Posts Tagged ‘Suburban Jungle’
So last Friday, Business Guy put together a running tally of income vs. expenses for last year, in preparation for tax time. The results were, in a word, bleak.
My gross income for 2015 (not counting a brief spurt of Starbucks salary) was somewhere around $5,000. The good news is that this is up from 2014… the bad news is that it’s only up by $300. This was feasible when Mrs. Gneech was making enough money for the both of us, but with the disintegration of her job as well, this has left us in an uncomfortable spot.
We are not in any immediate danger of being out on the street, thanks to savings and other resources held aside for such things, but financially speaking we are currently at 5,000 feet in a plane with no engine. My artistic pursuits, at least as I practice them, are not making me a living. If I want to avoid returning to the days of hand-to-mouth, I need to make a serious change.
One possibility is returning to a “day job,” and I am currently investigating options. My previous career shunted me down a blind alley into dead-end technology and left me burned out in the process… so even if I wanted to get back into that particular grind (which I don’t especially) there isn’t any work to be found there anyway. In fact most of my professional experience (word processing, graphic design/desktop publishing, web page design) is in stuff that was cutting edge from 1995-2005 and is woefully out of date now.
At this stage, I have little idea what is actually useful in the world, and no real idea how to effectively look for work in 2016. Once upon a time I would sign up with a handful of temp agencies and that would be my doorway into the professional arena, but even temp agencies don’t seem to exist in any appreciable way any more. To that end, I have signed up for The Oxford Program and am currently going through it in an attempt to reboot my career, but it’s not a short-term fix.
I have also been brainstorming on creating a “brand,” with the intention of using my creative talents to build a franchise, such as name designers or the Life Is Good guys. I’ve done some stuff along those lines with Snerks’N’Quirks but it’s very much a sideline right now. The hard part of this kind of thing for me is that while it does use my creative skills, it doesn’t hold my interest. Coming up with buttons just for the money is not that different from putting together webpages just for the money (or doing anything else just for the money). I have to find some way to make it vital or it will be just a different sort of grind.
I keep thinking of people like Steve Jobs, who set out with a mission and sorta got rich on the side, and that’s what I want out of life myself. But for the moment at least, I don’t know what that mission is, besides drawing Suburban Jungle and writing the occasional book… which is sorely lacking in that “get rich on the side” element.
But I have to do something different from what I’m doing right now, before the plane crashes.
I have never been a good businessman. Coming up with products and marketing ideas is like an alien environment to me, and frankly looking at numbers just fills my brain with a high pitched whine not unlike the Emergency Broadcast System. If you remember the moment in Forbidden Planet when Robbie the Robot is ordered to kill someone and it short-circuits his brain, that’s pretty much how my brain responds to anything that smacks of accounting.
I was blessed for some years to have an amazing business partner who dealt with all that stuff for me; however, it falls on me now and if I’m going to succeed and not end up in the code mines again, I have to make it work.
To that end, I’ve been studying other creators who’ve made it work, including Brad Guigar, John Scalzi, Seanan McGuire, and most notably (for this post) Maggie Hogarth, whose Three Jaguars provides a working real-life template of just this process.
To that end, I have decided to cultivate Three Lions (and an Otter), who are my own Artist, Marketer, and Business Manager analogues. Except in my case they are Content Guy (Lion), Business Guy (also a Lion), Muse (a Lioness Spirit), and Fandom Guy (the Otter).
Content Guy is the writer/artist. He’s the one who writes the stories, draws the pages, does the commissions, and grinds out those fourteen hour days of just making content when the creative fires are burning. Considering that Content Guy writes humor, comics, and pulpy adventure stories, he’s remarkably serious about his work. Business Guy and Fandom Guy largely exist to bring his work to the rest of the world, and he in turn is something of the group’s priest/medium to Muse.
Business Guy is the one in charge of handling money, making travel arrangements, signing contracts, tracking ALL THE THINGS, and so on. This poor dude is strung out on espresso drinks and is currently in WAY over his head, but he’s the only one available to do the job and so he’ll have to rise to the occasion. He needs training, he needs resources, but most importantly he needs patience and love. He and Fandom Guy hang out a lot.
Fandom Guy is a silly happy bouncy otter who loves tuna sandwiches and meeting with fans and making crazy pop references! He also loves manga, furry comics, and geeky STUFF and is therefore in charge of thinking up things that geeks will want to buy, as well as promotion in general. His duties also include making sure that everything Content Guy makes gets an AWESOME PASS to punch it up and make it better, from making the jokes funnier to making the art slicker to making sure that covers have Buster somewhere in a corner whenever possible.
Muse is a spirit of some kind, unable to interact with the physical world and probably, to be honest, barely able to comprehend it. She is shrouded, mysterious, elusive, and beautiful. She’s also capricious and does what she wants, the rest of us be damned. On the other hand, she informs everything we do from start to finish and to a large extent we are all simply manifestations of her, which is probably what leads to her treating the rest of us this way. She works most directly through Content Guy, who occasionally chafes at being her slave, but also worships her like a goddess. Business Guy obeys her without question to best of his ability, and Fandom Guy thinks she’s totally awesome but wishes she would consider making his job easier by getting Content Guy to do some more mainstream stuff from time to time.
So What’s the Point?
Largely, the point of all this is to give me a mental framework to keep myself organized. My general schedule has sorta been that Mondays are Fandom Guy days, while Tuesday through Thursday are Content Guy days, and Fridays are Business Guy days, but that’s never been explicit so much as it just worked out that way. But now I can make that not only “official,” but also plan for it. “I need to add some merch… Fandom Guy, do that on Monday. Oh, taxes are coming due soon? That’s Business Guy’s job, I’ll do it Friday.”
By personifying them this way, I have also been able to analyze my own strengths and weaknesses and I know what to work on. Poor Business Guy, he needs some serious love! On the other hand, Content Guy is kind of a workaholic (and not the happiest of lions, it seems), so I need to keep that in mind, while Fandom Guy is fun and exuberant but also kind of an airhead who will probably need reining in from time to time, etc.
Plus, what the heck, it’s just fun and helps me know myself a little better. It also makes the creative process a little less lonely: yes, it’s often a very solitary process, but within myself I contain a whole team. 😉 So c’mon, gang, we’ve got work to do!
So, can I just say here, I love my fans? <3 Not prompted by anything specific, I'm just remembering all the awesome things fans have done for me over the years. They've come to see me at conventions; they've supported me by buying books, prints, art, buttons, shirts, even weird little things like magnetic dress-up dolls; they've made me Guest of Honor at conventions; they've given me random presents ranging from music CDs to computer hardware to hand-knitted blankets; and best of all, they read and comment on my work. Many of them have become my good friends; many more of them have simply read, smiled, and gone on with their day. I don't want to let this go unappreciated! Yes, Fandom February is about getting the word out and growing the audience, but it's also about making sure that you crazy peeps know that you mean a lot to me, and I'm grateful, for all the things you have done, and all the things you keep on doing. You rock. 🙂 -The Gneech
One of my goals with the new year has been to beef up my Patreon campaign a bit, as it was originally assembled in a fairly slapdash “This is good for a start and we’ll see how it goes!” way. To that end, I started poking around Patreon to find campaigns that were working well, ones that weren’t, and others in “my space” generally to look for best practices.
I was surprised (but pleased) to see that my campaign was actually pretty healthy compared to most– there are a depressing number of “no supporters, no pledges” campaigns out there. That said, there’s still plenty of room for improvement! Four-digit campaigns, while rare, are certainly out there, and many of them are comparable to mine in output and bennies, which gives me hope that I can get there myself!
So over the course of this week I have been working on updating, tweaking, and “fluffing” my Patreon campaign, including adding a new banner that showcases my art and trying to diversify both the goals and bennies, while being careful not to over-promise on things I couldn’t deliver.
I’m quite pleased with the results! But I’m also curious and eager for feedback and suggestions. Whattya think? I’d love to hear from you.
The cover for issue four of Rough Housing went up today, and I’m quite pleased with it, but I also noticed something about it on reflection.
For a comic ostensibly set on the beach as an excuse for me to draw beefcake/cheesecake, there has been precious little cake in it. With the possible exception of Langley in her “Hello Kitty” underwear, this is probably the most fanservicey image from the comic so far.
I also noticed for the first time just how bashful Charity is. I mean yeah, in the original issue 1 cover (which looks so sparse now compared to the final version with Langley, Roxie, and Parker in it) she’s wearing a shirt over her swimsuit, but that was intended as something of a tease. In the issue four cover, she is explicitly hiding behind Langley so as to not be seen in her bikini.
Honestly… I was not expecting this of Charity. I mean, she was never intended to be an exhibitionist, but my original conception of her was that she was very much a chip off the ol’ block of her mother Comfort, who was anything but shy! Charity was supposed to be bouncy, exuberant, and fun-loving… but as the story evolved she has ended up serious-minded, high-strung, suffering from a deep-seated need to live up to… something, and even a bit prudish.
This is the kind of thing I mean when I say that strong characters often go off in their own directions. Being in the role of “boss who has to whip the hotel into shape” almost requires Charity to be a more serious-minded character, because if she was just another party girl she’d get lost in the mix. Certainly I can’t see Comfort coming in and kicking Langley out of the manager’s bedroom; but Comfort also wouldn’t take on a managerial role, on the grounds of “What fun is that?”
As for my unexpected recent reluctance to draw fanservice… I have no idea what that’s about. I used to love to draw beefcake and cheesecake both, and I was always rather proud of drawing what I considered to be “empowering fanservice,” which showed happy and confident subjects who were in the picture because they wanted to show off. Now I’m just not comfortable with it, and I can’t figure out why. Maybe it’s that with the proliferation of porn to the near-exclusion of other things, the idea of fanservicey art just sorta seems like a quaint relic of time gone by? Who’s gonna care about characters posing in swimsuits when there’s “YCH orgy” pictures all over the place? Or maybe it’s my own attitudes towards sex and sexuality being out of synch with the world around me that’s making me want to just avoid the topic all together?
I dunno. Obviously I have my own issues to deal with, just as much as Charity has hers.
Long title is long.
Anyway! So what’s the deal with me? Issue four of Rough Housing was due to be up and running by now, and people are waiting on commissions and and and…
Yes. All of that is true. Guilty, nolo contendere.
There are a few explanations for this. First and foremost, Mrs. Gneech’s job evaporated, and while we’ve been living on savings, those were rapidly evaporating too, which led me to return to the world of being a barista to pay the bills. That was a pretty punishing job when I was 30. Now I am 46, and it’s devastating. Even on part-time hours I tend to spend my time at home flopped into a chair just trying to recover, and for me art is a thing that requires a certain amount of energy investment.
Second, I wrote a novel when nobody was looking! I’ve recently completed the second draft and will begin shopping it around to agents and/or publishers in December. I’m very pleased with it and I hope it will be the launch of a new career for me. But it also pretty much ate August, September, and much of October whole.
Finally, there are real art block issues I have been contending with.
Now You’re Just a Genre That I Used to Love
The furry art scene was very different when I got into it. Yes, the whole “clean vs. naughty” thing was raging on then, but there was also a lot of vitality and invention going on. “Kids’ WB” was in full force and people were drawing inspiration from things like Pokémon, Road Rovers, and Animaniacs as well as beautifully rendered animated films like The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast. Furry, like webcomics, was in a growth period, with something new and never-seen-before popping up all the time.
The genre has cooled a bit, since then. I don’t want to imply that there’s no innovation going on, because there always is– but there is a sort of standard “furry art” that is just sort of there. I recently went to my FurAffinity account after my extended writing absence and had 1,500 art pieces waiting for me by artists I follow… of which maybe 6-8 caught my attention. The rest were pretty much the same “fursona standing in a pose” portrait or “YCH orgy” thing that has been filling my watch list for the past five years.
No slices of life. No funny takes on the oddities of animal behavior. Not even so much as a “skunk stinking up the room” joke. Maybe there’s something fun and interesting going on somewhere that I haven’t seen, but right now at least it feels like the furry world is in a rut. Which in turn makes it hard to find inspiration to create new, fun, and interesting stuff. Quite the Catch-22.
The Comic I Created Wasn’t the Comic I Wanted
On a more specific note, Rough Housing was half-baked on launch. I think there’s a lot of good in it, and I intend to salvage it. But on some level I think I was still trying to create the “Verity and Tanya” story without having to reconcile the baroque steampunk look it should have with my sloppy, toony art style. But the whole thing was forced and, as I say, incompletely developed.
I’m working on fixing that now. The series is undergoing, as they say on TV, “a soft reboot.” I’ve completely thrown away my existing script for issue four and I’m rewriting it from the ground up, as well as trying to re-evaluate just what it is I want from the series and how to achieve it. I wanted a vehicle for drawing fun scenes of characters romping around on the beach or engaging in silly shenanigans, and I think there’s still plenty of room for that, but as I was writing it I was trying to shoehorn a lot of shipping things into it that really don’t belong there, or at least were not growing organically from the story, because they belonged in the “Verity and Tanya” book instead.
Hopefully, writing that book will get some of that junk out of my system and I can let Rough Housing become its own thing now. When issue four will actually come out, I’m not sure, that’s entirely dependent on the job situation and how tied up I get in publishing the novel. But it’s not just sitting there ignored!
It’s still going to be called “Buff Housing” though. I can’t let a gag like that escape. 😉