Robot 6

Ryan Stegman reveals the secret of creative success

Stegman practicing his "secret"

Stegman practicing his “secret”

When learning to draw well I always thought there was some “secret” that would make me better. Turns out the “secret” was just hard work.

– Marvel artist Ryan Stegmanvia Twitter

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard aspiring creators ask these questions of professionals: “Where do you get your ideas?” “What’s the secret to making great art or telling great stories?” As if there’s a magical incantation that will instantly transform learning amateurs into masters.

Or maybe it’s not a spell, but a magic item. Stegman’s tweet drew a lot of comments from other professionals, especially ones named Ryan, including the observation by Ryan Browne (God Hates Astronauts) that there’s a common belief that “if you use a more expensive drawing tool your art will get really good really really fast.” Or maybe — as Stegman responds — it’s your paper. Or the music you listen to. Whatever it is, Stegman believes Michael Golden knows it, but he’s just being selfish.

In all seriousness though, Stegman is absolutely right. There’s no magic bullet other than just sitting down and doing the work. Or, as Ryan Ottley (Invincible) puts it, “obsessive practice”: the compulsion to just draw and draw (or write and write), continually learning from mistakes and improving.

This isn’t new information. It’s the same thing that Brian Bendis was saying about making excuses for creative and professional failure. It’s an attractive fantasy that a successful creator will be able to share the “secret” that will make you successful without your having to do the work. And it’s so attractive that people like Bendis and Stegman have to keep on preaching the contrary truth, because folks don’t want to hear it.

(Photo via I Speak Comics)

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Comments

2 Comments

The magic ingredient is time. Jim Lee eluded to this in his “Fatman on Batman” interview, too; before he was a pro, he’d wake up every day and put in eight hours as if he were. That routine honed his craft and prepared him for a true eight hour work day at the boards when his time came. Great insight!

Great article and excellent point. By the same token, its always easy to state how to do something once you’ve succeeded in doing it. Comics are definitely hard work, but they are also the result of a lot of fortunate networking and luck.

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