I don’t know about you, but when I start a drawing or painting, I always feel enthusiastically that “this is going to be the best thing I’ve ever done!” Then after about 15 minutes, I feel like “this is going to be the biggest piece of garbage I’ve ever done”, and I spend the remainder of the time struggling to bring the piece back from the brink of disaster.
But sometimes, it never comes back. The piece just does not turn that corner, and the “great idea” I started with is buried in a not so great (to put it nicely) piece of art.
Yet if that idea is really worthwhile, it should not be abandoned. And I don’t think there is anything wrong with allowing yourself a do-over, provided you have faith in your idea and are willing to look critically at the unsuccessful areas of your work. And, most importantly, you are willing to do it again.
My recent 60 page graphic novel, Tribes of Kai, is a “redo” of Pridelands, a 30 page story that appeared in the mid 90’s in the short-lived Frank Frazetta Fantasy Illustrated magazine.
Lance HaunRogue, the author of the story, and I initially started the project simply because we wanted to work on something of our own IP. It was essentially just a vehicle for me to draw some fun creatures and environments, and the first version of the story reflects this simplicity, both in the art and the storytelling.
But the IDEAS of that world, both visual and emotional, remained compelling to the two of us. After it was published, Lance and I returned to that story time and again, always a little disappointed, and knowing there was much more there that deserved to be explored and improved upon.
So we toyed with the idea of reworking the entire piece from the ground up, keeping the successful bits and throwing away or fixing the problem areas, and truly expanding upon the world we initially wanted to create.
From an art standpoint, I felt I would be able accomplish things quicker if I worked digitally, and many of the relatively successful pages of Pridelands could just be scanned and reworked, as I tested with the first few pages. Admittedly, I had become a better artist in the time between the two undertakings, but also, we knew we would want a much more lush world and vibe in the story that would require a full reboot as well.
From a story standpoint, both Lance and I realized there were some weak plot points that could use some help, as well as a much more energetic and epic ending to be told. As we began to discuss and explore these new embellishments, our story started to carry the visual weight and emotional connection we had originally hoped for with Pridelands.
In other words, we knew we could do better; the reality of that fact was staring us in the face. It was then that we decided to fully commit to doing the entire book again.
At this time I was also working full time at Rockstar San Diego art directing Red Dead Redemption. As you may imagine, I didn’t have much “free time” to dedicate to my freelance career AND the graphic novel reboot, so I made the difficult decision to stop doing freelance work (unless it was a dream job I just couldn’t refuse) so I could free up my nights and weekend hours for the graphic novel.
As the years went by (yes, YEARS), both Lance and I were consistently energized by the way things were shaping up, so we knew we had made the right decision. It wasn’t until I had only five pages left to paint (story and layout already done) that we finally began shopping the graphic novel around to various publishers
When we first brought Tribes of Kai to John Fleskes of Flesk Publications, we all felt that seeing where the piece started (Pridelands) and where it ended up (Tribes of Kai) was compelling enough to warrant a simple companion book for those who might be interested in comparing and contrasting the two complete pieces. The Kickstarter provided us the opportunity to add this “extra bonus” for those who like to dig deeper, and Lance wrote a very nice essay on this evolution in the companion book, as well.
When I view the older Pridelands work, I may cringe a bit, but I do see those occasional moments and panels that still contain the initial ideas we were trying to realize. But without the original Pridelands effort put in place, there is little doubt in my mind we would not have been able to arrive at the much better Tribes of Kai story and art.
Sometimes doubling back and doing it again can be the best thing to do. And, as any professional artist will tell you… you have to do tons of bad drawings to clear the way for the good ones!
Below is a small sample showing the evolution of ‘Tribes of Kai’, starting with some never before seen preliminary sketches, followed by the original ‘Pridelands’ paintings, and lastly the final ‘Tribes of Kai’ image.