Review Hiatus (sorta)
So I’m taking somewhat of a reviewing hiatus (I’m saying somewhat, because not entirely). I still intend to work with Panel Patter and do some for my site, but I’ve gotten incredibly busy with some comics projects and first and foremost I am a cartoonist. Anyhow, just thought I’d let you know!
10 Tips for Cartooning When You Work Full-Time
I decided to write this piece in response to an essay that I read yesterday. To summarize, it was from a woman who explained that she was able to achieve her dream of becoming a writer because she was able to stay at home and work on her craft all day while her husband supported her financially. First off, I applaud her for being honest about this. For people in this position, they usually don’t want to talk about it. And not talking about it can make the rest of us, who work full-time, wonder what we are doing wrong to not be able to achieve the level of production that some others do. Let’s be honest: working on your craft full-time or even part-time can take you to another level. But this is not a reality for most of us, especially in our early careers. So we’ve got to make due with what we’ve got. Here are some tips I have been learning along the way.
1) Find a job that accommodates your cartooning IF possible.
I say IF because this is not always possible, and odds are you are already in a job that you may not be able to leave. Most non-artists don’t get the frustration of having to take a “day job” to pay the bills when what you really want to do is draw all day. When you know what you’re capable of, but can’t fully do it at the time, it can be demoralizing. Outsiders may think that you just want to devote more time to your “hobby” and say “well, I wish I could play golf all day too, but that’s not how the world works.” Having an artistic passion is beyond a “hobby”, especially if you feel that it’s the most authentic thing you can offer to the world. Some people will not get it and you have to accept that.
But I digress. Luckily for me I have a 9-5 that can somewhat accommodate my cartooning. Yes, you may be thinking that 9-5s suck, but the upside is that I can leave at 5 without expecting to work overtime and I have the weekends off. For others, professions like teaching are ideal because you get nice long breaks, sometimes including the summer. So if possible, look for a job that accommodates what you really want to do, which is make art. And most importantly, don’t feel guilty about it.
2) Enjoy office perks.
Assuming you will not get in trouble for it, take advantage of what your job has to offer that might help your cartooning. For instance, if you work in an office, check to see if you can use the printer/copier/scanner after hours. I work at an art school so I have Photoshop on my computer, which I sometimes use for my comics. I’m in no way endorsing stealing supplies from your office though!
This is vital, especially if you work a desk-job or something that requires you to be sedentary most of the day. You don’t want to become Quasimodo, so get to steppin’. Seriously though, sitting all day, and then sitting some more once you get back to your house (or wherever) to cartoon, will take a toll on your body.
I started to realize this recently when I noticed that my posture was getting worse. But it really hit home when I started to have pain in my right wrist and fingers. I type all day, so that, combined with drawing for a few hours each night, has made me worry about injuries. I consulted some people and am now trying to stretch and take more breaks. To start I would recommend checking out Kriota Wilberg’s excellent comic (No) Pain! A Guide to Injury Prevention for Cartoonists. If things are getting much worse though, consult a doctor.
4) Set a schedule.
Easier said than done, but I find that it really helps me actually get work done and move towards my goals. If you’re a morning person, try getting in a little time before work. And if you’re a night person, well, do it after work. You can set schedules like “I’m taking 2 hours EVERY night to draw” or “by the end of the night I will have one page penciled”. Building that time into your already busy schedule can be trying, but it is necessary if you want to actually produce work.
5) Make the most of the weekends.
Weekends can get super busy, but try to set a chunk of time, at least on one day, to get some work done. I love the weekends because I’m the sharpest in the mid/late morning. It can be a routine to look forward to at a time that is not as rushed.
6) Quality over Quantity
So you set a schedule, but you’re tired as hell after a long day. It’s OK to take some time off. In fact, if you feel like the quality of your work is suffering, it’s super important. In reality, it’s always harder to make work at the level you want when you are working full-time, unless you are some sort of super human. I am guilty of this (no, I don’t mean being a super human). I am learning that I need to do the opposite of my impulse, which is to draw quicker and with less refinement (which is what I ultimately want). So I’m teaching myself to slow down, even if I’m not getting as many pages done each week. It’s OK. You are working full-time and that’s a reality.
7) Attempt to have a social life.
When you have to juggle a full-time job with cartooning, something has to give. For many, myself included, it can be your social life. Make your best effort to maintain some balance for two main reasons. Being a hermit can be good at times, but depriving yourself of social interaction can actually make you less productive because you are not restoring yourself and meeting all of your needs. And second, living in the world gives you stories and different perspectives…especially if you write autobio. So leave the cave.
8) Don’t neglect maintenance.
Again, juggling can lead to neglecting other aspects of your life. By maintenance, I mean things like cleaning your house, exercising, sleeping, and not wearing sweatpants all weekend. Well I guess the last one is optional. What I’m trying to say is, if you slack off on these other parts of your life, it will actually stress you out more. And that’s the last thing you need.
9) Remind yourself why you’re doing what you do.
Sometimes working all day while attempting to achieve your real dreams can seem futile. But you have to remind yourself of why you’re putting yourself through this self-imposed hell (I’m kidding … for the most part). Seeing your completed work is super satisfying, but beyond that it helps to get involved in the comics world, especially by going to cons. Sharing your finished product with others, checking out other stuff that’s being created, and making connections with other artists makes you realize that you belong to community of people with similar struggles and aspirations.
10) Be patient.
Things may progress slower for you if you’re working full-time, but know that sticking with it, putting out quality work, continuing to learn your craft, handling criticism and praise, and getting to know others in the comics community are what will help you get to where you want. So don’t give up!
Whit’s Thursday Review: Liz Prince’s ‘Alone Forever’
I decided to review Liz Prince’s Alone Forever (Top Shelf) for a few reasons. First, it was strategically released around Valentine’s Day, so the timing is appropriate. Second, I went to see her speak about the book at the Brookline Booksmith in Brookline, Mass last week, so I received some insights into her process and motivations for writing it. And lastly, I am single and possibly “alone forever” (awwww). It was this last detail that made me both interested to read something that I could identify with, and reluctant, as I did not want it to provoke uncomfortable and possibly depressing feelings.
Let’s be honest: being single is both awesome and horrible. On one hand you can do whatever the hell you want and are not responsible for anyone else’s needs and feelings. You have more time to pursue your hobbies, hang with friends, try new things, and meet new people. And if you’re into casual, non-committal romantic liasons, then it’s perfect. On the flip side, it can be really lonely. Solitude is great up to a point, but too much can sour your mood. We live in a couple dominated world and in addition to that at times anxiety-provoking unknowing about whether you will ever meet someone, you have this societal expectation to be in a relationship with “the one”. Liz captures all of this nicely and very humorously in her book (note: I will not refer to her as Prince, for probable confusion with a popular musician).
The short pieces, which were originally released on her site, give snapshots into Liz’s (temporary) singledom phase, dealing with issues such as looking for love unsuccessfully, having lonely nights, overcompensating with quality pet time, being surrounded by coupled friends, and the minefield that is OKCupid. Liz covers these relatable stories with charm and personality. Like her previous materials, we learn of her idiosyncrasies: her penchant for punk music, her lust for bearded dudes, and her cat-lady tendencies. This is what makes for strong autobiographical work: exploring universal themes with an individualized twist.
Her line doesn’t deviate much from previous works. It has a cartoony, scratchy, punk rock quality, which is well suited to the humorous and light-hearted content. Liz explained at her signing that often what she imagines in her head art-wise, never comes out as intended. Part of this, as I understand, is because when you are frequently releasing material online, you have to do things somewhat quickly. I don’t think this is a problem for her, as her artwork has a really unique and fun quality, but I do know that sometimes compromises or simplifications can be made for brevity’s sake.
This brings up another interesting topic, which she discussed, concerning releasing comics in “real time”. Working on a piece with a delayed release is satisfying as it can let you slow down and work in more depth, but this is not always necessary. Liz’s work is a testament to this. It’s the little moments, which can be just as meaningful, that can be drawn at a moments notice. Also, instant gratification, aka. having people “like” your work as it comes out, can provide sweet, sweet validation, which there’s no harm in as long as you don’t take it too seriously. It can also clue you in to what people are responsive to. Some people regard regular short online “gag” comic posts as fluffy, but first, if they are there’s nothing wrong with that, and second, that is not always the case.
Liz’s exploration of the OKCupid phenomenon is a perfect example of this. Towards the end of the book she focuses on a few OKCupid dates gone awry. As someone who has dabbled in OKCupid, I can tell you that she is spot-on. Although a large percentage of people now meet people on dating sites who they end up in relationships with, perhaps more people have negative and bewildering experiences. She captures the inorganic, meat market quality of picking someone to go on a date with based on a profile that lists facts and preferences. The first date, which, like in any circumstance, can go in either direction. But it’s the decision of how to proceed which can be particularly trying with the at times sketchiness of dating via the interwebs . At her signing, Liz said that her book was meant to be “empowering” for singles. Much of it is, but this part, while it made me chuckle, also sadly exposed the madness of dating in our modern age.
Liz is currently working on a more involved project, but I truly hope that she keeps publishing comics like this. And even though finding comedic material can be more difficult when you’re in a relationship, I have a feeling that she’ll be able to make it work.