Joe Alterio's blog on illustration, comix, design, animation, and other bouts of total awesomeness.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

The Love of The Game

I assumed there came a "Bright Lights, Big City" moment in every young professionals life, that point where you actually got an office of your own, you were given the keys to the joint, when some *called you* and offered you a job. I don't know what others thought. If my close inspection as a youth of various movies starring a member of the Brat Pack is any indication, this usually involves a BMW and a lot of shaking of hands.

I don't feel like drawing tonight: my stomach hurts, and I feel uninspired. My insistent focus on that moment above I'm sure does nothing for my gastronomic health. What's more, I'm pretty sure that moment doesn't actually happen. For anyone.

Well, that's not true: there are some extremely lucky or extremely well-connected people, for that What They Want seems to happen all at once. These folks are the people that seemingly float above the morass of the daily struggles of life and expectation and disappointment and false hope, like so many iron-hulled battleships while the rest of us seem to be in dingies made of newspaper.

I am, of course, talking about those of us of the artistic persuasion: I'm always had a keen and very specific type of jealousy for those people who found their calling in more defined realms of the world. I'm sure it's tough to get into Dentistry School, but that's what you need to do if you want to be a Dentist: you need to go to Dentistry School. Then, you graduate, and you're a Dentist. End of rinse-and-spit story. Tragically, there is no school for being what I want to be; at best, there is art school, and I don't think art school could give me what I need. Plus, I can tell you right now what would happen after I went to art school, with all the debt on my back.

For the few things that I am proud of, I can with certainity say that I am indeed a 'self-made man': with a few exceptions, I've not really ever taken money from anyone, or used family connections to leapfrog those who are more deserving of the prize. I don't mean to sound boastful, though it is my blog, and I can say what I like. But it is also a private pride. It's not really something one can bring up at parties, and as we have seen recently, it's not exactly the way the world works.

However, I will say that, as a generational group, we have been sold a bit of a sale of goods when it comes to the hot and heavy romance of what awaits you as graduate from college. Amid all the Up With Peoples, and You Can Do Its, my generation seems to have been vicitms to bit of false advterising, non-malicious though it may have been. It's not the rock star lifestyle promised by our guidence counsellors, who told us to just "Follow your dreams!", that's for damn sure. I am, as I'm sure so many of compatriots are, starting to become especially well aware of what it means to be someone who is pursuing a career in the "The Arts".

What it seems to involve is sacrifice, more hard work than could be possibly be explained, constant failure, disappointment, rejection, self-doubt, along with a few nuggets of just enough inspiration and success to keep you from pulling a Cobain. I guess I can see why the guidence cousellors don't really advertise that. It's not exactly the greatest piece of advertising I've ever heard.

So, what's the big picture, here?

There's always someone better than you? Check.

People who don't deserve it will be more successful than you? Check.

Success never comes when you need it, and it's never as much as you want? Check.

The magnitude of what you're doing never strikes you until you're too far away from it to actually turn it into what you hoped it would be in your head? Check.

And finally, trying to make a living as a creative person is really motherfucking hard?


What are we to make of this? As it stands, I can't really change who I am; I can't go and pretend to be someone I'm not, to pretend to enjoy a job I loathe. Frankly, I refuse. There's a lot of talk about what "Selling out" means, especially in this post-post-advtertising era of viral marketing and Jay-Z releasing his songs on Bud commericals. I believe it's much more insidious than that. Anyone can sell a picture or a song to a big corporation; that's not selling out, that's called making living. Selling out is taking what you love to do, putting it in a box, and deciding to go the easy road. It's a selling, in the end, or your interests, and hence, yourself.

So I get to go tomorrow to a design job I'm not really thrilled with, because it pays well, and I work on my comics at night, when everyone else gets to go and have fun, because I refuse to be beaten. And I'm fine with all that. But I think I need to focus less on the "success", and all that implies, and more on what I really like to do.

I guess that's the only thing I can take away from this long, rambling diatribe. I do love to make comics. Love it. That's the only thing that matters. The rest of it can fall by the wayside. I'd do it if I had no readers at all (which is just about true). Which I guess tells me I'm doing the right thing, in the end, after all.

Still doesn't make stomach feel better, though.


Kevin O said...

If you were ever going to quit making comics, you would've done it a long time ago, at like 25 or 26. I don't think you can scrape and sacrifice for this long, and then magically forget one day that this is important and meaningful to you.

Maybe if you had a kid or two, it'd be possible (and justifiable).

I think we all have to take straight jobs from time to time (I was a full-time assistant editor for HGTV for a whole year), if for no other reason than to remind ourselves that we can't survive at a straight job for long.

It's kind of reassuring, to know that you have no choice about making art.

You won't let your soul be asphyxiated by advertising people - you'll see it coming, and you'll get the fuck out in time. But not before clearing some debts, and hopefully getting ahead a little bit. And taking your lady on a trip to Europe.

Aris said...

I justed started reading the Basic Virus today. It's fantastic I can't wait to see what happens. I felt elated to then read this accurate take on what it is to be an 'artist' in our current time.

Amen man.

Amen to not selling out, late nights and day jobs. Amen to getting success out of your head, or at least to the bottom of it. Thanks for the comic, and the read.

Stay up.