DriftingDuring the years leading up to today, I've felt like my career in comics, in writing, in reviewing, in illustration has stagnated. Although I've diversified to get my career moving (anthologies, different types of shows, sponsorship requests, trying new platforms, volunteering panels and art education), but I'm still not appealing enough as a person, artist or writer to launch a career. I just can't find the right spark to catch fire. This all circles back to finding a dedicated audience. I've talked about this extensively on the YouTube and at conventions, but people somehow miss when I'm talking about the importance of community that I also need your support.
Turning thirty with no steady employment, no solid future leads, and little career improvement is scary. "Do Good Work and the Audience Will Find You" rings hollow for me, and I could stand to catch a break. I've invested six and a half years in formal art education with no significant return on investment. I've invested seven years in sharing my knowledge with less return on investment and no loyal audience for the comics I make. I still heavily rely on one-time customers from conventions, my Patreon, and YouTube ad revenue to contribute to my income, which is a very precarious situation.
I'm sharing this because artists, especially comic artists, don't elaborate enough on the hard times. Self published artists tend to be cagey about numbers, mental health, and logistics with good reason—we're punished for sharing anything that might reveal how difficult self publishing and promotion can be. A lack of resounding success is seen as proof of failure to publishers, customers, and most damning of all, fellow artists. In other words, a lack of a supportive audience promoting your work and singing your praises tells those around you that you just aren't worth the time—especially so if you've been around for a while. A successful artist has a support system behind them; if not the official seal of approval from a publisher, then a spirited audience willing to help out.
15, High SchoolWhen I was a fifteen-year-old in high school, I thought I would have life figured out by thirty. Married with a kid, maybe a house, and you know, financial and emotional stability. But I've gambled a lot on a career in comics which postponing other aspects of my life. Young me had been reading comics for two years, and had been drawing them for about as long, so I was certain I'd be in Japan by thirty barring I didn't stop drawing between fifteen and the big three oh.
20, UndergradBy twenty, I was an undergrad at UNO. I'd started there with assurance an illustration department was growing, but Hurricane Katrina washed those dreams away. Thankfully, I realized my dream of moving to Japan was ill-thought, but I still wanted to make comics. With 30 being ten years away, I wasn't concerned about time. I already had my eye set on SCAD: The University for Creative Careers, for graduate school, as I was dissatisfied with the quality of my post-Katrina undergrad education. At twenty, I was faced with buying my own art supplies en masse, and I didn't have a clue where to start. I didn't know what differentiated a good brand from a bad, and there were no online resources to guide me.
25, GraduateBy twenty-five, I was halfway through my masters degree in Sequential Art at SCAD. I was told my masters would open doors, and several editors had already hinted at jobs for me in the next two years. I worked mostly in black and white, and I had buckled down on maintaining this blog with my new found insight from SCAD. I had also started tabling at conventions and enjoyed them, even though they are exhausting; I promised myself I could quit my personal con hustle at thirty, because surely I'd have something more concrete lined up.
30, Career?In those past five years since graduation, I've self-published, self-promoted, and released 7" Kara Volume 1, just about finished the illustrations for Gizmo Grandma (fingers-crossed!), contributed comics to anthologies like Hana Doki Kira, Chainmail Bikini, and 1001 Knights. I've attended about one hundred conventions, started How to Be a Con Artist with fellow artist and SCAD-grad Kiriska, increased not only the quality of my posts, but my post volume, launched a YouTube channel with artists interviews, and changed the focus of my YouTube channel to serve as a complement to this blog with more than 40 hours of video. I've painted over 150 pages of finished comic, filled over a dozen sketchbooks, acquired my Masters of Fine Art from SCAD, completed three teaching internships, and taught a handful of panels.
I continue to do conventions, partially because I genuinely enjoy meeting new people, sharing my work in person, and drawing for others. But I regularly struggle with convention-long unstoppable killer migraines. I've cut back on though, so I need each convention to count. I've tried to introduce a variety of items that can be sold while I complete commissions and in between my passion, 7" Kara volumes. In these five years, I've sold hundreds of commissions including many watercolor illustrations, and I've recently started bringing Kara originals to cons in hopes that they inspire customers to request more involved commissions in the future. I work hard to make sure my table continues to evolve through curation, new products, and design.
LighthouseConsidering the depth and breadth I've achieved through these factors, why has nothing really changed for me? Perhaps because as I approached thirty and realized my dreams were so far out of reach, so I stopped thinking about my life as having plenty of time. I grew tired of saying "in five years things will be different" and started saying "I'm ready for things now". I directly asked more of my audience, and while many of you have stepped up and are fantastic, many more of you can't be bothered to spend time valuing what I've provided to you. Those who read How To Be a Con Artist, and don't know a thing about Kiriska or myself. They've never checked out our shops, have never seen our art, have never said hi at a convention, let alone purchased from our tables. They act as though I'm obliged to provide content to them and am a harpy for requesting basic support.
These things exist because when Kiri and I were 15, they did not exist. We dreamed of them, and my numbers and the community say they need to exist. They act as a beacon for aspiring artists like my youthful self to get up to speed faster. But they were not easy things to make, these are not things that maintain themselves. These are not things we are compensated for making. When I was fifteen, few artists wrote about HOW they became comic artists. Few artists wrote about the supplies they used. Few artists shared their candid conventions experiences. Which created a serious stigma to anyone who shared negative experiences. Struggling artists weren't outspoken. It's taken a lot of courage and work to change the face of comic and illustration art online, and I've gotten a lot of flack for it over the years, far more than praise or support. You could change that.
LaunchingFor my thirtieth birthday, the end of my many five-year wishes, please help me achieve my dreams. Share your favorite post from my blog to your Facebook (social links are at the bottom of every post). Grab a copy of 7" Kara for yourself or a loved one or write a short review for it on GoodReads and Amazon. Please recommend 7" Kara volume 1 to a friend, a friend with children, a librarian, a school. Please write to an art supplier on my behalf, introducing them not only to my reviews, but to the fact that you are passionate about my reviews (I have company links in my sidebar). When you watch my YouTube, please watch 30 seconds of the ad for monetized content. Please share one of my videos to your Tumblr, your followers might enjoy them. If you haven't yet, and you enjoy all the community work I do, please consider supporting my Patreon. If you're family, please consider my more realistic commission options, or suggesting a friend commission a family portrait.
Without your support, nothing will change. My career will continue drifting with the tides, and my work will go unnoticed. I really need your help, as all artists need help from those who consume their work. Artists who create work for non-monetized consumption need the most support of all—we don't have reliable income from outside sources, and we depend on you to value our work appropriately and do what you can, when you can.