For an entire year, once a week, I would go over to Jason’s place to help him print his comics for his Patreon for his comic ‘Demon’. The 720 page webcomic has been completed, the last of the Patreon orders mailed out, the limited print run chapters all done, and now my job has been retired. It was a great ride while it lasted.
Every day I worked there, we always had a nice chat during lunch break. And I always learned something new. For the entire year I was there, I always asked questions, and many times, I was surprised about the answers he gave me. I feel it is because I’m in a different generation of artists in artist alley, while he is in a generation of artists who haven’t really relied on artist alley. Well…sorta?
Here are some highlights I learned from working there.
A comic artist’s life may not be for every person who dreams to be a comic artist–-this one might be a bit hard to explain, and is in no way offensive. For some people, crouching over and making comics 8 hours a day is the best thing ever…..if you want to do that for years and years. For some, that might be too much work, and having a part time job to split the work (although that also means more working), is actually a better way to both get stuff done, have a breather, and still get paid for something else. I think the best decision for my future was to take a step back, study pharmacy tech, and get a job. I recently got a job, and although the sacrifice is energy and time, I now have an income and a way to fund my projects.
I don’t know if I’ll be a pharmacy technician for the rest of my life, but one day, if I get a constant stream on income for my artwork, I might become a full time comic artist. But for now, I’m quite contempt being a hard worker.
Artist alley should be a way to promote. Earning money at artist alley is a plus, but don’t think you can live solely off of this when selling comics–I know there is the 1% who can, but for most people, it’s more like a fairy tale. I really thought this was possible, but there was one week where Jason went all the way to Canada just to sell his comics. I asked him about how he’d ever profit from that, and his answer was that promoting it is more important than just selling it (that and I think he wanted to go on vacation). He doesn’t go to a lot of conventions because there’s not much profit in the work, but promoting it online and carefully choosing which conventions to go to display your work is more important. For me, cutting back on conventions was also one of the best choices I’ve done for myself. Instead of stressing over what kind of ‘fanart’ I should make, I was able to utilize that stress-free time to create my own comics–I was published in three anthologies, and working on two anthologies right now. And now that I think about it, the people I often see who really DO live off selling at conventions are often the people who have massive walls of fanart prints, not self published comics.
I don’t make as much money at artist alley now, but I definitely feel a lot prouder of the work that’s come out of having extra time to do the work. At the same time, my hard work has been paying off, as my internet shop has had a few more frequent sales through the months.
Draw what you want to draw.–If you’ve ever read Jason Shiga’s Demon, then you know exactly where I learned this from.
It may have been one of my most ‘crude’ looking comics, but I definitely wanted to make a comic about proper convention behavior. I gave these out for free at Yumecon and Anime on Display, and got some great reactions.
My fear of people judging me for my work was one of the biggest hurdles I had to overcome when I made that comic. I’ve made comics where I spent months perfecting, while this comic was drawn in a span of two days (albeit it took several hours of interviews over a span of several weeks to get the right info). I look back at that piece of paper folded in half, and I think to myself ‘what the heck was I so scared of? I’m giving the comic out for free o_O’
What’s important is that you make a piece of work you’re proud of.
You don’t have all the time in the world–-I’m not sure how to word this correctly, but I hope my explanation makes sense.
Sometimes you will get one chance to do something, and whether you take that opportunity or not, if you miss it, you may never get that exact same chance again. I could always drive down to San Jose for Fanime in fourty five minutes. But a plane ticket to Austin Texas? I’m not sure if I’ll ever make time next year. Or there might be a steak restaurant there that might go out of business. Or maybe that plane ticket will be more expensive the next year. I mean yea, going to RTX will cost at least three times as much as Fanime, but having the opportunity to do something may never come back in a long, long time.
I went on my first plane ride last year to Seattle to go to Emerald City Comic Con, met artists I’ve only dreamed of shaking hands with, discovered new amazing artists, made connections with companies I thought was impossible, had some amazing food, and somewhere in the far, far back, I saw a mountain with snow for the first time in my life! I may have spent a shit ton of money to do that, but I regret nothing from this experience.
above: While most people were closing the shades in the airplane and trying to take a nap out of boredom on the plane to Seattle, I could not help but stare out the window for the entire time. It was the first time I’ve seen a sunset from an airplane, and it was so beautiful. I saw rivers, creeks, some mountains with snow, and while the sun was setting, I could see the building lights slowly turn on in the cities.
Everyone starts from nothing–-Everyone who is a comic artist has all started from a single thing–making a comic. So if you want to be a comic artist, and improve your comics, and get recognized for comics, you need to make them to climb your way up a crazy mountain of other creators. And unlike other professions, there’s no end to this chain. You can keep climbing higher and higher–make more comics, create new works, branch into movies, games, and other things. But everyone starts from nothing.
You won’t know unless you try; don’t be scared to try things few have ventured out to do. This is my very first custom nendoroid. And also, my first time with my professional camera, shooting figurines. I started from nothing, and now this is my new hobby :3
Kids are a lot of work–He’s got a kid. Sounds like a lot of hard work. Be prepared.
Well, I’ve changed a lot in the past year. Maybe these tips will help you, maybe they won’t. But for me, I think I’m finally walking on the right path to my future, thanks to Jason. I hope you look forward to my future blog articles ;)