March 16, 2012

Friday, March 16, 2012

In a Life in Art, Uncertainty Needs a Comfortable Place to Sit.

I learned it young.

I aspired to be a newspaper comic strip artist while I was growing up, as the newspaper comic business was shrinking. Thinking I had missed the boat, a new boat appeared to harbor my weird characters and stories in animation. A medium that I loved so much more than comic drawing. As Joseph Campbell says, “Sometimes we have to let go of the life we planned in order to make way for the one that is waiting for us”.

Things are changing even more at a rapid pace than when I was first embarking in a life of art. Illustrators had once had comfortable careers painting for advertising were rapidly having trouble keeping that boat afloat..

A life in art asks for flexibility. Experimentation. Adapting to your canvas and making the journey part of your art. Commerce changes. Needs and what others value changes. Your style and what you have to say doesn’t have to change, but sometimes you can see opportunity on the horizon that you didn’t even predict. An opportunity to try a different form of expression that may also help to pay the bills. Often it’s better than you ever imagined.

We can’t waste precious time bemoaning what is no longer. What our careers used to look like. How much money we used to make, or how much notoriety we once had. Those are illusions anyway. Sometimes we even limit ourselves with what we think is right for us. Your art is happening right now, and moving like water where it wants to go. It has bigger plans for us than we know.

If you are going through uncertainty, paint about it. Write about it. Laugh at it. Whether you like it or not, it’s what happens in life. Use the canvas you have on hand.


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7 Responses to March 16, 2012

  1. Nick Fortunato says:

    It seems you post what I need to hear. It’s kinda creepy, but its always at the perfect time.

  2. Amanda Thatch says:

    I just finished reading your post and I’ve got to say, Joe you hit the nail on the head with this one. Uncertainty couldn’t be a better word to describe my life right now. I’m at a crossroads trying to decide which path to take. I know I want to pursue a career in art. The hard part is trying to find my calling, whether it’s illustration, animation, or something in between. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned from you and other artists it’s that a life in art can be as diversified or as limited as you make it.

    Thanks for another great post!

  3. Jim says:

    Hi Joe,

    I stumbled across this painting the other day on the internet and thought you would get a kick out of it. I’m not sure if you have already seen it, but I thought it was very cool.

    Take care,


  4. Drew Litton says:

    You have no idea how much I needed to read this right now. After a long career as the sports editorial cartoonist at the Rocky Mountain News, I had the rug pulled out from under me when the paper folded in 2009. Thankfully I’ve pieced together enough work for the last 3 years to stay afloat. But barely. Your words of wisdom are food for the soul right about now. Knowing we have to shift and change and move ahead, despite the roadblocks, the resistance, the fears. Thanks for another incredible post. I really hope you write a book of posts like this someday. As artists and creators we need this kind of encouragement.
    with much appreciation,

  5. Joe Murray says:

    Thank you for your post Drew. I’ve had a few experiences that are similar, but we tend to go through our unique agony. I’m in your place right now, so I hear ya. It’s cool that we have been able to make a living off of our art ( and a sports editorial cartoonist! How cool is that. A dream of many!)

    But in my experience, everything is a stepping stone to something better. It may not be what society tells us is better ( more money or prestige) but maybe spending more time with our families while we still create some great contributions to art, cartoons, animation, etc.) My Grandfather always dreamed of being an author/ writer, but he ended up starting his own newspaper to publish his own stuff. He ended up using that newspaper to help a lot of people, and at his funeral was the first time I witnessed how many lives my grandfather had touched with his teaching, tutoring, mentoring, dancing. He never let not getting hired as a writer hold him back in what he could contribute. He is always an inspiration to me.

    Anyway, thanks for your kind words about my posts. It helps me when you respond and feel the same as I. And also we can help each other to get back on our feet. You are incredibly talented. I can’t wait to see what is next in store for you. Thank you for that.

  6. Nichole says:

    Once again, I am so very grateful for your articulation of the language I am learning to speak. Thank you.

  7. Paul Sumares says:

    It sure is healthy and healing for me to read your thoughts, Joe. I never thought I’d be writing material for a musical — even when people were telling me that my stuff sounded so much like it belonged in one. Then recently a guy in New York who is writing his first musical found me, and we are working very well together in these early stages … and I’m actually kind of excited about the possibilities.

    That’s a turn I certainly never expected.

    Anyway, as with the others who have commented here, I thank you for sharing your wisdom and your heart.

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