After a long business talk with my La (my everything partner), I’ve realized there are some things about the art business I’m not enjoying and I need to make some improvements on the form, so that I can in turn make improvements on the art itself.
There are a lot of changes going on in the convention scene right now, for instance the vast over saturation of shows the lower the overall quality of each and every show out there. Someone a while back compared the rapid growth in the convention scene to the Speculative Real Estate bubble that burst in Aught-Eight, and it’s not an untrue or unfair comparison. There are a lot of people coming out the wood work to put their stamp on the the idea, some with good intentions, others just maintain a sleezy nightclub/used car lot mentality over it. It doesn’t matter in the end and this bubble will burst, it’s just a matter of when.
And what exactly does the working artist do with this info? Right now I feel like all we can do is brace ourselves, prepare for the inevitable, and start building skills that will help us more easily adapt when the time comes. Other than that the only real option is to jump ship and find another vessel. Easier said than done, however.
Though the younger, naive, passion filled artist in me wants desperately to survive solely on my art, after my shows were over for the season this time last year, I gave in and got a part time job, something to take the financial burden off of solely La’s shoulders. We’d been given gracious amounts of help and support from family and friends, but it was a rough year last year. I’m still working part time, and I’m lucky enough that my manager is very easy about my convention schedules. Not everyone can be so lucky. I like the place right now and I’ve been there for almost a year at this point. It pays a bill, or pays for a table at a show but leaves me (most of the time) with plenty of time to work on my own business. I like where I’m at so far with it all, but there is much to be done to make some improvements.
I’m writing a larger piece for later on the Artist Alley life and what I’ve learned about my work from the past year and a half of doing it, I’ll have that one up sometime soon after this.
I started Hive Mind when I quit my job last year. I started drawing the characters that would later inhabit Hive Mind, rather. I hated the place I had been working. When I left I started drawing this little ‘worker-bee’, miserable looking, in a miserable working environment. It was my catharsis. So much of my depression about the stepping stone job I wasted 3 years at came out in that one drawing. And then I drew some more. La and my mom saw these drawings and loved them, they asked about what I was doing with them, and encouraged me to take them a step further. I had a loose idea, really the beginning and the end points. Around this time I also wanted to start updating the site more often, so marrying these bees to the comic strip format seemed the best way at the time to explore my ideas with these bees.
I’m on the second season/chapter of Hive Mind now, but 4 issues in I’m realizing I don’t like what Hive Mind is becoming. I like the stories and the characters, but the isn’t there. The form isn’t there. The adventures of these bees don’t feel containable in three small boxes every week. I have a story written and beats plotted for this entire second chapter, but I’m not happy with the art. Technically they’re some of my best drawings to date, but I hand drew those original bees, and redrawing them digitally and giving them such vivid colors, I’m realizing it’s maybe not the feeling I wanted for this concept. I originally thought of this idea as a coming of age story book for adults. Or, even just one of those ‘Little Golden Books’ for people who are depressed and hate their jobs. That was my original idea, but I wasn’t sure it would catch on.
Now let me take a step backward and say that I brought up the conventions first because I wanted to build that up for a point I’m about to make on the changes I’m going to be making for Hive Mind and XaqInd in general. In regards to the end of the last paragraph: “but I wasn’t sure it would catch on”. That is what I spent a lot of time hung up on in the last year. I have a lot of artist friends who tell each other, and themselves “It’s not about the money”, but for me I want to build the work I do into a small business that I can take care of my family with someday. It IS about money. That being said, in the comics, and in the convention scene itself, I’ve been focusing on selling and not about just liking what I’m doing, and making genuine things from my heart. The major reason I left the glamorous world of in house graphic design was that I was tired of creating sole-less analogue click bait, and yet, I’ve been teetering on the edge of that cliff STILL, but by holding my own creativity hostage against me. So back to Hive Mind.
I don’t care if it ‘catches on’. I can’t, if I want to enjoy making it long term, I have to love it and love making it, and right now, I don’t love it. I like it, but I’m not ‘in like’ with it. So I’m taking the rest of December back off of Hive Mind, and I will hit reset on it at the start of the new year by taking it back to where it came from and the original ideas we had. Hive Mind will be traditionally drawn and scanned, not confined to three boxes in a white frame. I’m just going to draw my bee friends, and with every drawing, the corresponding post will be the prose of that story. I suppose I’m attempting to make the digital comic version of that story book idea. Of course I hope you like it, I really do want to make something you enjoy, but I’m not going to try to sell myself on the idea of selling you something. I just want to make nice drawings that make people smile, and just see where that takes me.
HIVE MIND will RE-Return January 4th, 2016. I’ll be starting the story over, including those first 4 strips and we will go from there.