“Be regular and orderly in your life so that you may be violent and original in your work.” Gustave Flaubert
At the urging of my friend Julie Ditrich, I decided to start a time sheet. I used to be very conscientious about this sort of work detail, but haven’t done it in years. I was very surprised by my results.
In January, I did not keep a time sheet. I produced 10.5 pages of finished comic art and 30 pages of tight script. Ten-and-a-half pages of comic art might not seem like very much, but I am working in a highly rendered style on a graphic novel I am doing for Neil Gaiman. So, labor-wise, that’s probably about 20+ pages of regular pencils, or the equivalent of 20+ pages pencils and inks. Even so, I feel like I didn’t get as much out of my work month as I should have. I wanted to see if I kept a closer eye on the details of my day, I’d got more accomplished.
I break my work down this way: a full page of pencils is 1 page credit, a full page of inks is one page credit. However, I rarely do full pencils – I usually do breakdowns or layouts. So if I do four pages of breakdowns in one day, that’s the equivalent of one pencil comic art page of labor. Maybe it sounds nutty to parse it out this way, but I have a general idea of the hourly cost of a page of art. There are days where I get a half page credit, or .75 pages. or 1.25 pages…all trying to figure out the time left against my obligations. If I am doing pencils and inks on a book, I never do full pencils. I just go from breakdowns to ink, so I don’t credit the penciling stage. If I do all the work like writing, lettering, pencils and inks as I do on A DISTANT SOIL, I take a 1.25 page time credit.
The Gaiman book which I am doing in full color gives me a 2 page credit per page: that’s then one page for finished black and white art, and one page for finished color painting. That’s considerably less than the time cost the book consumes, but that’s how I started crediting it, so I’m just going with it. One page of the Gaiman book costs the same time as 3.5 pages of standard comic art. I’ve worked up to five days on one or two of these double page spreads, and that’s just on the drawings. So one double page spread with color can take about a week.
I suppose that all sounds niggly, but the point of it is, how much time does it cost? How much time to do I need to do this book?
Anyway, here’s two weeks of my time sheet.
It’s messy and I have an eccentric way of marking my hours (I’ll switch between .5 and 30 to indicate a half hour,) but it gives me a good idea of where my time goes.
As I wrote in this blog post, for years I struggled with a cognitive/neurological disorder commonly known as brain fog, which can effect people who have Lupus, Celiac’s Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Lyme Disease, Fybromyalgia, endocrine or hormonal imbalances, and host of other unpleasant conditions. Of course, if you are on medication, that can leave you pretty foggy, too.
Once I used to be very careful about my time management, and wrote down my hours and output, as well as time spent getting exercise. I also kept a written record of my diet. Brain Fog pretty much obliterated these habits, and I had to relearn them. Once I got treatment for the root cause of the brain fog, my cognitive issues have almost disappeared. But since I went for years where a 20-hour work week seemed like a stretch, I was skeptical I could ever get back to prime productivity.
Now I routinely work a 50+ hour week, with 52.75 and 53.5 hours for the first two weeks of February.
Interesting to note that this month I already produced 12.5 pages of art, which is more than last month – but since that is mostly layouts and color, it’s not an entirely accurate comparison. Only a few pages of that are complete. I usually spend a lot of time picking at the pages, doing .25-.50 worth of work and then letting it sit, only to come back later, give it another look, find mistakes, then polish it off. So, I will have a lot of finished work to turn in over the next few weeks. I had a setback a couple of weeks ago when I realized I did a bunch of layouts at the wrong aspect ratio which cost me days of labor. Bummer.
I don’t think 50 hour work weeks are that big a deal. I work at home. I have a really nice home studio, and don’t have to get dressed and commute to a job every day, which eats up hours of energy and productivity. As a self employed person, I can simply pour that into my art. I deal with a lot less stress than someone who has a job outside the home.
My drawing board side table. These are not difficult work conditions.
When I was working 100 hours a week while living in a crappy little condo: not so much fun.