A Portrait of the Artist as a Quitter

In late 2018, I injured my back at work. The injury precipitated a nervous breakdown, as the pain from the injury wouldn’t go away, confirming my worst fears. I quit my job and moved in with my parents to try to recuperate physically and mentally.

And I tried to continue making art. I produced The Adventures of Yossi and Tal. I took up a handful of commissions and drew a few personal pieces for fun. But since 2006, I’ve been pursuing the goal of supporting myself with my art, and for all the thousands upon thousands of hours I poured into my creative endeavors, I never made more than $2300 in one year. That’s not enough to live on. That’s not even anywhere near minimum wage.

So I quit.

And quitting feels great, at least in some ways. I’m no longer a slave to self-imposed deadlines and the burden of creating and promoting content. I don’t feel bound to social media as a marketing tool. At my current job as a mail-order Pharmacy Technician, I’m on track to make more money this year than from any other full-time work I’ve ever had. My time has opened up to exploring new hobbies and activities, sometimes just lying in the grass and staring up at the sky, and playing a whole lot of video games.

But quitting doesn’t always feel great. I grieve the loss of hope that comes from realizing just how high the odds are stacked against a professional artist. Success and failure aren’t a binary proposition, but it’s hard not to frame myself as a failure. And quitting wasn’t the outcome I expected when I started creating comics and looking for graphic design work. I wish it weren’t so hard these days to pick up a pencil and draw.

You know the world’s a mess out there. It’s daunting. And even if I managed to make a living wage off my art, I can’t shake the thought that comics won’t stop the worsening seasonal wildfires in the American West. Comics won’t stop the hurricanes and floods in Florida and Louisiana. Comics won’t stop white supremacists and the white supremacist apologists who enable them. People suffering from food insecurity can’t eat comics; the homeless can’t live in them. And comics won’t stand in the way of Russian forces as a prevaricating dictator issues orders of inhumane brutality against the people of Ukraine.

So it’s kind of hard to draw, knowing that it probably won’t solve the world’s problems and likely won’t do much more than pay my hosting bills. I’m not putting down the pencil entirely, but until I figure out a better way to approach this, it’s going to continue to be hard to draw.

6 thoughts on “A Portrait of the Artist as a Quitter”

  1. Nice to hear from your internet self. I am glad you are enjoying vocational success and the freedom it brings. I am also glad you have not completely sworn off the pencil. I remain one of your biggest fans!

  2. I’m picking up what you’re laying down, brother *beatnik snapping ensues*
    Why create when it all feels like it just won’t make any difference? Every time I think, “I should write about _____”, I hear that inner critical voice which says, “Why? No one will care. It’s all been said before, and better. Don’t even bother.” And so I often don’t.
    But what if that’s just the enemy? What if that’s just the Putin of despair trying to dominate the Ukraine of your creative gift?? (There’s a metaphor for ya…)
    Keep on keeping on…however that looks. <3 And I'm glad for your profitable job that allows for leisure time, too.

    • Dang. That Putin metaphor has got teeth.

      Thanks for dropping a comment. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from this experience, it’s this: why create for anything other than the act of creating? Certainly don’t create for an audience, because only like fifteen people are paying attention anyway. When you do find things worth creating just for the sheer act of creating them, I do encourage you to hit those keys. 🙂

  3. I only just now saw this but I want to say thank you for all the art you have created and also (especially?!) thank you for the art you are yet to create.

    I don’t know if this will help any, but I’ve got a pretty decent pile of failed businesses to my name and only one so far that has worked out well enough for me to finally eventually quit having a “real job” (and even then, it’s only because Caitlin is such a dang good teacher and musician). I had to quit a bunch of times in order to pursue the next thing, and eventually it (seems to have) worked out. As long as you don’t quit making art, you’ll keep finding your way along that path – even if you’re doing other stuff at the same time, too.

    • You’re welcome for the art I have created and am yet to create. And thank you for appreciating it!

      As you can see, even though my art has no coherent and overarching plan or structure, I haven’t yet quit making art. But I will continue quitting things until, finally, I quit quitting.


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.