I’m a cartoonists inspired by the newspaper cartoons I read growing up in the 80′s, mainly The Far Side and Calvin and Hobbes.
At a young age I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, I had lots of different dreams but they all seemed unattainable. By my early 20′s I went into a crisis mode. I’d been in and out of college, doing well when I went but having a hard time sticking with anything as I couldn’t see it leading to a job or life I wanted. I decided to take a long walk in the woods and think about life the universe and everything. I tried to take a good honest look at myself and determine what I would be good at and what I would enjoy doing. After several hours of self reflection I decided I should be a cartoonist. I’d always had a good sense of humor, and I’d always wanted to draw. One of my childhood dreams was to be a Frank Frazzeta or Boris Vallejo inspired fantasy artist so doing something visual really appealed me. Consequently when I do write a cartoon with a dragon or troll it’s always a special treat to draw.
The next day I sat down and wrote my first few cartoons, four or five if memory serves me correctly. To my surprise I actually thought they were pretty good. I began incorporating writing into my daily routine and fairly rapidly had a little notebook, one idea per page, 100 pages, filled. When I hit that 100 mark I was confident that when I put the effort in I could write cartoons consistently. The next step was drawing them. My art stunk at first, I’d had no formal art training aside from doodling in class at points, however being a Far Side fan I also knew a simple style could convey a lot so I kept at it, slowing improving and gaining an understanding of how to use the space I was given. At the time the goal was newspaper syndication so size constraints were a huge concern.
Brimming with pride, first 30 completed (written, drawn and inked) cartoons in hand, I boldly sent them out to the 6 (at the time) major syndicates. Of course I eventually received 6 rejection letters as well.
Since then I have had many ups and downs in life, I was eventually diagnosed with depression which though several years of therapy now I’ve come to understand probably started as early as middle school. I initially treated this with medication but have gotten to a point where I understand a lot more about what triggers bouts of major depression and have several simple weapons in my arsenal now to combat this, exercise, sunshine, meditation and contact with friends and loved ones all have great power.
One moment that always stands out for me when I talk about where I am in life now is the death of my good friend from high school Dan Crawford. We had drifted apart after high school but one night at The Punchline, a comedy club in San Francisco I was shocked to see him walk up on stage as the opening act! I still don’t even remember his set that night, I think I was in shock, after not seeing him for years, and he walks up on stage and says hello to me, the memory still feels surreal. I think it sufficiently impressed my date that night as well. After the show we chatted for a bit and vowed to catch up.
Over the next couple years we maintained our friendship I was going to school and doing a little cartooning on the side, working as well to pay the bills and he was doing his stand up comedy. We’d go get a beer together every now and then but both had a lot of other things going on in our lives.
One day I got a call from a mutual friend, Dan Crawford was dead. It was so sudden and out of the blue I had no idea how to respond. The only story I got was that he’d been sick for a few days with a high fever, suddenly had a seizure (no history of them), went into a coma, his brained swelled up and he died. I’d had a beer with him a week or so before.
I thought (and cried) a lot over the next week or so. It was the first time someone that close to me had died suddenly and unexpectedly. I began to think about death as well, how transitory life is became very clear to me. I realized that I respected the hell out of Dan Crawford because he was trying to do exactly what he wanted in life; he was throwing himself into it entirely. I began to wonder, if I died, could someone say the same about me.
The answer was no. I had put my passion on a back burner. After the initial rejection letters I kept cartooning, still maintaining it as my ultimate goal, but I’d delved back into school to create a backup plan, a safety net should cartooning never pan out. I really didn’t do much cartooning, no time with work and school. I looked down the road of my future, I was nearing completion on undergraduate requirements to enter school with and engineering major, although I still hadn’t decided which as I don’t think I really wanted to be an engineer of any sort. I knew I had two to three more years of intensive study ahead of me and that I would graduate with substantial debt. I also thought after that I’d get a job to pay off my debt, wind up working long hours and never have the time to do cartoons. I really didn’t want to wake up in 15 years and feel as though I’d never really tried to live my dream. After all, we could die at anytime.
I left school deciding to focus on my cartooning. Not the safest decision in life I know but it’s in my blood. I do regret this though, in hindsight I would have stayed in school but shifted my education in the direction of illustration.
Since then cartooning has been my focus. I do what I do because it is the best thing I can do. If I have a talent, if there is something I can do to make the world a little happier, a little better, this is it.
It hasn’t been an easy ride. I’d submitted work multiple times to the syndicates, and although I did get a few personal responses telling me they liked my work but didn’t have a spot for me at the time, I also got a lot of form rejection letters. I still didn’t give up though; I drew strength from the personal letters and tried to incorporate their suggestions. The biggest one was work on my art…
Then the newspaper market started to shrink, over the course of a few years the number of major syndicates went from six to two, established cartoonists where getting less circulation and fewer new cartoonists where being given an opportunity. It was a dark time for me, I felt my hopes and dreams were slipping away before my eyes due to circumstances completely beyond my control.
Eventually I began looking into web-cartoons. It seems obvious now but at the time I’d never read any and didn’t understand what people were doing on the web. As I looked into it more my excitement grew, people where self publishing their work, offering it for free, and some of them where making a living doing it! Well when one door closes another opens.
Of course it’s still risky, but I am happy when I am doing what I love. I’ve been stumbling my way through it for a little while know, getting in the rhythm of keeping the site up regularly, and learning a bit about social networking just trying to build my readership. I update every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.