So, webcomics. You want to start one, right?
It takes a lot more than server space and a scanner to make that happen. I mean, if you want it to last that is.
As of this writing, I’ve been drawing Bob the Squirrel for ELEVEN YEARS. That’s a one with another one right after it. You may be asking yourself, “If Dreamworks or Pixar haven’t knocked on your door by now, why keep going?” When someone asks me this, I think one of three things:
- They haven’t read my strip that much.
- They have no idea what passion is.
- If they’re asking this and want to get into this line of work, they really shouldn’t.
There’s way more to it. Way more. Passion, discipline, desire, love. All needed…all vital.
“…it’s okay to head out for wonderful. But on your way to wonderful, you’re gonna have to pass through alright. And when you get to alright, take a good look around and get used to it…that may be as far as you’re gonna get.”
Now, on the outside, that may seem like a real pessimistic view. It kinda is. But, if you read a bit more into it you’ll see more optimism than pessimism.
Cartooning will not make you rich. Of course there are exceptions to this… but most of us are not exceptions. I will never be rich and famous in the conventional sense and I’m more than fine with that. I don’t give a toss about fancy cars or swimming pools… expensive food, clothes or jewelry. I am proud to be a working stiff. I come from a family that taught me the value of hard work. My grandfather worked a minimum of two jobs simultaneously his whole life. He was holding down two jobs right up until his health forced him to retire.
I am a well educated, blue collar cartoonist with angst in his blood and ink on his jeans… one could do a lot worse in life.
For many years, I tore myself up about striving for a financial goal…that if I wasn’t as good as this one or that one, I was not successful.If you constantly do this, you will waste time and energy. The energy you can find again… the time you lose forever. Time is the one thing you cannot make more of. That’s why I see optimism in Withers’ quote. You have to stop and enjoy, savor what you do. Wonderful is a judgement someone else makes. There will be plenty of eyes out there ready to tear your work apart… why do it to yourself?
It bugs me when I see young kids being interviewed on the latest “Idol” type show talking about how being a singer is what they’ve wanted to do their whole life. It bugs me because their whole life may only be a decade and a half. Their dream has existed as long as the tv program they’re trying to get on has existed. A dream is something that doesn’t necessarily need an audience or a camera in your face. A dream starts from a belly fire, a desire…not necessarily quick fame on a program that will be forgotten by the next commercial… or gimmick.
I live my dream every day…at a drawing board… in the early morning hours… with a piece of blank bristol before me… alone. It’s always been hard, but it’s never been work to me. Drawing day after day is just what you have to do. I don’t question it, I just do it.
An artist makes art. A musician makes music. A cartoonist makes cartoons. It has to start with that. The audience? They come later. If you start by being concerned more for the audience and not the art, you’ll always need that audience. When they go home and you’re left alone, what then?
No one wants to play to an empty house. But, if an empty house is a reason not to play, think about doing something else.
This notion of passion, discipline and character really hit me while responding to an email from someone seeking my advice. Nearly 20 years as a professional and it still amazes me someone would ask ME for advice. I’m still asking for it myself–which is the way that it should be. Once you think you know everything about something, you don’t get it, and you never will.
A phrase I used off the cuff in my response, completely created out of thin air, will now be my new mantra.
There’s nothing wrong with always being an opening act…as long as you always keep playing.
I can’t tell you how to have passion. I can’t give you a set of processes to go through that will get you there. But, remembering this line, will point you in the right direction. This doesn’t mean to stop trying hard. It doesn’t mean to settle. No, no, no, no. It means that the work will be just as important as it ever has been. The hard work gets you there. The harder work KEEPS you there and it keeps the audience there.
So you want to start a webcomic? Ask yourself why. If you have that answer you’ll never have to ask yourself again.
Frank Page Frank Page is a cartoonist. Throughout his life, that is one thing that has never been disputed. In 2002, he created the comic strip Bob the Squirrel. The strip has been syndicated online through Universal Uclick/GoComics.com since 2004. Page has been staff cartoonist/graphic designer at the Rome Daily Sentinel, Rome,NY. He holds a BFA in illustration from Cazenovia College, Cazenovia, NY and a MFA in Visual Art with emphasis on Sequential Art from the Vermont College of Fine Arts, Montpelier, VT.
His work is enjoyed all over the world. can be seen daily at bobthesquirrel.com and squirrelosophy.com. He currently resides in Rome, NY where he can regularly be seen chasing his Jack Russell Terrier, Lucy, through the streets.