Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Notes To Self: What I Learned in 2006 (and I guess this turned out to be a rant after all)

It's been a very surreal end of the year so far.

I never got into the Christmas mood. Simply put, I overextended myself and was TOOOOOOOOO busy far too long and on stuff that, long term, I realize really isn't my personal priority anymore (more on this later).

Because of all that work stuff -- and then the car broke down at the last minute -- I didn't get ANY shopping done at all for anyone I care about (even Chris! Egad!). I have been in a grumpy mood as a result ... I know Christmas is beyond being about the gifts, but I truly feel like I didn't do enough for the folks I love. Bleah.

So I've been thinking about what I would have done differently this year. If only so I can have a happier end-of-the-year in 2007. So in reviewing 2006, I have discovered the following:

1) Comics really thrill and really upset me. I so need to chill.

How can I have such a profound love/hate relationship with this medium? And yet I do. Part of that is probably because I'm Hispanic with mediterranean origins, so I have a naturally dramatic streak. (Too bad I don't act)

I just gotta learn to keep my emotions in check while the crazy comics changes happen (will the new-look Archie comics stink? will DC's new Minx comics line even matter?) and just not let them get me all upset as much like they do.

I gotta shut up and draw. More. Lots more.

2) Painting is not my be-all end-all art passion. Comics are. (Uh oh.)

I'm sure this is not a surprise to anyone who actually knows me. It was, however, something I needed to settle for myself.

So I discovered I love comics. Maybe too much. LOL

This is what I specifically had to resolve: whether or not I had made a bad decision back in the day when I stopped pursuing painting seriously. It's part of the reason why I joined the Nashville Artist Guild.

I thought if I could hang out with some fine artists I could see what I was missing, and whether I should seriously follow that through or not.

See, I started painting when I was like 12 or 13. I even sold some. It felt great. I stopped painting when I hit 16 and discovered Marvel Comics was located a few blocks away from where I lived. (Think about it. Marvel Comics was in my neighborhood!!!!) My boyfriend and two of his good friends got internships there. I went there every day after achool/work for like a year and a half. We hung out with Jo Duffy back in the Epic Comics offices. She shared the office with Archie Goodwin (!). The amazing lineup of Epic artists I was meeting just by being there ... I had no idea then I was essentially in the presence of comics royalty. Wow.

A couple years later I quit college to open and run a comics art studio. I didn't miss school at all. My new group of friends were ready to work in an art studio. I was ready to run an art studio. I didn't know WHAT I was doing. We made no money. I lost lots of money. The comics didn't sell (due to the lack of something called "Marketing"). The studio didn't work out. Much stuff learned.

In the middle of that drama I managed to get a painting scholarship to the Art Students League. I didn't go cause of the work obligations of aforementioned studio, which was also connected to a comics shop. I wasn't an artist at the studio, so much as the studio manager for my artist friends (two of whom today now run their own successful art studios, yay!)... but I made the decision to not take the scholarship.

I had wondered if I had made a mistake ever since.

But now, after an intensive 20 months of arranging and hanging art shows with the Guild I really find that by working in comics production I'd learned a lot of useful business practices. I wouldn't have learned them in the Fine Arts circles. Not really.

As frightening as it's been to meet tons of people who want to make and publish comics and are honest-to-goodness clueless and flat out unprepared to do so ... they are still all WAY AHEAD of the Fine Arts circle folks.

At least in comics and in the graphic arts (in all its forms) we have tons of how-to-run-your-studio books and have the Graphic Artist Guild Handbook to refer to as far as contracts and pricing guidelines.

I've met a lot of Fine Artists via art reception openings and such, and I've discovered that a surprising percentage of them are just winging it. Worse, they're doing themselves a disservice by not even educating themselves about the business of selling their art!!

That makes someone like me -- a Production Manager geek -- ab.so.lute.ly NUTS.

How can you do business when you don't have a basic grasp of business protocols?

Painters and the like have the absolutely wonderful How To Survive and Prosper As A Fine Artist: (Selling Yourself Without Selling Your Soul) by Caroll Michels. But not as many painters even read it as should. Why do so many of them not know this book exists?

I really highly recommend this book if you're getting into Fine Arts as a business. It's a must. All that "romantic Bohemian painter life" crap that the Fine Arts business is to be made up as you go along is a lie. No really. Let's NOT confuse a lifestyle with the actual rudimentary bits of running a business and making it work. We're talking making money. Not sitting around drinking and hoping you'll sell something. (That can happen after you put in a full day of work.)

If we don't try to learn how to manage our art as a business it's far easier to get taken advantage of and make unnecessary mistakes ... all of which are enough of a risk when you wanna run any kind of business in the first place. It's an awful waste of time, reinventing the wheel, when you don't have to. If you don't manage your art, or make enough to pay someone to handle the business aspects then it seems to me you're not respecting your art. Not if you want to really be a professional.

Besides, even if you're just doing it as a hobby, you still gotta keep your paperwork in order.

One of my pet peeves is that "artists are not as intelligent" or are somehow "unable to do math" or "have to starve" BS notion. I've been dealing with that for too long. And it's a lie.

With as much artistry that needs to go into designing a car, a cartoon, an article of clothing or even just a bad comic book, this notion that business tactics don't apply to the Fine Arts circles is a LOAD.

End of rant.

3) Never get so busy you forget the holidays. Passing out from exhaustion is really not as fun as just taking a rest from work.

4) I really love comics. (I didn't say that exactly yet, right?)

5) ComicSpace is COOL!

6) I should make sure to make more comics next year. I am terrified to make more comics. I want to make more comics.

7) I want to make more comics in 2007.

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