It's just starting to get light outside, and I've been up working since yesterday. It's a cool morning — just the way I like it, and my coffee is just about ready; it's a fragrant breakfast blend. I can smell it wafting out from the kitchen of my new apartment. I've been living here a while now and, while it's been great, it feels like I've neglected my online community.
I feel guilty about it, but — truthfully — I just needed some time for myself, to unwind from the past couple of years.
I hope you're all doing as well as I am (this coffee is fucking delicious, btw) and that you're relaxed and comfortable. I'd like you to come for a little stroll down memory lane with me. Picture this: All the way back to good old 2009 (or somewhere thereabouts), I am fresh-faced, starry-eyed and new to both art and the internet; I cannot draw to save my life, but I have decided to become an artist.
I'd somehow managed to graduate high school with no idea whatsoever about how to function as an adult in the real world. So, I asked myself a simple question: What would be the least painful way to spend the rest of your life? The answer, for me, was drawing.
I made a DeviantArt account (which I later deleted in a fit of early-twenties angst) that served as my first real introduction to social media. I was fearless and scrappy; I drew anything that came to mind. I uploaded dozens of low-quality scans of sloppy sketches and used whatever means necessary to get them seen by as many people as possible.
I wrote journals about whatever was on my mind, whenever I felt like it — I even had a small vlog on YouTube at one point. Despite my ugly personality and ludicrously bad work, people seemed to latch on to my obvious sincerity. Before I knew it, I'd gathered a small crowd of people who followed my online activity and I'd made a handful of close online friends.
In hindsight, I feel a bit like the frog in boiling water. Somewhere along the way, I decided that becoming an artist meant having a full-time career as a freelance illustrator. I knew nothing about freelance and I knew nothing about illustration, but I worked hard at improving my art. I became reclusive and absurdly self-critical. I was embarrassed by my work, which had a tendency to look nothing like the sort of thing you might see on a Magic: The Gathering card, even when I liked it.
My entire sense of self-worth got wrapped up in my freelance career and, thinking I was very clever, I started cultivating a more professional online identity; one that involved posting only presentable work and avoiding anything too controversial. I kept on hiding pieces of myself until there was practically nothing left.
All of my courage and enthusiasm had been replaced by the fear of failure, of being disliked, unpopular — falling short of expectations. Popularity mattered because, I mistakenly reasoned, it would come as a result of my reaching a certain technical skill level. I practically stopped sharing my work and, on the rare occasion that I would upload something, I'd leave the description blank.
At some point, somewhere in the back of my mind, I began processing something that I'd known deep down for a long time: I didn't want to freelance, and it was strangling my relationship with art. By pursuing clients and commissions instead of making and sharing work that I love, I managed to accomplish nothing, frustrate myself and alienate anyone who actually liked my work; like trying to jam a square peg into a circular hole.
The freelance economy for artists is horrible. If you want to trade your time for money, there are better ways to do it, but that's another discussion. It's just not for me; honestly, I'd rather go back to washing dishes. I refuse to waste another minute of my life making work that I think will attract clients. I'm not interested in building a career like that.
I'm going to make art for myself from now on, and share it with anyone who cares to see it. It's my understanding that artist's who earn a living this way, supported by fans, are called 'independent artists'. That's my goal — It's always been my goal, I simply lost sight of it.
I'm sorry that I disappeared for so long. I got side-tracked, but I'm back. I'm working on projects like my webcomic, Descent, and a few illustration series that I really hope you'll like. I'm going to start sharing my personal work again, and stop worrying about whether or not it's presentable, or original enough.
If you're a fan, support what you like. If that's my work, fine. That's great — you have my gratitude — but, unless you're a creator yourself, you can't know what it means to have fans. Every like, follow, favorite, share, retweet, mention, etc. — it's life blood. Our work literally dies in obscurity without you.
That's all for now — thanks for reading.