🦊 #60 — Weaving a web of multitudes, drawing iteratively, and cats slamming doors.
I’m back home after some wonderful time spent with family. It’s been a bit tricky to get back into the groove of book writing these past few days, so I decided to switch things up and write an essay instead. Along with the essay, this week’s edition includes a few learnings on iterative drawing, and another edition of Catalog (a comic about my cats).
Read the full essay on my blog.
After I went through a phase of burnout, I took a sabbatical. It led to an awakening of sorts, both intellectually and spiritually. Afterwards, friends told me I seemed like a new person. They called me ‘Salman 2.0’. This made me wonder: When, exactly, did I change 'versions’? And what will 'Salman 3.0' be like?
It's fascinating to reflect upon my life in terms of versions. The major milestones society tends to focus on are things like birthdays, graduations, and new jobs. But in my experience, those transitions never yielded new versions of me. My life changed, but I didn’t. The real agents of change come through transformative experiences, rather than societal milestones.
To fuel drastic change, you need a strong catalyst. Personal transformations are often sparked by pain, struggle, or near-death experiences. For me, the trigger was burnout. The sheer weight of the pain and numbness forced me to stop and ask a lot of hard questions about what I really want. I firmly believe that if I hadn’t experienced burnout, I would have just kept running on my proverbial treadmill…
Lessons learned along the journey of writing a book of fables.
In a past newsletter on Writing in Scenes, I shared my approach for the “Daily”, part of my practice to write a small amount for my book every single day:
What’s interesting about the Daily is that it’s not meant to be perfect — it is only meant to be progress. As I share these paragraphs every day, I naturally find myself ensuring they are cohesive and stand on their own. I want there to be tension and leave readers with a little suspense in each one.
After finishing a few fables, I’m switching gears a bit to focus on drawings. As such, I needed to learn how to break up my drawings in the same way. Instead of drawing them all at once (which is usually how I approach them), I wanted to find a way to make a little progress each day.
In this illustration for a fable about a frog and a beaver, I started by doing a few thumbnails of different ways to illustrate the scene. These are intended only to give me a rough sense of what I want to draw. The bottom right scene resonated most, so I went ahead with that one.
Since the facial expression was the most important part, I started by giving myself a task to draw only the frog’s face. No background, no scenery. Just the frog’s face. But even with this limited focus, the drawing still ended up being a complex task. In the first attempts, the eyes weren’t far enough apart, or they weren’t sticking out enough (as they do in a frog). Then, the head seemed to lose its oval shape, or the mouth began smiling too much (which just made him look happy rather than sinister happy). All of these tiny details were paramount to this scene, since the frog’s expression is the focus of it. The constraint of only drawing the head let me focus enough to get those details right.
Finally, I added some background scenery along with the relaxing beaver. I played with techniques with (digital) watercoloring to show distance using lighter colors, while keeping a pretty rough / fuzzy overall style. There are moments where my use of pen shading (which can become “detailed”) conflicts a bit with more ‘spongey’ watercolor styling… but I’m figuring out how to mix them as I go. In general, my illustrations will focus most of my energy on the characters, and the scenery will be just what it is — the background. Here it is, alongside its scene:
The beaver lets out an exhausted yawn. “Forgive me, but I am tired, and must rest.”
“Of course. Sweet dreams…” says the frog, as he turns to leave and scurries back to his home pond.
When his fellow frogs notice a wicked smile on the frog’s face, they know a scheme is afoot.
I plan to come back to this illustration during editing to touch it up more. I am calling these ‘final drafts’, in that they sufficiently illustrate the scene for a draft of my book, but leave room for more tweaks / polish in the future.
Rob Hardy: What the hell is a niche? — As someone who enjoys branching out, I’ve never loved the idea of ‘drilling down’ into a specific niche. But part of the issue lies in the word — there are many different definitions of what it actually means to have a niche. This piece does a great job simplifying it.
Robin Rendle: Future of Newsletters — Stunning piece of interactive storytelling that explores the history and future of websites, blogs, newsletters and how they all interact. This was published back in January, but its ideas have continued to reverberate in my mind.
Brain Pickings: How Hummingbirds Hover at the Edge of the Possible — “There is, indeed, something almost magical to the creaturely reality of the hummingbird — something not supernatural but supranatural, hovering above the ordinary limits of what biology and physics conspire to render possible.”
I’ll leave you with another edition of Catalog, a comic about my cats.
Until next time,