So last Wednesday, Jan. 21, I became one of the statistics you read about in the news everyday. At least in our current national situation. I was layed-off from my day job. After almost 6 years at that particular company, the economic situation became such that several of us had to be let go.
By that evening, I began to realize what I wished to do with my life. Basically, do what I have been doing for the last 10-plus years of my life: Continue with all my creative endeavors and now work even harder.
I've been working in art departments for screen printing companies for years, both as production artist and some years ago, a stint as an Art Director. Since 1998, I began self-publishing my own comics, starting my imprint LOS COMEX and focusing on EL MUERTO in comics, mini-comics and zines. Using my evenings and weekends to work on the books, using weekends and vacation time to attend comic book festivals and signings. Basically I looked at it as working 2 jobs: My day job for the weekly salary and insurance, and my 'real' job as an artist, a creative entrepreneur. This 'real' job lead to many other creative endeavors.
Last weekend, with this new'unemployed' status, I made the decision to pursue avenues that will let me become a freelance instructor of cartooning/comic art classes. I certainly realize the very difficult situation the economy is in, but I can't sit here paralyzed by fear or insecurity. So with that goal in mind, I started revising my resume to focus on more teaching jobs.
I looked through my emails to help me track down the names of contacts and places I've spoken or taught at. As I looked back at the last 11 years (the time I started Los Comex), I came to a realization: Outside an 8 month stint in mid 2002-early 2003, I have been working a full-time job at two consecutive screen printing shops. 40 hours a week, Monday thru Friday. Well, in that time, this is what I have managed to do in my time away from the day job:
Started my self-publishing imprint with my own comic character which has included printing comic books, mini-comics, zines or other publications, exhibited at innumerous comic book conventions, book fairs, store signings, been a guest speaker at libraries and schools, have had my comic artwork displayed at various galleries and exhibits, created and taught a series of comic book workshops, have cultivated a small but wide-reaching fan base and readership across the U.S and even into Canada, Mexico, Greece, Russia, England and, as far as visitors to my website, tens of thousands around the world.
I've had a film made from my comic book, for which I was heavily involved as one of the filmmakers, even securing a cameo in the film, I've collaborated on an EL MUERTO appearance in a nationally syndicated newspaper strip, I've done a modest share of interviews in a variety of media and I've been fortunate to have met so many talented people along the way. Some have actually become very good friends.
I've stared podcasting two shows, have collaborated with other artists and friends on their own books, been involved with creating two art groups, often get asked for advice by others interested in DIY publishing, and many other creatively satisfying projects.
Many of these things aren't unique to me of course. And spread out over the span of a decade, many of these weren't sufficient enough to become my sole source of income (some not even being actual money-making enterprises). But these are my experiences, that I loved doing for the pure act of doing. And I've done all these while working a 40 hour-a-week job. So now I think about what I may be able to accomplish if I'm able to keep a steady yet flexible schedule as a freelance art instructor. It's extremely exciting thinking about the endless possibilities.
Like I said, I'm all to aware of the severely critical condition of our economy, and mind you, I live in California, where businesses are hurting and the state and local governments aren't in any better condition. But all I can do is take that same drive I've exhibited over the last 11 years and work to make my own future.