I've been looking for a way to improve my art-titude (copyright/registered-trademark Jeff Willis Artist!). Sort of a self-therapy thing. What I've come up with is to go back to my first love. The thing that I wanted to be when I grew up: A cartoonist who draws cartoons.
Short story. Hey, get back here! It's short!!:
One day long ago my Mom took me to an orientation to meet my future kindergarten class teacher. Mrs. Senor was soft-spoken and kind. After the grownups talked, Mrs. Senor asked if there was something in the classroom I would like to play with. I looked around the room and saw kids drawing with crayons as big as Prest-O logs, building with monolithic wooden blocks, looking into picture books that, to me, smelled like buttermilk and so on. Then I saw a girl standing in front of an easel. She was painting a house with a sun in the sky.
"I want to do that!," I said pointing impolitely at the talented girl. So Mrs. Senor took me over to an easel that held a large pad of newsprint paper and a tray of gritty water-based poster paints in old mayonnaise jars. She put an apron on me and turned me loose.
I asked Mom what I should draw. Paint as a verb isn't in a child's vocabulary. All illustrations are still drawings at that age. Mom said to paint whatever I wanted. I stared at the blank paper. I couldn't think of anything.
"Mom, I don't know what to draw," I whined.
I stared at that blank paper for what felt like an eternity. I stirred the brushes in the paint jars admiring the colors but for the life of me I couldn't figure out what to paint let alone how to paint.
So I did what all frustrated kids do. I cried.
All day long I felt miserable. I really wanted to draw a painting but I couldn't figure out how and I regretted not having tried harder. This memory stayed with me all these years and I can recall it all to well even now.
Yet here I am, an artist. And I get paid to draw.
Admit it. All artists have bad days. I mean really, really bad days. Days when creating something is like pulling teeth from a shark. We become crippled by creative blocks. We become intimidated by a blank canvas. We stare at our canvas or sketchbook, lump of sculpting clay, camera, piano, etc... and can't think of what to draw. We procrastinate, allow ourselves to be distracted and make excuses. We cry.
All artists know the solution: put paint on your brush and just do it. Sometimes it's hard. Sometimes we just need to push ourselves harder than usual. We create. That's just how we're made. So what do I do when this happens?
Meet my alter-ego.
His name is Dab.
He's a hedgehog.
He's an artist.
His nemesis is the dreaded Blank Canvas.
Blank Canvas often has a mind of his own and will intentionally foil Dab.
Dab needs to paint but he is often troubled, creatively blocked and easily distracted.
He is me.
This is the first of many cartoons to come. My goal is 52 comic strips, one for each week of the year. I will post a new one each week but only once the set is complete. Hopefully I'll fulfill this goal and find a way to publish these.
I hope you enjoy it and please, wish me luck. I don't know what to draw.
Wednesday, March 28, 2018
Here's an article I posted recently on LinkedIn.
This last year of mine has been full of pratfalls and gifts. It's been a year like no other. While I miss my past adventures and relish their memories I look forward to the next big thing in my career... whatever the hell that is.
Being an artist means to expect change. It seems to be a blessing and a curse of the creative communities. I don't know a single artist who hasn't been expendable in the eyes of their employers. I once had a boss who told a fellow artist, "artists are a dime a dozen." Yes, he actually said that! He treated his artists as if they came by the dozen too. Actually he treated his entire company that way. He's not the only employer I've worked for who radiated that attitude. Employers need to be wary of how they treat their people since it molds their reputation but that's a conversation for another day. The point is that artists need to be able to move on when you-know-what hits the fan.
My career is nothing like I had planned but it has always worked out. This is something I wish I could have told my younger self as I'm sure many of us wish. I still have to remind myself of this and often. I'm not a plumber with a new job every day to keep me secure. I'm just a blissfully ignorant artist who can't imagine doing anything else. I create not because it's my job. I create because I must. So when bad things happen... and they happen often... the calluses build and I move forward.
I created the above and following cartoons to express my frustrations about how hard it is to convince employers that I'm the one they're looking for. Noodling these cartoons is like therapy. I've found small job opportunities to keep me active and creative but for now the next Big Gig is evading me.
So I diligently seek my new creative thing. I'm anxiously searching for a new adventure. It's out there. I'm not expendable. I'm who you're looking for. Check me out.
Come at me, future!
- Jeff Willis
Wednesday, May 3, 2017
Friday, April 28, 2017
Thursday, April 27, 2017
In the following set I didn't actually animate but I did develop the story and story boards. I worked with Calabash in Chicago who did the animations and again audios are by Clean Cuts/Cerebral Lounge.
There's a bit of a story overlap between 3 and 4 since it's how it's show in game. It's sort of a recap. "Previously on the McDivot Show..."
This is my favorite McDivot story. I hope you enjoy it too.
The preview images on these don't seem to want to show but I assure you they are playable.
Meet Sandy Mulligan
In the Belly of the Beast
Love Gopher Style