How to Draw Comics Every Day

How to draw comics every day - a productivity talk for graphic novelists by artist Alec Longstreth

Is it even possible to draw comics EVERY day??

Artist Alec Longstreth says yes, it is absolutely possible! In a recent workshop for Kids Comics Studio, he laid out his “Draw Comics Every Day” practice for us: exactly how he’s managed to draw comics literally every day since July 13th, 2002. 

Yes, it started for him on a specific day, and he told us how it happened in the workshop!

Since July 13th 2002, Alec has only had 10 days when he hasn’t drawn comics. In other words, he’s been 99.88% consistent. (I did the math.) 

So how has he accomplished this amazing feat?

In this YouTube excerpt from Alec’s talk, he explains his practice and gives advice for other graphic novelists who want to follow in his footsteps.

What Alec told us, in his own words:

Everything that’s happened in my career—illustration work, coloring, published books—has all come from drawing comics every day. This is how I define myself as an artist and as a person. 

So let’s talk about creative focus and energy.

The book “Daily Rituals: How Artists Work” inspired me to chart my own creative focus and energy throughout the day. 

On the Y-axis, we’ve got zero to 100% energy, and then we’ve got a full 24-hour period. The green line represents me in my 20s, and the red line represents me now. (You can see I’ve changed.) 

I’m the kind of person who wakes up around six, and that’s as good as it gets. It’s like, “I survived the night! We’ve got another day to work with, let’s go!” I sit down and start drawing immediately, but very quickly, my energy starts to fall off as I head into the day. 

In the afternoon, it hits a low point around 2-3 PM—not a great time for me. I eat some food, head into dinner, and usually, there’s a burst, a second wind at the end of the day.

What I encourage you to do is figure out your own day. Maybe you’re a night owl and your peak is at 2 AM or something. Figure out what’s right for you. Observe three zones in your day: 

  • high focus
  • medium focus
  • low focus

High focus times are the most important to protect. For me, that’s when I work on my comics. When I wake up, I get to my drawing board and I protect that time because that’s when I’m most productive. I’d rather use that time for what’s most important to me. 

Medium focus times are for client work, freelance projects, or coloring a graphic novel. Sure, I need to not screw it up, but it’s not the most important thing to me. 

Low energy times, like 3 PM or late at night, are when I handle emails. I don’t care if I write a low-energy email—I can fake it with exclamation points or whatever. I also use this time for social media posts, taking breaks, or getting some exercise. I know nothing productive is going to happen in this time period, so I go for a run, come back, and feel a little more energized.

The key idea here is not about having a full day to draw, which is very hard for most of us.

It’s about separating your work time and break time effectively. 

When you’re working, work. Turn off your phone, set it in another room, and focus on what you’re doing. You’ll break through the inertia and go into a deep flow state where you get twice as much done. 

When you’re on a break, take your break. Pull out your phone, eat some food, lie down on the floor, go for a walk, hang out with your friends, and enjoy it. 

If you muddle these together, it just doesn’t work. If you’re staring at your phone while you’re supposed to be drawing, you’re beating yourself up because you’re not really doing either. And if you’re secretly working during your break, you’re not well-rested when you come back because you’ve been working the whole time.

Getting eight hours of sleep is a key idea too. 

Comics is a marathon; it takes so much time. It’s not something you can crunch at the end. You have to maintain your energy and enthusiasm. 

Think of drawing comics as “charging off into battle on the back of a turtle”—moving very slowly but with purpose. You have to hold that excitement in your heart while you’re moving slowly but steadily. If you manage your time well, you’ll be able to build a sustainable cartooning practice.

So, that’s the secret:

  • Manage your time
  • Protect your high-focus periods
  • Respect the need for breaks and recovery 

Follow these principles, and you’ll keep the passion for your work alive. Your productivity and creativity will thrive.

Who is Alec?

Alec Longstreth is an award-winning cartoonist, illustrator, colorist, and animator. Since 2002 he has self-published twenty-five issues of his minicomic, Phase 7, which have been collected into seven books. In 2016, he launched his Eisner-nominated webcomic, Isle of Elsi.  

Alec graduated from Pratt Institute’s illustration program in 2007 with highest honors. His illustration clients include Weezer, Little, Brown & Co., Highlights, Nickelodeon Magazine, National Geographic for Kids, and many others. Alec has also worked as a colorist for graphic novels published by Scholastic and First Second. 

Alec is also currently Director of Academic Outreach for the Center for Cartoon Studies. He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

WHAT IS KIDS COMICS STUDIO?

Alec Longstreth’s talk is an excerpt from a Kids Comics Studio workshop. Studio is our membership program for creators who are serious about leveling up. The full, one-hour version of this workshop – along with many other lessons and interviews – is available in our Studio video archive. Join us if you’d like to learn and grow together with other kids comics creators!

WE’D LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU IN THE COMMENTS….

What did you learn from Alec’s “draw comics every day” process? What’s your biggest challenge in terms of staying focused and using your time productively?

This post may contain affiliate links, which means KCU may earn a small commission if you make a purchase through them at no extra cost to you. Thanks for your support!

About Janna Morishima

Janna Morishima is the founder of Kids Comics Unite and a literary agent who specializes in graphic novels and visual storytelling. She started her publishing career at Scholastic, where she was one of the co-founders of the Graphix imprint. She then became director of the Kids Group for Diamond Book Distributors, where she worked with publishers such as Marvel, Dark Horse, and Oni Press, and helped launch Françoise Mouly’s Toon Books imprint. In addition to her background in publishing, she has worked as an associate producer for documentary films, and as an assistant teacher in a kindergarten and a teacher in a high school for teens in the juvenile justice system. She later launched and ran the NYC Department of Education’s “NYC Reads 365” literacy initiative.

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