For every artist who creates for the joy of creation, there’s an artist who pumps out character designs to pay for car repairs. For every artist who paints to fill a social need, there’s another generating graphics for a new iPhone app. For every artist who abstracts reality to cast life into better focus, there’s another who tries to pull from the ether of another man’s brain enough information to fulfill an unusual commission request. The worlds of idealist, altruist artist and money grubbing commercial hand-for-hire may seem to be on two sides of the artistic spectrum, but they are often one and the same, particularly in the commercial arts.
I am a sequential artist, a jill-of-all-trades. I draw comics. I do children’s illustration. I’ve done fine art prints and digital illustration. I ink traditionally for the thrill of brush on paper. I draw with non-photo blue and graphite for the pleasure of having a physical original. I get a lot of pleasure from my work. I enjoy the challenges of juggling both art and craft, juggling writing with storytelling, and I enjoy the fact that my drawing skills can help others fulfill their artistic visions.I have only two small requests from the art gods.
First, I request that I am able to make a living wage. That other artists don’t undercut themselves (and me) in their prices to the point where none of us can pay the bills. That we aren’t forced to devalue our skills, our time, our effort, and our education because others choose to do so.
Second, I want to be respected as an artist based on my skills and techniques, not based upon the fact that I’m an artist-for-hire-at-a-reasonable-wage. In order to be a successful sequential artist, I have studied storytelling, anatomy, perspective, color theory, draftsmanship, art history, and a variety of techniques ranging from digital media to watercolor and acrylic.
Unfortunately, there are still many misconceptions about commercial artists. Many who are unfamiliar with commercial art assume that little creativity is involved, that commercial artists simply fill demand. While it is true that demand is filled by our skills and with our hands, there is a lot of creativity involved in solving the problems posed to a commercial artist. Even when a comic artist works with a writer with a predetermined story, there are problems to be solved. The artist must utilize past experience and skills to fill in the gaps and bring the comic script to life. There is an assumption that the artist who works digitally has an easier task, many non-artists assume that there is a magical button in Photoshop that creates the art. Many believe that cartooning and caricature are easier to produce than realism. Misconceptions such as these make it easy to dismiss the commercial artist as being less an artist than a fine artist.
Both of these goals may seem somewhat down to earth, but I believe that the achievement of both can move mountains. I’ve noticed that a lot of young commercial artists not only have trouble getting started, but have trouble staying motivated when times are lean. If the art community as a whole were less unnecessarily competitive and functioned by cooperation, new ideas and new talent would keep the market itself fresh, elevating commercial art. Commercial artists have already begun to find a voice in select galleries in this nation, according their skills and artwork more of a spotlight. This spotlight will increase the desirability of commercial artists to the layperson, awarding commercial artists the same esteem that fine artists have in the public eye. Hopefully will empower commercial artists to request fairer wages, meaning they have to crank out less work to make ends meet. The work that is created will be of higher quality, as the creator will have had the time and means necessary to really put forth the necessary effort to create remarkable, socially important art. In the future, comic artists, illustrators, and designers will be recognized for their artistic contributions, and there will hopefully be more of a market for this mid-priced artwork, increasing an overall appreciation in the population for art.