Monday, May 5, 2008

Advice for Young Cartoonists Starting Out

I found a great article about an artist named Gene Yang. This creator is especially inspiring to me because he's also a teacher. His latest graphic novel American Born Chinese has gotten a lot of positive reviews and it received several awards. His advice to cartoonists is to "get a day job"! He then explains how it can actually help your art. Here's some of the article:

Advice for a cartoonist who’s just starting out? Get a day job. I know people tend to see day jobs as a sign of failure, but really, there are so many benefits:

1. By separating your comics from your need to feed yourself, you keep full control of your comics. You’ll never have to draw someone else’s story simply because that someone else is going to help you make rent.

2. Health insurance.

3. Your day job can be a great source of material. Stories occur
around us all the time, especially when we’re interacting with other people.
I’ve found that some of the best stories come out of interactions that you
wouldn’t necessarily choose to have: ones with your co-workers, your customers,
or your students. There are lots of great characters out there, walking around
on the street and in office buildings and on campuses, just waiting for you to
bump into them.

You do have to exercise good judgment in picking a day job. It should be something you like – not every day, but overall. It should be something you find meaningful. And it should be something that will leave you with enough energy to make your comics after work. For a lot of us, that means a day job that doesn’t involve cartooning.

Personally, I think classroom teaching is a great way to go. Everyone knows we need good teachers, and teaching, at least for me, draws from a different “energy well” than cartooning. Teaching is so extroverted, so people-oriented. At the end of a day of teaching, when I’ve had all the human contact I can stand, I go to my drawing board and recharge by inking a page. Then, when I’m sick of being holed up in my home office, I go back into my classroom. Plus, you can catch up on your comics
during summer vacations if you fall behind during the school year. If you’re a cartoonist who’s ever even had a passing interest inteaching, I’d encourage you to explore it. Heck, I’m one of three cartoonists on staff at my school, and we all put out comics fairly regularly.

Of course, plenty of comics creators do just fine with art-oriented day jobs. The incredible C. Scott Morse works at Pixar during the day and still finds the energy to create brilliant graphic novels at night. Plenty of others don’t have any day jobs at all. Jeff Smith hasn’t had a day job since the start of Bone.
But for me, I’ve found my own day job to be a blessing rather than a curse.


Paul Bozzo said...

Great ideas about teaching and the creative mind. Wise man.

I really believe that creative people make great teachers. There are a lot of ways to be creative besides the visual arts. But, because kids are such good visual learners, maybe people with visual art talents have an inside track into the teaching thing!

Ben Villarreal said...

I just finished reading American Born Chinese tonight, and I thought I'd see what your take on it was.

AND I get this excellent article and advice! As a writer, most of the time, the last thing I want to do after talking about writing all morning, grading writing all afternoon, and reading in my free time in between, is write. I think that's why I really enjoyed those drawing classes. It really felt like it required a different kind of energy, but at the same time, I got to exercise my creativity. Still, what he said here inspired me. I need to write more :-)