Need for Speed

J. M. DeSantis workingFor years I’ve kept timesheets for my art-related jobs and projects. I started this practice after doing research about the business end of being a creative professional (you know, the really important stuff no one ever talks or writes about), and I’ve found it quite helpful. Perhaps I’ll write about why another time. For now, I’ll merely state that amongst their many uses, timesheets give me a fairly accurate measure of my work pace. I’ve gotten much faster in the past two years, but frankly, I feel I could be working faster still. So, amongst the many projects I have lined up for the summer, one of my personal goals is to train myself to work even faster–without sacrificing quality, of course.

The inspiration for this started with an inherent feeling that I could be getting more work done. After all, Chadhiyana: In the Company of Shadows is a long graphic novel, split into two books (or parts), and I don’t want to take years upon years to finish it. I have other Chadhiyana stories to tell and other non-Chadhiyana books and projects I want to work on besides. Never mind the steady flow of freelance work coming in and my new full-time teaching position.

The notion that other professionals were working faster was based on their output. The amount of work some writers and artists produce is staggering. I find this is especially true with concern to comic art as it’s so labour intensive. However, finding this information is not always easy. Again, no one writes about the business stuff and the few who do write about their pace in terms of “days”. Just how long of a day are we talking? A six hour day? Eight? Sixteen? And is every minute of that “day” spent on artwork?

Repercussions thumbnailFor myself, I thought I had gotten pretty fast, and I’m much faster now than formerly. Near the beginning of my career, it took me about fourteen hours to pencil and ink each page of “Repercussions” for Iconic volume 1 (Comicbook Artist Guild). That was in 2008, and I “rushed” some of that job. The first two Chadhiyana stories (created in 2012) took an average of twelve to thirteen hours per page, but that included hand-painting them in watercolours and outlining in coloured pencils, on top of penciling and inking them. No rushing. Just more work, in less time and better quality.

When I abandoned the coloured pencil outlines in favour of multiliner pens (e.g. Microns), I estimated it would cut a full hour or two off my per-page pace (since I’d be using only one or two pens as opposed to four to six different pencils and no sharpening required). Much to my surprise, the Prologue of Chadhiyana: In the Company of Shadows took fourteen and a half hours per page.

Chadhiyana: In the Company of Shadows tumbnailMy girlfriend suggested that I was over thinking it. After all, over thinking and lack of confidence are the biggest obstacles for creatives of any discipline. Knowing this, I put her theory to work, not just on Chadhiyana: In the Company of Shadows, but on two other jobs I’m working on right now (another book cover and a comic story–both of which have been outstanding for a year now). I tried to stop over thinking and nitpicking every line, and I immediately saw results. The last two Chadhiyana pages were penciled in three hours, and I’ve long-since noticed colouring them takes a mere two hours. As for the other comic story, it’s only taking me about an hour or two to pencil a page, and in both cases, I feel there’s been no quality loss to the work. In fact, I think the work is even better.

That said, I’m not satisfied. The inking process is still taking too long. For the five hours it takes to pencil and colour the Chadhiyana pages, it’s taking an equal amount of time to ink them, but I can’t figure how to speed up the process. (I outline everything with Microns, then ink with a 4 or 5 round brush.)

So I ask: how many hours do you take to complete your comic pages (or other artwork)? And does anyone have good tips for getting faster at inking? Place your responses in the comments section below.

I’m determined to pick up the pace and I’m sure I’ll be able to do it. Once I do, you’ll be seeing even more work from me, and perhaps even more Chadhiyana updates per week.


  • Alex Rivera says:

    Your is great! But if you want to make the inking process a little more efficant is if using a brush. Do brushwork on multiple pages. The same on other tool, while one page is drying I start on another.

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