Thursday, August 2, 2012

It all ended in San Diego

Finding out that DC would not look at my work.

There I was, sitting at our booth on Sunday at San Diego Comic Con 2009 3 years ago, my hands clasped over my face. Our booth was put on a horrible lane with no traffic. Sells of our books were dismal. My quest to land some full time comic work failed. My portfolio was over looked by both DC and Marvel. A major production company was debuting a new t.v. show that looked a lot like Jetta: Tales of the Toshigawa. And my wife was back at home and pregnant. What’s worse, I told her that I would come home with something concrete. I looked at my last sketch for the convention and knew I would not be coming back. And, just maybe, comics may not be in the cards as a means to take care of my new family.

It was a hard pill to swallow. After all, I put in my time. Submitted my portfolio to the powers that be. Smoozed with editors. Worked on my craft. I should have been there by now. But, for some reason, I wasn’t. I saw friends and colleagues’ careers sail past me, while I stood still. When I was single, I had time to wait on that one break that SHOULD'VE happened. But with a wife and newborn, it was getting harder to justify the wait. I kept thinking, “Why am I doing this?”

This is a question that many of you will have to face in your illustration careers. To be truthful, the art industry is not one that you go into expecting to make a great deal of money. It’s a lot of work with little payoff. If you do get that comic book gig, be prepared to sacrifice a lot of your time to making the deadlines so the books can come out on schedule. Until you get that break, you will have to endure your fill of positive and (some times) very brutal critiques. In my case, I have had bosses that where so insensitive (That’s being very nice) that they have literally shoved my hands from my keyboard and mouse because I was not using key commands in photoshop. I’ve had designs and illustrations stolen, cheated out of finances, and (when things got good at the company) I got handed my walking papers. Things can be pretty bad when you are a working artist. So, why am I doing this?

While doing a tutorial panel on illustration, someone asked a question. “Why are you doing this?” The woman who asked me was a mother. Her son was a budding artist who was to shy to ask any questions himself. But she caught me off guard and I had to think for a moment. There was a second where I got really panicked. I couldn’t come up with an answer. Then it hit me.

Art is the first thing I remember doing that mattered to me. I told the woman of the first time I found art to be of value. I was in the second grade and I used to draw Batman and Robin all of the time. Classmates would point and sometimes crack on me. But there was this one kid who thought those drawings where the best things he’d seen. One day, out of appreciation for liking my “Batmans” (as I called them), I gave him a drawing. He was so excited, he gave me a quarter for it. No one had (up to that point) been so effected by anything I’d done. It excited me to draw more, share more, and I have been doing it ever since.
Adam and I a our last San Diego Comic Con 2009.
So, back to San Diego Comic Con 2009. As we were leaving the convention hall, I looked at my booth mate, Adam Shaw, and gave him a pound (jive handshake for the unhip. lol). We both knew that was sort of our last harrah. I thanked him for allowing me to be a part of Comic Con. After all, if it wasn’t for a chance meeting at a signing we had, I wouldn’t have been there in the first place. And I gathered my portfolio and headed back to my room. While I was walking, I realized why I keep coming back to drawing these funny books. Drawing is the one thing that I’m good at and art has the potential (once you get past the possible financial gain) to effect people in ways that no one can dream of. I’m happy when I’m drawing. My world is complete. That happiness is the one thing that I can hope to pass down to my son should he choose to walk my path. Art is me. So, no matter how much money (or how little) I make, how much the work is ignored or misunderstood or how much publishers over look Jetta or any of my characters, I’m still going to produce. I don’t have to work at DC or Marvel. I don’t have to have that steady gig with IDW. The general public doesn’t have to know I exist. None of that matters. The only thing that matters is that I keep creating. If I can do that, I can give my son more than just a stack of dollars. (That would be great too, I’d like to add.) I can give him the joy of creativity.

Me and my son. This is what it's about.
So, the question goes to you. With all of the possible pitfalls and failures that could hit, why are you doing this?

(Side note: These blogs are a way to make sure that the artist that read them don't make the same mistakes I did and capitalize on the things I did right. Being real about the hardships and achievements of this life is important to me. Be true to yourself and let all the rest slide.)

Until next blog, keep the pencils moving.
Illustrator, Designer, Father, Husband


  1. Oi! You scared me for a second there. I thought this was some sort of farewell post, but I'm relieved that it was quite the opposite and more like a man's unwavering resolve. That's the stuff heroes are made of, sir. We have our soldiers, firefighters and men in blue, but we can add ordinary people to the pantheon of heroes. Folks who don't give up surely have a seat reserved at the round table of greatness.

    Why am I doing this?

    I'm in it for the women, obviously. In addition to that, my answer is similar to yours, but there are cosmic implications I'd like to add on.

    Creativity is my addiction---my drug of choice, if you will. I think after all this time and sacrifice, there's no way in hell I would turn my back on it. Creativity is difficult to quit cold-turkey, but I've seen people do it and they're not happy. Bills get paid and there's some room for disposable spending, but there's lack of personal fulfillment. Hell, I've been there.

    I've joined the work force a number of times, though it seems to be rather difficult to regain that status, but, none the less, we're not built for that crap. One shitty office gig after the next, my creativity suffered drastically.

    As artist, we day dream better than the average person. We can conceptualize, articulate and express better than anyone on the planet, making us the visual elite. In more ways than one, we're absolutely miserable when we're not creating. Some more than others. Much like Magneto's stance on mutant powers, we should never be afraid to use our natural gifts.

    So, I suppose part of the reason I do what I do is because it's a biological requirement. There's the added bonus of striking gold and taking a concept through all the motions. Spider-Man, Hellboy and Superman are good examples of "lightning in a bottle" characters, which brings me to this...

    We all have a ticker. It's tragic, but that's part of the bloody process of life. I'm 28, so there's still room to ride this thing out and check off various things on the list, but the main thing I'd want to accomplish would be to create something that will last forever, or, at the very least, last for generations. Not just anything, but something good.

    Lightning in a bottle.

    Whether or not I end up with some sort of intellectual property doesn't matter. It's a bridge that I intend to cross when it arrives. Right now, this is the journey, or, as I like to call it, "the nut-cutting portion of life." We're doing what we were born to do.

    It's a gift and a damn-fine good one.

    - KG

    1. I hear you. I didn't want this to be a downer post. I wanted it to be one where artists can look at themselves realistically and tailor what they want to do with there art accordingly. That's something I never did. In a lot of ways I paid a heavy price. However, adversity has allowed me to create ways around may personal career dents as well as create one of the most recognized female Indy comic character out there. Sheer willpower, a never say die attitude, and the skin of a dinosaur got me this far. Maybe it can get me further. I can say that 2013 will be excited.