Fair enough. I assume you mean when I started Dresden Codak? I’ll break down the honest-to-goodness process of the early comics:
- Draw comics in mechanical pencil on the back of my statistics homework (never turned in) and then ink on top of that with a micron pen.
- Sneak into the Honors College study room (from which I was expelled for poor grades) and use their scanner.
- Use a mouse and a bootleg copy of Photoshop 7 to color the pages.
- Upload it to my site, which at the time was flat HTML that I’d written from scratch.
And that’s it!
reblogging this for the reminder that grades and a college degree are by no means the be-all end-all of life.
There’s some truth to this. I’d like to share some further biographical information:
I’m a college dropout. In 2006 I left school after a little over four years because I kept changing majors (physics, anthropology, computer science, then art) and it had reached a point where it was difficult for me to afford to keep going to school (I was paying my own way with various jobs).
The reason I had kept changing majors was because I was terrified that I’d picked the “wrong” career, with most of those academic decisions based around what careers seemed prestigious. I wanted to be an engineer because I liked the idea of being an engineer, then a programmer because I liked the idea of being a programmer, but I was never happy doing any of these things, and it showed. I’d always been groomed to be a good student, and for most of my career I was good at doing what I was told.
I’d always been creative, doing little projects on the side. I wrote a sci-fi novel when I was 19 (never shared it), some poems in physics class, and even some fake news stories about Popeye before I was kicked off the university paper. I also made films with friends for many years. I was told these were “good hobbies,” that once I became a respected and financially stable engineer/programmer/scientist, that I could then do what made me happy on the side. A nervous breakdown during my college career, however, made it clear that “waiting to be happy” was a psychologically unstable strategy. I couldn’t wait for someone else to grant me permission to do what I wanted with my life.
So, in 2005, during a statistics class that I would eventually fail, I started drawing Dresden Codak. I hadn’t seriously drawn in many years, but it’s something you don’t totally lose. They were pretty bad drawings, but I didn’t care. I enjoyed it and decided that doing what I really liked to do now was better than hoping I could do it later. I wasn’t looking for a career at the time, I just realized how much I loved making comics and knew that I should do whatever I could to keep making them. It took about a year for me to decided that being a cartoonist was what I really wanted. I changed my major to art briefly, but eventually accepted that paying for a degree wasn’t something that was going to help me at that point.
After that, in 2006, I took a chance and dropped out. I worked an office job full time during the day while drawing Dresden Codak full time at night. I slept about 3 hours a night, but it didn’t matter. I was doing what I wanted, and it kept me going. Then, toward the end of 2007 I found out, through Topatoco, that I had enough readers to justify selling some merchandise. To my genuine surprise, as soon as we put the store up, I was making more money than my office job (which I promptly quit). From there I packed up, moved out of Alabama and never looked back.
Dresden Codak has been my full-time job ever since. It’s let me travel the country and meet amazing people while making a pretty comfortable living, but most importantly I get to do what I enjoy more than anything else. Ever since, I make all of my life decisions based on maximizing what I really want to do, and so far it’s served me well.
Don’t interpret this as an anti-education/college story or anything like that. I just think often we expect success if we do X, Y and Z, when in reality such a thing can’t be reliably handed to you by an authority. Start doing what you want to do now, because life’s far too short to wait around to be happy.
As soon as I saw this on my dash, I knew I had to share it with you guys. I feel like it’s so easy to see successful artists and get discouraged when you’re just starting out. To think that if you don’t have the same opportunities as they do, or access to a fancy degree, or professional tools, that you’ll never get there yourself.
The path to success and happiness is different for everyone. There is no formula—no magic tool or diploma that will get you there—and it might take longer to achieve for some than others.There is no age before or after which somehow legitimizes or delegitimizes your efforts; I’m on the cusp of 30 and still trying to figure things out. But it’s so important that you find a way to do what you love and what makes you happy. Even if it never becomes your job. Even if you can’t spend more than 10 minutes on it every day. Even if it only exists on the backs of napkins and scraps of paper. Even if no one else sees it but you.