Yes, it's widely known by now that I'm an independent creator, just like many of you who visit the site. Now, while I've ranted on the mainstream zeitgeist, I'm not against it... I merely stress that BOTH mainstream and underground are necessary to continue the various forms of media that exist. What kills me are the corporations that wish to see the underground come to an end, since those very corporations once started just like we did... The starving artist earning a seat at the dinner table, so to speak.
To those of you indies out there looking to find your way, it never hurts to keep certain things in mind. There are many lists and reminders out there right now, so the Planet shall flip a version for the new underground creators coming up. It inspires me to push harder, so lets begin...
To Be, Or Not To Be- Let's be bottom line honest about this up front: As a creator (whether it be artist or writer, for example), know now that if you're expecting to get into this business and start making cash right out the gate: Forget it... The money will come later, but you've got to work to earn the shot first. Business school, nursing school, or even a Nail Academy will give you a better chance at a bigger payday than to run with the Starving Artists... Which brings up something else...
Who's Got Game?- No matter how good you think you are, there will always be someone with better game out there, so keep your ego in check so as not to stand in the way of your own growth. Admit to yourself that you're not perfect, and that you can't fix your flaws without first realizing that they exist. I've seen many artists out there who never grow beyond their own borders simply because they never got out of their own way...
Reverse Engineering- 'Genre is nothing but formula'--- whether it's comics, novels, video games, movies, music, etc.--- break down the elements of what you like, what you don't like, why, and then redesign them. Study the mechanics, aesthetics, and trends--- and then go the other way... Take an idea, simplify it, and then strip it down to it's core element. The stronger the element, the more you can add to it... An essential tool in your arsenal. Seriously.
The Happy Accident- Know now that fear, failure, and fear of failure are common--- which means your studio or 'lab' should be the last place to deal with such common things. True failure is being afraid to even begin. ( For example, in designing a page, I used to layout the page with a blue pencil, then tighten it up with a pencil, then go to the ink phase... By the time I finished, I had drawn the page 3 times! Therefore, I began to rough the page with the blue pencil and tighten it with the inks, skipping the 2nd step!)
I used to be terrified of such things, until a friend said to me "Only bad artists are careful"... And he's absolutely right! Experiment and practice your craft without fear and watch your style progress.
Be Passionate About What You Do- Now, if you can't be excited about what you've done, how can you expect other people to be excited about it? You like to write and draw bad asses? You should sell the project like one... Learn to able to sell yourself as well as what you do, since being an independent hinges on your ability to market your brand. ( Dave Sim wrote and fully illustrated 300 issues of CEREBUS without missing a beat, and successfully marketed it without any corporate backing of any kind--- That's Bad Ass!) Be passionate about what you do, because if you can't, this field is not for you. More importantly, how can have any kind of motivation if you have no love for it? ( Yes, I sound like a broken record, but this one is paramount if you wish to embark upon whatever it is you want to do. Seriously. )
You Can Take It- I remember when I used to go to portfolio reviews and listen to Pro's tear apart my work piece by piece. What got my attention was that they gave me NO useful information as to how to correct the problem. (One professional in particular actually told me that I should spend more time looking over his work and learn how to draw--- the PLANET banner art above is the one that prompted that statement. ) Some artists do that, tell you how bad or lacking your work is and give you no steps on how to fix it; like they're afraid you will one day take their job. ( Believe me, every species can sense their own extinction, and the bad artist is one of them) Again, you can't fix a problem until you can identify what the problem is... Of course, critical feedback, especially when it's right, is a hard pill to swallow, so I suggest you learn how to toughen your throat and cowboy up. Useful and indispensable information, I don't care how harsh the message, is priceless to aid you in your efforts.
When used correctly, you have no idea how much of a confidence booster that can be.
So far, so good... Stay tuned to PLANET GRIFFIN for more on this... I've gotta get back to the pages, man!
Special thanks to Myron Macklin, Edmund McMillen, and Dave Sim for their fantastic insights which inspired me greatly!