Sunday, August 19, 2007

No art right now, just talk...

I do have new art, I'll just scan it later. Before I begin this, I'll tell you that this isn't a rant, or something filled with bitterness, but instead observation. When I first started off on this quest to become something "big" in the industry (two years later, only a little further in terms of jobs), I had all these ideas of what "should" happen. Of course things change when you really get there. You read magazines like Wizard growing up (before all the sites like Newsarama sprang into popularity), and you think it just happens overnight. Basically "Hey, now I am 'talented' now I'll begin working on major books." WRONG, you can be extremely good, and it still won't guarantee that you'll work on 'big' books. You have to pay your dues, and it's a hard lesson to learn.

There are horror stories from nearly every comic creator about their first jobs where somebody jipped them on pay for a book, and it never saw print. I've done a decent amount of work, some was never seen, but most of it has, or will see print. I still haven't seen decent pay, but that comes with the territory. A lot of guys are just entering the industry in their thirties, some because when they were young they made a large mistake, and only a decade later are they getting back in. The thing is, I'm still pretty young, and I have to fight that generalization of "young artists flake out on you." I also have to fight off the "he's young, so he'll fall for a scam." I get a lot of offers to do work, but if I'm unsure of the success rate, or if I just plain don't have the time, I have to be honest and say so. People will ultimately respond well to honesty. They don't want you to start a job, put in a "good effort" and fail. They want to know that either you can do it, or you can't and they can find someone who will. This industry is full of people who have dreams...dreams but not money. With hollywood, people have the money or the resources to get money to pay for even bad ideas. With comics, most people are working with a zero-dollar budget, and then hoping that the book will be picked up.

As great as ideas are, presentation sometimes falls short, or a gimmick overtakes plot and good storytelling. For anybody that actually reads this, just think about what you are wanting to do in this business. For a while I tried a lot of different plans of attack. I tried making a fan-friendly style, I tried just working non-stop to create images to get noticed, I tried contacting different independent companies with good reputations and just offering my services. Still didn't get a job. One would thing that people would be really happy to have someone who's pretty talented with a history of good work ethic basically giving away their services...but they still want someone with a "name." It's a hard thing to get past. How do you make a name for yourself when even smaller companies want someone with a "name"? At that point you have to either attend shows and really get in good with a company and then work your way up on smaller jobs. Or you can go the route I'm in right now, which is doing work in anthologies, and building a reputation. Believe me, at least someone will remember you if you do your job right.

The most important thing I learned this summer was find the right reason why you are working. I was trying to work for other people and trying to impress them. I had lost focus after something awful that happened last year around this time, and it took me a long time to remember that I don't need to be doing work for everyone, just me. In terms of money, right now I'm doing okay, so comics are not necessarily a source of income yet, I have the ability to do what makes me happy, as opposed to doing what I need to in order to survive. I'm retracing my roots as a traditional artist. One of my cousins was in town last week, and I brought out my watercolors for her, and it brought back a lot of memories and a lot of feelings. I still have this desire burning inside me, almost a defiant attitude that is saying, "People don't believe in me, I have to do this for myself, and when they see what I'm doing they'll be sorry they missed it." Through my later years in higher learning, I always used the mantra "No Respect" for the majority of the world, who didn't show me any for my hard work. It used to hurt a lot when I put in the time and effort and received nothing back. I grew a tough skin, and found my own way.

It is important to understand why you are doing this, what makes you happy, and do it. Keep growing, because to stagnate is to rot away artistically. An illustrator does they job that they need to for survival or success, an artist is someone who has to do art no matter what the rewards or consequences are. For an illustrator art is a job, for an artist, art is life. Find your motivation and stick to it. I was in a class for commercial design at one point, I learned some things about motivating yourself so that you don't have artists block as often. You can't let yourself get to that point, so you have to train your mind. Don't rely on reference, train your mind to have volumes of reference by studying the world around you, look at what people wear, study composition, color theory, it is all important. Because when it is your time to work, and that blank page is sitting right in front of you, don't let it intimidate you. Paper can't fight back, show it who's boss. You only get a few chances to mess up before word gets around that you can't hack it. So enjoy the opportunity, have fun with it. There's a reason you were picked, and that's for being who you are, not someone else. Be true to your artistic voice.