The rage now is practicing 10,000 hours to be a world class expert in some skill or talent. To get the idea, if you practiced 3 hours a day for 3,333 days you would accomplish 9,999 hours . . . very close! The man responsible for making the 10,000 hour rule known is writer Malcolm Gladwell, in 2008 in his book the Outliers. The man who did the study was psychologist K. Anders Erickson, in the early nineties. For further idea, if you read Outliers when it was first published and started practicing your favorite hobby - you would’ve been a world class expert by now.
In comics, the man who said in order to succeed you need to work five to ten years of making comic strips while improving your observation, and working on your humor, was Charles M. Shulz, in his 1959 article, Developing a Comic Strip. He had created his first 9 years of Peanuts at that point and was destined to be the most successful cartoonist of all time. And how qualified he was to say it! He won best cartoonist of the year in 1956 and published 18,977 strips in fifty years. So, in comics, he was thirty plus years ahead of the Erickson discovery. Good grief!
A great example of long term practicing leading to fame in the Philippines, is Anthony Francisco, who is part of the Ryan Meinerding lead Oscar winning Marvel Studios Visual Development Team that designed five main characters for Black Panther. Anthony recently spoke in The Philippines at Graphika and the University of Santo Tomas, saying that artists can make it with hard work and focus, “You need to have passion and take pride in your work.”
How long has Anthony been working? He told me he’s been drawing since five years old and continues at forty-four, so it took thirty-nine years to make it and he says starting early helps. He is also an athlete and says that helps his art because it gives him discipline and push. And a fun note, he says people who play games also have that discipline!
I’ve been tracking my own drawing progress when I decided to make comic strips, maybe not for 10,000 hours yet, but regularly. This should help you decide if you want to attempt practicing over time too, and what to expect in your progress when starting out.
At Anything Under the Sun, I have 270 strips posted in 2 ½ years so far. Awesome! But that’s only half way to Charles Shulz’s minimum of five years to be an expert, and only a fraction of the 10,000 hours discussed in Malcom Gladwell’s Outliers, and a mere spec in Anthony Francisco’s lifetime of practice. Still, I glow like a lamp post when I show my strips to two or three people and they smile or laugh.
Now you know my motivation to practice, but how much motivation? I practice everyday in one form of comic creating or another: brainstorming, penciling, revising and more. I’ve rejected 341 of my own attempted penciled strips, and consider the other inked 1,485 to be acceptable for future posting. So I’ve made a total 1,826 strips in two and a half years, which I consider practice for better ones yet to come.
But now as for the issue of . . . are they funny? The how to write humor books say for every ten jokes you make, one will be funny. So, to assemble 10 jokes in a row that sparks smiles would mean writing 100 jokes. Since I consider my first 2 ½ years as beginning, I’m proud to say in all of my 1,485 acceptable jokes . . . one is almost funny!
To see improvement over 2 ½ years here is my first published strip on July 31, 2016:
Below is a newer strip from December, 2018, but not published yet (the 1,485th strip):
Now here’s tracking the progress of my daily practice from that first 2016 published strip to the above one made in December, 2018 (not yet posted):
My drawing skills and their noticeable improvement over the early months:
- After the first month of daily practice I got a dash of improvement. So it went from simple to slightly okay.
- By the fourth month it began looking a little like a comic strip, but my proportion needed improvements – too much space in the panels.
- By the seventh month I drew a bit faster and made better lettering and didn’t have to concentrate as hard . . . not concentrating is my expertise!
- At the fifteenth month my next improvement was gradual but I had a look for Steve’s Strips, which included a small amount of self taught perspective.
- At the twentieth month I put drawing on hold because I decided to join Indieket, a Philippine komikon for independent comic creators. I wanted to see if I could sell just one! That kind of work includes compiling and arranging comic strips as well as printing them into comic books. I did this in four volumes.
But what would I do to maintain my art skills? I remembered my grade school penmanship class, the Palmer method, which has drills such as making circles and I hoped that would count as drawing. Since I’m tracking improvement over time, let’s see how my hurried circles looked on the day I decided to start practicing clockwise and counter clockwise circles, as well as what it looks like after a year:
And it was that circle practicing (in traffic, movies, and watching TV) which kept up my drawing skills during my dry spell of not drawing while I was compiling comic books. Then how was my art progress?
- On the 24th month, at Indieket Komicon, . . . volume 1 was sold out! And I was pleased with my circle practice I did in traffic and watching DVD’s because that was a lot of practice and it improved the drawings and lettering.
So when you decide to practice your skill or talent you can see here the amount of time that passes for noticeable stages of improvement. Coaching will accelerate this. But this points to a skilled and talented you in the future. So practice and have faith in your future!
Oh, most importantly, when practicing for ten thousand hours . . .have fun!