Once upon a lunchtime happy, while I pondered full and happy, I received and answered a note from a talented woman and I think the interchange can help serve a wider purpose by repeating it, with appropriate redaction and follow-on discussion. The relevant part of the note is this:
“I don't know if you remember me but my name is Antares IV and I took your cool seminar some time units ago. I just wanted to thank you for your announcement and congratulate you. It was truly wonderful news as I was an aspiring cartoonist (I had cartooned for my high school newspaper all four years and then for (Tier One Research University) but recently stopped) but became disheartened about the endeavor. However, seeing this news and checking out your websites and work re-inspires me to consider picking up cartooning again - and also makes me extremely proud to be at TORU where my amazing professors are not only passionate but also multitalented. I apologize for the long email but I wish you the best of luck and look forward to seeing your cartoons everywhere! With much (TORU mascot) pride, I will be cheering for you.”
My response was
“Being blessed/cursed with both the arts and sciences chugging away in your head can be good and bad. It means you can do anything (good) but also that you have to choose where to concentrate your efforts. I suppressed my own art side for quite a while. Or, rather, only gave it a minor part of my attention. Although, even so, I carved and painted toys for my kids, created posters and murals, and so forth. But lately the pressure to really see what I could do got too strong.
Cartooning is NOT an easy field in which to support oneself these days. Not like the Golden Age of last century. There are a very few who do very well and a much larger number who make minimum wage sorts of income. So most of the cartoonists I know have a day job along with their cartooning job and work in the hopes of one day transitioning over to 100% art side.
If you’re motivated to do it, then you should definitely start by putting your work out on the web. It’s essentially free and it’ll let you grow an audience. It’d be great if that audience would support your work as well, which happens more for some than for others. Kind of random.
Keep me informed of what you decide to do!”
AND NOW ….
From personal experience I can say that way more people than you might expect harbor a multitude of talents and interests. The problem is, we only see the one that’s on the outside and so we assume that’s all there is. We’re human M & M’s, showing the world our hard candy coating but hiding our chocolaty goodness within. So there’s observation number one; don’t presume you really know what drives a person until you really know that person.
So, carrying on. Many people have a variety of interests and possibilities for their lives. But we also live in a world that pushes a few things. Such as conforming to the norm, meeting expectations, and doing “well”. It’s far easier to follow the obvious and approved path. It is, in general, more immediately remunerative and nobody is going to question your path. The further into the arts one goes, the farther one’s income drops, again, in general. At least at first. And a LOT of people are going to question your sanity.
Achieving success in anything takes lots and lots of work. Much dedication. Great heaps of frustration and failure and rejection as well. And who likes rejection and failure? Nobody I know. Continuing to pursue a dream is difficult. Juggling a “real” job and a dream job along with all the other parts of life can easily become too much to handle. Only so much time in the day and a finite number of you (namely one for each of us). So something has to give and most often it’s the dream.
Is this good or bad? Do I say “Stay the course, devote your energies into your craft!”? Welllll, that’s a tough one.
It’s true that the people who succeed are the ones who pursued their dreams and didn’t falter. You can’t win if you don’t play. They believed in themselves and made it work. But it’s also true that many who didn’t succeed followed that same path. It’s not just those who give up early who fail to succeed. There aren’t any guarantees and there’s a lot of luck involved that’s beyond our control. Remember that guy who said he was going to revolutionize his culture through domesticating the native animals and putting them to work? He lived in Meso-America 10,200 years ago. What was his name again? Tip of my tongue …
The point is that he failed, and is forgotten, even though he had a fantastic idea, because he lived in the wrong place at the wrong time. No big animals to domesticate. His ancestors had eaten them all. So no big breakthroughs. That was left for those living on the other side of the world. And the same could happen to any of us. Wrong place, wrong time, wrong connections, and so forth. I’m not saying it will happen, but it certainly could.
Who is going to risk everything for the chance of success when the chance of failure is very real? Should such a course be encouraged? Or no? I’ve laid some of the facts out here and I think I’ll pause now to see if anyone wants to chime in with their thoughts.