So, the biggest decision I made this year was to quit the ol’ dayjob and go freelance full time. I’m generally an embarrassingly frugal, cautious person, but the time had come: I had spent more than six years as a caregiver to the elderly, despite mountains of evidence that I just didn’t have the temperament, patience, or grace for such a profession.
Certainly, I amassed innumerable worthwhile experiences throughout that era of my life, and I cared deeply for those I helped--both my own grandparents, and an additional elderly couple. But things were taking a turn for the worse, and with the glimmering prospect of several spectacular illustration jobs on the horizon, I decided to finally take the plunge.
And bafflingly, it’s worked so far.
I feel supremely lucky to have stumbled into the strange, wondrous niche of illustrating drag queens (of all things!). Best of all, I still get a thrill from every new episode of Rupaul’s Drag Race, and it’s pretty damned amazing to hear from so many amazing fans.
One of the long-term projects I’ve been working on is an upcoming mobile game called DRAGOPOLIS, and again, I’m extremely fortunate to have been dragged into the experience--this time, by Jeff at So Much Drama Studios! The game has allowed me to combine my lifelong love of video games with a fiery new passion for animation, and I seriously just can’t wait for the game to be unveiled!
Now that I’m finally making a living creating art for money, it’s led me to look at my own work in a new light. When you charge an hourly rate to draw for other people, it makes you question what drives you to create on your own time, when you don’t have someone to invoice.
I’m still trying to figure that out, and it's been helping me choose which of my personal projects to pursue throughout 2013.
Early in 2012, I brought the first major storyline of my webcomic Manta-Man to a close, after more than a year of zany, irreverent adventures with a colorful ensemble cast that I love. Publishing Manta-Man on a weekly basis was hugely important for me, and it helped develop my comedic timing, storytelling, and even my basic grasp of human anatomy. I’ve been planning out further stories for Manta-Man and the other crazy characters in that universe, but I’m holding off on making any bold predictions about when they might appear.
Part of my reluctance about diving back into that bawdy, watery world derives from an itch to work on something a bit more serious, ambitious, and personal.
And so, after setting it aside for several years, I’m finally returning to my work on Vreeland, the autobiographical comics about the turbulent era during which I took care of my grandparents.
I had spent several years developing those stories, but I was creating those initial comics while still serving as caregiver for my grandparents, which resulted in an endless loop of paralysis and creative claustrophobia.
But now, years later, and with a broader perspective, I finally feel ready to return to both those memories and those stories, and shape them into something new.
I’m not sure when exactly the new work will appear online--I’d like to pitch the final book to publishers while self-publishing each new chapter in serial form, but that might understandably get complicated. In the meantime, I’m going to leave the original stories online here, but keep in mind that the new form Vreeland takes will essentially be starting from scratch.
I learned the first time around that working solely on autobiographical work can present a challenge, and so I’m still writing, researching, and daydreaming about several other comics projects--wherever my imagination takes me!
However, as I’ve slowly accumulated more wisdom as a writer, I’ve learned when a story is ready, and when it’s still just a half-baked collection of cool characters and artsy set pieces. So until I’ve assembled all the pieces into place, those other projects will linger in the back of my mind, where I like to visit them and see what’s new.
2013 will be another year of big changes. After living in Michigan for the past 7 years, I’ll most likely be moving with my beautiful boyfriend to a beautiful new city. So, that’s kind of a bigger deal than any of this comic book crap, right?
But don’t worry, amidst all of the ensuing adventures the new year brings, I’ll always find time to draw lots and lots of drag queens. And, hopefully, other stuff, too.