1. Who are you and how long have you been working as an artist?
I’m Gerimi Burleigh. I’ve been working as an illustrator and designer for over twenty years, but actively self-publishing comics since 2009.
2. How do you personally define art block? How often do you get art block?
I used to define art block as a task or problem that you don’t see a clear solution to. At this point in my career, I’ve had enough experience with artist block that I now define it as a lack of motivation to get over the hump of difficult or tedious art problems.
3. What are some specific strategies you employ when dealing with art block?
A – Be ok with sucking. Artists put way too much pressure on creating a piece of work that is brilliant from the first line. That’s nonsense. Much like screenwriters have a vomit draft, where the goal is getting as much of the idea as possible out on the paper, even when it looks ugly, most of my work goes through an awkward adolescence. It’s much easier to improve something crappy than try to generate genius out of thin air.
B – Thumbnailing and lots of it. This flows out of “A”. Your first idea is rarely your best. Nor the second or third. I try to work through multiple permutations of an idea on paper before I move to a final drawing.
C – Lists. Again, this flows from “B”. If I make several thumbnails (or drafts of scenes, if we’re talking writing) and none of them feel good to me, I will make a list numbered 1-10. I write down whatever ideas/solutions come to mind. The first 3-4 are the obvious ideas. 5-7 are stupid and absurd. I’m pushing for pushing’s sake.
D – Have multiple projects going. Some days I just don’t feel like grinding away at a particular stone that’s been in my path for days, weeks, or years. Fortunately, always have other ideas on the back backburner. And while your eyes and hand are elsewhere, the back of your brain is chewing on the thing that had you stumped. You might have a breakthrough right when you’re revving up on the distraction project. But be careful with this one. It can easily become a form of procrastination.
E – Art books. You ever go to a comic convention and by 2pm, you’re jonesing to go home and draw. Sucking up all that awesome art that others create can frequently stoke a fire under your butt. A trip to the museum or your own bookshelf can have the same effect. Hell, browsing Artstation or DeviantArt can do the trick. The tingle you feel when you see art that you wish you could have made isn’t jealousy. It’s inspiration.
F – Naps, Walks/Exercise – The stuff that people often cite, but genuinely work. I’ve laid down for a nap, struggling with a creative challenge and discovered the solution in a dream. There’s something about letting your brain relax. Same with any exercise. Getting the body moving shifts your focus somewhere else and answers just squeeze right out of you.
G – And sometimes you really do need a day or a week off. Self care is real. ‘Nuff said. And as comforting as losing yourself in the creative process can be for some creatives, making time for family and friends helps keep you tethered to reality. After a lifetime of trying to sever that tether, I’ve grown to respect and appreciate it.
4. Describe the biggest obstacle / challenge you’ve encountered working as an artist and how you overcame it.
Productivity and Time Management. I still haven’t overcome it. Some people tell me they’re impressed with my work ethic, and it’s true that I put the majority of my spare time into making art, but most days that’s usually only 1-2 hours per day. It takes several months to finish a single comic.
I thought that I would get faster as I got older, but the more I improve in my craft the farther I try to push myself artistically. I end up pouring even more hours into a page to squeeze another 5-10% more quality into it. I think once I finish my current project I’m going to take a hard look at my style and aim for a more streamlined, Alex Toth-inspired look. As few lines as possible, but making them the right lines.
Or I might go completely loose, A LA Kent Williams or Dave McKean. Bill Sienkiewicz was a huge influence on me early on. I love a variety of styles but I haven’t really experimented with my look as much as I’d like.
5. Where can we see more of your work online?