A Nice Reaction

29 Sep

Being a cartoonist – and especially trying to become a cartoonist – has its perks and its brutality all in one fruit basket when it comes to reactions from others.  (And I do say fruit basket because of it’s colorful variety.)

Mentioning to someone that you do cartooning, I’ll often get the reaction of something like, “Who do you think you are?  You can’t make a living off that!”.  Of course they don’t say that, but I can tell that’s what their internal voice is saying.

Or, you might get an honest, “Wow!  Really?  That’s really cool!”.  They’re few and far between, but the honest ones that say that are out there.

A lot of the perception – for some reason I don’t know – of a person wanting to become a cartoonist is that the person wants to live in grandeur and is looking for fame and fortune.  In reality though, it’s really not the case.  Being a cartoonist is a career and business like anything else.  I just want to pay the bills and do what I love.

It’s understandable as well for people’s thought process.

Think of a kid that tells his parents that he wants to be a drummer in a rock-and-roll band when he grows up.  And then the kid is grown up and STILL wants to be that drummer.  It sounds like a stretch, but once again, the reality is there are drummers out there making a living.  Not many, but there are.  Still, naturally you have your doubts.  It’s about as natural of thinking as it gets that it’s a stretch of the imagination.  If you instantly believe this kid, you also believe that cookies contain more alcohol than whiskey and soda combined.

I’ve always been told to have a “backup plan” if cartooning doesn’t work out for me.  Maybe it’s very immature and irresponsible for me to not have one, but honestly, there’s nothing else that I’d be suited for.  I can handle day jobs here and there, but in the big scheme of things, ever since I was a kid I wanted to be a cartoonist.

What about a field related to cartooning?  No.  I’d rather do just a day job and focus my efforts on my drawing.

They won’t admit it, but I know this has always made my parents cringe.  And I’m not saying that in a bad way.

My parents have probably hurt their tongues many times by biting on it any time I’d mention the path that I plan on taking – and still am.  They’ve been very supportive of me though, but honestly, I know they have their concerns.  I would too if I had a kid that wanted to be a cartoonist.  It’s tougher than becoming an actor or almost any other profession out there.  (And I’m not just saying that – it’s true!)  The odds are against you and the market is more competitive than Dancing With The Stars (not that I watch that or anything nor would I know how competitive it is, but I’m guessing it’s up there.)

I’m glad they’ve hung in there with me though.  I’ve still got a ways to go as well.  I (of course) love them though, and they get more excited as me when something does happen and they truly love my work, so I’m very happy to have that.  In fact, my whole family has been this way.  I just know it has got to be tough to watch the constant struggle of me making it on their end.

At any rate, I just think it’s interesting how people don’t understand that there are cartoonist out there making a living and working hard at it like any other job.  And I understand how unrealistic of a job it sounds to the general public.  But, the only way to truly categorize a career in cartooning is remarkable if you can conquer not only the tough competition, but the doubtful looks on people’s faces when mentioning what you do.

I’m hoping to hear a loud gasp of relief from professors, friends, family and others if I can prove myself as a cartoonist.  I’ve had a lot of success, and it’s still getting better daily, but I will be happy when I can honestly tell that everyone I know and can talk to can tell that I’m doing well at my profession.  I can’t brag about getting a raise, promotion or getting that super-awesome cubicle that overlooks the drinking fountain, but I can brag about other areas of my career that rarely would be heard about anywhere else (like, “Hey!  I just wrote a feature for one of the Dumbest People, Places and Things of 2010!)

So next time you see a friendly cartoonist, give him/her the benefit of the doubt.  Every cartoonist that I know of that has a career doing it, or is really going for it (not as a hobby or anything) is just like me.  There’s nothing else we can do that we’ll be happy with.  And we all work very hard at it until we die or lose a limb.  (Even with a limb gone though, we’d probably just use our teeth.)

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6 Responses to “A Nice Reaction”

  1. Bearman September 29, 2010 at 4:40 pm #

    You never hear about cartoonists who are waiting tables until their big break.

    • Nate Fakes September 30, 2010 at 10:20 am #

      I know. Been there – done that! A lot of talented people wait tables

  2. Bo Lumpkin September 30, 2010 at 6:49 am #

    When I was young I didn’t realize that regular people could do amazing things. I more or less grew up thinking that you tried to get a good paying job doing something you hated so you could support yourself.
    I wish I had started when I was 16 instead of waiting until I was nearly 60. Even though I am about fed up with the internet and my webcomic I don’t intend to give up drawing or comics.

    • Nate Fakes September 30, 2010 at 9:33 am #

      Yeah, unfortunately a lot of people teach their kids that “unrealistic” goals are not the way to go and you should just get a job with benefits, go to college and work somewhere that you probably won’t be too happy but you’ll be making a living.

      It’s never too late though to do what you want. I really slacked-off in my early 20’s. Instead of drawing I went out and had fun, so I’m still making up years as we speak!

  3. George October 6, 2010 at 3:21 pm #

    This was a great post, Nate! I understand totally where you’re coming from. I know my parents flinch when they listen to my dreams of being a cartoonist. They’ve been flinching from that dream nearly since the day I got here. 🙂

    I agree with you. It’s not easy, it’s not simple, but we WANT it, goshdarnit! And I believe that if we try and try and make the right connections, we can get our foot planted firmly in that door to our dreams. And that’s when the hard stuff kicks in. 🙂

    I’m close to pushing 40 now, but I’m not giving up. I’ll have to be banned from cartooning or something, and even then, I think I’d still be drawing on the black market.

    • Nate Fakes October 7, 2010 at 6:49 pm #

      Thanks, George! Yeah, mastering cartooning as an actual career is quite the beast to tackle, but well worth it. Frustrating, long-tedious work and little to no pay at first can lead to something eventually.

      Keep up the great work, George! You definitely have some good work going!

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