Friends With Boys - Page 180

YEAAAAHHH GO LLOYD! My favourite line in the whole book, I think! Except for Lloyd’s other great line, which is coming up. XD

So a few days ago I posted about how Comics Are My Job, and it became a bit of a lightening rod for various issues, some of which I wasn’t really commenting on, and some mis-understandings. I really meant the post to be something very positive, a ‘hey, fellow young artists, you really can make a living drawing comics full time! It can be tough and requires sacrifice, but here’s how I did it!” ramble. And for the most part, I think it got that across, and I very much appreciate all the responses and people being both inspired and concerned by the post.

Glancing over the post, I see how it may have legitimately confused some, which is mostly owing to my desire to make it positive. I really did not want to put another screed about how working fulltime in comics is a horrible grind and the financial rewards are pitiful and etc on the internet, because I really love my job, and as of now, I’ve managed to make it work for me financially.

So, to clarify one issue: In 2008 I lost my job in animation because the animation industry in Nova Scotia crashed and burned. Would you like to read about it? Here is a pretty good news article which talks about how many people lost their job, how many studios shut down, and what people did to survive.  It’s worth noting that only now (in 2012!) is animation in Nova Scotia truly recovering from the shutdown of 2008.

I never would have left my job in animation voluntarily. It was taken from me by circumstances out of my control.  All of us in animation in Nova Scotia in 2008 did things to survive: the lucky ones got jobs at other studios in Ontario or Vancouver. Some went back to school, retraining in other fields. Others got temporary jobs, like working at call centres. One of the most talented background painters I know sanded floors. He’s now back at the studio, drawing for a living.

I was lucky too. I got to draw comics when animation died. Now that the animation industry in my part of the world is slowly coming back to life, I feel I could possibly return to it. But I am making ends meet in comics (through careful, budget-based living), and I want to stay here. But initially, the choice was not mine to leave animation. Anyway. I hope that is now much clearer.

There is also another sentiment I want to address, which may have been inadvertently implied in my post, and if so, I apologize, because it wasn’t meant to be. It is the question of Does it Matter if Comics Are Your Full-Time Job? Are You Perhaps Less of a Cartoonist if You Don’t Work Full-Time In Comics? Will You Be Spat Upon by Real Cartoonists Who Work Full Time In Comics If You, A Lesser Cartoonist, Approach Them At Conventions? (Kidding on the last one, of course. BTW, this subject was inspired by a twitter post by a fellow cartoonist. It’s something I wanted to talk about eventually anyway, and seeing the post I figured I’d dive into it sooner rather than later.)

When I was doing my old webcomic Demonology 101, I never told anyone in real life I made comics, because I felt like I wasn’t a Real Comic Book Artist. I was just messing around on the internet, and anyway, my comics weren’t good or anything. It was only published comic book artists who were REAL comic book artists. Who cared about my dumb online comics?

Even though I now write and draw comics for a living, I still don’t feel like a Real Comic Book Artist because the evil little voice in my head tells me so. Here is what that little voice promises me, and then follows up with:

1) If I get into Sheridan College’s Animation program, I will be a Real Artist.
2) I got into the program, but I won’t feel like a real artist until I graduate.
3) I’ve graduated, but I’m not a Real Artist until I get a job in animation.
4) I got a job in animation, but I won’t be a Real Artist until I’ve published a comic book.
5) I’ve published a comic book, but I won’t be a Real Artist until I make a living as a cartoonist.
6) I make a living as a cartoonist, but I won’t be a Real Artist until I have a hit book and I can live off sales and royalties.
7) … well, this is where I currently am, but you see my point? It’s dumb. I would like that little voice to die.

I think within the arts you (meaning me) can sometimes get very caught up in defining success as one thing, like say, being published. Or making a living from your art. And I think that’s a mentality that is not very helpful, and it can discourage people from just making art for the sake of making it.

I think comics are always worth doing. I think they’re worth doing if you get paid or if you don’t get paid, if you have an internet readership in the millions or in the dozens, if you make tiny perfect comics by hand or if you staple together photocopied sheets from Kinkos, if you make comics to show to people, or keep them locked in your dresser drawer. Comics are always worth making because they are awesome. So you make them, and you learn and you grow as a creator. And sometimes you even get paid to make comics! And sometimes you don’t.

Remember that statistic I posted ages ago about how many pages of comics I’ve drawn since I started drawing? I’ve drawn over 1800 pages of comics. I’ve been paid for about 600 pages. I’ve been paid a living wage (what is a living wage for me, it might not be for you) for about 350 pages. I’d drawn over a thousand pages of comics (Demonology 101, Ice and various spin offs/one offs) before I was published. And now, I believe the future is some kind of internet/print combination, so the whole “published” thing has come to mean something very nebulous.

What I’m saying is, comics are wonderful and my most favourite thing in the world, and if you are making comics that mean something to you, it doesn’t matter if you’re published or not or internet famous or not or making a living from your comics or not because you are a Real Comic Book Artist. You are someone I respect and would like to be friends with, because I want to be friends with everyone in comics (except for the jerks. Go to hell, jerks. I think there are, like, two of them in all of comics).

I remember reading about Gene Yang (author of American Born Chinese and the new Avatar: The Last Airbender graphic novel [out now! get it, it's great]) continuing to work as a teacher even though he had success in comics. And honestly, I thought that was really cool, because how awesome would it to have Gene Yang as a teacher? I would love to have Gene Yang as a teacher. Not to mention, comics are really isolating and sometimes I forget how to string together a sentence because I haven’t talked to anyone but my cat in days, and working in a social environment like school is a great way to make sure your brain doesn’t atrophy. That’s the thing I miss most about working in animation: being part of a vibrant and interesting community of artists, working on something together, sharing ideas, stealing lunches … scratch that last part. Anyway, whatever. Point is, make good comics and nobody worth anything will give you crap about whether or not it’s your day job. Don’t listen to that evil little voice. It wants to eat your soul.

I want to read good comics and make good comics. Awesome people working in comics and trying to do the best they can and make the best comics they can is the greatest thing for comics, whether or not you make it your full time job. I am surrounded by people who believe in this art form; cartoonists and writers and retailers and fans and everyone and it RULES.

In conclusion: COMICS.

Next up: some topic much less serious, for sure. Whew!

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19 Responses

  1. Vincenzo says:

    Really awesome pair of blog posts! I’m always very interested in hearing about how to make it in the arts. I hope Friends with Boys sells a billion copies.

    Thanks for the news article link shout out!

  2. This post was a good reminder for me.

    I mentioned in an earlier comment that I’m hoping that writing will help me in my goals of starting a family, and that is still true.

    But I made myself a promise a while ago. I told myself that I’d rather fail creating comics than succeed as a restaurant manager, a field I could easily enter and start making a more secure living…allowing my gal and me to start that family more easily.

    But being a writer, creating comics, this is WHO I AM. I’ve put a lot of myself into this, and one day I want to be able to encourage my kids to put a lot of themselves into something.

    Doing what I’m doing right now is what I’m supposed to be doing. I can keep hustling to make more money at it, yeah…but I need to take joy in this amazing, amazing opportunity.

    At the risk of seeming like I’m shilling, we got our first real fan mail for our online comic not too long ago, and that simple note was one of the most satisfying things to EVER happen to me. Doing work that I love and sharing it is a beautiful thing.

    Anyway, your blog post reminded me of that.

    Raiders of the Lost Ark rules.

  3. Amstrad says:

    IT BELONGS IN A MUSEUM!

  4. Andrew says:

    This is a great post Faith.
    That little voice is ever present for me as well, though I am learning to not listen to it as much.
    I am content to work my full time job and pursue my other life in comics and art on the side.
    In many ways the job is fodder for the comics so the two compliment themselves.
    You provide great encouragment to me.
    Keep up the good work!
    BTW, have discovered Full Metal Alchemist. AWESOME!

  5. I just want to thank you for writing that post.

    I’m currently in my last year at university in england, and I’m at the point when I have to start thinking of what I want to do when I finish. Stay in Bristol, move back to my nan’s, get a full time job in retail, try and be a full time artist and live in a skip.

    I would love to get into the comicbook industry, but I know currently I wouldnt be able to afford to stay in Bristol where I live currently, I also know I need a full time job doing whatever to live off. I ‘ve decided to move back in with my nan and keep my job in a bakery, however whenever my friends ask me what I’m doing, I always feel like I a failure. Even though, I’m being realistic with my decision.

    Anyway, i wanted to thank you, because now I dont feel so much like a failed artist before I’ve even tried.

    • Warren says:

      It seems to me that the only ‘failed’ artists are the ones who gave up and walked away from their art.

      All the others – they might be struggling; they might be up-and-coming; they might be part-time; they might be increasing in popularity; they might be successful; they might be wildly successful – but not one of them is ‘failed’.

      Keep working at that bakery, keep plugging away at the art. When your friends ask what you’re doing, tell them you’re a superhero with two identities, and all they’ve seen so far is the mild-mannered side.

      Life with art – any kind of art – can sometimes be life on a very precarious balance, between destitution, depression, hope, fear, and gnawing self-doubt. It’s only the self-doubt that can actually do you in (and that’s as true with art as with any other pursuit).

      • Angela says:

        Ha. The superhero thing is totally what I do. My bio says “By day she’s a tecnnical writer, and by evening and weekend she’s a comic book artist.” I have an easier time writing it than saying it though, so even when I am out at a cartoonist group and people ask what I do I say “tech writer” until my boyfriend elbows me that that’s probably not what they meant.
        I also think a lot of people don’t get that I put almost as much time into comics as I do my day job, but I love the art so much it doesn’t really matter.

  6. Bettina says:

    I just heard yesterday that Van Gogh only sold ONE painting during his lifetime. Imagine if we didn’t have his works!

  7. K says:

    I totally appreciate the blog because, while I’m not an artist/cartoonist, I’m a writer and we suffer from our own share of Real Writer syndrome and struggling with “legitimacy”, whatever the hell that means. You’re totally right about doing what you love for the love of doing it. It can be hard to keep it in mind every day (what with bills, strong urges to eat on a weekly basis, etc) so this was a nice reminder. :)

  8. Thanks for the awesome comics and your awesome advice/comments about making comics. I get caught up in the “being paid to make comics” idea and often forget to just make them because I love them. Thanks for reminding me of that.

  9. Nojh says:

    Yay comics!

    Also the voice you are describing is called Impostor Syndrome and it is very common all creative past times. My writing Podcasts talk about it every so often. “Am I an author if I publish a short story online?” “Am I an author if I get a short story published on an online magazine? A print magazine?” “Am I an author if I sold my first novel? Two novels? Series? A hit series?” etc. Even people who win awards and have hit series feel it. “I’d better savor this award now before they realize what a hack I am an take it away.”

    Writer, Author, Artist, Comic Artist, Amateur, Professional. I think in the end, there is no such thing as “real ” and you just fit into the labels you present yourself as. Want to be a professional comic artist? Then act professional, do your best, draw your comics, and do what you need to do to have people read them. Money doesn’t really matter in this case.

  10. Arabia says:

    I salute all creative people and my wish is that nothing will make you feel less than the artists that you are. We NEED beauty in the world! The more the better! Don’t let anyone tell you that it matters where that beauty appears or how much (or how little) someone paid for it.

    Topic switch: Today is the anniversary of the birth of Lloyd Alexander, so YAY for the twins!

  11. Elle Skinner says:

    Thanks for posting both of these, Faith, they make a nice companion set :)

    I love your description of the little artist’s voice because it’s completely true. You set a benchmark for yourself and then on passing that, you feel uncomfortable because there is no magical transformation into complete confidence.

    I would add that there is also a tendency to internalize doubt from, you know, everywhere else until it becomes your own. If comics are not your primary source of income, some people can be a little… dismissive or patronizing if you call yourself an artist. Which can make you start to wonder: “but really, am I? If I can’t pay all the bills with this, maybe it doesn’t count?”

    (If I had a nickel for every “no no, I mean what do you DO? Professionally?” I get, I would be able to buy myself a fancy sandwich for lunch right now.)

  12. verwho says:

    I’ve been reading these recent blogs avidly. I get into the same mentality with trying to reach ‘real artist’ status. I think what you’ve written here and in the last post have helped me to clarify for myself what that can mean, especially since I am hoping to creep into a recognized comic maker lifestyle – whatever that means.

    Anyhow, I was originally writing to say OH MAN I hope we get to see everyone’s secret and unique skills kick ass out of the jerksquad! I love teen dynamics, yes!

  13. Valium says:

    aah those evil voices… *sigh*

    Making a living on comics, is so damn hard sometimes, and this is why you always have to make sure you’re HAVING FUN doing it.
    I kinda started my “career” in comics the other way around. A publisher found me before I even graduated from college, and he DID pay me to make a comic. Not long after my first (gruesome) comic was published, another publisher hired me to do another one. The whole process just seemed so wrong to me, the publishers weren’t interested in comics (neither one of them published another comic again), they only wanted to make money-fast, the money I got wouldn’t even last me but for a couple of months, when it hit me that I WASN’T HAVING FUN working as a comic artist !! I was so disappointed and I blamed the industry, the publishers, even the comics and myself. Instead of feeling like a real artist, I felt I have been cheated and that someone stole my love and passion for what I cared the most. I guess my point is that sometimes getting published, won’t make you feel like a “real artist”…

    After a 5year hiatus, I have rediscovered my passion of creating comics. My current publisher is awesome and even if I’m no longer a full time artist, I sure hope I’ll become one again in the future. But above all, I won’t ever let anyone steal that magic away from me again. Comics are definitely worth it as long as you keep having FUN.

    Sorry for the rant…

    last, but definitely not least, your art is awesome, keep up the amazing work !!
    ^_^

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Friends With Boys, webcomic edition!

Hello readers, new ones just discovering the comic and those who’ve been with it since the beginning. Friends With Boys is now complete online. You may read it in its entirety, all 200+ pages, for free, for the next eight days. Then the image files of the comic (except for a short preview) will be taken down. While the comic was being serialized online, I blogged a lot about my comic making process. I did write ups about how I make comics, what my opinions on what makes a good comic are, and pointed out various Easter eggs throughout Friends With Boys. That stuff will all remain up, so if you buy a hard copy of Friends With Boys, you can still read along with my thought process.

And now (today!), Friends With Boys is a published book! Yay! I hope that if you’ve read the web version and liked it, and want to support me as a creator, you’ll consider buying the book.

I’ve really enjoyed serializing Friends With Boys online. If you’re new to my work, I started out making comics online before moving into print. I posted the very first page of my very first online comic on my very first website back in August, 1999, and wow, was that page ugly. Here it is! Notice a weird similarity to the first page of Friends With Boys? Yeah, that was not deliberate, I promise. But look how much your drawing skills can improve if you draw thousands of pages of comics over a ten year period! Anyway, I’m really thrilled my wonderful publisher First Second Books has allowed me to return to my roots and put Friends With Boys online as a lead up to its publication. As a reader and purchaser of comics, I have bought quite a few hard copy versions of online comics, because I enjoy the reading experience of having the whole thing collected, and I want to support the author. I hope you will too. :)

Otherwise, there are a few upcoming events I hope to see some readers at:
Book signing! At my local comics shop Strange Adventures, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, March 3rd (Saturday), 2-4pm (EDITING TO ADD: The book launch has been moved to the following Saturday due to the books not shipping to Strange Adventures on time. The launch will now be March 10th from 2-4pm. Go here for info).
Comic convention! I’ll have a table at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival, May 6th-7th. There are a few other conventions I am trying to attend, but everything else is up in the air at the moment. For updates, please follow my twitter or join my Facebook fan page.  I’m pretty good about updating those two spots.


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