(Photo above taken at the actual bus stop that I waited at for 20 minutes-1 hour for 3 years shortly after my Ah-ha! moment.)
I was standing waiting for the my second bus transfer on my way home from the school in a major that I didn't really care about that I was putting myself through with a retail job, when a sad thought hit me. I hadn't drawn anything in about 4 years.
My days were spent between 4 different buses 2 hour-4 hour daily commutes (depending on if I hit my transfers right or not), my work in the stockroom at a mall, and trying not to fall asleep in class with my full course load or the bus on the way home. Watching my then, 3 year old nephew on the weekends, while I struggled to type up research papers.
I was listening probably to classic rock, Elvis, Lynard Skynard, or even Big Band Music like Sinatra, or the soulful sounds of Miss Etta James to keep me awake, with frozen toes in my boots, and thinking about how hard I was working to feel miserable all the time.
I thought about the fact that I knew a friend from Middle School who was successfully selling her own art, and how much in that moment, I wanted that life for me. At the very least I wanted to be able to draw again. I used to draw obsessively as a child, and it brought me joy, regardless of the outcome.
That day, was the day that I changed the course of my life.
Between work, school, bus, and family commitments (Large family) I had no time to draw. Except my breaks at work. 15 minutes were not enough time to wrap my head around the logarithmic equations I was always behind, but it was enough to start on a quick doodle. Then on lunch, I'd ink that doodle, usually while I was slurping a Jamba Juice if I could afford it, if not, between bites of the cup of noodle I nuked in the breakroom microwave. And if the powers of efficiency smiled upon me, I'd paint it with watercolors. (If not that'd be tomorrow's lunch.)
It improved my days considerably. I felt like I was actually accomplishing something. Even when I was doing something silly.
Pretty soon, my co-workers took notice, I mean, it's not like I was exactly subtle with all the stuff I was hauling around in addition to my school books so I could paint.
(See Above Photo of me actually painting something silly at work.)
I started Tweeting photos of the doodles and talking to other Writers and Artists while I was waiting for the bus instead of feeling annoyed because my first bus arrived 10 minutes late and I missed my transfer. I even started coming to work half an hour early, so I could sketch in the parking lot before coming in, so I'd have more to do on my breaks.
Pretty soon, my co-workers were asking me what I was going to draw next. Some of them even said that they looked forward to it all day. The most supportive was my friend who worked security Denise, she was in her 50s, with purple streaks, had 2 cute bunnies and talking with her was the highlight of my day.
I was nowhere near the skills I had when I was still in middle school, (Apparently skills atrophy when you don't use them, who knew?) but she still encouraged me to enter art contests, try to get a job doing art in the newspaper, and to sell my art. She made me more confident in my art than anyone else. For a while, I was at peace.
Then we changed Store Managers, people were quitting left and right, and that comfortable work family I had built for myself (knew most of them for 4-5 years) was getting drastically smaller, and I began missing my breaks because we were so understaffed, which meant I wasn't eating or making art. It continued like that for a while, until one day. One of my favorite bosses announced that he was quitting. And I thought about my happiness again, without my wonderful work family around me, without having the time to draw again... and quit with him on the spot.
I didn't have a plan, but I had just gotten my paycheck that day, and I thought, here's my chance to give this art thing a serious go. Within 3 months, I laid it all on the line and sold art with the aforementioned art friend, at an Anime Convention of all places first thing. I'll admit to being a little ill-prepared, but my art made strangers laugh, and best of all, for the first time, I was given money in exchange for something that I made. What a thrill, with my profit of $15 I proudly bought us dinner that night. I did 3 more conventions that year. One of which inspired the Idea for a Comic Book, and Art Book that I'm currently working on. One was 9 hours away in Denver.
(Where I solo-tabled for the first time, and have this one piddly picture to show for it.)
There was no going back after that. I had run several small businesses as a kid. (Babysitting, selling candy, selling koolaid.)
Not only had I watched my best friend's profits grow at each event she had done, but I knew from my time as a kid that there were always things you could do that would attract more people and get you more sales.
The fact that I had made some minor ($15 dollars at first show and like $50ish at the next) meant that it could be done.
And it was fun.
How could I turn my back on that?
I'm still working to get profitable. But I'm going to get there.
For now, I supplement my art with a part time job doing retail, and I'm leaning on my Dad, so I can have the time to actually do art. Otherwise I'd be working 60 hour weeks and get no work done in my "freetime". My Etsy sales are 6 times what they were 12 months ago. My Convention sales are almost 10 times what they were at that first convention. My last commission the person who ordered it, wanted to give me more money than I charged.
I finally have a nice enough computer that I can run youtube on it, and edit scans of my artwork in less than 8 hours (now like 2 hours) and without 10-15 crashes.
I've improved drastically, and finally replaced my printer that broke down last August. Which means that I should be able to start working on my comic, soon. I now have the equipment I need to work on youtube. Every available small print is now on my Etsy shop, so people who miss it in person, or can't come to any of my events can now buy it online. My Website is finally connected to my domain. (Only took 3 months after I finished it, and of course now it needs be updated.)
And Right now, I can believe in a future where Art is my only job.