How do the pros #MakeComics? We’re here to tell you.
Comicosity is picking the brains of a pro who is killing it in the comics industry, and for this round I was lucky enough to talk to Youssef Daoudi! Youssef is the writer and artist of the Eisner-nominated Monk!: Thelonious, Pannonica, and the Friendship Behind a Musical Revolution, and Tripoli, from 2014. He was kind enough to give us a glimpse into his creative process here:
What does a typical day in the life of Youssef Daoudi look like?
I have two kinds of “typical days”: writing days and drawing days. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Either way, I get up at 7, 7:30 usually. During the Jekyll days, I do a lot of reading and take a ton of notes. When I get stuck on something, I go out for a walk to oxygenate my brain. I end up with this pile of indecipherable texts and sketches. Then I get to my computer and type all the interesting stuff.
For the Hyde days, I have to change the software in a sense. During all these writing days, I would repress the urge to draw in me, and it’s a painful thing. Now, I just let the monster go. Still, I often have to fix narrative problems in the process. Let me go back to the writing process for a second. When I write, it’s not literature, it is comic writing, so the story, dialogue and art (at least the sketchy stage thereof) are to be done in unison.
What time of day do you do your best work?
This is a metabolic conundrum. I’m at my best in the mornings until lunch. Right after lunch, my brain is performing quite badly so I take care of non-creative stuff for a while until I feel better. I do my best work starting from the middle of the afternoon. The evening is the very best window but I try to stop reasonably early because I tend to get too tired the day after.
Comics is a collaborative medium. How do you work with your teammates/editors/publishers on your projects?
It is a very solitary occupation most of the time I’m afraid, especially the drawing side of things. This makes the exchanges with collaborators even more important; crucial I should say. I used to work in quite large advertising companies, so I’m fairly used to collaborative work. As a matter of fact, it is one of my favorite stages of the whole process.
How do you manage your to-do list?
I always make a complete list the day before, but I throw it out the window when the morning comes. I’m not that kind of person, yet, I think of myself as very thorough. Typically, I work through complete sequences. I get rid of the technical details first, then I dive into the pages, arrange some dialogue up to the last moment. Only then I can do my structure, which is the most difficult thing in comics. It’s directing on paper. Penciling and inking are usually the most relaxing moment, though time and energy consuming.
What is your workspace like?
I work in a room in the first floor of the house. I can do digital work on my faithful Cintiq 22HD hooked to a Mac Pro 2010 running on High Sierra. I use Clip Studio Paint. Nothing compares to this software when it comes to inking and user interface. Besides, I have a large table for traditional work.
What tools are essential to your creative process?
I use anything and everything I can to make my books. I love the traditional tools and buying art supplies is a lot of fun. I’ve done a lot of pages using Shoellershammer paper with pen, brush and ink (Windsor & Newton ink, Platinum Carbon ink, Pentel Brush pen). I love Japanese felt pens and brush pens and I have dozens of types and sizes. I recently begun to work digitally too, and the technology is amazing. It is a great time to be a digital artist nowadays! I use a Cintiq and an iPad Pro with Clip Studio Paint, Procreate and Artstudio pro).
These apps are simply amazing when you manage to apply the right settings that work for you. What’s even great is to have the best of both words: Digital penciling and traditional inking.
What do you love most about creating comics?
Unlike in the movies, your production budget is unrestricted. You can imagine whatever you want. I think that my favorite part is dialogue. When things work well, the synergy between dialogue, narration and art can be magical and, strangely enough, you end up just following the whims and unpredictable moves of the characters right before your eyes. They simply cut loose at a certain point and that is when this profession becomes very exciting.
What is your favourite phase of a project?
The dreaming phase. I spend months thinking, dreaming, fantasizing about the next project.
What do you listen to or watch while you work?
Jazz music, Monk, Joe Henderson mostly contemporary. Hancock, Brecker, Abercrombie, Shorter. I also love listening to podcasts about science, history or funny Youtube channels debunking Flat Earthers.
When you aren’t creating comics, how do you like to spend your time?
I try to spend as much time as possible with my family. My wife makes me reconnect with the real world! I like cooking and gardening, it helps me make a good reset so when I get back to taking notes, I do with a new spirit. I read a lot and watch tons of videos about astronomy, aviation and politics.
Networking and meeting other creators is an important part of the business. What is your preferred way to network?
I’ve been in the business for more than ten years and my network is mainly in Europe. I’ve been attending festivals and conventions and that is a good way to meet with people. It is not the best, or rather, it is not the way to meet the best people for you. Living in France, I can only rely on social media to connect with people over there. I would very much like to develop the same one in North America.
What comics are you reading right now?
I’m reading once again A Life Force and other books by Will Eisner. I think these jewels are timeless. I like the sheer humanity and profoundness one can convey using the rather simple tools of the medium and Eisner was a master at that.
What do you hope to see in the industry in the future?
The de facto competition coming from all the new media out there is maybe the biggest challenge ahead. I think that the experimental and pioneering spirit of our medium is our best asset. We must be even more creative and bold in regard of the stories and the way to convey them to the public.