So. Somewhat to my surprise, I’ve been on this planet for very nearly 60 years. I’ve been an artist for most of that time, sometimes making a living that way, and sometimes working at other things so that I could make art. I’ve drawn pictures, made jewelry, done theatre sets, painted canvases, painted walls, designed theatrical sets, illustrated books, taught art classes. I’ve also built fences, raised goats, grown gardens, gone to college for a while (twice), and sold stuff at street fairs and markets. I’ve played music for money and for free. I’ve read many, many books, and learned many, many things; I’ve done things both well and badly and learned even more.
During all this sideways meandering through life (my path always put me in mind of the way a crab walks), I was looking for what I wanted to do when I grew up. I knew that I was an artist, but that wasn’t so much what I wanted to do as what I was. Along life’s zigzag path, I tried each new creative pursuit to see if it fit, like trying on different shoes. Some things almost fit but wore blisters after a little or a long while. Some got holes in the bottoms after only a bit. Some pinched right away. Some nearly crippled me.
I’d been doing some illustrating, a couple of children’s books and some book covers, and while I really, really loved doing it, it still didn’t quite…fit. I could cruise along nicely in those shoes, but I wanted to spring up and do cartwheels. I wanted to tell my own stories.
One day, I happened upon that fit I’d been looking for. I didn’t realize it at first. I found a book by Scott McCloud, called “Making Comics”, in the bookstore. I bought it, rationalizing the frivolity of the purchase with the thought that there might be ideas that I could use to my advantage as an illustrator. What I realized, by the time I finished the book, was that I wanted to write, too. And I wanted to do it through the medium I knew best: pictures.
I might have floundered around for a long time, as I wasn’t a reader of comics (not since my childhood, anyway) and had no idea of how you learned the stuff you needed to know to break into the business. I had no idea that there was a whole Comics World out there. I also had no idea how one became a writer.
Then, in one of those juxtapositions of happenstance that we all experience from time to time, an artist friend I had not seen in a while was visiting my studio. She told me about a course her husband—a well-known comics illustrator—was teaching as a night class at the college here. The two of them (she had just published her first graphic novel) were also working on getting a full-time credit program going at the local college for the next fall. I was interested, but couldn’t imagine derailing my routine for a full-time, and expensive, stint at college. But the short and eminently affordable night course—sure, that might be just the push I needed!
So I enrolled. And discovered in those few short weeks what I wanted to do when I grew up. I fit the work into my too-busy life, and craved more of it. I dreamed in comics, for gosh sakes. I bought more books about this arcane craft. I discovered graphic novels. I enrolled in the full-time credit course.
I’m not going to go into all the strange sensations that going to college at my age engendered; that’s a post for another time. Let’s just say it was a life-changing experience, as it was meant to be. It stretched me into a new shape so that I could fit the work I wanted to do.
I’m currently fine-tuning that fit, taking a mentorship program with my teachers (and friends) Ken and Joan Steacy. I’m dedicating this new blog about my new career to the Steacys; to the tribe of wonderful young artists who were my classmates, and became my friends; and to my husband Ron, without whom this would not be possible; with gratitude and love to all.
And after a dedication like that, this had better be a darn good blog, eh?