Podcast: Adriana Blake - Fall On Me
Photo by Adriana Blake
Hello and welcome to Episode 003 of Evil Ink’s podcast. I’m your hostess Amber Dalcourt, a design consultant for small businesses who want to increase their professional credibility through branding and digital media.
We’re happy introduce Adriana Blake, the creator and artist behind the autobiographical web comic Fall on Me. Today’s discussion will be about creating a community around your project and opening up new demographics through language.
1. Let’s start by telling our listeners what your web comic is about.
Fall on me is basically an auto bio comic where I just record and share silly little stories of married life, anything funny or cute. It’s actually all from life; it’s nothing made up. So something funny happens, I write it down and I make it into a comic.
2. How long have you producing Fall on Me?
For three years, it’s been updating twice a week since February 20th 2009. There are a few spots in which I had to update just one a week due to work reasons, but for the most part it’s always been twice a week.
3. What did you do before decided to start this web comic?
I did go to college for animation and I graduated back in 2005 and by then I had done a few jobs in studio and freelance and what not, but around the actual time that the comic started I was not doing a whole lot.
I had just gotten married in October of 2008. Alex and I got married in the States where I was living at the time. We had decided for me to come up to Canada to live. But then in my coming up here to Canada and going through the whole process of immigration and what not, I was basically doing nothing. I mean I couldn’t apply for work while my papers were being processed.
The comic basically started as a way to keep me busy, to keep me productive in art.
4. You do this now in addition to your full time job? So you work in animation, is that right?
Yes, that’s correct. I’ve done a little bit of everything when it comes to the animation industry. The current job I’m in is a full time contract in a studio so it’s in-house. So I commute to work and back every day, Monday through Friday, and the comic gets done on the weekends. So it’s not always easy.
The comic has always been a very spontaneous thing from the very beginning. Now with my time being much more limited by work, which I love by the way. I love my job, but it makes getting the comic done a little more challenging.
5. How long have you worked in animation?
Pretty much since I’ve graduated, since 2005. It’s been a bit spotty, I haven’t been continuously employed or doing the same thing. I’ve sometimes just done my own little thing, like just freelancing or smaller commissions. Sometimes I’ll have full time studio work. It kind of goes back and forth. It’s the nature of the industry I would say.
6. Do you find that working in animation has helped give you the skills that you needed-?
Oh yeah, big time! Animation has taught me everything about story telling especially in the visuals: pacing, facial expressions, keeping to deadline, and all that discipline. So it’s definitely been really helpful.
It’s not a far stretch for me to go from animation to comics. I feel like it’s gone hand-in-hand.
7. You publish two comics a week, in two languages: Spanish and English. How do manage to find the time to manage the comic and a full-time job?
It’s not easy! I don’t really get a lot done on the weekends except do the comic. Thankfully I do have a lovely husband who occasionally yanks me out of my desk.
“Come on! Let go do stuff!”
And I’m like: “Okay...”
Which is great because the comic happens because we do things, right? It’s a bit of a vicious cycle. If I don’t have a life then I have no material for my comic. But at the same time I also need the time to get it done. It’s a tricky balance, but it gets done.
Yeah, mainly the weekends, sometimes I’ve had to spend some of my nights after work to catch up. In a way, I’m actually glad that it s just two strips a week. I don’t think I could handle more than that right now.
8. During your down period, that’s when you started the web comic, what exactly inspired you to start this particular comic? Why this topic?
It just kind of happened by accident. I mentioned that I had just gotten married a few months back. I got married in October, I moved up here in November, and I submitted all of my paperwork to the government of Canada, and while I was waiting I was just doing my own thing, my own drawings and stuff, but I wanted something more project driven to keep me busy.
For me marriage was a very new experience. It was my first time living with my now husband. I don’t know, things started happening that I thought were funny or cute or interesting and I started writing them down because I thought they were good ideas. Before I knew it I had enough material that I could have actually have done something with it. I was like: “I’m just gonna give it a shot and let’s see.”
I mean, I’ve always been interested in comics and comic making but I never knew what to write about or what to do. I guess I went with the whole “write about what you know” and just kind of went from there. It was kind of a bit of an experiment to see if I could even do comics. Because at that time, I was not entirely sure if I could pull it off.
9. Why English and Spanish? That’s unusual. I usually see a lot of English and French, but English and Spanish is new.
I’m Venezuelan, born and raised. I didn’t move up to the States until I was 16 due to my dad being employed up there. Spanish is my first language. At the start of making these comics, when I started to take them a little more seriously, in terms of getting them done and getting them online, I didn’t want to leave my relative out of the picture. I wanted them to be able to read them and enjoy them too.
It only made sense to get them written in Spanish as well. It really wasn’t that much more work to get it done, just a few more minutes. I think it’s been really worth while to get them also involved. I’ve had the great fortune have having gain a whole new audience because of the language.
10. Do you find that you tend to lose jokes in translation?
That’s the trickiest part! Sometimes I do. Whenever I’m writing or jotting ideas down, I’m like: “Oh Yeah this could make a good comic!” There are times I’ve had to stop myself because: “Ah, this is not going to work in Spanish!” and I sadly have to abandon it.
Thankfully, it hasn’t happened a lot. Most of the time when something happens it can be fairly easily translatable, maybe sometimes it doesn’t come across as funny or with the same feel or flavour but it still works. I still manage, but...
It’s definitely tricky. Things always start up in English because my husband and I always speak in English to each other. So it’s always English to Spanish. When it comes to the Spanish, I always have to kind of play around a little bit to make it work. Not always! Sometimes it’s pretty straight forward.
11. Did you work on other comics (personal, community, ect) or similar works?
Fall on Me is my first comic so far. As I’m making it, I’m learning basically. It’s kind of been my Frankenstein, my experimental comic. The only other comic that I participated on was one of the stories in the anthology coming up for Womanthology. I participated as an artist there.
But other than that, Fall on Me has been my only comic so far. I’d like to get myself involved with other comic work in the future.
12. How’s the popularity for your comic going?
Alright. It’s been gradually growing. It’s still pretty modest when it comes to numbers. According to Google Analytics, for Fall on Me the English website, I get about 7,000 visits a month, and for the Spanish I get 2,000 visits. Although, I have been told from some of my Spanish speaking readers that they also just go to the English one as well. I guess they like to go back and forth and read the two languages, I suppose.
13. What platform are you using to host your web comic?
I’m using Wordpress with a ComicPress plug-in on it.
That was also a bit of a learning curve.
“How do I get this done? How do I get it installed? How do I get it looking good?”
It took me a lot of trial and error.
14. How much planning was involved for your comic before you started your first page?
Very little. Again it was a very spontaneous, improvised project from the very beginning. Maybe, I don’t know, two or three weeks worth of ideas. Not everything I write down gets made into a comic. Sometimes I’ll write something down and I’ll read and I’ll be like:
“Oh, that really wasn’t as funny as I thought” and I’ll just ditch it.
I had a t least a good number that made me feel confident that this could go somewhere and i just kind of started drawing and it just went from there.
Not really planned. Not even the design of the characters as they are... I just kind of went for it and I didn’t do any preliminary drawings, which I probably should have done, but I just went for it.
15. Now that the comic is regularly updated, how far ahead have you planned? Or are you still going on a week to week basis?
There’re times in which I’m really fortunate and I have a good amount written down in my journal that I could keep me going for a month, month and a half. Which is pretty good.
But there’re times when life gets super busy and I don’t really have time to write things down or nothing really particularly appealing has happened in our life that I could write down to make into a comic, then things get pretty slim. That’s when I kind of flail a little bit and go: “oh no! I have a deadline and I don’t really have any ideas! What do I do?” But I still manage.
So it varies on life, I guess and what get’s written down at a given time. Thankfully, I’ve always have something written down that I could pick from. Thankfully, I’ve never come to the point where I’m: “Oh, I have absolutely nothing and the comic is due tomorrow.”
16. Walk us through the process of making a page for your web comic.
As I’ve mentioned before, it all really starts with writing down the ideas. Once I pick from my journal which one that I want to go for. Sometimes it can be pretty straight forward, so I can go right into drawing. But other times I’ll actually look at it and decide “okay, what line’s going in which panel? How many panels will I need?”
Sometimes I’ll even do little thumbnails to decide: “Okay, how’s this gonna fit?” So that’s when I come in as my own editor.
The facts still stay pretty close to how they happen in real life, but sometimes I will have to tweak things so it’ll actually fit the format that I’ve imposed on myself.
Once I figure that out, I start by drawing out the panels for the final. I actually draw it by hand; I just use blue pencil, and sketch it out. Anyway, I tweak it until it’s pretty much final, and once I’m happy with it...
Sometimes I’ll walk away from it for a bit to give myself a fresher perspective when I come back and look at it: “Am I still happy with it?” And then I’ll go into inking. Once it’s inked and I’m happy with it, I just scan it into Photoshop and I finish it up there, and I would do the translation into Spanish also directly in Photoshop. That’s about it.
17. In a way you’re publicizing your life for all to see. The same could be said about the people that are represented in the comic. Normally, this causes friction between the creator and the people whose lives are being mirrored. Have you experienced these issues?
I’ve been extremely fortunate to not have had that problem. The comic itself is mostly between myself and my husband. There’s been some characters that have been introduced from time to time besides him and me.
I remember, especially at the very beginning, the first year, I would ask him permission every single time. And he’d never say no, never complain, he’d never object. It just came to the point that I stopped asking permission. He’s always been super supportive of my work. I just stopped asking permission and he’s been perfectly fine.
In fact, there’s times that it’s preferable because I’ll write something down, sometimes he’ll come by as I’m working and he’ll read over my shoulder and he’ll chuckle to himself: “oh yeah, I remember that.”
As for the other people I’ve included in the comic, they’re usually actually really that I draw them in the comic at all. So it’s usually a positive experience; there hasn’t been any friction or any bad experiences.
18. With a medium such as web comics, you have ability to speak to the audience on many different levels. What message did you intend to deliver through your comic, if any?
I never really had a mission, if you will, with the comic itself when I started making it. For me it’s almost like just snap shots of different things that have happened in my husband’s life and myself. And it’s funny, because even for me looking back to the comics that I’ve done, it’s almost like a photo album in a way. Moments that seem pretty trivial, but had I not recorded them in some way, they would have been probably forgotten a long time ago.
If anything, one pleasant surprise I found from my readers as they’ve shared with me how they like the comic is the point of relate-ability, which I didn’t expect. I was not out to: “Oh let’s write about what married people do!” It was more “Oh, I just wanted to write about my husband and me and what silly things we do.” And that’s been the most common comment that I’ve gotten from readers who enjoy the comic.
That means a lot! It kind of bring a bit of a connection, I guess, between myself and the readers out there that I wasn’t really expecting. But it’s been really pleasant.
19. Do you feel that your audience has a powerful sway over your characters whether it be through story or their actions? If so, how have they influenced the direction of comic?
The only thing that I can think of is perhaps showing more cuter or tender moments that may not necessarily have a joke in them. I remember from the very beginning, I was not all that keen on doing that because I thought it would get boring too quickly, and I don’t want to scare people away.
But I was actually surprised that people actually want to see that. They were actually genuinely interested seeing more of the tenderness in our relationship. SO I’m like: “okay, I’m gonna start including those moments.”
It’s kind of widen my scope, to look out for those moments that may make it into the comic that I would have not thought of before.
20. What did you do to market Fall on Me?
Just word of mouth as in social networking. I have a Facebook fan page, I have Twitter, Tumbler. I’ve done Project Wonderful. Whenever I collected enough comic strips, through Lulu, I started making collected volumes of books and also whenever there’s any discounts or any promos through Lulu I try to promote those through social networking.
“Hey they’re having 20% off now if you’re interested in getting a book!”
I’ve also gone to conventions. Especially last year, it was my first year trying that out and actually showing my face and showing my work and trying to get it out there.
Again it’s just playing it by ear, seeing what other people do and “Oh let me try that out!” I’m not super savy when it comes to that side of things. It’s been definitely a bit of a learning curve for me.
21. Where do you see your web comic in the next few years?
Good question, I don’t know. Hopefully I can just keep doing the comic. Yeah, I don’t know. This whole comic has been played by ear from the very beginning and basically to this day I still approach it in the manner.
22. You said that you had a Facebook fan page and a Twitter, you can go ahead and list them now if you’d like.
The business element that we should take away from Adriana’s success is how she went about building a community around her project through social networking platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr.
Though each platform is unified by news feeds relating to Fall on Me; she also offers something entirely unique on each one, enticing existing followers to join her community on other networks. For example, her Facebook page is treated very much like a press release and is primarily made up of comic updates and news related items as it relates to her work as an artist.
Her Tumblr feed is made up of her own personal artworks including a snapshot of both English and Spanish comics as they go live. She also shares comical items and videos that may be of interest to her followers.
On Twitter, you get a very personal Adriana, as she includes news and links about things that are happening in and around her life.
Once again she has the added benefit of her web comic being purely a hobby based project whose success isn’t driven by financial gain. As such she’s left behind the sleazy sales tactics and focuses on what she thinks is genuinely interesting for her community of followers.