Before we continue with the list of Random Things I'm Thankful For in 2010, or what I like to call LOFTY 2010, notice the brief hiccup last night in the lack of a post?
That's called 'losing electrical power' on Thanksgiving, and since we've lived in this home (which I am thankful for, BTW) it's the second T-Day that this has occurred. Helluva week. But, that only puts me slightly behind schedule, and means that I'll trickle this into the weekend.
Now...on with the thanksgivingfulness...
#36 - Thanks for the Talent I was Born With
We all have some unique gifts or talents that are just...implanted...inside of us when we enter this world.
Some people have the ability to throw a football extremely accurately and fast. Some can play the piano and understand its intricacies. Some are able to look at and just have an affinity for equations and numbers.
I have always had an ability to draw.
I'm not saying that I've always had the ability to draw WELL. And I am not saying that any of the abilities that you do have inside you always come easily to you, though I think some do for some people, but I think once you discover what your gifts actually are if you are able to take advantage of them you really are very fortunate.
I'm grateful for the skills that I was given, which were always strong, though I can't say that it has ever been 'easy' or natural even though I could probably get by (in a classroom setting) on what I had rather than try to push beyond that to something better.
But that's where other people come in. People who never get the credit they really should.
#37 - Thank You, Carol Dunaway...The First of Many
They say you never forget your first, mine was Carol Dunaway, my high school art teacher.
She was the first teacher I can recall who pushed me beyond my limits, and for that I've always been very, very thankful. She never did it in a mean-spirited way either, just look at the photo, she always did have a smile on her face for real.
She must have recognized in me some potential, because she never stopped being my advocate in anything I tried to do artistically throughout my entire educational experience in high school, even to the point when I argued to the school administration that I needed more time to draw and did not need to waste time taking a foreign language class.
My point to the school board was that art itself was a language, that I could go to any foreign country, ANYWHERE, and communicate to anyone using pictures, and therefore art should be considered a language as much as any other spoken or written one.
She actually helped me get that pushed through.
So instead of Spanish or, of all things, French, I had an extra hour a day to draw or paint. In exchange I re-designed the school flag or a hat or something and some flyers and junk. I had to be their 'art-bitch' for a while. But it was worth it.
She would often, early on, look at something I handed in which I clearly just worked on the night before because I knew I could get away with it and said 'Nope...You can do better than this. I'll give you the extra time, but I expect more from you.'
Of course I grumbled about it then. But now? I look back with nothing but gratitude. And the deepest possible respect.
#38 - Thanks for the Greatest Second Chance of All Time
YEARS later, many years later, I was still trying to hone my skills at SCAD, in the graduate program in Sequential Art (that's Comic Book Art, by the way). As for SCAD, that stands for the Savannah College of Art and Design.
The semester was spinning out of control though.
I'd stupidly gotten involved with some girl that lived in the carriage house behind my apartment and the relationship got very wacky. (No this was not the woman I eventually lived with and remain friends with, this was the whack-job right before.)
There was WAY too much time spent focusing on the wacky antics of my private life and getting lost in it with way too much alcohol and doobage and not nearly enough time spent focusing on the reasons I was actually attending the school, my freaking ART.
As the deadlines loomed in my main class, my professor, who would know who he is but I will keep nameless here for the sake of anonymity, could see my work was all-over-the-place-shit. And there wasn't very much of it to boot. It was SO not good and SO far away from what he knew I was capable of.
Somehow he got wind of what was going down in my private life, and he'd heard some of the more colorful stories of what this girl had been doing, in particular some of the more creepy, stalky stuff.
At the final 'review', where the professor gives you your grade for the quarter, he hands me the paper with my quarterly assessment on it. Essentially he spells it out for me. I won't tell you the grade he gave me, but it was WAY higher than what I deserved, and I passed the class.
'I know you are better than this. I also know that you happen to be going through some pretty F-d up stuff. I could very easily fail you this quarter, but I think you know that. But really, what good would that do you in the long run? During the break, get your shit together, come back fresh, and wow everybody, especially me. Consider this a second chance. There won't be another one. Don't let me down.'
And I didn't. From that point on I threw everything I had into the work and my work started to improve dramatically after that.
I never forgot the gesture, never forgot the lesson he taught me. And while I still feel like I actually DID let him down because I never actually succeeded in making it as a comic book artist (see below), I'll always be thankful for the second chance.
#39 - Thanks for the Tiny, though Bitter, Taste of a Dream
How many people can honestly say they are doing what they dreamed of doing when they were kids?
I suspect not many.
And frankly, today, as I write this, I can't say that I am either.
Right now, technically, I am unemployed. I freelance to make money, and sell some stuff on eBay, and I don't exactly know where my career path is going to lead me.
To be honest with you, I'm a bit scared about that. After all, I'm 43 years old...what the hell am I gonna do now? Where do I belong? But that's a blog for another time and another place.
But when I was a wee lad, I loved comics. And as I was growing up, I wanted to draw comics. So when I went to college, I studied art, against the wishes of my Step-Father, who insisted I study something more tangible. (He may have been right, actually.)
But after college, I tried 'breaking in' to the comic book industry and could not, so I worked at IKEA for four years during this process of submitting my work. Nothing happened. Could not get in. Clearly my work was not good enough. I could see that for real. And so I looked around for places to hone that skill and found SCAD.
After SCAD, I started submitting my work again. And I actually DID get some paying gigs. They were shit books, but hey...my work was STARTING to get published. But as I always like to say, timing is everything. And my timing always seems to be bad. I was trying to break into the world of comics as the world of comics was kind of imploding, or at least in a state of major upheaval.
Here's an example of bad timing. Marvel comics, for example. I'd been submitting work for a couple years. The submissions guy there had seen steady improvement in my work. He'd started to know me by name and I'd been up there (in New York) twice to meet with him face-to-face. The last batch of stuff I sent he REALLY liked, and he was about to hook me up with a gig. Probably a few pages shoved in the back of some annual, but who cares, it would have been MARVEL FREAKIN' COMICS.
I call him up to ask about it, someone else answers his phone. I'm told he was let go, and there is now a new Submissions Editor. This is the new guy I'm talking to. I ask him if he has seen my samples. He said he has, and that he feels that my work is 'too cartoony' for the direction that Marvel wants to be going right now, but I should keep trying.
TOO CARTOONY? Have you even LOOKED at a Marvel book lately you STUPID M--THER F--KER?!?
I just got the blow-off.
I was...absolutely heart-broken. I can't tell you. And yes, when I got off the phone of COURSE I cried. I'm all man but I was really felt so beaten. All the years I had been trying so hard and I thought my shot was finally here and it was just...gone. Just like that. Nothing I could do.
So...It began to feel as if I was never going to be able to break into the 'mainstream industry' and get any steady work with a major publisher. I remember in 1996 or 1997, I can't remember the exact year, I think my total amount of income was something like $7000.00. So I had to give up the dream, stop beating on the doors of the major publishers and look for a steady, regular paycheck job.
You can see a lot of that work, and some of everything else, in my deviantART gallery if you ever felt like it. I probably need to go in and re-organize the thing. Or have it live somewhere else.
Don't get me wrong...I'm EXTREMELY thankful that I got a taste of the dream, even though that taste, sometimes, is very bitter. I look at the books that I did, and the inking and coloring and lettering is awful, but some of the penciling work, my work, is OK. There is potential there. I can see it. If I'd had the chance, I think I could have really done well...but like anything, I'd have needed to do it more to get better at at.
But at least I had a taste of the dream, which I have to always remind myself is more than a lot of people EVER get.
And of course, from failure you often find success, and while that failure stings, without it I would not have found the two men below, ReSaurus, Palisades, my wife, my sons and all the things that would follow.
That my friends, is the nature of how life WORKS.
#40 - Thank You, Jay and Chris, for Giving Me a Second Career
So I wasn't able to make it as a comic book artist. You fall off your horse, you get up, watch the horse ride off into the sunset, dust yourself off and try to figure out how to get to the next town.
I needed a job that paid actual money on a weekly basis and I needed it fast. I was scouring Want Ads in the newspaper, back when you did that kind of thing, before Monster.com, and answered one for a comic-book style artist. It was actually for a non-permanent gig, but it eventually turned into a full-time one.
I've only just started to tell that full story in Chronolillogy, a kind of 'history of my career in toys', that I started in earnest early on in these pages but sort of let fall by the wayside as Blogzilly began to focus more on my family and Bennett.
I may start doing a few more of those. These writings have inspired me a bit to write more of the historical stuff.
Anyway, I wouldn't HAVE the career in toys were it not for Jay and Chris Borman, the twins, who took me under their wings when I was eventually hired at ReSaurus and essentially, along with Steve, Tony and a few of the others, taught me everything I needed to know.
I'd never had any inclination to having a career in making toys. The thought had just never entered my mind. I always figured it would be too hard, too far beyond my ability, so I never gave it much thought, though I often would think of it whenever I bought a toy, pondering how this or that could be better or different, how this worked and how this did not work well, and I often took stuff apart because I was curious about it. While not a dream, you could call it a sub-conscious implant awaiting activation.
When I was hired I knew two things about the production of toys and action figures.
Jack and Shit.
I knew what I liked. I knew what I thought was good. And I could draw. That was it. Everything else? I learned as I went, with the two of them holding my hand for the most part and guiding me along the way.
They were more than just teachers, they became dear friends, and they stood by my side when I said 'I do.' to Jennifer. Of course, they towered over me, as I am one short little fugger and they are MEGA-sized monstrosities at over six feet, but somehow the photographers worked out some good shots.
So yeah...I wasn't able to actually realize the original dream of being a comic book artist, but thanks to Jay and Chris, I was able to have the next best thing, a career making toys and action figures, and if you can't have the hottest girl in the room, then the second hottest girl is still damn good.