worst foot forward

January 31, 2012

Okay, so this post is gonna be a little different from even my usual apologetic rambling. I dunno, i’m just guilty of gripping the stick too tight at times (that’s Canadian for “trying too hard”), and occasionally that means aiming higher than one can reasonably go, and spending Way Too Long on a given piece, and then the comic i’m working on becomes like a word you say over and over again until it loses all meaning and the whole thing just goes over like an improperly-loaded container ship (WINSTON, YOU HAVE NOT STACKED THE BOXES CORRECTLY!! WE’RE GOING TO–AIIIIIIIEEEEEEEEEEE!!ETC). Happens to us all i’m sure, it’s just frustrating, and then it’s been two weeks since the last update and i have nothing new to post and i honestly can’t stand lettin’ down the team like that, so maybe this is just some kind of semi-therapeutic thing as part of the efforts to get myself back to earth and not freak the hell out so much over my work.

Thus: i’m just gonna step off the ice for a sec and post some of that Failed Stuff from the past few years, just to kind of get it off my chest i guess. Or maybe just for novelty purposes. But maybe also to convey that just because you have no editor doesn’t mean you shouldn’t or won’t have a cutting room floor, and just because you post a lot of well-received work doesn’t mean you don’t have a lot of ideas that you’re just not good enough to pull off or that just suck but you don’t notice until the 11th hour.

I think the thing i was working on for this week, which you can read here in Way-Too-Big format, falls into that category. You know how you feel about an issue but sometimes the words just don’t come. Or some of them come but not others. Or they were there the whole time, but you’re no longer listening because you’ve been working on the damn thing for too long and just need to put it aside before you go mental. So yeah, part of this is me feeling bad for not having something new to post this week, but it’s also an attempt to kind of  turn a corner and kind of not go so mental over comix. I’ll be back soon, fear not, this is just one minor blip in a long-standing series.  I just like to be up front about the ol’ Periodic Artistic Struggles. It comes with the territory, and it’s the truth (and i like the truth), and i’d feel better if i heard another artist saying it, so i’m saying it.

see you shortly,



31 Responses to “worst foot forward”

  1. Snake Says:

    Don’t worry, Winston. Things like this happen to even the greatest of writers (and as far as humor columns go, you’ll always be #1 in my opinion). Good luck with your writer’s block and your what-have-you, and I look forward to more of your unique wit and talent in the future. I have every confidence in you.

  2. Sisiutil Says:

    Thanks. It’s very generous of you to share stuff you didn’t like, that didn’t work out, that you didn’t complete. Like looking at the handwritten manuscripts of authors in the British Museum, it gives us a peek inside a creative mind, a hint of the process behind the art.

    I think some of those ideas are worth salvaging. I loved the concept of “what’s really going on in the minds of those trapped in a typically glib 3-4 panel comic”. Especially since your comics are rarely 3-4 panels and are anything but glib. I also liked seeing Ethel’s friendship with the tea-drinking music store clerk develop. And what is in that trunk anyway? Maybe it’s best not to know…

    And finally, the lack of an arrivals area at the Regina Int’l = FUNNY!

  3. Sheedy Says:

    Don’t ever worry about updating regularly. While it may give you some impetus to get things done, this is your website, not ours. We get awesome for free.

    I think you were right not to post that comic in your usual manner, it is excellent, but it is different – it has no narrative. It’s a lovely poster, and one that should be on the walls of high-school classes across the nations.

  4. Almafuerte Says:

    We admire your commitment to your work, and your honesty. Keep being awesome.

  5. Joe Trudell Says:

    2 of my favorite themes of your comic are these:
    1. The fact that you don’t update on a regular basis. Not only does it make your work more organic, but it means that when you do update, it’s like a nice little surprise in my email.
    2. You always seem to have a wonderful way of pointing out that through all our petty differences, in the end we’re all the same.

    Also, thanks for giving us a peak at the cutting room floor. I especially like the “how’s it going?” comic, though I can see why you didn’t go with it. Still a good concept that could maybe just stand a little editing.

  6. Joe Trudell Says:

    oh yeah,and “Map Of The Drlow” also and awesome idea.

  7. Ghost Says:


    I know it’s sort of your thing, but you should really stop apologizing for your new comics. I don’t know whether you’ve been in the position of reading a comic that you can only get to by first reading through a post about how it didn’t turn out well, etc., but that becomes the first context that people interpret it through. First impressions and so on.

    And it’s really a shame with an idea as good as this. When the *entire alt text* is a three-line-long thing about how it didn’t turn out how you wanted it to, which most people can’t help but see several times as they scroll around the picture, it sends the message that the thing that people should take away is about the quality of the comic, rather than perceived gender differences, or the importance of perspective, or whatever each comic/poster itself is actually *about*. Maybe you were going for irony, implying that you were focusing on minor differences too much even in the creation of your own work, but if so, it’s going to be lost on a lot of people.

    I get what you’re saying about how you’d want to hear about it if your own favorite artists were having similar problems, and I would too, but preferably *after* I’d read the work in question, not immediately before. Unfortunately, I don’t really know how to solve this given your current site/blog layouts while still saving bandwidth by not having everyone view huge images just by reading their google reader subscription or whatever. But it’s something to consider.

    I mean, feel however you want about it as the artist, I guess, but how much do you want your readers to feel the same way?

  8. Alexander Erben Says:

    Dear Winston,

    it’s done when it’s done. As I wrote here before: I’d rather wait months for something new of yours than get something you are not in the least way satisfied with or that does not add anything substantial. And if the day comes when you say “I’ve nothing more to tell you” I will nod and smile and thank you for everything you have told. Do not pressure yourself into ‘having to deliver’.

    Remember how you described the standard evolution of most rock bands / video games / comic strips / tv shows in various strips? How they decline over time due to producer and audience pressure or burned-out authors? Please don’t be that guy that tells you how to do your job. 🙂 Then I will quit pretending to be him as well.

    Best wishes, man,

  9. Phil Wilson Says:

    I rather enjoyed Susan and Walter. The Map of the Dlrow was wonderful, especially from my perspective as a N’Dalgner living in Old D’Nalaez with a wife from Napaj.

  10. Thanks for the update.

    I agree with what Alexander said above – if there is no inspiration there is no pressure. Waiting is better for me than reading filler comics and losing faith in the artist.

    This being said, I’m sorry that “How’s it Going?” got into that page with the others. It’s really good and inspiring, the script needs minor editing at the most, and the most important thing: the characters already get your empathy, and you end up identifying with them. Actually, I’ll repost it right now.

    So it did end up as a week with a WR comic 🙂

  11. aleatoire0 Says:

    Even if these comics don’t please you or don’t feel right, they are so many little things and details in all of them that are absolutely terrific! I love the “Prosecutors will be shoplifted”, the thing made of drawers, the colours of the letter opener comic and the last bit with the cereal box that reminds me of Infinite Jest and its Québecois terrorists.
    Thank you very much for sharing these!

  12. André Says:

    winston, shut the fuck up. there’s no comic in the world as good as yours, and that’s a fact.

  13. olivia Says:

    Someday the world must learn what is inside the empty box!

  14. doyle Says:

    ahh, Winston, as a singing fish once told me “dont worry, be happy.” trust me its realy some sound advice lol.

  15. aloecu Says:

    I gotta say, I enjoyed the first one, and there’s definitely some great aspects to the second one. I’m with everyone regarding updating on time. Frankly I don’t think “Damnit, it’s been two weeks since the last Subnormality. Where’s the next one?” I think “Hey, awesome, a new Subnormality. This is going to be great. Today just got better.”

  16. I recently discovered this comic and read everyone of them over the course of three days. I am really excited that I found it because I really feel like I can identify with it.

    By not updating you gave me a chance to catch up with everything. So that is sort of a silver lining I guess.

    I enjoyed looking at some of those ‘failed’ comics. Some of them were really good or at least really good ideas.

  17. Masa Yume Says:

    No doubt there would be awesomeness behind the scenes too.

  18. ryangoo27 Says:

    It’s my first comment here! I’ve been following your comic for about 2 months though- and I definitely will continue to enjoy any future content you produce!

    That new image does work well as a quick infographic, I’d think. On its own I do love it… egalitarianism, hooray! 😀 Though I suppose I do get what you mean up there.

    (Oh, and I liked that DeHavilland shirt too!)

  19. Benjy Says:

    Defocus was a bit strange and difficult to grasp at first but I actually really liked it… I’d mos def have a poster of it. As for the scattered half finished ones, I particularly enjoyed the war-helmet one and the “how’s it going” one. The art is good in all of them and I’d love to see the apartment one come to fruition. I’ve been fighting writer’s block lately myself and I’ve yet to find a cure. Try to be less critical of yourself though, you have tons of fans that adore your work; myself included. 😀

    • Benjy Says:

      Also, I thought about this after hitting “post comment” on my previous comment… but it was too funny not to use. Your art gives me a Rowner! (It’s like Rowntree with Boner. Get it? I’m crazy brilliant right?) 😛

  20. Hello. Says:

    No worries, man. Take as much time as needed; we’ll be here when you get back.
    Take care.

  21. CatcherSei Says:

    If you ever decide to make a print of the “defocus” comic, I’d love to buy one. How far is that from actually happening?

  22. benS. Says:

    Hi WR!
    Although myself not being much of an “another artist”, I do see what I see, and what I see is good. Oh Jesus Chris… Keep on your excellent work!

    How To:

    1. Consider some Truth like: (Lots of) people have painful secrets.

    2. Illustrate this.

    3. Add one or another twist like: A coffer with secrets converts into a portable dungeon.
    Let the involved, closely related persons collide as if being strangers.

    4. And voila! Strip #188 unfinished (INSIDE) and #188 finished (The rude stranger) -versions.


    P.s. Our robot vacuum cleaner would go nuts INSIDE that room.

    • benS. Says:

      .Holy Mary!
      Must’ve fallen into the reductionist trap again.

      boner ben,
      son of a molten snowman.

      P.s. … no P.s.

  23. I KNEW IT! The Quebecois invasion begins at Estevan! Lucky for them, my poutine-proof war machines are already en route…

    I’m really glad you shared those abandoned ideas, to my eyes they don’t seem particularly unworkable really, I actually thought the “map of the Dlrow” was absolutely fantastic – the bit about “Brownland” had me laughing so hard I couldn’t breathe. From one down-on-himself writer to another, keeping shit locked up where no one else can see it is the fastest way to give yourself cancer-of-the-self-esteem. I hope letting these demons out to play has helped!

  24. Kim Says:

    Winston, don’t be so hard on yourself. We are lucky to have you when you emerge from the studio with something fabulous that you are proud of – quality, not quantity. You don’t need to burn yourself out to impress us. But even still, from my vantage point, I really enjoyed “Defocus”, “How’s It Going?”, and all your other unfinished scraps all the same! You’re an amazing artist, storyteller, and philosopher. Keep up the good work as long as it keeps coming to you – no pressure.

  25. Richter Says:

    Mr Rowntree, don’t beat yourself up over it. Update in June if you feel like it. You don’t owe us anything. As Pixar would say, “You can’t rush art, boy!”

    And heck, *we* should all draw you comics as thank you for Subnormality.

    Whaddaya say people? Let’s all draw something for Winston, anything, let’s show some love. 🙂

  26. Abel Says:

    I really like this post. And I can absolutely relate. I always knew I liked these Comix, and this blog, too! Subnormalities (I’m gonna use that as the plural for your comix) always have a knack of saying, heck articulating, those things that we all do and feel, but are unable to share or put in perspective on our own. . . A lot of the Subnormalities put these things in to crystal clear focus.
    No comic? Who cares. Letting us glimpse in to your own self-imposed super high quality control. . . only makes us admire you more, I think. The fact that you invite us behind the scenes, on to your own personal cutting room floor is so fuckin’ rad. Like the special features on those Criterion Edition DVDs rad!

  27. DaveB Says:

    Hey Winston,

    I just happened to click on your “rejects” page and, let me tell you, even your crap is better than most of the drivel that I see proudly waving in the breeze online. So, really, there’s no such thing as a wasted effort when one is searching for inspiration or just sorting out the voices in one’s head, as it were.
    So to speak.

    Additionally, the Christmas visit with PHG and the Sphinx was the highlight of the season for me (okay, except for spending time with my wife and daughter) and the Valentine piece was just fokking awesome, as nobody does awsomeness the way you do, and I wish I wasn’t so broke because I’d send you a stack of cash just for posting that if I could.

    To summarize: thank you, a thousand times. Only a truly beautiful soul could produce the work you have done. I mean that sincerely.

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