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Last night was the second week of my fall 2017 Comics Studio workshop. It’s the third time I’ve taught this class, and it’s different every time.

One of the exercises from last night was:

“Draw a comic that answers the following questions,
1. What is fear?
2. Where is it located?
3. How do you conquer it?”

I often participate in these exercises along with the students. Here is what I made for this one:

fear.jpeg

Even though I plan the exercises, I am often surprised at what comes out of them. My students are thoughtful and creative and brave. They come up with things I never would have expected. They inspire me, and I try to be as in the moment as they are, only drawing what comes to me in that moment.

Try this exercise, if you like.

What is fear?
Where is is located?
How do you conquer it?

 

 

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business

I have worked a lot of jobs. At age eighteen I went to college to study theater, writing, comics, and dance, with the dream that I’d make it work somehow– I’d find a way to make a living at this crazy thing called Art. So I never committed myself to a full-time job. I worked multiple part-time jobs at once, scrounging for any little bit of time to draw and write. I drew comics in the box office and the projection booth at move theaters. I wrote short stories in emails to myself at receptionist desks. I sketched on the subway, worked on story ideas at babysitting gigs after the kids went to bed, wrote in diners at 6am. I lived close to the bone, making just enough money to survive.

While living in New York City I walked around to comic book shops asking them to sell my little self-published mini comics, and got feedback from store owners about how to make them look more professional. I modeled for life drawing classes. I submitted to short story competitions. I volunteered at MoCCA Fest in exchange for a couple hours of table time selling my comics. Any small way to make a tiny amount of dough from my art.

March 1st marks my one year anniversary of being “self-employed.” I quit my job to be a full-time artist and stay-at-home mom (we need a better term for this). So, how do I make money?

The short answer is that I don’t make very much. I am fortunate to have a partner who believes in me, believes in my work as an artist, and takes on the responsibility of supporting our family financially. This is the first time I have not supported myself completely since college. It’s hard sometimes, to reconcile this fact in my head, that my husband supports me financially.

But the truth is, if I were to go work at a job I wouldn’t make enough to pay for daycare or to make it worth it to not be home with my baby. And I would likely be sad and unfulfilled. So instead, I stay home and take care of Giles, which is a very important contribution to our family. And twice a week my mother-in-law takes care of him at her house so I can do my artwork.

Art Work. It is really, really wonderful that my only work (besides being a mom) is making art. It is also really hard. In the first couple months of Full-Time Artist Life I made just as much money as I did at my previous job. I taught a comics workshop, sold a few commission portraits, sold some drawings from an exhibit. Art income often comes in windfalls like that– for a few months I will sell a bunch of things, and then there will be long dry spells.

These are the ways I make money:

Teaching: this is relatively new to me. Last year I taught a five week Autobiographical Comics workshop for adults at a local art school. I am about to start teaching another workshop with the same school. This is a really nice way to make some money, the highest hourly wage I have ever been paid in my life– about $25/hour. It’s also inspiring, working with students and seeing their ideas and growth. A great way to make money in my field that is truly connected to what I love. It’s also a lot of work, and takes time and energy away from making my own things.

Commissioned Portraits: this is something I’ve been doing for a while. I don’t get a lot of commissions. Most art from people I know, friends and family. On my Etsy site I offer portraits, holiday cards, and invitations. Commission work can be tricky– early on I learned to be very clear with customers about what I do, what my style is, and that I will not copy the work or style of other artists. I change my prices pretty often, never sure of how much to charge, balancing how much I value my time with how much someone will realistically pay me.

Exhibits: these can be great or not so great. It’s a lot of work (and often expense) to put up a show and there’s no guarantee that I’ll sell anything. It can be fun, and it sure feels good to sell work off the wall. It can also be disappointing, and exhausting to smile and make small talk at openings, to hang and rehang work, to sell myself. My favorite part about doing exhibits is when someone I don’t know responds to a piece I made, and especially when they buy it.

Selling Other Stuff: I also make and sell t-shirts, tote bags, cards, etc. This is more intermittent, for example, when I have a specific idea for a shirt design and enough money to make a bunch of them up front. Then I sell them on my Etsy site until they run out. Shirts are hard because I never know how many of each size to print ahead of time, and often end up with leftover sizes that no one wants. Because of this, sometimes I will wait to actually print the shirts until I have several pre-orders. Cards are the easiest because they are cost-effective (they aren’t expensive to make, so I can charge less and still make a small profit. I’m a big believer in affordable art).

My ultimate goal is to get an agent and a publisher and have my comic books and short story collections published and for sale at stores. To contribute financially to my family and have lots of people read my work. The way that I am making this happen is by putting my work out into the world any way I can. Posting my comics on my blog, selling at indie comic conventions, submitting stories to magazines– just putting it out there and putting it out there. I am a big believer in doing things myself. I don’t like to rely on other people’s approval. If I can’t find someone else to publish my comics, I make them into books myself and find a way to sell them. I just keep going, keep making the work, keep sharing it, and things will happen.

Other artists make their livings in different ways, have different methods and different measures of success. This is how I work.

I’d like to give a special shout out here, to my dad. I often write about my mom on this blog, and how she is part of my artistic life. But my dad has always supported me– emotionally and creatively, even financially when I’ve found myself in a tough spot. He is the BEST exhibit hanging partner, audience member, and starred in an early short film I made. He may claim to be the non-creative person in our family, but he is an artist in life, in his own work, and in being a dad. I owe him a lot. So, thanks Pops. I love you.

i’m teaching a comics workshop!

me drawing comix

Guys! I’m teaching a comics workshop! Autobiographical Comics, with IS183 of the Berkshires:

Comics serve as a powerful tool for exploring our experiences and sharing our stories, using both image and text. In this course we will start with some basics of graphic storytelling: panel structure, rhythm, and the relationship between words and pictures, building towards each student creating their own autobiographical comic. Using examples from contemporary cartoonists, along with group exercises, you will have the chance to experiment and find your voice as you work towards a final project.

Price: $140
Member Price: $120
Lesson Info: Tuesdays, 6 to 8PM February 23 to March 22 (5 Meetings) Location: exPRESS Gallery, North Adams
Department: Graphic Storytelling
Instructors: Anna Moriarty-Lev
First Lesson: Tue, Feb 23 2016

This course is for ANYONE who wants to make comics. Beginners are HIGHLY encouraged. No previous drawing experience needed. If you want to make comics and you have a story to tell, this class is for you.

I passionately believe that anyone can make comics. You don’t need expensive supplies, or any kind of art training. What you do need is a desire to tell a story with words and pictures. And you need a piece of paper and a pen or pencil. That’s it.

Telling our own stories is a deeply human desire, and it’s how we learn about what it means to be human. Making comics can be a really fun and healing way to process your own experience. Whether it’s something difficult you’re going through, or just funny moments with your friends and family, making comics about it creates a window into your specific viewpoint.

Let’s make comics!

comics workshop at The Collegiate School

I went to the city (New York– I still call it The City, as if it’s the only one) last Wednesday to teach a comics workshop to the fourth grade boys at The Collegiate School. This is the second comics workshop I’ve done with kids this year, and I feel so inspired to do more. Seeing kids excited about reading and making comics I see myself at their age, reading Archie every chance I got (as well as Calvin and Hobbes and Sylvia), tracing the characters, drawing my own. Everything I do now as an adult (comics, stories, movies, dancing) is something I loved as a nine-year-old. To me, that is success.

It’s awesome that schools are finally treating comics as literature and teaching them as a storytelling technique. I got to see my friend Chris and watch him teach (so good!), and my dad came with me so we also got to spend a really nice spring day in Manhattan. Breakfast at French Roast, a movie at Lincoln Plaza Cinemas (Felix et Meira – soooooooo beautiful, I loved it, I’m still thinking about it), tried a new pizza place (it was okay– still not as good as our old favorite, Ray’s on 6th ave. and 11th st. which is now gone), and some nice walking around. It was a good day.

pops at french roast20150506_095354 IMG_20150506_190627 20150506_170810 20150506_171315                          20150506_17300020150506_172705

Thank you so much to Chris Stevenson, The Collegiate School, and of course my awesome dad.