I recently saw a video posted on my Twitter Feed about an artist named, Rosemary Valero-O’Connell. I became aware of her last year when I visited Comic Arts LA. I bought a little mini comic of hers. Super pretty little comic. She is the subject of recent Vice Video bit about making a living in comics. You can check out the video HERE.
Rosemary is a very talented cartoonist. But her story becomes interesting set against various other bits about making a living as a cartoonist. A few years back, Faith Erin Hicks posted an article about “making a living as a cartoonist.”
Both Faith Erin Hicks and Rosemary Valero-O’Connell have a few things in common:
They live in low cost areas.
Both Valero-O’Connell and Hicks live on the cheap. That is a mixture of being in a low cost area (Valero-O’Connell lives in Minnesota and Hicks lives out in a small city called Halifax).
They have roommates
Both of them talk about roommates and or boyfriends. Valero-O’Connell talks about having four roommates (and if memory serves, she is either married or Engaged – and Hicks lives with her boyfriend).
They watch what they spend
I don’t know about Valero-O’Connell, but Hicks talks about buying second hand clothes and driving a twenty year old car, and getting a lot of her comics at the library (this is true, you can get A LOT OF COMICS from the library).
John Gardner, author of “On Becoming a Novelist,” comments on income expectations early on in his seminal work centered on those interested living the writing life. He says something to the effect of, “if you want to have everything you see on TV, then maybe do something else.”
When I was working at my first placement firm, I remember a time I was bemoaning the fact that I didn’t have a lot of money, and was trying to figure out what expenses I could cut. My boss gave me this steely look and said, “So make more money.”
This is an authentic response from a sales manager. And there’s something to be said about the personal responsibility suggested by the phrase, “so go and make more money.” The idea being, do something. Get out there. Hustle. Don’t just complain.
The opposite is true. If you want to make money doing comics, or drawing, or working in something you enjoy but doesn’t necessarily pay that much, imagine my boss looking at you from across his desk with his cold eyes saying, “so stop spending so much money.”
As much as we’d like to think we can have it all. I’m not so sure. Even some of the bigger names in comics, espouse the same story.
There was a fun Panel at the Small Press Expo a few years back featuring Liz Suburbia (who I really like her work), Farel Darlymple, Brandon Graham, and Ron Wimberly. The panel in its entirety is HERE:
I’m an avid Brandon Graham fan. Partly because of his talents, but largely because of his maverick spirit in the world of comics. Mr. Graham and his rag tag panel talk about the world of comics, and also the ins and outs of the struggle to balance making money and the world of art.
I don’t think we all need to move to Minnesota, but if your rent is too expensive — maybe get a roommate or downgrade apartments? Cut down on the alcohol. Start cooking at home. There is an adage in project management. You have three resources: Requirements, Resources, and the deadline. You can change the requirements (maybe for the first release of the software, don’t have all the bells and whistles, just get it up and running), or you can have all the bells and whistles and EXTEND the deadline. Or you can add more resources (hire more developers and throw more bodies at the work to get it done to achieve the requirements by the deadline) But you can’t have all three.
James Clear, author and speaker, goes into this even more detail with the idea of work/life balance on his article: FOUR BURNERS. In his metaphor, (the four burners are: health, work, family, friends) he contends that, you can’t have all four burners at once. You have to make choices.
I think this topic is an important part of the conversation in comics, art, or just life hacking in general. I think in this on demand society where you can get most any thing delivered to your house, or almost any video streamed through your TV — life isn’t like that. Unlike ON DEMAND entertainment, in life… you can’t have it all. So, start making choices.