State of the Art: January 2020

Ho boy, friends. This one took me a while. Not just because of the holiday season, but also because I had to think really hard about my professional goals! I don’t think I’ve officially done that before, and the “From Chaos to Creativity” book asks you to dig deep into what you want to be doing in a month, in a year, in five years. It’s a lot to think about! Will we even BE here in another five years?? Heck! 

Existential dread aside, I found this to be a very helpful exercise, and I’m glad I sat with it as long as I did. I really needed time to mull over what I wanted to do with my art. Ultimately my broad goal ended up being, “I want to help people with the skills I have developed in illustration and comics”. What does that even look like? That’s almost TOO broad!

Let’s narrow it down a little. HOW can I help people with illustration and comics? Well, I can provide some escapism with cute fantasy comics. I can create stories that make people feel less alone in their personal struggles. I can partner with nonprofits and mental health professionals to create educational comics about issues that are important to me, like anxiety and depression, queer identity exploration, and human trafficking. Great! These are much more specific, and I can branch out from there to create measurable, achievable goals. Now for the in-depth stuff!

What do I want to have accomplished in five years?

  • I want to partner with nonprofits like The Amira Project or with the American Psychological Association to create educational comics that professionals in the field can use to help people.
  • I want to publish another book, self-published or otherwise.
  • I want at least half of my income to be from comics, freelance work, and Patreon so that I can leave my full-time job and take on a part-time job in order to have more time for my art career.

What do I want to have accomplished in three years?

  • I want to have a solid portfolio of comic work, zines, and illustrations, including journal comics regularly published online.
  • I want to have work published in a comics or illustration anthology.
  • I want to be tabling at two to four conventions per year.
  • I want to be regularly applying to arts and comics grants and residencies.
  • I want to send comics pitches to nonprofits to foster connections and future partnerships.

What do I want to have accomplished in one year?

  • I want to have better mastery over my social media use as an aspiring arts professional, including more consistent Patreon updates.
  • I want to improve my skills with color, backgrounds, and panel composition.
  • I want to learn more about CSP so that I can eventually let go of Photoshop, because it’s expensive.
  • I want to finish the three major creative projects I’ve been developing (the bread comic, the dragonborn wizard comic, and the illustrated short story zine).
  • I want to open commissions two to four times this year.
  • I want to put more work up on Etsy, Redbubble, and Gumroad.
  • I want to create journal comics more often, at least twice monthly.

Another helpful tip the exercise had me do was write out a “No List”, a list of things I will (drumroll) say no to. I hadn’t thought about how useful that would be! Writing that list made me feel a little lighter, like I was giving myself permission to focus on the projects and goals I really care about. Thus, here is my “No List”, in all it’s assertive glory:

  • No graphic design work! I have no idea how to do it, and so, I should stay in my lane.
  • No realistic OR caricature commissions! These are not things that are in my wheelhouse, and I’ll just end up stressing myself out if I try to do them.
  • No long-form comics projects! I don’t have the comics experience for long-form webcomics or graphic novels yet, so I will refrain until I feel more comfortable and confident.
  • No unpaid work! You’d think this would be obvious, but unpaid work can be sneaky – I’m inexperienced enough in the professional arts field that I don’t always recognize it, especially if a client or potential collaborator has no ill intent whatsoever. 

That’s all I’ve got so far, but as I keep going I will likely recognize more pitfalls that distract me from pursuing my goals. I’m very easily distracted, and I love taking on new, exciting projects! But I have to restrain myself and say “not now” if I’m ever going to get anything done. 

This post has gone on quite a bit, hasn’t it? Good on you for reading this far! I still want to talk about the Eisenhower grid and scheduling, but that will have to wait for now. Next week! Stay tuned, folks! 

Thanks for reading!

Author: Katie McMahon

Katie is a comic artist and illustrator living in rural New Hampshire in a town mostly populated with elderly folks and roving gangs of sassy turkeys. She enjoys reading comics, playing board games and RPGs, drinking fair trade tea and coffee, discussing feminism and social justice, and cracking the best groan-worthy jokes the internet has to offer.

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