Look Right! Look Left! Draw!

We all have interior natter as we stumble through life. Sometimes it’s useful, “look right, left, right, before crossing the street. Fighting over chocolate that the lover didn’t share with you 15 years ago, not so much. Discussing money with your parents who died 10 years ago isn’t going to pay the rent.


Meditation is training to be in this moment, not nattering with ghosts. Not just when you levitate, but when you’re doing dishes or even writing and drawing.

Nattering is often lying, harsh speech, divisive speech, and idle chatter, the categories of wrong speech. They create ill will with others and make you a grumpy ashole when you do it in your head. Much of the speech for the last fifteen years has done nothing but drive all of us nuts. So why do we do it when we talk to ourselves too?

Buddha’s rules for social media, or right speech, kind, useful, timely and true work to make the world a better place. So apply these rules in the ways we talk to ourselves and we can make our own life a little easier. As an artist all of my wrong speech fills up my head as I draw, that’s why I’m writing this series on the 8fold path for artists.

These days I try to pick an object to focus on, like my breath in meditation, but for creating comics. It’s hard to break comics down in this way because they are so complex but right now I’m focusing just on head and character construction.

I natter on about a pattern library as a way to keep my thinking clear, what a failure I am for never writing it up. See harsh speech. But first I have to get thru the 8-Fold path for artists.

Right speech, it’s what you get when you blog.

Talking to Yourself

So if you talk to yourself, what do you say? Me? I beat myself up or go on about everyone else is a nudnik. Buddha’s rules for social media that speech should be kind, true, timely and useful eliminates 99% of my self talk and most of my speech. Figuring out what to say to oneself is even harder than talkiing to others.

Meditation isn’t just emptying the mind. The mind is a garbage can that fills itself right back up again. Meditation is directing the mind to pay attention to one object. Self-talk is used to direct the mind towards what you should be paying attention to. This is called verbal fabrication used right it puts you into to control of your mind. and to name what the body is experiencing as you direct your attention. Meditation isn’t emptying the trash, it is building a peaceful house to live in.

Meditation is like drawing and a craft, in this case applied to your mind.

Once you realize that right speech eliminates the crap in your head what exactly do you apply the speech too? This is where it becomes important to learn the craft, figure construction, storytelling, composition and design. Often this involves study of other artists and understanding what exactly you are swiping from Jack Kirby. It’s easy to just stick Kirby Krackle and shoving big hands at the camera in your own work and claim that’s Jacks craft.

By being able to learn techniques you can apply them to what you are trying to do. I’m studying Peter Arno (an old New Yorker cartoonist) to see how he stages a scene. If I can put labels and define his work with words then I can encourage myself to use that to focus on.

Analyzing work not just copying it as a way to do things makes it easier to repeat and think about it. Not that I’ve figured out how to do this very well as I work on it. It’s fun to do things (draw, meditate) it’s much harder to learn how to take things apart and see how they are working.

Right Speech in the Head

The Buddha had a really strong guideline for social media, Ask is it kind? Is it timely? Is it useful? Is it true?. If everyone asked those four questions before posting or saying anything the tensions in our society would melt away.

Much of what Buddhism is concerned with is how you fabricate stuff in your own head, and learn to see the whole process and how you handle it. Analyzing a thought in a set of steps really helps when a bunch of “fanboys” praise Gargoyle, my first work, labeling it as great comics, it moves from my visual” contact with a tweet.

I take the labels I put on it, like my first work, just swipes from Berni Wrightson and Simonson, in comics this is the only job anyone ever liked. From these labels I then fabricate a long story about what a horrible artist I am that I couldn’t do more comics like that and if I had I would have been rich and famous comic book artist. From there it’s how miserable I am from all of this and build a story of bad comics and I am a failure that can’t do anything, so I’m off to eat worms.

What if I asked the four questions about that? Is this little story I made up about my work kind? It’s making me eat worms , eating worms is not a kind thing their slimey. While I’m not the most famous and rich artist in the world, I’ve got food on the table a roof over my head and actually am doing okay in the basics of life. I’ve got it pretty damn great in a lot of ways.

Is it useful? That fabrication just makes me feel bad, I learn nothing about what is right about it and what is wrong about it, it doesn’t help me any way. Is it timely? for god sakes it was thirty years ago maybe it’s not worth even thinking about it any more. And yes I wish I could stop thinking about it when it pops up.

Endless Reboots of an Artist’s Intention

So when you set an intention how long does it last? Mine lasts until I need chocolate, sometimes a few minutes sometimes a few seconds. When I meditate I set my intention to paying attention to my breath. That intention sometime makes it to the end of the breath. Then birds, bees, the neighbor outside my window chatting, the pipes in my house burbling, the intention lasts about as long as the second breath usually.

Like Buddha said nothing is permanent. Once the intention goes so goes the attention too flying out the window after it. To stay in one place I have to constantly reset that intention over and over again. At the end of each breath there is a pause before the next one starts a nice place to ding my moron brain and tell it to watch that next breath come in.

Now drawing comics, each panel can serve as a disturbance to whichever panel I’m working on, each background can disturb the attention on the one figure, a hand can distract from a face. It’s amazing I ever draw any comics at all because there’s so many ways to lose focus. And look over there chocolate looms to wipe everything out. And don’t get me started on what politics will do to my focus.

So how do you make a comic happen in any way shape or form. You break it down into steps. The more you analyze your own work the more steps you can find, When drawing storytelling focus on large simple shapes with a dead line in panels, when drawing a figure start with a stick figure construction move to shape a contour line drawing then value. In a crowd once you have it blocked out draw each face one at a time. Each shape value line or color you lay down set your intention to focus on the next one that is artistic right intention.