Web Comics and the Brave New World of Artistic Work

I’ve gained a few readers in the last year (hi, reader!) so what I’m about to write about may come as a shock to you.  I need to confess that I not only dropped out of grad school and left my career in the arts, but I’m also an avid reader of web comics and web graphic novels.

I know; shocking isn’t it?  Who’d ever peg me as a comic book nerd?

Anyways, Haley recently had a great post about grad school not being end-all-be-all of intellectual life and it really got me thinking about if this idea translates into the artistic world.  It’s one thing for an academic to keep reading journals, but what does an artistic do when they choose to leave their field?

To make a long story short back in 2006 I tried out, and left a grad program in Theatre Design (namely costume design).  It was clear as day that it was a good time to abandon a Masters Degree and focus on building a resume; it was the recession and one was beginning to give more sway than the other.  So I went out and worked.  I worked for some amazing companies and with some amazing artists, though like any shmuck in their mid-twenties I didn’t always appreciate what I had or what I was doing.  Five years later it was time for my life to change again and I happily set down my seam ripper and black apron for the next role of motherhood.

It was a big change, and while I do miss my old days of travel and new projects every six months, I don’t regret it one bit.  It was the right call for me.  I’m confident one day I’ll return to it on some scale, but on my own terms and not as my only source of income.

During those five years the tides were changing and it’s been fascinating to watch how the theatrical world has change with it.  The artistic world in general has become this bright new thing thanks to the great time sucker that is the internet and the new media world that it has spawned.

The one place I’ve seen this explode is in the world of comic books.  Thanks to internet and photoshop and digital art it’s a complete new world and it’s rather fascinating to watch.  Over the course of years you can watch a person develop their artistic skills before your eyes, you can purchase books that might never be published otherwise, you can even raise enough money to fund someone to work solely on their art.  It’s no longer necessary to even have an “arts job” to pursue your craft and that is amazingly freeing.

One of the things I actually hated while working in the arts was having to dish out my skills to pay my rent, and for my food, and my gas, and my bills, and my loans.  Feeling like you had to take work, that you wouldn’t necessarily, in order to just survive can suck a lot of fun out of life – artistic or not.

It is an amazing day and age where you can step out of the artistic rat race and still produce your art and still use your skills.  So many of the online comic artists I’ve witness over the years weren’t doing art professionally; in fact quite a few of them weren’t even that good.  But they had an idea, and a drive and a new outlet and they’ve created wonderful things.  It is inspiring to witness, to watch something done in the brief hours between work and sleep becoming something really beautiful.  To have access to a world of stories and pictures just because someone decides to hit publish without the middlemen of editors and publishing companies

To someone looking at “leaving” the arts world I just advise this – it’s a new world and there are so many ways to develop, hone and enjoy our skills.  There are new ways other than the old, obvious monoliths of the arts world in which to enjoy those skills and reach your audience.  I have no idea where my artistic life is going; truth be told I’ve enjoyed my break and don’t want it to be my day job again anytime soon, but I look forward to seeing where it could head and what I can still do.  I look forward to these up coming years and seeing what I can create on my own terms, surrounded and supported by those who real understand what is I’m doing.  My artistic life is not over because I left the professional sector and you do not need to be there either to create wonderful things.

6 thoughts on “Web Comics and the Brave New World of Artistic Work

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  1. I haven't done theatre in seven years. SEVEN YEARS! It makes me want to weep. I love my current role as mom but I am afraid when I have the time to do the artistic thing I loved that I will be so behind and not any good. My creative energy is focus on developing recipes and sewing occasionally for the kiddos but it isn't the same as coaching speech teams or directing a play.

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  2. I've been feeling the itch too – realizing it's been years since I've drawn (I used to draw a couple hours daily!!!) and a couple years since I've actually been part of build. Starting to brainstorm ways to get back to it or use it in other ways.

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  3. I finished my MA in Theater right before we got married and I was “for sure going to find a PhD program” after we'd been married a year. Well… 4,5 years, 2 kids and a house later the PhD is slipping further and further away. Some days I am perfectly fine with it. Other days I really crave the theater again. So who knows what's in store for me. But I have really enjoyed the break. This post just really resonated with me.

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  4. When I wrote this I told friends…. no one is going to understand this (unless they're a theatre person), and I think was right.

    Now my sixth sense of theatre is kicking…. I want to know where you did your Masters, who you know, where you worked…. All the things!!!

    I keep thinking I'd love to finish my MA some day…. maybe I'll just be that kick-a$$ forty something doing it for no other reason that my own happiness

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  5. I was involved with theatre in high school and college. It was a love-hate relationship. I ached when I wasn't a part of the latest play, but it seemed to suck all the life out of me when I was at six-hour rehearsals every day for months!

    I know exactly what you mean about web comics, it's so wonderful we have this ability to share with each other, as communities.

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