Amazing tete-a--tete with a creator, freelance artist, animator, illustrator, film producer, self-publisher, web and graphic designer.
October 27, 2020
Cristian Aluas is a creator, freelance artist, animator, illustrator, film producer, self-publisher, web, and graphic designer. Cristian is also the lead instructor at the Masterpiece Art School that offers Caricature, Mixed Media Illustrations, Freelancing, Self-Publishing, and many more courses. He is the author of "IT'S A LIVING: Surviving as a Freelancer in the 21st Century, The Ultimate Guide to Success for Artists and Creative Professionals", and the creator of the "Big Boss" graphic novel series. Cristian's huge murals are displayed publicly and his work has been seen in The National Gallery of Canada and New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). Visit him at csa1.ca.
Greg: Yeah, my name is Greg, Greg Silber. I am a writer and editor and occasional critic. You can find my work at places like mostly The Beat these days, Comics Beat.com. I've also appeared in PanelxPanel magazine, Shelfdust, AIPT, probably a few other places I can't remember. Oh, the Daily Dot. As well as making my own comics. This group, it started as a place for New York city-based creators in particular to network and learn from each other about making Comics. Great community that started, I want to say about three years ago now, almost three years exactly. And I've met amazing people like Cristian and Ramon who founded the group and Jonah Newman who's here too. He and I actually collaborated on many comics together. And you know now with Covid, you know, fortunately, doesn't sound like the right word, but one thing that we are able to do being that everyone's forced to do everything remotely now we could open up meetings like this to pretty much the entire world. Again, if you are looking for a community of like-minded people who are serious about making comics and learning from each other, yeah, we're not just here talking about “Batman”, I love Batman, but this is really a group of about learning what it takes to make comics and kind of stay in comics.
Greg: Anyway, it's not about me. We are here to talk to Cristian Aluas. He is a Romanian-borne Canadian artist and writer. He attended the Canterbury Arts High School, Algonquin College of Animation-Television Program, and majored in Creative Writing with a minor in Art History and Studio Art at Concordia University in Montreal. He worked in the animation field for a couple of years beginning in 2002 and he's been super prolific ever since like seriously, he is one of the hardest-working guys I know in comics or anywhere. He has had thousands of commissions have been shown in private and city galleries. Has published several graphic novels as well as a novel, his original work can be found in the library archives of the National Gallery of Canada in the Billy Ireland Cartoon Museum at the Ohio State University and in private collections in the U.S. and Canada. He currently lives in Upper Manhattan and enjoys creative pursuits, physical activities, and travel. Again, I'm reading from a script here but seriously, you guys got to check out his original creation “Big Boss” as well as his book “It's a Living”, which is all about what we're going to talk about right now, which is what it takes to be a working Comics creator. So I'll take it to Cristian if there's anything you want to kind of add to the intro.
Cristian: Well, yeah, that sounds that I think I was mentioning before everybody arrived at that bio is mostly for my fine artworks. It was a kind of for a sales sheet that I was using. So I typically like to add and take away things. But I published three graphic novels with a character named Big Boss who's an assassin. And the first time I published him I was 18 I was still in high school. And then there was much later a hundred and twenty-page graphic novel and then one that was serialized on Instagram that came printed to about 75 pages. I've even self-produced a short live-action film with leading actors like with live actors based on the character. And then I wrote this book. I do have a couple on hand like that, that I could flash in front of you.
Greg: If we were doing this in person, you'd have a bunch of copies with you and sign them for people.
Cristian: Oh, yeah, I miss those days.
Greg: Well, you can still go to his website or order them from, I don't really want to encourage people, find them in your local bookstore if you can. But they’re available on Amazon too if you need that…
Cristian: They’re not in local bookstores.
Greg: Okay, but still if for whatever reason they were you should do that.
Greg: Anyway, thank you Cristian. Thank everyone for joining us. Let's get started. What can you tell us about your career path and kind of how that took you to where you are today?
Cristian: Thanks again for having me I really love this group and I'm happy to be able to share information and inspiration for artists that either are in the business or that are starting out and wanting to learn this industry from the slightly comic book-oriented angle. So my career initially started with Comics, I published the zine-style graphic novel, which was three chapters while I was still in high school. My teacher snuck me and my buddy because it was kind of a joint project into the Teachers’ Lounge and we use the teacher’s copier. She printed 50 copies for us and we sold them for a buck each and I've been living off that ever since. So, you can imagine. And then that was like the first chapter and then I compile on my own and it was like, you know finishing that first project for me while I was still in high school on my own because the last chapter is you know, my buddy who did a separate story in the original he wasn't as motivated, you know, people are like everybody's an artist when their kid and then life happens, right? So, anyway, so I finished them on my own when I was 18, and it was like a huge deal for me because I was just all alone I had moved out on my own and I didn't really have a lot of external influences and to save up my money and self-published this, you know from kind of flipping burgers a job and it was like a huge deal for me kind of as a person, you know. So, it was character-building. And so that started like that and then I went through an animation program which taught me a lot of life drawing skills. I was pretty skilled in high school because the high school I went to was an art high school, so I had to apply for that. And as I hone those skills, but I also learned screenwriting in that school because it was geared for television so it was all like aspect of television production. There was a drama class, you know, there was everything from character designs and animation production. But I wasn't as interested in animation. I still do some storyboarding projects now because I do a variety of freelance projects so later if you guys have questions specific to you know, juggling different a variety of different freelance projects and how to get them because I do plan to like mention some tidbits on how to actually win projects later in this talk as well. So, I went to that, and again with the passion for creating Comics, I thought why don't I follow it up with a degree in creative writing at the time. I thought I could make graphic novels like Will Eisner or Joe Kubert, you know where like they come up with this idea, often like based on real people and I just wanted to be a better writer so I added that in Montreal. And then I actually dropped out of University. So I didn't finish my degree and I just started my career. I just came back to Ottawa and this is in Canada and the first 10 years of my career were all in Ottowa and I struggled for the first four, I was absolutely way below the poverty line, dead broke. I mean I used to have to walk 45 minutes in either direction so if I save money and I want to paint because I was doing a lot of Fine Art at the time, so there was like this is- like those paint stores so I'd walk 45 minutes to this paint store with $20 cash that was like all the money I had. And I could buy four gallons of color, you know different mismatched paint and then I would carry to and each arm back 45 minutes. And then I have four colors. I would try to pick them as close to primary colors as possible and then you know, sometimes my dad would steal some supplies from work like wood panels that I could paint on and things like that. He worked at a sign shop. And then you know, in the other direction I lived on Bank Street, so I would walk 45 minutes in the other direction to arrive at the Parliament building because Bank Street went straight to the Parliament building and then I, you know, turn a ride and there's the market where there are some cafes that exhibit artwork potentially sell. So I'd make a little photo album of my artwork and walk because I didn't have money for a bus pass. So, I walk the other way and then I go into the cafe and they tell me there's a two-year waitlist, and then so I just drop off my little photo album that I would spray paint with my initials. It was a fun time. You have no idea how much I miss those days. So, to me, that was like setting the foundation. And so, you know, and then I kind of built my career. I started teaching. I later registered at art school. I had two businesses, small publishing when I started and then a corporation that did business as a masterpiece art school later right before I moved to the US. So things were going well because at a certain point I was just plateauing and I was happy with the art school, you know, I put it just like really like planted my feet in even deeper, but I decided to look for more opportunities in the US. And that's how I, first in Vegas for three years and then eventually in New York.
Greg: Yeah. I mean it definitely sounds like a struggle but you know, you say that you miss it which I think it's a really important thing for anyone in creative arts to keep in mind that like obviously, you know, struggling financially and struggling just to get your supplies. No one wants to go through that. But you know, it's all part of the process of developing an art career. One thing I wanted to ask you about that I thought maybe you could expand on, you mentioned that there was a teacher at your high school who gave you access to the Teachers’ Lounge so that you could print these comics. Now, I don't know about the rest of you, but when I was a kid and even the one year that I worked at an elementary school in adulthood, Teachers’ Lounge, it's like that little room in “The Shining” that little Danny Torrance is told not to go into, you absolutely do not go into the Teachers’ Lounge. And so, it must have felt really special to not just get permission to go into the Teacher’s lounge but to kind of have this early recognition from an authority figure, from a teacher to let you kind of grow your talent. Like how does that feel at that time?
Cristian: Oh, that's an interesting question. Thanks. It helped. I mean it definitely helped. I think that particular scenario I felt like the teacher like my friend a little bit more than me because she actually bought one of his artworks. So it was kind of, to be honest, that situation was through him a little bit. Although it was my motivation to publish the comic, you know, so it was primarily that. And then she kind of like she was I think I mean, I don't want to be out of line, but I think she just kind of crushing on him too, he had that sort of personality, more magnetic than me. But what was more interesting to me, well, for me, I think it's been a self-motivation thing that always, I mean I had some encouraging words along the way but maybe it's my personality or something, but I often battled with teachers. And actually, my favorite class in college was life drawing, the teacher hated me partially because I was cocky. She had a method of drawing and it was the one class that I signed up for, I mean actually, I was accepted to graphic design as well and that was actually what I geared my portfolio towards for over a year. And then somebody, another friend introduced me to life drawing and I thought like man, you know, I need to learn the rules before I break them and that's the only reason I chose out of the two animations. But anyway, she didn't like me because I was cocky; it's complicated to go into. But she wanted everybody in the class to draw a certain way I felt I was still drawing correctly so I was ignoring her method and she actually ripped my artwork in front of the class one time. But to my credit, I still got an A both those years in that class and she never held my work in classes as an example because usually, they say like, this is like, “where you want to be so you choose the best”. Never in the two years that I was there has she ever shown my work as an example, but my friend from high school that I published the comic followed me the following year in the same college and my work is on the lineup. So, you know, you win some, you lose some but mostly lose some.
Greg: Yeah. Well, the people you meet along the way who hate you I'm sure that it has its own kind of motivating factor…
Csristian: It is. But I don't think she…
Greg: I don’t mean literally hate. Yeah.
Cristian: I think I was a different person then. I think I had different more negative influences. Now, I think I'm a lot calmer.
Greg: That's good. So what's your process like now? If you could kind of walk us through what it's like for you creating comics from scratch to printing, you know, give us a little step by step.
Cristian: Well, I'd like to use one example, it’s called camouflage. So if you guys are like by your phone or near the computer you could go to camocomic.ca for Canada and they actually have the PDFs downloadable for free. So that's a comic that I did recently for a client that I, it was a commission, but it's a client that's become a very good friend. So when you're a freelancer you get lucky sometimes where you can really develop great friendships and working relationships and this is I can't think of a better one right now. So this project in particular the author and the creator, brought it, he came up to me with the idea, I designed all the characters. He didn't know anything about the production. So I was essentially art director as well as a penciler, an inker, and the letterer on the project. The only thing I outsource was the coloring. And you know the process for that was all digital. I did it on an iPad Pro appropriate and you know as a freelancer you always show preliminaries, they make tweaks, and actually in this situation because he hadn't had a lot of experience writing I also helped with this scriptwriting aspect. Yeah, so I helped like not just like word editing but even as early drafts, directing the story so it has like the right climb accents and the sequence of events and not forgetting about characters, you know that we're introduced the first issue to the second and so forth, you know, bring the like having that kind of activity. So there were a lot of little nuances in that process. But I'm generally I’m familiar with every aspect of it. Would you want me to talk about the contract or something?
Greg: If you want to get into that we can. Oh, yeah, you mentioned in the beginning that that was something you want to bring it up. Right?
Cristian: Well, yeah, I'll mention that because that's part of that. I don’t know, are some of you, freelancers? Like, raise hands. Does anybody like a freelance artist? Yeah? Okay.
Cristian: All right. So I was lucky with this because there are rates that you can find online for comic book art and the best rate is 500, around 500 a page for pencils and inks, pretty much. That's like the best rate only Marvel and DC pretty much pay that. Everything else is like starts if you're lucky at 90 for pencils and inks. So we worked out a deal for, I'll tell you what the price was. It was 325 and page and I handle everything. So I paid the colorist out of that too. And I over delivered on everything.
Cristian: So, constant communication and all that. But that essentially is what it's going to cost you so if you're even interested in producing a comic book on your own, if you're a writer and interested in producing comics, this is the bare minimum like that of investment that would take to create the quality that you see there. So I think I am a very capable artist. I feel like that if the requirement was in place, I can definitely survive with any big major company, you know, so.
Cristian: Usually where I cut corners is based on budget, every time the budget lowers, I have to make the work quickly so it saves me time or I could prolong the work because I have to do quicker projects that take me a little time so I can pay overhead like living in New York and just surviving. So those are sacrifices that a comic producer has to consider every time you cut corners, if you want to lower your budget you're making sacrifices, the project is going to take you a full year for 30 pages, you know because somebody's got you know like you got to make sacrifices somewhere. So and you can't badger artists for working quickly when you're not paying them enough.
Greg: Yeah, I mean that's definitely a thing that you got to keep in mind. It's you know, you can't ask for speed when you're not paying to keep up with that. So, yeah
Cristian: One other thing for the artists.
Greg: Oh, yeah go for it.
Cristian: Because I reduced it from the like a higher average of mainstream rate, I also get 20% of back-end. But currently the comics are free on the website so you can imagine how much I make. So the back end, this is something that I include in “It's a Living”, the back end is a strategic thing that it's a negotiation strategy so you can win the project essentially, but it's very unlikely that for an independent publisher that they will succeed to a great enough level to give you kick-back. You know or even if they do, they're going to forget about you and like you go to a convention make a few sales and they’re not going to send you a check for like, you know $50 or $100. Although Doug did do that through the conventions that he went through now he's just kind of trying to market it to have a readership. So yeah, so that's strategy. So, in most of my projects I always have a back end whenever I reduce the rate, I tell them like, “this is the industry rate” and then every time it's like a pretty much a percentage for every $25 you reduce, so. But it's just a strategy to you know for the client to see the savings and to win them on your side.
Greg: Okay? Well, we're at the half-hour. So, you know, I'm sure other stuff that we talked about getting into will get into from the questions.
Cristian: Okay, I went fast.
Greg: Yeah, I know right? I really wasn't expecting that. But yeah, I guess we could do this sort of like what we would do in person. If you have a question just turn your camera on and raise your hand and you know, we don't have a huge group here so I'm sure will. Okay. Yeah, Graham, go for it.
Graham: Hello. Hey, Cristian.
Cristian: Hi Graham.
Graham: So earlier you said that you over delivered on everything and then you said, you know constant contact all of that, what constitutes overdelivering for you?
Cristian: That's a great question and I can answer it. Over delivering is you know, well one, you can't complain when they ask you but I was lucky with this particular client he's pretty much my best client and friend, actually visited him in Canada and they hosted me it was like, you know, totally friendly, but he's really nice. So it's like if he asks for changes on something he's like apologetic, I think partially because he's Canadian, you know, he's extra nice, but he's considerate and I have other clients that are better like that and means so much when they give you a compliment, you know, and they go like, you know, “I hope it's okay”. It's like it's such a nice feeling when they're apologizing for changes that you have to make even though they're paying you, you know. But even when they're rude and I actually had a really terrible client the last few weeks and I think it ended yesterday and I think I am not going to get paid for what I actually the rest of what I gave him, he just disappeared but he was extremely verbally abusive and it was so difficult not to engage him into these, he's like trying to draw me out, writing like, you know, every polite update, “Thank you for your patience”, you know, “Here's your update sir”, he would follow it up with like five messages with capital letters and that one point I made the mistake of saying sir, you know, “when you write all in the capital, it gives the reader indication that you're screaming at them”, at which point he followed it up with five more messages that were just too severe. He's never given a compliment. It was like a hellish project. And so it is actually hell. So over-delivering with that project, well, I mean it's over performing on the art, so I try to make it look extra good, you know like I put in extra hours. I mean each page takes me, you know between 5 and 10 hours, you know, you pencil it, but everything ends up stretching to the 10-hour mark because of the communication back and forth, you hand and work, you communicate. Sometimes you talk to them on the phone and you know, you just got to build a reputation to be able to get, to filter to get good clients, and when you get them be thankful for them, and then communication and prolonged projects are not painful, you know. So, really that's the only thing you could do, but he's also very good because he sees that I perform and I don't charge him for certain things. But other things I do like if I have to edit, I didn't charge him for the script editing, you know, so because I'm just trying to improve it and he offers to pay but I say “No, it's okay”, you know because I know the projects coming and then you know with each issue I raised it as small inflation percentage, you know, I alter the contract. So, yeah, so I over-deliver in the quality and the time that I spend, you know, I don't rush anything I care about it. I make it my priority and the challenge as a freelancer when you're still doing other projects is that you have to do that with everyone even the bad ones, like even this client that was absolute. hell. I spent all of yesterday to wrapping up the first part of his project. And I think it was satisfactory because he disappeared and he hasn't paid me for the second part, which I did already deliver.
Cristian: But you know at the same time when you over-deliver there's still a part today was such a kind of by the day because I know he's like the up the grade and I made a special note for myself that I was going to deliver that, delete the Milestone because I kind of didn't even want it, like the milestone in voice because I was like, I was almost afraid that he would make the escrow deposit and I would have more hassle trying to refund him and not want to work with him, you know because it was so even though I did the work. So it was a little kind of I had a weird, fuzzy vibe today because I was like, you know, but I vowed to like non message him, so I did really well to not engage him and message him and be desperate about like the money. But the good thing was last night after I delivered that, this client that I over-performed on pays really well. He's new like in the last month. He literally on Upwork sent me. I think a list of like six new projects with Milestones, each for a few hundred dollars each, and that that's good money for me as an illustrator. And I just came in and I thought like you know, “Hey, I got rid of that bad client, but the universe is looking out for me”, you know, so I think you just got to stay positive and you got to like perform well and you know, 1 in 10 is going to be an asshole and the least they pay, the more they expect typically. It's not always the case some are really apologetic and like and they give you time and they never message you and they trust you and that's nice. But if you don't know them, if you hadn't built the relationship they’re usually assholes.
Greg: Well, we've got a question from Paul in the chat. “Is a script of the comic given to you before you begin the work so you can envision what the customer wants?”
Cristian: Oh, that's a great question. Typically, I do get the script before. But sometimes because you bid online on projects like because I'm on the, and I write about this in “It's a Living”, I'm on Guru, I’m on Freelancer and Upwork currently. So the tough client recently was for storyboarding and I didn't see the script until he awarded the project, you know, I asked for the script but I think people do this on purpose, you know, they want you to agree to a scenario and then they hold you accountable for it. And then I see the script and I was like it was an absolute piece of shit. And I try to show him like I try to do it well frame at the beginning and he couldn't see how good this first couple of shots, these first couple of shots were. I think you know, sometimes, I think I'm smart and I act smart and stupid people catch on and they get offended. So it's one of my character flaws. So yeah, I got that afterward and in one of his last rants he's like, “When you bid on the project you said that you were going to complete the first Milestone at this and then the second one at that”. Well, first of all, he awarded it like five days past, you know, when I actually bid, you know, those dates were relevant only if you selected me within the hour of when I bid, you know.
Cristian: And then secondly, his first message to me it was in giant capital letters, “Take all the time you want”. And then so when I do two days later, “What do you get for me? How about now? You're ready now, how about now?” So, oh it was hell. Anyway, one in ten.
Greg: Yes. We've got another question from, apologies to some mispronounce, Jay Zucaro, “Can you talk a little bit about creating a kick-starting campaign or any other methods you could recommend to raise money for self-publishing a comic.”
Cristian: Again, that's a great question. I have very little experience with campaigns. I've only fundraised for one campaign and it was not a comic it was my short live-action film and it was several years ago, 2015, it was in Las Vegas and it was Indiegogo. We aimed to raise 10,000 but we only raised two and I put in another two to make the film happen.
Cristian: It was a 10-minute film, so. What I know from that experience, and I write about in the book, is that most of your contributions come from the direct engagement in my case, especially. So, you know all the contributions were from clients of mine or friends of mine that I messaged individually on Facebook or by email and I addressed them by name. I never just kind of posted on Facebook for a reason. Well, I did share it but I always followed it up with a sincere message. I reference our relationship, you know, I reference the last time we spoke about certain
topics, I check up on them, you know, so it's like it's a thing some parts of the message become formal, you know, because it's kind of like it's a sales letter.
Cristian: But it's really a template and everything was from direct engagement. So that was my experience. It was direct engagement. I made do another fundraiser in the future, but I'm strategizing now because I'm writing a new book and I'm strategizing how to release it, so I’m still thinking about that, but that's my only experience was to produce the film.
Greg: Oh, Andre has a question.
Andre: Hey Cristian.
Cristian: How are you doing?
Andre: On that note, you mentioned writing a new book with all these Covid concerns and things that nature and Cons are being canceled, to say the least for the foreseeable future. What is your primary marketing strategy? Are you trying to work with like print direct or strictly digital? What is kind of like your plan because I've gone back to both of quite a few things over this past year? At some I have been successful for me, some have not. What exactly is your plan going forward with the Covid concerns?
Greg: I just want to say real quick Cristian. I want to thank Andre for asking that because I had a Covid related question too and I had to cut it out to say thank you.
Cristian: Okay. Yeah, good call. Well okay with Covid first. With Covid-19 my lifestyle hasn't changed so much as a freelance artist. Everything's online for me. The only thing that I miss is going to meet people in person. Like I love to network in person and just you know, you have your own community. So I think for an artist if you're in business for yourself, then not much should change. I mean people still need content. And they still want to read things. A lot of experiences are now changed to online so there are more downloads. I feel like that the downloads are compromising a bit because people want hard copies, but if you set up those like Kickstarter's or Patreons in the right way where you do mail outs because that's one of the researches that I've done is that seen some Patreons where they do monthly mail-outs for a certain fee, whether it's a book, whether it's like greeting cards or giclee prints or a variety of things and those could be good and that's what I'm debating. I feel with NaNoWriMo, which is the national novel writing month in November, I'm planning to finish my first strap of this new project. So, my plans are kind of the way I plan to market it is it just in my head right now and some notes on paper based on a variety of research, but the way I'm trying to I'm thinking it might work. So I’m brainstorming with the public now. The way I'm visualizing it is I thought if I do the first draft, do a pass after. And then the third draft I serialized on Patreon and potentially tease it on a couple of others like maybe up to five major writing sites. So I tease it to Patreon. And then at the patreon, I have regular updates of edited chapters and then I offer different packages of tutorials. Yeah, so I could package other products and tutorials because during the Covid I pivoted because my plan this year was to push on the screenplay. It’s because I wrote two feature film screenplays in pretty much during the time that I was writing “It's a Living” in the past three years. So, I was really going to push for a feature but I pivoted to reignite my online courses during this time. So my plan now is to have a fiction that I serialized through Patreon.
Greg: I do want to see if anyone else has any other questions. Forgive me if I missed any in the chat, I think I'm caught up in chat questions, but anyone want to raise their hand with question? Okay, let me double check the chat. Oh, yeah, go for it.
Jonah: Yeah, so at this point is all of your income coming from commissions and artwork or do you have like a day job as well or some form of employment that's not connected to Comics illustration?
Cristian: It's all from freelancing. Oh and sorry, I remember what I was going to say. Yeah, so it was like serializing the comic and offering tutorials as part of tiers because since I’ve reignited the art school. So, all my income is as a freelancer. I do commissions. When I was in Canada before I left, I had a brick and mortar school. I had a deal with the location. So I wasn't on the lease, you know, which was good. I didn't have that pressure. And then I had seasonal classes that were biggest in the fall and then I had a contract with a camp, it was like an athletic camp/ cartooning and I handled the cartooning component through the summer and after-school program. And essentially I taught for about well two or three days, week nights a week and Saturday mornings privately. But when I moved to Las Vegas because I was actually waiting for a green card, I actually, well, I have to keep my work, I can't admit that I worked online during that time process. But I was making residual income from courses. So I began to record some courses online. And so, I was making residual income from that. When I moved to New York, and then actually at the end of Las Vegas before moving to New York because I taught briefly at a college out there, but I really didn't like the scenario and because I hadn't completed my bachelor's and I didn't have a master's it was impossible for me to ever get tenured or more than one or two classes a year and I figured I could just make more money teaching less and commuting less by offering private classes and within a couple of days I had like three students and I was making more money. So, I started doing that but then when I moved to New York I try to offer online classes, but it's you know, like now I just like I work from home so I had one adult that came a couple of times but it's you know, it's like I kind of just like having my private space and then and I taught a couple people at a nearby community bookstore. It was you know just kind of privately. Now I mentor, I have protégé that I'm helping with a Manga that is like a webtoon that he's trying to develop. So, I mentor him on a weekly basis. So my income is all from either freelancing, so I do illustration commissions through projects that I win on Upwork, Guru, less so Freelancer because I just Upwork and Guru have liked better scrutiny for the clients that post there. And what else, oh, I have residual income from the courses, which it's like a couple of hundred a month and t-shirt designs that I have on a couple of websites like what RedBubble. So I'm trying to grow that and that's what I talk about, write about in the book is like the ideal is to grow the IP is sometimes when you're doing it all yourself and you don't have that initial capital it's a juggling act while you're trying to fulfill lots of commissions to just make a living and then develop your own IP that at some point something can take off and you can get a large number of sales and justify then maybe advertising that one item a little bit more to get more sales and have more freedom in what you turn down.
Greg: Nice. Okay, we have a little bit more time left. Do we have any other questions we have about like five minutes long?
Paul: So I was hoping I could ask a quick question and I know it might take some more time for you to explain the whole process, but I thought it would be fun if you could maybe talk about your brainstorming process. I think earlier in this chat I ask, well, what's a good topic that you think would attract, would make a good comic or a good story and someone said well pandemic and I'm sure everyone's thinking pandemic and that's good, it's great, you know if you jump on it and do it, but you know, like I was just hoping you could you know talk about when you're talking with other people and you're trying to come up with a good story or you know, try to you know, make a hitch on a good story. How do you do that? You know, if you could do something that helps you be creative and say, “Hey, this is great” or “This is not so great”.
Cristian: All right, this is a really unique great question Paul and I actually have an answer for that because sometimes this kind of answer can be very abstract and it's like, “where do you get your ideas”, you know, so. But I labored over this a lot earlier this year when like I do a business plan for myself every, well I do a personal plan about every five years. And every two years reevaluate what's working? What's not? And I actually write out a business plan. And one of the things that were in my personal goals was to write five stories, not necessarily publish them within five years and so that's why I'm writing another book it's just to meet my personal goals. And in that process I was debating, weighing like whether I want to do a comic like printed, you don't produce it and then you know, but I felt like if I produce a comic it’s good to tease it. I did the Instagram comic which I just kind of don't feel like doing that again, you know, like in the same way. And then I did a lot of research on webtoons and what I found out was this, it's extremely demanding and the workload scares me beyond belief. Unless you complete all the work, you know months in advance and then you can keep a rigorous schedule because it'll catch up to you, to feed the demand of the audience there and to also promote while you're doing that because you won't have an audience initially, it's staggering it felt like. Also, and I actually tested this in my Sketchbook I thought like if I write another “Big Boss” installment, I would have to change the way he looks so it appeals to the audience. So he would have to be in a manga style and I did a number of sketches that way to see if I was comfortable. I think at some point I that if I was to do it would taper off, the style would eventually become mine again, it would kind of, I would draw them in with a certain look and then eventually, you know, hopefully, they were all be comfortable with the way I naturally draw because things would change back. I think I don't think I could sustain it. But what I found out in terms of demographics was that if you. it's easy to find out for yourself too, you look at their top tens, and that side actually tells you the age and the sex of the demographic in the top tens. So you see the top tens most popular, you know eight out of 10 are romance. And then shows you the age, so, I mean I think it shows you sex. But otherwise, I'm sexist in assuming that they're female but I believe it does show like whether it's a boy or girl. But the age groups are 13 to 20 and then 20 to 25that's like that age are the readers of the most popular webtoons on webtoons.com and several other sites because you can see a lot of romance. So I looked at literature too because then I realized that drawing so much and writing, you know in that setting, it’s so demanding, so I looked at just writing because I kind of by the end of “It's a Living” I feel like I began to get very comfortable with my voice and I would love to write nonfiction. So then other sites like Smashwords or something like that, there are several popular sites for nonfiction, well for fiction and nonfiction similarly, the way webtoons is. And again the most popular genres the most amount of readers are women that read voraciously. More young women it seems read online content than young men. So then having learned that and then deciding I'm narrowing down that I'm going to write fiction, I worked another couple of months between things, drafting up different scenarios and outlines. So I guess I'm writing a romance. I feel like my strategy is to start it like that. I don't know if anybody is of my generation to have seen this film called “True Romance”? Does anybody know? Okay. It was written by Quentin Tarantino directed by Tony Scott, a phenomenal film-like high rating on IMDb. And I read the screenplay of it a couple of years ago, I had seen it years ago, but then two years ago as I was writing screenplays, I had sat down and read the screenplay and I feel like this is what I'm writing essentially is kind of my plan is to begin it kind of like a romance and kind of draw some readers in and then add action. So it's like I'm combining genres. And that's my strategy. And then I'm adding dialogue that I'm interested in like some hopefully some philosophical ideas. I have a good friend that that is very smart and we have intellectual conversations. So if I can ingest some of those subjects into the character's mouths it’d be fulfilling for me. So, some of my interests will come across through the air but my plan is to work within the genre that's there's a demand for and make it my own, so combined genres, but you know, like I mean, I need to get a new audience.
Paul: That's a clever approach. I like that. That's really good.
Cristian: Yeah, so that's been my whole process. Thank you. And then I've been kind of stagnating. I started to write the first chapter on having all sorts of freaking doubts, you know, like I think it's too boring or something like that. I'm trying not to go back and now that NaNoWriMo is coming up I just today got an accountability buddy from one of the other meetups that we write every morning from 7:00 to 9:00. So, I have the accountability, you know the person. And so I'm going to do it. I'm going to write that friggin first draft now because my goal was, and I also write schedules for myself, so my goal was to finish it before December. So, that I could edit it in December and launch it in the New Year, so you know, keeps me going.
Greg: Alright. Well, I think that’s a great place to leave off. If it wasn’t were actually running out of time. So, before I let you guys go, could we all give a big hand for Cristian, turn your mics on so we could hear it.
Cristian: Thank you!
Ramon: Thank you very much Cristian. Thank you very much Greg for doing the interview, you guys did a great job. I hope everybody enjoyed it. My name is Ramon Gil, I am the organizer of this group. I just want you guys to know so that, we’re beginning to post some of the previous interviews on comicartsworkshop.com. It’s not on the Meetup page but it’s on a separate website, comicartsworkshop.com on the blog.
Categories: Guest Speakers