(True Story) Why I Quit FC&S Comics, Then Came Back

It’s been one year since Little Fried Chicken and Sushi returned to regular updates after a year hiatus.  Here are some of my thoughts on why I stopped and started again, and ideas for how you can move forward with new creative projects when you lose passion for your work.

Letting go can lead you to what you need

I’ll never forget, feeling so burned out two years ago from work and life that even drawing comics didn’t make me smile.  In my mind at the time, ending Little Fried Chicken and Sushi comics was the only way to rest and heal.

And why keep it going? No new readers were discovering the strip.  I had a decent amount of support on Patreon -even though it didn’t feel like enough to me.  So, I ended Fried Chicken and Sushi completely. Finally! I would have time to rest and take things slower.

Not true. I started drawing for fun in my sketchbook more, and sharing those sketches on Instagram regularly, eventually feeling the drive to grow as an illustrator.  

But that didn’t make me happy.  Single images are fun, but I always yearn for more of a story -a sequence of events and the visual pacing only possible within panels.  

Even though making comic strips two to three times a week is difficult, I had to face the truth.  Making comics, made me happy. I needed it in my life.

So, I started brainstorming possible concepts and characters to develop a new comic.

I got close with a strip idea entitled “The Honeybuns.”  The strip was named after a rabbit family of four, and the humor primarily revolved around their life living in Silicon Valley.  My goal was to parody the stressful and ridiculously hectic lifestyle of bay area families, but instead of humans, using busy bunnies. Here are some of the sample strips from my submission packet.

BaxterBunnyCLR001.jpg
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What do you think?  Should I have stuck with this concept? Are you happy I moved on? This is a small sample of my submission.  If you would like to see more let me know in the comments.

Work on a project only you can create

No syndicates were interested.  Not even GoComics, the one that syndicates FC&S online.  I received some helpful feedback but ultimately had a choice to make.  Either keep working on improving “The Honeybuns,” a more mainstream strip idea or start Little Fried Chicken and Sushi up again.

Sometimes, you just have to face the hard truth.  Working on developing a new project would take a tremendous amount of time and energy I didn’t have

I knew the world and characters of Little FC&S best, so it would be easier to just start again.  That way, I could get better with something familiar and have an easier time creating new strip ideas.

The big question for me was -why restart a comic strip that wasn’t that popular in the first place?

One answer was pretty obvious. The election of Donald Trump as president. What felt like a rise in Americans sharing their outright racist opinions in public, online, and through committing hate crimes, helped to light my motivational fire to continue drawing a positive black family in comic strip form.

I noticed there were few humor strips with people of color, let alone with both African-Americans and Japanese main characters combined. Fried Chicken and Sushi could be the voice of a new comics generation.

Or, at least, one voice from the minority perspective. A voice with the opportunity to speak to a broader audience about living overseas and being open to other cultures through the GoComics platform, where only a handful of comics with people of color are syndicated.

The other factor is authenticity.  Only I could write and draw FC&S. Gag ideas come from my experiences as a black man who lived in and visits Japan. My unique worldview in writing would set it apart combined with my individual art style.

If it comes down to it, pick a project with a subject matter you know well or have a passion for and present it in a way that brings joy.     

Work on a new project while producing your current one

Perhaps, creating new project ideas feels easier while you are writing and drawing an already established project because you’re working out your “idea muscle” every day.  Taking a long break might just slow the process down and weaken your creativity.

There are benefits to keeping that creative fire burning!

Does this mean I have a new and better comic strip idea brewing in my head?  Honestly, no, not yet. It’s fun to work on improving my gag writing and character development skills through producing Fried Chicken and Sushi comics consistently every week.

I hope you’re enjoying reading them and I look forward to your feedback.  

Arigato Gozaimasu,

Khalid

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Learning Japanese with comics -SUMIMASEN!

FCSLittle How to use SUMIMASEN.jpg

Sumimasen -the word that works for everything. I'm sure there are uses I left out, and will most likely put in future strips. Sumimasen is one of my favorite Japanese words, and I marvel at how effortlessly people use it in various situations.

I forgot that creating a comic about living in another country gives plenty of opportunities to teach language and how it relates to the culture. As I grow as a cartoonist, I hope these examples of "international cartooning" improve over time.

The Urban Dictionary defines sumimasen as:

Japanese word meaning, "I am sorry".
Sometimes used together with doumo. "Doumo sumimasen" also means I'm sorry.

Often in conversation "doumo sumimasen" or "sumimasen" are used in place of "Thank you". Perhaps Japanese feeling is, I'm sorry bothering you, but thank you very much to be so considerate.

1. Sumimasen I broke your dish.
2. When a gentle person gives away a seat on a crowded train to an aged person, the person who received the favor may say, "sumimasen" or "doumo sumimasen".

Thanks for your support and don't forget to like and share the comic with the world!

Khalid

3 Creativity Hacks Inspired By Japanese Wood Carvings

What do monkeys; a cat and an elephant have in common?  Believe it or not, inspiration for expanding your creativity!

Actually, the animals I’m talking about are ornately carved on structures made over 400 years ago at Toshogu Shrine in the city of Nikko, Japan.  The famous shrine and world heritage site is just north of Tokyo, and was built as the final resting place of ruler Tokugawa Ieyasu.  He founded the Tokugawa Shogunate, the final military dynasty in Japan that lasted from 1603-1867.

Even though Japan has been a part of my life for thirteen years I can’t recall hearing about this place until this summer.  My family and I visited Nikko for several days and were quite impressed with the history and colorful beauty of the area.

Not only was it lovely, there were several takeaways I discovered about the creative process just from pondering these wood carved animals at Toshogu Shrine. 

Nemuri-Neko, the sleeping cat, guarding Tokugawa Ieyasu's resting place.

Nemuri-Neko, the sleeping cat, guarding Tokugawa Ieyasu's resting place.

 

1.    The Sleeping Cat shows us how we can receive inspiration while at rest

Nemuri-Neko, carved by Hidari Jingoro, is of a sleeping cat surrounded by flowers.  It was placed at the entrance of Tokugawa Ieyasu’s grave to ward off mice and has become a famous recognizable symbol to Japanese people.  What fascinates me is that the cat is sleeping and, similar to a real feline, still seems alert!

I’m reminded of how cats take frequent naps but are still aware of their surroundings and can wake quickly when approached.  Just like when we’re trying to get creative inspiration for our projects, thinking hard doesn’t usually get results.  It’s when we’re sleeping, taking a walk or even using the restroom that the great idea pops into our heads!  If you jump right away and make a mental note or write it down, you can catch it like a little mouse.

Learn to fill your mind with images and information from research related to the project you need a great idea for.  Then take a break so that it can all gel in your brain.  When you let go by doing something different and turn your mind away, the answers will come!

The artist carved the elephant on the right without ever seeing a real one.

The artist carved the elephant on the right without ever seeing a real one.

2.    The Elephant shows that if you commit to taking risks you can create something no one has ever seen before

On top of a building that was used as a warehouse called “Kamijinko” is a carving of an elephant.  The artist never actually saw one in real life and I think it turned out looking pretty accurate.  I assume he was going off of written descriptions of what elephants look like.

There must have been quite a bit of pressure because this was to be done to honor the emperor.  Since there are no elephants in Japan and no cameras at that time, he had to use his imagination to create his own interpretation.  Yes, we could say that no one else had seen real elephants back then either so he could have created whatever crazy animal he wanted, but it looks like he took it seriously.

The artist couldn’t see any references for what he needed to create but still took a risk and made it happen.  I’m sure he sketched plenty of ideas early on (and probably hated all of them) but found something good eventually through continually doing the work.

When you’re coming up with a new idea or design, use what you know and have the courage to put down ideas even if they look or sound awful.  Getting started is the key.  Learning through continually working on and through your ideas by facing fears, taking small risks and trying styles you’ve never taken on before will create something amazing.    

The three monkeys reminding you to hear no evil, speak no evil and see no evil.

The three monkeys reminding you to hear no evil, speak no evil and see no evil.

3.    The Three Monkeys want you to train your brain and avoid evil

On the sacred horse stable or Shinkyusha are 8 carved boards along the top that depict the life of a monkey and caricature human life.  One of the most famous boards illustrates the famous Buddhist teaching -if we hear no evil, speak no evil and see no evil; we can live a good life.

It’s something we have to train ourselves to do.  I’m sure all of us have times when we get in deep trouble for speaking evil my mistake!  As we grow in life, we learn when to speak up and when to stay quiet.  You can also train yourself to be more creative as long as you understand that it will take time.  It will take less time if you have a purpose.

Just like the monkeys in the carving you can make a point to avoid evil but pay attention to all the inspiration that you hear, say and see in the world.

Read more and make a point to remember one detail that you feel is important.  Look at the work of artists you admire or despise and study what makes their work special.  Learn a new skill.  Spend time with people you think of as creative and talk with them about what inspires you.  Question everything!  The answers will create new inventions, characters and stories.  

The bottom line is to make a point to take inspiration breaks while you work, commit to consistently taking risks and exercising your creative mind with more than just your art, music or writing.  Keep these ideas in your head each day and watch your creative power expand in ways you never thought possible!

Of course, you should also take a trip to Nikko, Japan.  It’s pretty amazing!