I follow a lot of comic book artists on Instagram. As a doodler with a childhood full of superheroes, I sketch them all the time. It’s a wonderful distraction before shows, and if you look around the back of the club on any night I’m performing, you can probably find one.
But these guys are pros. If you look at one of my drawings, I’m happy if you can identify the character. With the people I follow, you can tell the difference between perplexed and confused in the character’s expression, and that’s with a mask on.
I flip through my feed not so much with envy (it’s admittedly difficult not to), but with awe that they can so effortlessly do something I think is so cool.
Adam Kubert is one of those guys. He’s a master of nuance, and conveys motion and intent with an enviable subtlety. The cool part about following them on Instagram is getting to see the off-page stuff. Sketches and scribbles and that sort of thing, but also commissions and projects-in-the-process, and then still glimpses behind the scenes at conventions and movie premieres.
It’s super nerd-core.
Before I ramble on, here’s a picture from Adam’s feed. There’s a lot going on here, but see if you noticed the same thing I did.
Because all I saw were the erasers.
It reinforced what I try to tell myself all the time. Mistakes are part of it. That is a pile prepared for an enormous amount of fuck ups! Of course that’s how you get the exactly-correct smirk on Wolverine or the right grimace of reluctant rage on Bruce Banner’s face. It doesn’t happen the first time. You keep doing it until it’s right. Erase, erase. It’s not permanent until there’s real ink on the page.
So as I chisel away at the pages of what will be my next book, believe that I feel less badly for deleting paragraph after paragraph. When I test drive punchlines in the middle of a sold out audience, I worry less about them seeing a joke fail, and can focus more on knowing that’s how I get the new stuff album-ready.
I talk a lot about failing with frequency and magnitude, because I believe it’s integral to growth, but to know the best of us still have to keep their heads down until they get it right makes the concept much more tolerable.
We’re not running out of paper, and even if we were, nobody’s running out of erasers any time soon.