Wednesday, March 2, 2016

What I Learned from Steve Lichman

It's been almost a year since I updated this blog, a ton of stuff has happened, Dan Warren and I finished our book 'Steve Lichman - Volume 1'! I've also learned a ton about myself and figured it was time for me to dump out my brain, just pour my stupid brain all over this blog. Also, this is all personal, not really meant as advice or anything, everyone is different with different paths!

So, first I wanted to be a little self-indulgent and just get super hyped again about how goddamn excited I am that people actually want 'Steve Lichman'. Ever since my dad died, I haven't been able to just get excited and pumped about my own little benchmarks without feeling guilty talking about it. So, I wanna thank all the dads out there who are filling his shoes right now.  

I'm so pumped. Dan and I had no idea when we started posting little comics online that anyone would care at all about our dumb jokes. To see the kind of response it's gotten has given me this whole new outlook as to what's possible in art. I used to think that all you could do was just this skill based Concept Art or Illustration work. When we started, I couldn't see any inherent value in just creating these sketchy comics with jokes we'd write for fun on skype. I feel like a robot slowly turning back into a human. How did I not realize that the only thing you need to be able to do is relate to people? It seems obvious in retrospect, but for years and years, all I did was paint monsters fighting dudes. And I couldn't totally understand why people liked fanart so much until now. It's because they can relate to the nostalgia. I know it might sound naive, but I honestly had a hard time understanding that people just want something they can plug themselves into. Now I'm thinking of all these ways to convey my memories, nostalgia, my sense of humor or whatever else to people. As much as it bums me out to come to this realization after doing freelance for almost 10 years now, I'm happy I'm finally here. Makes me feel like anything is possible, as long as you're honest and it's personable. 

What's funny to me now, after having completed Steve, is how little intention or purpose I had with any of my previous work. It's so weird how you value time after building up a project for so long. The whole thing reminds me of youtube. How you can just watch one video, then another, and another. Before you know it, you've wasted the entire day. Sure, this painting might only take you 4 hours, but you do this everyday. Every single day you spend 4 hours on an image you don't care about at all just so you can have something to post online to maintain an "internet presence". It makes sense for a freelancer who needs work and I totally understand the reason for it. But looking back on the amount of time I wasted on that sort of work versus the time I spent with Steve Lichman, it's hard to believe I hadn't been doing this all along. 

A few years ago I would browse stuff online and think "Aw man, I could totally do that. These guys didn't even try." or "Wow, that movie fucking blows, I didn't laugh at all."(I did this because I'm super judgemental and cynical and it makes me happy to pick things apart). Then I'd call Dan and we'd talk about our dreams of doing our own thing where we could finally bring out all our ideas. I had this feeling that was almost like for some reason people should know I have that in me. Like in some insane way, people would just know exactly what I could do if given the opportunity, without ever showing I could do it on my own. Have you ever felt that way? It's hard to explain, maybe it just comes from living inside my head so much while I'm painting. You can tell yourself something so much that you start to believe it, super entitled thinking. Kind of like how I envision how I'd stop a home invasion or what I'd do if someone pulled a gun on me. As much as I'd like to believe it, I'm not Van Damme, and in both scenarios, I'd definitely be dead.

What started the shift to reality for me was the reaction we had from Imgur and Reddit when we posted up the first 9 issues of our comic. The idea that we'd finally done something real that people actually wanted. We had so many people asking if it was going to be a full book. They wanted to know if there was more and if they could buy something right now. At the time we had no intention of making Steve Lichman a book, we were just having fun making the comics and posting them up on tumblr. Posting them on Imgur was just a random idea, we didn't think anybody would really even care that much. But it changed our lives, we never considered we could make money just having fun. 

After that, we decided we'd make a 150 page book or so full of Steve comics. The plan was that we'd take a year off and complete the book entirely on our own dime. So, we saved up some money and then dove into the book. Once we got going and started scripting the entire thing, we started to realize it wouldn't be 150 pages, it'd be more like 200, then 250... Then, after considering the huge story arc we wanted to do, we saw that it was closer to 500 pages. Basically, we found out we were probably going to end up making 3-4 Steve Lichman books at the very least. But everything was good, because we were having fun the whole time. It was awesome, still is awesome. 

Over the course of the next year, we worked on the book every day, it never really felt like work. We were always excited to start on the next scripts, and we started to understand how to streamline the whole process. Going into the project, we sort of stopped existing online. We weren't posting anything really, and we weren't sharing any of the book. We were just in our own world. 
Social media is addictive, feedback is addictive, especially instant feedback. It took a few months, but by that point, we no longer cared that we weren't able to show any of the work. This whole book was for us, and the longer we spent away from posting online and reading feedback, the happier we were just being ourselves and having fun. It didn't matter that people saw the comics, we'd be doing this anyways like we had for years in skype conversations where we'd joke around all day. 

Up until this point, I had never felt like art was just fun. I always envied people who said that art never really felt like work. The whole "If you do what you love, you'll never work a day in your life" never applied to me when I was working on illustration jobs. I honestly didn't know how to feel that way. There were little instances where I'd have creative control on a project and love it, but most of the time it started with high hopes and then it'd be right back to the shitty feeling of rendering for hours and hours. Don't get me wrong though, I'd much rather be doing this job than any other. I am under no illusion that what I do is as difficult as other work. But still, you're always chasing something better.

Once we completed the book, we launched the Kickstarter, which ended up being a huge success! We sold 7,300 copies of the first edition. Super insane. Our hype levels were at all-time high. For months, we'd anticipated breaking even on the book. We'd say things like "Well, if the Kickstarter fails and we can't fund the publishing, at least we'll have a completed book!". It's still hard to believe we were able to self-publish the book successfully. But we didn't party or anything, we've been working with the printers ever since and making sure everything has gone smoothly. Thankfully, the entire process has been super smooth and all the mysteries of making our own book are gone. 

So, I'm rambling super hard, and I apologize, but I just had to vent all of that out. There's a million things I wanna talk about right now. Mainly how when you know you have to do something, you suddenly realize everything in your house is edible and you eat until you're sleepy/full and drink coffee and then accidently watch entire seasons of shows while holding your tablet pen. But I'll get into all that stuff later.

I gotta thank my girlfriend, Kimmy for putting up with me for that year. I was lazy as fuck. As hard as I worked on the book, I basically just zoned out and force fed myself pages until we hit our deadline while my office area and everything else fell apart in the real world. Thanks for all the love and support. Also, to Dan. We did it, we finally made a goddamn book instead of being teasin' losers painting warlocks and robots for dummy dollars.

So, here's to vanishing again and putting out real projects instead of promises!
With love,

PS - I didn't reread this, I apologize if it's painful to read


Daniel Warren said...

<3 <3 <3 and now we just need to finish the other 250 pages.

Mathew Kaminski said...

Still killing it sir, after all these years.
Steve Lichman is awesome and don't let anyone else tell you differently.
Keep up the good work sir.

Dean Bowen said...

Thanks for writing this. I have been getting more and more work every month. Slowly building momentum in the hopes of going fulltime freelance...but I don't love the work. I spent all this time building my skills and promoting my work and I just end up drawing other people's dreams. I'm going to start developing my own project. Something I can love and that has meaning to me.

Frank Hong said...

Dave you inspire us little guys. Thanks for being so cool. said...

This post is the bestest <3 Congrats to you both for making it happen! I hope to follow in your footsteps someday soon :)

Mr.H said...

Always inspiring, Im really, REALLY glad (I already knew it would) your kickstater had such success. Much love man <3

Nathan Wilson said...

I really enjoyed reading all this. As a part-time artist who would like to one day make his part-time his full-time, this was a very interesting post. :D

Angela Bell said...

Congratulations on getting the book done! :) I can't wait to get my copy and lend it to everyone. Thanks for the inspiration as always and I'm looking forward to more streams (you mentioned it in your last one that you might have more time now) I like nothing more than listening to you guys joke around while I'm working.

Blue Shoe said...

Hey, welcome back! Missed your Kickstarter, but would love to buy a couple copies. I hope you print more. =)

David Holland said...

God dammit I love you man. You write like I think and then sometimes you say things I wish I HAD thought. Keep up the inspirational work. I need it.

Stanley Workman said...

"There will come a time when all the Earth's inhabitants will be required to work together towards a singular goal. Some cataclysmic threat. With none on the immediate horizon, we can certainly act in such tremendously obscure pursuits. Save for Art. As we ultimately will be the ones to design whatever cockamamie salvation the populace decides on. So we practice to hone our skills." -Marc Breed, Art Grand Master

lordofthetrance said...

Awesome job. Would love to hear more about the procrastinating and how you overcame it!

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Timur Tietze said...

I am 28 and it took me ten years to gather the courage to persue my art. I realised that what ever you did in the past leads up to the conclusions you arrive at at this moment. So I believe you should never look at the past with regret, but reflect, learn and accept, because what every one does now is based on all the wrong and right decisions you made up to this point.. not trying to get all spiritual, but I believe there is something to this.

Have been admiring your work for years now, and really feeling the Lichman-project!!

Greetings from Vienna and keep up the great work (please)

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Matt Berger said...

inspirting man and right now i'm holding my wacom pen getting little butterflies in my stomach towards creating those projects i alaways thought i would have to wait to acocomplish. i should do them now and not wait!

ps. i can relate to all you said, minus the 10 years of illustration work under my belt. keep up the great work man!

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