Hey cats! I didn’t mean to duck out for a few months like that. I put my head down prior to BLFC to close out a backlog of commissioned work that’s been hanging over my head for a while and it’s taking a little bit longer than I originally anticipated. I’ve also been doing a lot of zbrush and 3d work, which isn’t quite so immediately relevant to the comic. But I expect you’ll be seeing more of The Way Back as summer turns into fall!
I’m sure that you’ve probably notice that my update speed on this comic has slowed a bit, moreso than the usual erratic update rate since I started using Patreon to fund it.
The primary reason for this is I have some freelance projects that I need to budget most of my time for right now, and have been spending most of my work time on over the last three or four weeks. You might actually be interested in hearing about what I’m working on. If you’re familiar with the Facerig software, I’m in the process of creating a few avatars for it.
When I was in college, I took a hybrid major of art and computer science in the hopes of becoming proficient in 3d modeling and animation to pursue a career in videogames, but I did not finish school with a very competitive portfolio, and had to find other work. I wound up working various tech-support jobs before going full-time freelance with commissioned artwork. The Dawn Chapel was started while I was working one of these jobs – I prefer the idea of spending my life doing work more personally fulfilling than just helping small business owners install their routers, and if it meant doing it for free on the evenings and weekends, then that was what I was going to do. When Patreon came along and allowed me to earn an income doing this comic, it was a godsend.
However: my interest in games and 3d artwork never really went away, and when a friend expressed interest in hiring someone to create custom Facerig avatars for him, I told him about my 3d background, and we worked out an arrangement, with the understanding that I’d since gotten pretty rusty and would need to be learning quite a bit about the process along the way. But now I’m pretty close to having some functioning prototypes and stuff that used to be scary and foreign to me is quickly becoming familiar and rote as I work through the difficulties involved in the process.
Here’s a look at the progress I’m making:
I’m in the process of setting up a separate website to post updates for my Facerig and 3d/game-related projects, and once it’s good to go, I’ll let you folks know, so you can follow my work if that sort of thing is interesting to you.
But — that’s not the only thing that’s been slowing me down lately. Ordinarily it takes me about two days to turn around a comic page – one day to thumbnail, pencil, ink, and stretch the page, and the next day to paint, scan, and post it. But I’ve been having an increasingly difficult time staying interested in this story, which I guess I should have seen coming, given that it’s a big leap to go from doing six-to-eight page stories to a book-length one.
When I started doing The Way Back in 2011, I had outlined a story that was meant to run for about 140 pages that introduced the world and the foundational premises of the Empyrean setting, with the intention of learning how to tell a long-form comic story in a world that meant a lot to me. I had to set it aside to focus on commissioned work for a while, because prior to Patreon, the comic itself wasn’t earning me anything. But I’ve been steadily at it for about a year and a half now, and right now I’m at a point where I’m kind of really tired of looking at it. And I know that if I’m bored with the story that I’m telling, it’s probably not going to be all that much fun to read, either.
So, I’m not giving up on The Way Back – but I think it’s time for me to set it aside for a little bit. I’m going to do a few of the smaller stories and one-offs that I used to do, so that I can be excited about making comics again (and so that I can finish stories before I can become bored of them). What I’ll probably wind up doing is alternating between 8-10 page scenes of The Way Back and standalone stories of similar length, until this The Way Back is finished, and then we’ll see what happens from there.
And, as ever, if you have any questions or comments about my 3d work or my plans for the comic, please feel free to drop me a line!
If you’re a supporter of The Dawn Chapel on Patreon, I made a post recently that I am also going to share here for the benefit of folks that might have their email notifications for Patreon turned off. If you’d like to participate in the conversation, you can comment on the corresponding post over there.
The Dawn Chapel has been Patreon-supported for a year now, and I’ve learned a few things from the experience. Most importantly, I’ve learned that I have a terrible habit of over-promising and under-delivering.
I guess I shouldn’t say this is something I’ve learned recently, it’s an ongoing pattern that emerges whenever I pass the hat around: I feel guilty for just straight up asking for help, and so I turn it into an exchange – nevermind that most folks are likely to contribute because they consider the comic itself to be the thing I’m already offering in return. And nevermind that I fail to first fully consider whether or not it’s realistic for me to commit to whatever it is I’m committing to.
(This mental and emotional bramble that I get myself snared in becomes especially complicated when the number of people pledging their support gets quite large – not only am I failing to deliver on my commitments, but I’m failing to deliver on my commitments to an awful lot of people, and guilt and anxiety and a sense of obligation are things that historically get in the way of me actually doing the work.)
In the space of time I’ve been having my comic supported through Patreon, I have drawn exactly zero icons for backers. I have shipped zero prints. And it’s not as though I’m actively avoiding them, or procrastinating, or even just plain lazy – it’s that I fail to plan when I’m going to do these things when I’m scheduling my work week. And then I forget, or when I do remember, it’s always when I’m doing something else that I’ve placed a higher priority on, like the commissioned work I owe, or working on the comic itself.
And I feel like a tremendous heel about not following through. It feeds into this cycle of guilt and anxiety that I tend to let myself get locked up inside, and – paradoxically – it has a very corrosive effect on my ability to actually put my head down and do the work.
Over the last year that I’ve been running a Patreon, I’ve dropped the ball in a rather spectacular fashion, and I don’t know if there’s an apology I can make that is big enough for this abdication of my responsibility to you.
But there is something else going on, too, that I find to be rather incredible: nobody’s nagged me about where their prints are. Not one single person has been on my case about icons. It causes me to suspect that the primary reason that you are backing my comic is because you want to see the comic continue.
At first that’s a difficult thing for me to wrap my head around, but then I think about the projects that I’ve pledged my support to – I mean, as a backer of other projects myself, I don’t even check my Patreon feed regularly to see whatever backers-only goodies I’m ostensibly ‘paying for,’ I only ever sign in when I have something to post. And while I know that my own experiences aren’t necessarily going to be reflective of other people’s, my point here is I’m not at all concerned about what I’m ‘getting’ in return for the pledges I’ve made to other artists. I pledged my support to them because I want to live in a world where they’re free to do the work they want to do. I don’t exactly know why it’s difficult for me to think of myself on the opposite side of that equation, but here we are.
So, you know why I’m changing my Patreon, now let me tell you what the plan is.
-First, I’m placing an order with my printer for the prints owed my $10 backers through the last year. (Note: I have now done this, an order for a year’s worth of prints-of-the-month has been placed.) I have the mats and mailers (and most of the prints) already, it likely won’t take me more than two or three weeks to get that squared.
-Second, I’m scheduling time to draw a sheet of nine icons per week, for every backer who’s cleared the $16 minimum cumulative pledge threshold (which at this point is nearly everyone). If I stay on top of that, it’ll only take me a month to get through everyone.
-And finally, I’m eliminating the reward tier structure for The Dawn Chapel – there will only be one (1) backer level, Patron, with a $1/page minimum. Everyone gets an icon once they clear the cumulative minimum. Everyone gets a tambourine.
(note: nobody actually gets a tambourine.)
I’ll also continue to offer other things and share them with patrons, but rather than stratify them into an arbitrarily complicated reward system, or commit to them at a regular interval, I’m going to share them as I finish them, the way I did with the tiger book, and keep you updated on my progress with each of these side projects as I work through them.
I think that this approach – to just do the All Cool Stuff I Want To Do and then pass it out to patrons once it’s cooked – will work better for me. In some cases, like when there’s a production and distribution expense involved, I may give priority to people who’ve got a higher lifetime support amount, but for the most part I like the idea of just having the side projects be a nice surprise for all patrons whenever I finish something.
Here’s some examples of the things I have in mind, and will give as rewards to patrons before putting them up for sale:
-A series of chapter books set in the Empyrean, in the vein of stuff like the Spiderwick, Narnia, or Prydain books. These books will involve psychic whales and very eloquent robots.
-Campaign source materials for D&D adventures set in and near the Empyrean.
-Vinyl decals of city crests of major powers like Allsaints, Lethowstow, Wellingtonia, and factions like the Nicotani Company, for placing on your laptop, car, or other sticker-compatible surface.
-Custom printed USB drives and conbadge sleeves with artwork relating to the comic on them.
-A story told in the form of a correspondence exchange between Empyrean scholars, similar to the Griffin and Sabine books, in which very comprehensive worldbuilding of the setting is explored. The Dawn Chapel version of the Silmarillion, basically.
-There’s more, but for some reason whenever I sit down to write lists of everything I want to do, I forget like half of them. Do you have ideas for things you’d like to see from me through Patreon, like character q&a’s, reviews of other comics and children’s books I read and draw inspiration from, new and interesting merch, etc.? Please do let me know.
The executive summary here is I want to give more back, and I hope that this strategy will make it easier for me to do that.
The patronage model operates on a very simple principle of human generosity, so in keeping with that principle, I’m simplifying my approach. As you give what you can, I will do the same in return.
I just uploaded a vote incentive to Topwebcomics, for those of you that want to support the comic and dig a little deeper into the world of the Empyrean. There’s a brief essay about the apergion drive – what it is, what it does, and a little bit about the Naacal, the lost civilization that developed the technology that allows airships and other vessels to travel through the sky.
Along with it is a wallpaper image commissioned by one of The Dawn Chapel’s Patreon backers, who generously allowed me to use the image as a vote incentive and Patreon reward.
You can read the essay and get the download link for a screen-resolution of the wallpaper image by voting for The Dawn Chapel, and if you’re not already one of our generous and attractive patrons, you can gain download the full-size, working resolution version of the wallpaper image by becoming a Patreon backer of the comic today!
Partly because the time I’d normally spend on working on comic this week is going to be eaten up by American Independence Day. Which is, for my family, a major family gathering kind of holiday; and for the tiny mountain town that I live in, a major week-long festival kind of holiday.
And partly because of technical difficulties – this week, the computer that I use for drawing the comic on has been having startup issues that began last night, that I’m trying to diagnose and repair. If I can’t fix it soon, I’ll need to figure out another way to continue the comic.