I once knew a couple of guys who wanted to be comic book artists. To pursue this craft, they rented a cheap, one room office. They each bought a brand new drafting table and comfy chairs. Then they had business cards printed up, with their names and the name of their “studio”. In their minds, see, they had cracked the code. They had figured out how to become rich and famous.
The reasoning behind this was some sort of “fake it ’til you make it,” law of attraction thing. Having an office would create a perception that they were a business, which would somehow translate into them having the know-how to operate said business. Their business cards would, through some force of serendipity, land in the hands of someone who needed artists and would hire them. Once they landed a gig, they’d (again) spontaneously manifest the skills necessary to complete the commission.
Did I mention that neither of them had any formal training in illustration? Neither had a portfolio, either. You’re thinking, this is going to be some rags-to-riches story, right? They spent all of their time working hard in that office, and created something absolutely iconic, and now they’re rich and famous? Nope. They went to the office a few nights a week, after their day jobs (thankfully they had day jobs) and horsed around for a few hours.
After a few months they stopped going to the office. I’m not sure whether they just stopped paying the rent, or allowed the lease to expire. I never saw those drafting tables again, so I suspect they were abandoned in the space, or held for unpaid rent or something.
After high school I attended what’s now called The Kubert School. I spent two years putting together and perfecting my portfolio. During an interview with the legendary comic book artist Joe Kubert himself, I had to present that portfolio and face his critique. I got in, obviously. Over the course of my single year there, I learned a lot of things. I learned about myself, mostly. Mainly that in spite of years spent practicing just to get into the school, and having some of the best instructors in the business, it would be difficult for me to make a living with the level of ability I possessed. I got good grade, mind you. It was an internal realization that that traditional path would not work for me.
The following year I ditched art school and went to college.
How to Become Rich and Famous
There’s a lot to be said for having big dreams and taking risks. Katie and I wouldn’t be where we are today, personally, professionally, or geographically, is we hadn’t dared to be different and stuck our necks out. But that desire needs to be tempered with, how can I put this delicately, knowing what the hell you’re doing. At the very least, do an honest inventory of your abilities and understand what you can and cannot do, so you can find ways to work around it.
Today I’m seeing more people in my industry lament how hard it is to make a living. Some of these people blast me for not doing things the “right” way. They still have day jobs; I just paid off a large bill and put a little more money into savings. They haven’t figured out that it’s not just about following the right path. Doing it the way you’re expected to isn’t a guarantee of success. It requires some self-knowledge, and the ability to make the most of what you’ve got.