Charity Hess – My Two Months as an Independent Cartoonist

I was a cartoonist for two months…

I’m Charity Hess. I’m an IDS major at BYU-Idaho studying creative writing and illustration. For my senior project, I had the idea to try independent cartooning. For a previous class, I had completed the first issue of a comicbook series, so I thought this time around I would create something I was showing to the world.

The Plan:

I decided that the best medium for my project goals would be a weekly comic strip. I would publish one page each week on several social media platforms, including Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr. I also would make a mobile-friendly version of the comic for the popular comic-reading platform, Webtoon. Finally, I wanted to create a website for my comic, both desktop and mobile-responsive for readers on any device.


Writing | 2 hours 20 minutes

Each week, I began by writing the script for that week’s comic. I found some great advice for comedians that said to start brainstorming a joke by thinking of things you love, hate, are annoyed by, or make you weird. While writing the script for that week never took me over an hour, I was surprised at how many drafts of a joke I could go through. One script had over seven rewrites, two others I got on the first try. A lot of scripts never made the final cut. I have six scripts that were never used out of the 13 that I wrote.

Drafting | 12 hours 36 minutes

I started drawing the comic page with a basic sketch just to organize the panels. I used the script as a guide to see what would need more emphasis or space. After the panels were blocked in, I started loosely sketching the characters and backgrounds of each panel. One thing I’ve learned is how great digital art is for comics because it’s easy to copy backgrounds and character poses while still making each panel look unique. After I finished playing with poses and backgrounds in the loose sketch, I made a more refined draft layer where I paid more attention to anatomy and perspective.

Inking | 43 hours 4 minutes

This is the step I found took me the most time. In my original plan, I gave myself two days to complete this step, but I quickly found that this wasn’t nearly enough time for most of my pages, so this step usually took three to four days, if not more. Again, working digitally saved me a lot of headache with perspective and undoing mistakes. Because my main character is a pangolin, which has scales, I remember many drawings where I would draw in the scales and have to undo the whole line because one scale was at a bad angle or out of place.

Shading | 4 hours 29 minutes

For the sake of time, I decided to keep the comic in grey-scale instead of a full-color rendering. I used a watercolor texture brush to block in shadows and tones, which could take me between three to five hours to complete. A great critique I received from my mentor, Professor Burr, was to play with different textures in the shading stage, so later comic pages have a more appealing look when I added in ink splatters, pastel, and charcoal textures.

Publishing | 3 hours 10 minutes

The two biggest hurdles to publishing my comic were formatting for mobile reading and building the website. Fortunately, my drawing software, Clip Studio Paint, had a built-in template for vertical scroll comics and an easy way to transfer and reformat panels. To build the website, I had to completely teach myself WordPress. This required more than a few calls for help to my web host. An interesting difference I found between publishing on various platforms was the ideal image dimensions for different social media. While the mobile website and Webtoon required a vertical scroll format; Tumblr, Twitter, and Instagram preferred 1:1 ratios of single panels. The only place I used the traditional comic page format was on the desktop site.


The Results:

After 65 hours and 35 minutes of cartooning, I now have 7 completed comic strips published on five platforms, with 66 new followers total. I have created a website for both desktop and mobile reading, and I can officially say I am a cartoonist.

Through this project, I learned about the time and dedication it takes to create art and how to promote my work independently. I’ve come away with better processes, new skills, and a renewed excitement for cartooning!

Now that I know what comic creation is really like, I have some plans for the future. I’m currently drawing a mini science-fiction comic to be released later this summer, followed by completing the script for my first graphic novel. I’ve learned so much about cartooning with this project and I can’t wait to apply what I’ve learned to my future projects!