I've been somewhat frustrated lately. I've still got two pages of my PERHAPANAUTS story to turn in. I'm still not finished with Heywood's commission. Don't get me started on being 5 months past my planned start date on drawing THE HAND ME DOWN HORROR. And I have no sketches to post, despite several false starts. Life has conspired to get in the way of any of my plans to draw.
Take tonight for instance. The plan was to come home at a decent hour and finish inking Heywood's drawing. But Suzanne and I carpool to work together to save parking costs and gas money. And today she was surprised with some after-hours obligations for her job and I was stuck killing several hours at my favorite watering hole (Legend Brewery) waiting for her to finish. I find drawing at a bar very difficult (as Christian can attest) and so I did what I usually do when I know I've got some time to kill. I printed off some online interviews with some of my favorite creators to read. The incomparable Darwyn Cooke. Chris Samnee. Dave Stewart.
Reading these interviews had the reverse effect I'd expected. They put me in a sort of funk. These guys are all so good and so passionate about what they do for a living and live and breathe their work. While very inspiring, it also served to emphasize that I am just not in that situation. I guess I'm going through a sort of mid-life crisis but I'm realizing now, more than ever, that I just don't have any passion for what I do for a living. Don't get me wrong. I'm good at what I do and grateful for the job. I think I've earned it and try every day to get better at it. But I don't leap out of bed in the morning just champing at the bit to go to work. I look around at the people I work with who get so excited when something is working right and I wonder why that's not me. It's got me thinking about how I ended up on this path.
Many, many years ago, around the time I was graduating high school, I was thinking about what I wanted to do with my life. It came down to two things. Drawing comics and being a police officer. I realized, thankfully, that I don't have the temperment, powers of observation or, frankly, guts, to be a good cop so it looked like it was comics for me. But Mike was going through some frustrating times of his own back then, languishing in a crappy job and extremely nervous about not making it into comics. We had the usual sibling rivalry that most brothers go through. As a result, he made one throwaway, offhand comment that didn't seem like much to him at the time. He said, "You only want to draw comics because I want to."
He meant nothing by it. He was just speaking out of frustration. But it had a devastating effect. Because I looked up to him and I wasn't sure if he was right or not. As in most tragedies, I have at least one fatal character flaw. When I feel threatened, I tend to bare down and think, "Fuck you; I'll show you." Usually, not really knowing just what it is I'm planning on showing. In this case, what I decided to show was that I could do something other than draw comics when that was what I really, really wanted to do. At the time I'd been really taken with some films like THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY, RAZORBACK and BLOOD SIMPLE. I decided I'd go to film school. And, as a horror nut, I decided I wanted to be a horror movie director.
Somewhere along the line, though, I think I started to see my mistake and, in my senior year, I realized I'd just wasted four years of college when I should have been drawing. I had no real vision or philosophy when it came to film. It was a deficit that would plague me my entire time at VCU. Add to that my growing realization that I should have been studying illustration and you can imagine how I was starting to feel. One day, one of my few Illustration instructors (They were electives.) saw some of Mike's work on display in the hallway and told me, "You shouldn't bother. Your brother has it all over you." When I told Mike this, he was furious. Ever the protective big brother, he told me the teacher was full of shit but the words stuck with me. Not even the fact that one of my other teachers held back some of my illustrations to be placed in the school archives made me feel better about it.
After graduation, I got farther and farther away from doing what I really wanted to do and, eventually, I stopped drawing altogether. A quasi-video production job led to a graphic design job which led to an art director job which led to a service bureau job which led to where I am now, working at a mid-size, national advertising agency. It's a great living and a lot of people would kill me in a heartbeat to have my job. I should be doing backflips. But, then, there's those interviews. Maybe the grass is always greener. I know there were days when Mike was dissatisfied with where his path had gone, despite that fact that it was what he'd always wanted. But, never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I wanted to work in advertising. It really is a case of falling into a good thing. I've always been lucky that way. Or have I? Because now I'm stuck. I make too good a living to walk away from it. Giving up a good thing just isn't in my nature. Another character flaw. But there's a part of me that just screams at me that I should take a chance. Take some real illustration classes. Learn how to draw better. And just do it.
We recently had a couple of people just up and leave. I asked them what they were going to do and their answer was, "I don't know. Do some things I always wanted to do." I told them, "Damn. I wish I had balls that big."
Who knows. Maybe I just need someone to tell me I can't do it. Then I could say, "Fuck you; I'll show you."
Batman's 75th anniversary animated short
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