Thursday, February 15, 2007

GOING BACK TO THE MATTRESSESS (or in this case, the pillow…)

That’s a mob term, “Going to the mattresses.” Y’see, when a gang war escalates, mob bosses scout out empty buildings for their men to occupy throughout the city to keep them both undercover and in the thick of it for fast responses (and as often, provocation) to violent opposition. Consequently, the bosses fill the floor space of these hideouts with mattresses for the various hitmen and thugs to bunk on for the duration of the conflict. Here endeth the lesson. Refer to Mario Puzo’s immortal work, “The Godfather”, to further your education.

However, none of that really has to do with what I’m about to expound upon. I just like the phrase. Plus, mattress made me think of pillow, which is why I’ve brought all you here…

I’ve returned to my children’s book, “Pillow Billy” (page 28 of which you can see above), and have sent it to a publisher here in Michigan. Mackinac Island Press out of Traverse City, to be exact. I don’t know why it hadn’t occurred to me earlier to try this route. I seem to recall that I once sent a long-since abandoned children’s book concept to a Michigan publisher (circa 1996, I believe) and received the response that they only published books about Michigan and the outdoors, neither of which described my book. Maybe that’s what kept me from pursuing Michigan publishing houses. Heck, maybe that will happen again, I dunno. Regardless if it does, it’s worth a shot. I’d just been thinking about a Michigan-based author I’d learned about during my days at Delta College, and how he was successful with a children’s book series he created called “Buck Wilder.” I researched him, and found out that Mackinac Island Press published his work, so it seemed as good a place as any to send Pillow Billy. Months ago, I’d e-mailed Jonathan Rand, author of the Michigan Chiller series, to get some tips on getting your book published. Never heard back from him. So for anyone about to suggest I check that guy out, just know that I did, and it didn’t come to much. Let’s hope Mack. Press yields better results. More news on that when it comes.

I’m also involved in what I can only refer to as a “top secret” project. A company is developing something that they may be interested in having me provide artwork for. I really wish I could say more, but as it stands, I have to sign a confidentiality agreement just to get more info about the product in order to create sample artwork for them to consider. Right now, I’m just one of however many artists vying for a shot as their illustrator. But I think I have the edge. I’ve seen a sample of the kind of work they’re looking for, and right away I knew I could do leagues better than that without even trying. So if ever I can be more specific about what I may or may not be doing here, I will be. In the meantime, bask in the intrigue. Bask, damn you.

No word from that magazine in England regarding the staff cartoonist gig (samples of my submission to which you can view above). If I hear from them, good deal. If not, I’m no worse off than I was before. Plus, it was just cool to have correspondence with industry pros across the pond regarding my artwork. That experience is worth a rejection.

I’ve e-mailed a few companies that I’ve heard of through the artistic grapevine or stumbled upon on A couple animation studios and some magazines. No word back from any of those leads yet, but at least I can say I’m trying.

So I’ve been worrying lately about my artistic purpose. For most of my life, the purpose has been to create, plain and simple. But in the last few years, probably due in part the arrival of my early 30’s as well as wanting to live in better conditions than your average hobo, I’ve noticed a pull towards money. Whereas when I started out as a freelance artist fifteen years ago, and I’d turn away work based on if I didn’t want to drive too far or didn’t like the client or assignment, these days I find myself taking gigs that I know I’ll dislike, just because I need the cash.

I’ve recently been called about speaking to a couple classes and essentially teaching a lesson on cartooning. Well, I hate teaching. And I’m sorry, but you cannot teach cartooning. At least I can’t. I firmly believe that, unlike any other art form, cartooning is pure instinct, that you either have it or you don’t, and that if you don’t, you’ll never get it. Nobody ever taught it to me. It just hit me. Or was always in me, and one day (age two), I noticed it was there, like a baby boy discovering his wiener. But back to the teaching. I basically finagled it so that I could draw the students for two hours while responding to questions they may have along the way. Not so much teaching as a chalk talk, albeit with a felt tip marker. But still, not my favorite thing to do. It’s just the money, y’know? Gotta make the rent, gotta make the loan payments, gotta make the car insurance bill, gotta make ALL the bills, gotta gotta gotta…

But have I gotten to the point where my artistic purpose is the money? If it has, it’s sad for two reasons. 1. Art and finance do not mix. Oil and water are more compatible. You either do art because you love it or to turn a buck. Not both. 2. The other thing is, if I am in it for the money, then I need to pick a new profession, go back to Delta and learn how to change oil or something, because the money I make from my art is not enough to kick up the dirt about. I crunched the numbers, and essentially I spent $10,000 more on my art (in gas, transportation, art supplies, etc…) that I made off it this past year (six grand if I was lucky). And unless my tax deductions all pay out the way I hope they will, then I’m a grade a chump for going into art for the money. Do the math. Carry the two. The end result always comes up chump.

The upswing to this is that my $10,000 deficit seems cold hard evidence that I must be creating art for the love of it. I’m not stupid, I know what I spend on things. And I’m wise enough to have a day job of twelve years to balance out my income. But for me to have spent more than I made off my art means that I must love it. That’s enough justification for losing money on it, or for doing it at all. It’s my life’s blood, and without it, I’m just another corpse floating in a sea of conformity and crushed dreams. I’ve seen that sea. It’s gotten pretty crowded, especially in the Mid Michigan area. James Cameron’s “Titanic: couldn’t replicate that tragedy. And I don’t want to be a part of that. So for the love of my art, I’ll keep doing it.

Laura said to me today, “You make people happy with your art.” She really knows how to make it seem significant, important. How to make me feel significant and important. Do I make people happy with my art? Am I contributing to the world and making it better because of what I create? Laura thinks so, and she believes it when she says it. I believe in her. So in turn, I have to believe in myself. Guess it’s true then. I do it for the art, and the art’s purpose is to make people happy. Somebody get Kermit on the phone and tell him I need to borrow his banjo. I feel a song coming on…

1 comment:

Doc Shaner said...

I really like the strips you have posted here Jay. If I may be so bold they're like Cathy (sorry sorry sorry) but they don't make me want to barf violently.
Really though, great stuff, I'd love to see more of it in the future.