There is nothing more depressing when someone praises your art and wishes they could do it too, or say they can’t be an artist. Anyone and everyone can be an artist. Next time you think like that consider the standards you’re working against. Most times they are colonial, and hetero patriarchal. For me as a marginalized creator, representation can be few and far between. This allows me to set the standard of work for myself without looking to others, but also can disappoint me at the lack of folks creating work that reflect my experiences. That causes me to push and make my work more visible, I don’t want anyone on the margins to feel alone.
I think where I started drawing did come from my mom, whether she knows it or not. She worked as a phone operator and took to doodling on napkins or notepads. I remember asking her how she did it and she just said, “she did it.” It was nothing amazing, but she would create intricate labyrinths of heart shapes and lines. There is something great about letting your mind just go somewhere else, to focus on anything but what you’re currently dealing with. I use ink because there is something finite in its stark blackness, but you can do this with any medium. When I was younger, I loved the idea of hiding details in my art that only I knew of, hoping the right person would discover them. I don’t do that as much, but filling a page with overwhelming detail is what can help me breathe easier at the end of the day. Just make sure you take breaks! My wrist is going through it. I use drawing as therapy, I use storytelling as therapy. I started enjoying my work more when I started to do it for myself.
When hosting All Trick No Treat, so many folks expressed how relaxing they found just sitting down inking and colouring. Drawing and creating art can sometimes be something that happens when we are pressured, especially if it’s where your income comes from. Making art is hard and often lonely. I think it’s important to remember that we can make art simply for ourselves or the people who are important to us. Art is important for building community, discovering ourselves, and just for having a good time.
My mom often says she doesn’t know where I got my “talent” from like drawing is a hereditary skill instead of something I taught myself. Art can be a skill, but I think we live in a society so focused on profit and capitalism it makes it hard to encourage ourselves that art is for everyone. Art IS for everyone.
My narrative work is often very personal and a way for me to work through my understanding of the world. I have a marginalized body that has dealt with trauma and making art about this is my way of coping with that. I’m also a libra and will make a profit off of this, but you have to find a line. I like selling the work I’ve created because it’s always surprising the people it reaches. That’s where the real joy lies— in making connections.
I am learning the boundary of this. I know that I don’t just want my art to be about the pain I’ve experienced. Each story is a way to work through an experience or idea. I just want people who feel lonely and don’t feel seen in the world to find something they can relate to. I want them to know they aren’t alone. A lot of times it has felt like I am creating art in a vacuum, or in competition with others and that was where I felt the least joy. FInding your peers, sharing your work, your stories and writing, is one of the best parts of being able to put your creativity out into the world. Everyone can do this, and everyone should.
A great resource is the podcast Drawing a Dialogue by Cathy G Johnson and E Jackson. Their site also has a lot of great resources for comics and art education, definitely take a look!
A book with really fun exercises is Cartooning: Philosophy and Practice by Ivan Brunetti. It has a really simple way to get you started with paneling if it’s something you’ve never done before. Also read! Read everything. The CCOL is such a great resource,and stores like Page&Panel and The Beguiling also have a great variety of books. They take consignment and it’s a great place to engage with local authors and get your own work out there. Study what you like and what you don’t and then steal it, perfect it. I don’t mean tracing but actually studying the work you like and trying to understand how its created. It’s hard to give advice on where to start and it’s very daunting. But just stick with your ideas, don’t be afraid to ask peers for help or advice and be inspired by everything. At the end of the day please just try to have fun with it. Your voice is important, I can’t wait to hear it.