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"A scene that celebrates itself has nothing to celebrate"
November 18, 2010 7:40 AM   Subscribe

Cartoonist John Allison of (Bobbins, ScaryGoRound, and Bad Machinery fame) has posted his take on the current state of webcomics in the UK.
posted by Lentrohamsanin (33 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
Oops, that should be "indie comics" as he addresses print and the web (though he's kinda dismissive of print).
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 7:44 AM on November 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


Can't disagree with anything he says.
posted by COBRA! at 8:05 AM on November 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Harsh, but hard to disagree with. I found Bad Machinery recently and really like it. It's nice to see that the writer has his head on firmly straight about the business end of the business.
posted by immlass at 8:08 AM on November 18, 2010


This is really a brief against underground and non-commercial "art" comics, and in favor of popular story comics like the ones John Allison draws. I rather like "Bad Machinery," so I have some sympathy.

But at the same time this feels gratuitous. It may not be wrong to draw commercial comics, want to be popular, and so on. But what is the point of lashing out at people who don't want those things? This feels defensive to me, as though John is insecure about the artistic status of his own work (which -- again -- I think is good).

The truth is, anyway, that most of the most popular and commercially self-sustaining webcomics are trash, hackneyed stories with boring art that only work because we humans can be charmed by the same things over and over again. If some people don't want anything to do with that -- good for them.

But Bad Machinery is cool; you might like it; etc.
posted by grobstein at 8:10 AM on November 18, 2010


There are very few things a person can say that will make me instantly lose respect for them. "Forget what you learned at art school and read some business books" is one of those things. ("Comics are baby school" might also be on that list.)
posted by aparrish at 8:14 AM on November 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


I didn't like the apparent assumption about the need for commercial success either, but at the top, he does mention that these are points for people who want to succeed commercially. So that's OK. What I'm less OK with is the way he mentions that:
There's always room for art for art's sake, for hobbyism, but these are the lessons I've learned for those who want to escape that prevailing mood.
Escape? People who are creating art just because they like it are trapped but people who live on the profits from it are free? That sounds backwards to me, first of all. And second of all, I don't think that's the prevailing mood. He's making it sound like there's like 3 commercial artists in the world and everyone else is "trapped" in hobbyism. There are a LOT of commercial artists, so I don't think there's a "prevailing mood" to the contrary.

Also, I like his comics too but I find the stories hard to follow over time. I'd really like to buy the books and read them all together (not to mention give him money), but the commercial geniusness found in his entrepreneurial business training apparently forbids him from printing more when he sells out, so I am unable.
posted by DU at 8:22 AM on November 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


I give this screed 2 Dave Sims out of a possible 10. Needs more phallocentric conspiracy theories.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:24 AM on November 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


Man, I wish I could forget what I learned in art school.
posted by interrobang at 8:24 AM on November 18, 2010


> It may not be wrong to draw commercial comics, want to be popular, and so on. But what is the point of lashing out at people who don't want those things?

I suspect that he has no beef with people who want to do art as a hobby, something to fill time in addition to their day job, or people who are actively seeking the romantic starving-artist experience.

He's directing his ire towards the majority of people who want both the ability to do anything their heart desires and get paid for it. It doesn't work that way.

You have to do something somebody else's heart desires. When you're lucky, doing what you want ends up being what enough other people want that it can keep you fed if you know how to capitalize on it. Which is another of his points.

Even some of the people who are lucky enough to get popular don't necessarily know what to do with their audience, in a business sense. They fade into obscurity again, or they never make any money off the audience, burn out from the attention, and give up.

Creating comics is massively time-consuming compared to writing a blog. If you hope to run a sustained narrative over many pages, not rush the art, and update frequently enough to keep an audience, you're more or less committing yourself to making comics your primary job.
posted by ardgedee at 8:28 AM on November 18, 2010 [8 favorites]


(clicked "post" too early...)

...making comics your primary job means having a business to run in addition to drawing and writing all day. You have to work on how to capitalize what you're doing. And then maintain accounts. If you're selling teeshirts, figure out how that business works. Or decide to hand all this stuff off to somebody else, and make less money by paying them to do it, and spend time regularly working with them to make sure you and the manager are on the up and up.

It's business. They didn't teach us this when I was in art school. It would have been good to know. Maybe art school is better now, but judging from comments it doesn't sound like it.
posted by ardgedee at 8:32 AM on November 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


The Englishman is an exceptionally talented and wise person, and creatives of all kinds should give his words serious consideration!
posted by zoogleplex at 8:40 AM on November 18, 2010


My whole impression of art school is shaped by Dan Clowes, so I guess I'm predisposed to thinking (almost certainly unfairly) it's worth forgetting.

Or maybe not: I know that when I go to shows at Minneapolis's biggest art school, the student comics work usually rubs me hard the wrong way (and this is in spite of the fact that they have some talented motherfuckers teaching there). It seems to skew heavily towards obscurity and overpreciousness, with a strong disdain for narrative. And I really like narrative.
posted by COBRA! at 8:40 AM on November 18, 2010


...when I go to shows at Minneapolis's biggest art school...[they seem] to skew heavily towards obscurity and overpreciousness, with a strong disdain for narrative.

This probably has less to do with "art" and more to do with "school".
posted by DU at 8:49 AM on November 18, 2010


I know this is completely unrelated but can we also talk about why Achewood only updates once a month now?
posted by dobie at 9:08 AM on November 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


The Solipsistic Pop anthologies are a pretty good showcase for British indie comics (their contributors page has a list of those involved, and links to their websites). And I got a free pencil with the most recent one. I wonder if his 6th point is aimed at them, because it seems pretty unpleasant if it is.
posted by dng at 9:16 AM on November 18, 2010


I know this is completely unrelated but can we also talk about why Achewood only updates once a month now?
posted by dobie


I've wondered about that a lot; I just assume that Onstad got whomped by a case of burnout that's left him as a barely-functional cinder. Just a guess/projection, though.

Honestly, it kind of feels to me like the Great Outdoor Fight cost him something vital. That whole thing was fantastic, and he's been less prolific and less consistent ever since.
posted by COBRA! at 9:23 AM on November 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


7. Diary comics: stop it

No, YOU stop it. I love diary comics. They are my Favorite Thing. I would rather read (the now defunct) Dar, Stop Paying Attention, Hyperbole & A Half, or (the now-defunct) Horribleville than anything Allison does.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 9:34 AM on November 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


Small press: it is not 1994 any more

So... I was doing black and white photocopied comics back in the UK back in 2004, with FutureQuake being the fruit of my labours - I stopped doing it with issue #3 but it seems to have gone on to have a healthyish life of it own, the people who do it enjoy doing it and everyone has a lot of fun...

That said, even in 2004 it felt a little weird and retrogressive (I'm sure the folks running it now get the same feeling from time to time).

So given that, why would anyone do it?

Firstly some kinds of comics work better in print. The further you move from the 3 panel gag or the quasi interactive art peice the less comfortable a fit reading them on your monitor is. Now, something like a tablet is a much better fit for that sort of thing than a monitor, and that's probably where comics are going in future, but thats only just creeping in.

(Possible argument against this: Freakangels, which is 100% a print comic that happens to be on the web, and fairly successful)

Anyhows, FutureQuake ended up being primarily print based, thoughh like an modern small press comic it's got a healthy life on online communities and the content is at least partially online (at first it was as PDFs, but they've moved away from that lately, which is probably healthy - lets face it unless you print the damn thing PDF does not make for a great comics reading experience). So there was all that, but the real focus was on printing it. And there really is something great about having a physical artifact as the product of your efforts.

Then we'd mail it out, but really the real distributive focus was on comics conventions, where we'd rent a table, sell the thing, but also hang out and chat with people.

Having the physical artifact there was a great focus - If you've ever been at a con manning a booth where what you have got is "hey, check out our website at www.example.com" you'll know that it;s kind of empty and unsatisfying.

(Oh, on money: Theoretically I guess selling the thing that way means you can make money out of it, though that's never been my experience or goal. Selling it just recovers a fraction of costs)

So, mainly I did it to create the artifact, share it with people and hang out. These days maybe you'd be better off going for a full on online effort to meet those goals, but i found it pretty enjoyable. A lot of effort though - I certainly couldn't do it these days in my married-with-a-house-and-a-kid existance, but to a certain extent it helped me get the comics work that I can fit into that life, and it was a great expereince anyweay so I wouldn't trade it for anything.

I'm not sure my goals were the ones John Allison might think they were, and he probably has a point regarding anyone with those goals So it's not like I completely disagree with him, on the other hand I don't think he's entirely right.
posted by Artw at 9:43 AM on November 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


...which is to say if the goal really had been to create some kind of self celebrating scene that would change everything we would have been rather foolish, but mainly we were just having a bit of a laugh, stretching our legs creatively, and maybe even gaining a little experience or exposure that would be helpful later on (many of the people involved with FutureQuake went on to do paid comics work, and I think that maybe it can take a tiny amount of credit for that.)
posted by Artw at 9:54 AM on November 18, 2010


Speaking of forgoing the commercializing of comics, is anybody doing anything these days like Bill Watterson has done? I really think that the magical realism of Calvin and Hobbes has a special ability to comment on life as we know it today.

Plus, the web is a perfect medium for a serialized comic: the ability to self-publish, no need to deal with syndication should you object to it, and the relative ease with which comics could be produced, preserved, and of course, consumed by the readership.
posted by hpb2earnest at 10:01 AM on November 18, 2010


Uncommercial webcomics gave us Pokey The Penguin, so maybe we should keep commercialisation as far away from the internet as possible.
posted by dng at 10:02 AM on November 18, 2010


Honestly, it kind of feels to me like the Great Outdoor Fight cost him something vital.

I think it was more Dark Horse publishing a book version of The Great Outdoor Fight that did something to him. Like there was this period of a year or so where he was touring and being told he was going to go more mainstream and join the ranks of Chris Ware and Tony Millionaire, and when it didn't quite come off he had trouble going back to being "just a web cartoonist". Which is a shame if true, and I hope I'm totally wrong in that impression.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 10:27 AM on November 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Speaking of forgoing the commercializing of comics, is anybody doing anything these days like Bill Watterson has done? I really think that the magical realism of Calvin and Hobbes has a special ability to comment on life as we know it today.

That's what Achewood was, to me. Still is, sometimes, but I think it's been a year since I read a comic that simultaneously melted my heart and made me laugh.

If you haven't read it, I really recommend it: There was a time I thought it was the best thing the Internet ever made, and sometimes I think the only reason I don't feel that spark anymore is that I've read the whole thing through a good dozen times. It's hard going at the beginning; the comic really starts in earnest in 2002, remains consistently brilliant for five or so years (including its peak in 2006 with the Great Outdoor Fight), and comes to what I see as its conclusion with a particular arc in 2008. I haven't read straight through the last two years, but they don't feel as vital to the series. I keep hoping Onstad will prove me wrong, but everything I've read of him suggests he feels the comic's coming to a close also.

The artwork isn't on par with Watterson, but the writing is at times arguably even better, and Achewood isn't limited in format or time like Calvin and Hobbes was, meaning it's able to go places and do things that newspaper comics simply couldn't. I couldn't really compare the two comics directly — Calvin and Hobbes, especially in its late years, could establish moods and worlds that I simply got lost in, but Achewood's cast of characters, particularly Ray Smuckles and Roast Beef, its two protagonists, have had years of sublime interaction. I know a lot of people identify with Roast Beef's depression; it's never affected me quite so powerfully as those strips of Calvin looking out his window into space, but there's certainly some power there. And Ray is my favorite character to come out of any web comic. If we don't look back ten years from now and see him as an iconic American character, I will eat your hat.

(I'll also add that Achewood has added more phrases to my vocabulary than anything but Arrested Development and The Big Lebowski.)
posted by Rory Marinich at 11:38 AM on November 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


It seemed like the guy had gotten Achewood to the point where it was actually viable as a full-time job for him and it was bringing in money; I don't know how much, but it appeared to be enough to not be in the poorhouse.

I don't know what's going on with the lack of updates and I don't know anyone who knows, either (except Onstad and he's apparently not telling). I'm also led to understand that its paid-subscription content isn't updating, either. It seems as though he just kind of...stopped.

And that's really sad. I am likely to be alone in this opinion but I really don't find much to enjoy in the vast majority of webcomics, and Achewood was one of the few exceptions.

But maybe more than that, there's some sympathetic sadness for me in that he seems to have gotten things to the point where doing his comic was his day job and he was moving fair amounts of merchandise on it, and somewhere along the way he seems to have just kind of checked out on it. And you know what, that's the dream for a lot of people and I'd be lying if I said I weren't one of them, so to see someone else accomplish that and then piss it away - it sucks.

But that's only how it looks from my end. I really don't know what he's got going on.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 12:12 PM on November 18, 2010


John Allison does terrific work, and the time I met him he struck me as personable, willing to engage on a human level, as well as someone who is working very hard at his art/job and is thinking about it in realistic (commercial) terms as well as art-ideal terms. I think he's had a hard year (or however long Bad Machinery's been going), since stopping his very popular series and switching gears, he lost readers and I gather has been discouraged by it, and is working to come back from it.

The people from the web comics scene that I've met have been thoughtful, genuinely interested in art, but also they are facing the real commercial facts of their situation: needing to be engaging with fans, needing to limit your product line to things that will sell (rather than making a zillion shirts of every character and only selling 5 of each), etc. It is an interesting scene to watch, especially since with Twitter and whatnot, there is pressure for these bigtime-smalltime creators to maintain a quirky, wise, likeable persona for daily fan interaction, on top of just doing good art.
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:35 PM on November 18, 2010


To be fair, he's just been to Thoughbubble and probably had a bunch of people who think they are the hot-new-thing tell him a bunch of twaddle about their newness and hotness, and many of them may be badly in need to of the advice he offers here.
posted by Artw at 12:36 PM on November 18, 2010


"I would rather read (the now defunct) Dar, Stop Paying Attention, Hyperbole & A Half, or (the now-defunct) Horribleville than anything Allison does."

Overeducated_alligator, I think you're defeating your own argument. These particular diary comics were/are all done by people with strong personalities and either intrinsically interesting lives or excellent skills in narrative and humor. Thus these are not the kind of diary comics John is asking people to stop.
posted by zoogleplex at 1:00 PM on November 18, 2010


I wouldn't have put things like he did, but I very much agree with one of the themes running through that -- there's a popular false dichotomy between True Art and Commercial Art, and outright romanticization of Artists being and remaining ignorant of the business of publishing. And I think that this is ultimately bad for artists and for people who'd like to see more artists creating more and better art.

Yeah, it would suck if everyone tried to chase the market and do a zombie comic 'cause zombies were hot last week. It would also suck if everyone pursued extreme omphaloskepsis 'cause anything else wouldn't be Pure.

Of course it's fine and good to make an abstruse web comic that'll attract a readership of five if that's what you feel like doing. Great, even! I wish more people were doing it. I'm sure, if I tried enough, that for some of them, I'd be one of the five. But if you'd also like to pursue a career in the arts, you'd do better to look for things in the intersection of things that interest and excite you, where you think you have something to say, and things that other people will be interested in, too.
posted by Zed at 2:21 PM on November 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Buttercup Festival reminds me of Calvin and Hobbes in some strange way, but it's further removed from reality than C&H.
posted by rivenwanderer at 10:39 PM on November 18, 2010


Overeducated_alligator, I think you're defeating your own argument. These particular diary comics were/are all done by people with strong personalities and either intrinsically interesting lives or excellent skills in narrative and humor. Thus these are not the kind of diary comics John is asking people to stop.

Ok, but that's not what he said. He just told people to stop doing diary comics because they're a waste of time. I found that confusing, too. I quite like the one René Engstrom (who did Anders loves Maria) does.
posted by Omnomnom at 5:34 AM on November 19, 2010


The actual quote is:
"If your only comics outlet is a diary comic on the internet, you are wasting your time and your energy. The success stories in this field are the product of people with strong, often eccentric personalities and a robust visual vocabulary, capable of turning their lives into a compelling narrative. The 200 people who read your diary comic, on the other hand, all make their own dull diary comics. Or are about to start."
I think what he's trying to say is that most people don't fit the personality and talent he describes, even if they think they do, and that most would be better off developing the visual vocabulary and narrative skills to make a comic that would be compelling via some other kind of story.

Also he's talking to people who only do a diary comic, doing nothing else. All the people alligator mentioned also do a lot of other comics both on and off the web, Rene Engstrom is a good example too. So fine, do a diary, but do some other kind of comic too, and put your creative energy into that one. If you don't have the energy to do that, perhaps commercial success in comics isn't in your future.

"Writing what you know" doesn't mean just documenting your daily life. You have to use what you know as a basis for some more interesting kind of storytelling.

Robert Khoo of Penny Arcade said recently that your web comic will develop exactly the audience it deserves, which I think is an accurate assessment.
posted by zoogleplex at 10:31 AM on November 19, 2010


Robert Khoo of Penny Arcade said recently that your web comic will develop exactly the audience it deserves, which I think is an accurate assessment.

It's certainly a convenient assessment, isn't it?

Listen, I like popular things and I'm glad people make them. I like Penny Arcade, even. But this post just goes overboard praising the stuff that sells over the stuff that might not.

If you like Robert Khoo's assessment of webcomics, how do you feel about the same idea applied more broadly? Does a news program develop exactly the audience it deserves? Does every novel? Is the best poetry the kind that gets quoted in the most high school yearbooks?

Or can we take a higher view, and acknowledge that sometimes the audience are wrong about what makes them excited, and make bad artistic judgments? And that sometimes, a more private impulse, that at least doesn't start from "Oh people love XYZ" could lead to the creation of something more valuable?

Does someone with an insular audience of 200 really need to be belittled for that fact? The smuggled value judgment here is disturbing. Is Questionable Content better than My Abstract Diary because QC has a lot of readers?

Whenever I hear this worldly, disenchanting pose from a commercial artist, I am a little suspicious. Why focus so heavily on "this is a business"? Why say, "forget what you learned in art school"? Why minimize wilder and freer impulses, in favor of the formats and skills that seem to lead to popularity? It sounds defensive to me. It sounds like the message of someone who trod the path and hasn't finished justifying it to himself.
posted by grobstein at 11:47 AM on November 19, 2010


It's certainly a convenient assessment, isn't it?

Nobody handed Penny Arcade success on a silver platter. They busted their asses making it happen, and Khoo works harder than almost anyone else in the business, or any other business for that matter. If you think ol' Bob's been sitting back waving his hands and making money magically appear, you are badly mistaken. Penny Arcade's success is not an accident, it's the result of talent, skill, desire, ambition and more than a decade of unrelenting, uncompromising effort on the part of the whole team. Plus some good luck.

I guess you can begrudge them the luck, but being bitter that PA is so successful is a prime symptom of a common amateur belief that success just falls in one's lap, in my opinion.

"If you like Robert Khoo's assessment of webcomics, how do you feel about the same idea applied more broadly? Does a news program develop exactly the audience it deserves? Does every novel?"

Well no, because currently the media that news programs and novels are transmitted through are tightly constricted compared to the Internet, especially in terms of the buy-in and marketing costs, so it's apples to oranges in that respect.

However, you might also consider that the audiences for various kinds of media productions have varying levels of motivation in how they go about finding and reading/viewing them. Khoo is talking specifically about the webcomics audience, which I feel (and I think he does too) is an audience far more motivated to seek out things that interest them and far more highly connected to each other by things like Twitter. Even though the total webcomics audience is fractionated into many niches, the people in those niches tend to be passionate and vocal about what they like, so if you have a webcomic that strikes a chord, the word gets out fast.

I feel that TV news shows for example also have niche audiences that are passionate, but are far more passive.

"Or can we take a higher view, and acknowledge that sometimes the audience are wrong about what makes them excited, and make bad artistic judgments?"

This is an opinion. What you think is a bad artistic judgment is probably different from what I think. There's no accounting for the taste of an audience. You're entitled to this opinion and I respect it. I don't even entirely disagree, on the whole the "consumer" taste for artistic things is... unsophisticated and unsubtle.

"And that sometimes, a more private impulse, that at least doesn't start from "Oh people love XYZ" could lead to the creation of something more valuable?"

Most definitely! A lot of the best stuff comes from creators that come up with something that no "industry veterans," no focus group would appreciate, yet that somehow strikes that chord and becomes wildly successful because of something the know-it-alls missed. Do you have any idea how many traditional cartoonists go insane, frothing at the mouth, when they find out XKCD has an audience of millions?

However, a run-of-the-mill diary comic isn't going to sweep the world. Doesn't mean it's not valuable to its creator or the readers who find it and like it, of course.

"Does someone with an insular audience of 200 really need to be belittled for that fact? The smuggled value judgment here is disturbing. Is Questionable Content better than My Abstract Diary because QC has a lot of readers?"

Artistically and creatively? Depends on whom you ask. Not everyone thinks QC is good. If you look at the art from way back, even Jeph Jacques himself groans about it. Commercially? Yeah, for the definition of "better" that means "more successful."

Is it belittlement? Depends on your point of view. I feel like maybe what Allison's coming down hard on diary comics about is an attitude by their creators that these are worthy of webcomics success and that they should be taken seriously as a creative cartoonist, and the expression of same. I feel that as an example of a creative outlet and path for learning the craft, diary comics have great value to the creator. As an example of the commercially-minded comics-making craft, 99.999% of them don't measure up.

Though I tremble to presume, I feel John's probably saying, "look diary comickers, you can do better, be more creative; you can create something more interesting than this with just a bit more effort and focus on this craft. Please take the time to stretch your abilities, put some effort into this thing you're trying, and raise your own bar."

"Whenever I hear this worldly, disenchanting pose from a commercial artist, I am a little suspicious. Why focus so heavily on "this is a business"? Why say, "forget what you learned in art school"?

Because so many people want to emulate the successes of the webcomics world and be a successful business, making a living making comics. Doing that takes one hell of a lot of work that isn't making your comics - and this has been true for print comics forever, too. A lot of people start this webcomics thing thinking "hey, I'm gonna put my comic up and poof! the money will start rolling in!" That almost never happens, and when it doesn't a lot of people complain, "hey, where's the living I'm supposed to be making?" and pull a big attitude with people who do make a living at it. BTW, this isn't isolated to the comics biz, it's common in pretty much every creative industry. People want to magically make money without working their asses off and catering to an audience, and I'm sorry, that flat out doesn't happen, ever.

"Why minimize wilder and freer impulses, in favor of the formats and skills that seem to lead to popularity?"

I don't think he's suggesting that anyone abandon "wilder" creative impulses. Go nuts! Be creative! But don't expect to make a living with it unless you do the work necessary to find and hold a big enough audience to make the kind of living you want. Mind you, the size of that audience is different for everyone; you can have an audience of 1,000 people if that audience will buy enough stuff from you every month to meet your financial goals (after paying your taxes!).

Frankly, being popular means you have potential to make more money. I'm sorry if commercialism doesn't appeal to you, but you are of course free to keep a day job and do a comic or other creative endeavor as a hobby. If you want to turn the hobby into your day job, some accession to commercialism is always going to be necessary.

"It sounds defensive to me. It sounds like the message of someone who trod the path and hasn't finished justifying it to himself."

I can't agree with you on this one, since John's been doing this for a long time and making his sole income at it, too. He's got a lot of experience at this. Do you?

I feel like creatives really need to disabuse themselves of the notion that just because they're creative, the world owes them a living. It simply isn't so. Like any other business, you have to have a "widget" that enough people want enough to pay for it.

I'm a commercial designer and illustrator, I work in advertising, TV and video games these days, and I make a solid living at it. Would I love to make a living doing a webcomic, commanding my own destiny? Sure! But it's really, really difficult, and I'm not in any kind of position to put in the necessary effort at this point in my life.

Going back to trying to urge diary comics creators to work a little harder on the craft: I love to draw spaceships. I do it all the time. Sometimes I even get paid to design them for TV shows and video games, but as an artistic thing, it makes me happy to do it anyway.

Now, when I was a young artist, I also used to draw a lot of spaceships. For a long time, though, they were other people's spaceships and variants of same, X-Wings and Eagles and USS Enterprises, and ships that fit into those worlds. Did I deserve to make a living drawing those spaceships when I was 18, 19, 20 years old? I mean, it was in theory possible to do so - if I could get a job at ILM or Lucasfilm. Do you think I deserved to walk in the front door at the Ranch and say, "hire me!"?

Had I done so, I'm sure they would have been polite, but they would have asked, "Do you have anything else to show us besides these spaceships in our style?" and "Where have you worked before this?"

There are a whole lot of other steps one needs to take to be a commercially-paid spaceship designer and illustrator. Most of them have absolutely nothing to do with drawing spaceships. Most of the drawing a commercial designer/illustrator needs to be able to do is not spaceships, it's everything else under (or orbiting) the sun. You have to prove that you're capable of not only making nice drawings, but doing it consistently, on deadline, in a production environment, working cohesively with a team of people. You need to develop a whole diverse set of skills and a bit of a reputation as a valuable asset to a production.

The situation is analogous. There are a set of things you need to do, a set of skills you need to acquire, to make a living as a creative person, as opposed to just being a creative person. If you don't think you need to do those things to make money, you're simply being unrealistic. If you get angry and defensive when someone points this out, you're hurting your chances of success, because now the person who has politely pointed this out will now be unlikely to offer any further encouragement. At best.
posted by zoogleplex at 1:56 PM on November 19, 2010


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