above, this years card involves a large, detailed illustration. Because I worked on it here and there, I was having so many problems with it, and started to loath it after a while. I mean, I didn't have time for this!! I needed that card to come together!! So... I actually considered putting this idea off for another year, and do something else. Disaster!

Second guessing yourself can be a terrible time waster. It can also be reaffirming, so go with what works for you. I eventually came back to this, but still I just wasn't happy with it. So I sat down, looked it over, and stopped looking at the clock, stopped thinking about the calendar, and started looking at it like the great portfolio peice that it could become. And as the artwork improved, as details were added, the card finally came together, I made my peace with it, and began to give it the love that it deserved. Much like Charlie Brown's Christmas tree. :0)

Then, of course, I started to doubt the front of the card.

See, this year's card tells a story, so the writing was much more important than per usual. Eventually, though, an idea came to me... actually, several, and I put it all together and with much rejoicing finally finished the card. Hooray!!

So today's lessons: To thine own self be true, and, if you bite off more than you can choose, breathe through your nose, and get a drink to wash it all down with.

And if you ever doubt yourself, take a deep breathe, and say "I can do this!"

And then do it.

Happy Holidays, JOHN :0)

PS If you would like a card, please email me your name and address, keeping in mind that your privacy is important to us. If you're outside the US, however, I may not be able to afford the postage. It never hurts to ask, though. :0)

This offer expires December 23, 2006.


Brian Hughes said...


Christmas cards and decorations in November is one thing...unfortunately, as far as British shops are concerned, mince pies and Christmas pudding in October is going too far. Having said that, it's the Ozzies I feel sorry for...especially anybody whose turn it is to be Father Christmas, having to turn up on the beach at the height of summer in his full costume complete with fur coat and beard.

John said...

Cheers, Brian :0)

Yeah, our California Santas have the same problem, although I hear some of them run around in bathing suits, which really, really spoils the mood.

I feel sorry for the gimmick Santas. I hear there's one guy in Pennsylvania who parachutes into a Mall Parking lot on Thanksgiving day while hundreds cheer.

Here's hoping his parachute always opens!