My name is Samuel Isaac Dealey. You can call me Ike.
I've been on DA since 2007 and am primarily a webcomic author. Because DA has been so good to me, I'd like to pay forward some of the success I've had here by helping some other webcomic artists get more exposure. Sometimes really great artists go essentially unnoticed because, lets face it, we're not all great self-marketers. If we were, then wouldn't we be sales people?
Gutter Stars is a series of interviews with dedicated webcomic authors who I think deserve a bit more exposure than they're getting. The idea for the name "Gutter Stars" came to me while I was thinking about comics. What do comics have? They have panels and gutters... and then I remembered this quote from Oscar Wilde.
If you'd like to see more interviews with other webcomic authors, please favorite and share this article in your blogs or journals!
So here is Joao Valagao (Joaov)!
Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you from? What are your interests?
I'm from Portugal, and growing up I really liked to draw. I still have a couple of A4 notebooks that I took to school every day that are full of drawings (from video game characters like Sonic to Dragonball characters and some random stuff). That and computers. Basically playing computer games. Later (too late, in my opinion) I started actually paying attention to music, and learned to play the piano and the guitar.
Being the son of two hard-working realistic people, come "career choice day", I thought "you never know if you'll make a paycheck as an artist", so I went the safe way into IT engineering with the idea of going into video game development. I finished a degree in that area and have been working as a programmer about 4 years now. About 2 years ago, I started doing Cereals For Lunch in my time off, as an outlet for my creativity. And here we are today.
Ike: I was a software engineer for a decade... not sure if I would call it "safe", but yeah, I think anyone who does anything creative has heard that from their parents.
Tell us about your webcomic. What's the theme (if any)? How long have you been publishing it? Is there anything else we should know?
I can't really say there's a theme in Cereals For Lunch. It's basically a comic about a group of people going about their lives. Every once in a while I'll do a random comic about something I think is funny, or incorporate the characters into current events. And there are music or game or book or film or politics or philosophy or culture-related comics in the middle, but they're not at all a focus for the comic.
I've started it two years ago, but only went with a weekly schedule after about 5 months, I think. The 4 initial characters were physically based on me, my girlfriend and two of my best friends. Their characters, though, have little to do with us (except maybe me... )
Ike: Woohooligan is the same way. Although the characters that are based on myself and my family are probably more like my real family and yet they don't show up in the comic nearly as often. You do mostly stick with comics that feature that stable of 4 characters, so I think that could be considered the theme. I guess it would be similar to the TV series Friends.
What got you interested in creating webcomics?
One day, in the beginning of 2010, a friend of mine who thought I could draw (hah!) asked me if I'd like to make a comic for some gaming e-zine that was coming up in Portugal that was looking for something of the sort. I gave it a go and, while they didn't go with it, I got a taste of comics and tried a few. I showed them to my friends, but friends are always too nice to you, aren't they? So I asked some of the webcomic artists I read if they could give me an opinion. The few responses I got were positive, so I kept doing them.
Ike: I think it takes a bit of guts to ask that of the artists you read. I've asked that from one of the artists I follow. He said he'd have a look, but I haven't heard anything back and it's been a couple months, so I don't think he's going to.
How do you hone your craft? Is there a parcticular technique you use to improve your comic-making skills?
I build the CFL website as well as doing the comics, and I only do the comics on my time off from work, hence the very very slow rate.. (I'd really like to get the comics out more often!)
Regarding the visuals, I will usually look at something that I don't draw decently, and remember that, and when I'm out and see that thing, I'll focus on it's details and if I can replicate it and see it morph (like muscles, clothes, etc..) so I will know what it should look like next time I draw it.
I have had no formal training on visual or written art since high school. On both the drawing and the writing, I'm just learning as I go along, I'll see what I like and don't like about what I did, and try to get better at it next time.
Ike: I think a lot of us webcomic authors are "making it up as we go".
How would you define "critique"? How do you feel about receiving critiques? Giving them?
Well I just see a critique as someone attempting to give an opinion on a piece of work unbiased by their feelings towards it. Analyzing the technical side of it, even the feeling conveyed by it (was it successful in conveying that feeling, and such).
In my rational mind, I am fine with critiques. I like them because they let me know where I need to improve, and if what I am doing is any good at all . Emotionally, though, I get really defensive about them and easily offended (the same way I take life-critiques ), because I can't really help it...
Ike: I realize this is unsolicited advice, so, I won't be offended if you're not interested. Anyway, I read this book called Mindset by Carol Dweck. Great book. She's a cognitive science researcher who's done over a decade of research into what she calls fixed and growth mindsets. They basically boil down to whether you believe in nature or nurture. Most of those sort of knee-jerk reactions seem to stem from a fixed mindset -- that is, the belief that a certain ability is given to you by genetics rather than by effort.
The bad news is it's real easy to accidentally teach kids to have a fixed mindset in which instead of striving to improve themselves, they strive not to be shown up. All you have to do is tell the kid "hey you're really smart" instead of "hey, congratulations, your hard work really paid off" and the next thing you know, they're turning down the next challenge for fear that they won't be "smart" anymore if they fail. So they become underachievers, will only be friends with people who agree with them, etc. The good news is that it doesn't have to be permanent.
We're all somewhere on that spectrum between believing that our skills are purely genetic or believing that they're purely the result of hard work. I lean heavily on the hard-work side myself and I find that working to maintain that belief, that what I achieve is the result of my own effort, helps to keep me from being too knee-jerk about critiques, because after-all, they're part of the sweat you have to put in if you want to improve.
I like giving critiques, but as someone without any formal training in art, I usually just stick with "do I like what I see" and, well, any visible flaws I can see, I'll bring them up, but sometimes it's the artist's style.
Ike: I can appreciate that.
What's your basic worldview? Do you believe people are basically good or evil? Do you subscribe to a particular religious or secular ideology? Hell is other people? Original Sin? Rastafarian? Flying Spaghetti Monster? etc... (no wrong answers here)
Eish.. It's a heavy question, one I'm most fond of discussing with people.
I think religion is a very good thing for someone to have. To fall back on. To lean on when you're weak. But not in the Christian or Islamic or Judaic way, though.
Still I rely heavily on science for my knowledge. Mainly because I can't convince myself to believing in God.
That said, I still like to keep an open mind to ... "energies" that we don't know yet. I have a great fascination with "chi" or "ki" or "spiritual energy" or, in the middle ages, "magic". I don't go around doing tai chi or meditating or such stuff (although I think meditating is very calming), but I do read up on it, and conduct some personal experiments on it.
I do this because I think scientists today are limited in what they look at. We try to measure energy in electromagnetic, heat or gravity, or nuclear forces. But I think there may, and probably is, more than what we know today.
In the same way, they (we) mostly look for carbon-based life on other planets (There are other elements in the periodic table!) and close their minds to types of life we don't see on Earth. I keep rambling in my answers!
Ike: I think it's nice to meet people who try to keep an open mind like that.
What hardships have you overcome in your life? (you don't have to answer this if you don't want to)
I have had a lot of good fortune in my life. Most of my hardships I would say are self-inflicted, basically disappointment at myself and self-doubt. Other than that, all I have suffered was the natural course of life... I lost, by now, all my grandparents, from both sides. Recently my father had a stroke, which has taken a heavy toll on me and my family (He's still recovering from it. It was pretty bad.)
What artists have inspired your work?
I've always read comics. Though I never read things like superhero comics. When I was a kid, in Portugal, it was usually Disney or Brasilian comics (Mickey, Donald, A turma da mônica), basically stuff my family would think I'd like. It was ok, and I'd still take it to the bathroom if I had nothing else around
I grew up with Tintin and Asterix, the french/belgian comics, stuff that combined comedy and action (I think Tintin is a wonderful piece of art and an excellent thing for a young mind). Later on I stumbled upon a Calvin & Hobbes book, and my world was changed. I veered into that and my cousin would lend me Dilbert books. I later started getting Zits, Mutts and that sort of things. (I don't go all "underground" to look for new stuff.)
Although I never bought one of their books (blasphemy!), I also give great reverence to Charles Schulz for Peanuts and to Jim Davis for Garfield.
I also draw a lot of lessons in comedy from TV Shows like The Simpsons (you know those little things Marge teaches Lisa about being a woman are hilarious), Scrubs, Friends (Friends had a very flawless comedy style, in my opinion), Seinfeld, ah... there are so many...
Ike: I've enjoyed some of those. Simpsons, Scrubs, Friends and to some extent Garfield. To be honest I hear a lot of people mention Calvin & Hobbes as an inspiration and I've just never seen anything special in it. I guess I'm going to comic author hell for blaspheming against Watterson.
What advice would you give to other artists?
Aw man... I don't know much myself... Let's see... I'd just advise them to get comfortable with their art, whatever it is, and keep a critical view of their own art. This way you can improve your own art to what you think it should be. And if someone else points it out, it's always easier to be criticized on something you know yourself .
For a webcomic, I would say, from my experience as a reader, that a very important thing is to have a regular schedule. It makes people come back for more, at regular intervals. It also makes you have to keep on drawing and thinking about comics.
Ike: Yeah, I keep hearing about the regular schedule thing... also something I don't do... but I do try and publish at least one new comic every week... so if you just checked my site on any given day of the week, you'd always get at least one new comic. My life is so hectic right now I don't think I could promise updates on specific days. But I understand the draw.
Are there any special projects you'd like to mention? Upcoming art projects? Groups? Charities? etc.
I can't say there is. I'd advise everyone reading to check out your own stuff, which is hilarious as well as very interesting (your journals have taught me many a thing).
Ike: Well that's very flattering. This is supposed to be about you though.
I'd also like to turn a spotlight on 47ness (author of Piston Pete and Sally Sprocket) and on taresh (creator of Ryak-Lo, a manga ). That's about it.
Is there anything you'd like to say that hasn't been covered in the previous questions?
I'd like to thank you for these interviews. Not just mine, but all before me. They were really interesting to read, and I hope they helped the artists out.
I'd also like to thank my frequent readers for ... well... reading it!
Ike: Thanks for taking part! I'm sure folks will be interested to see more of Cereals For Lunch!
That's it for this installment of Gutter Stars. Send me a note if you have suggestions for interview questions or if you know of any webcomic authors you think might benefit from an interview (or if you are a webcomic author and would like an interview). My goal is to help webcomic authors get more exposure, so although I won't outright refuse any suggestions, priority will be given to artist who are getting less traffic than I am and who've shown dedication by having a good body of work in their webcomic. The only hard rule is they have to publish at least some of their comic to DA so that I can feature their strips or pages in the interview.
Thanks for reading! Don't forget to favorite!
And I hope you'll join us next time to meet another great webcomic artist!
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