What do you want? Well, both, of course.
A couple of good links that deserve a click:
Tom Spurgeon opines about too much harking on the bottom line as a gauge of success.
Mark Anderson says that successful gag cartoonists are in the minor leagues of cartooning.
I am originally from the Midwest. There are a some things you don't talk about, like:
But thank goodness we're in blogland, where every little thought can be put out there. So, let's touch on money, and the religious aspect (!) of cartooning in today's rambling essay. And there will be sex and politics before the end.
It's nice to feel successful.
Some people think it's money. Money impresses people. Ostentatious possessions impress people; "look at my Hummer, my designer clothes, my $200 haircut, etc."
I do think that there is something in the personality of the person -- something in his/her chemistry -- that makes he/she a good cartoonist. Sure, you got to be able to write and to draw -- but how do you handle the rejection, the lonely hours of working, having to come up with ideas?
Sometimes I hear that cartooning is a calling, like the priesthood. It's not for everyone.
I think doing what you like to do -- and making money from it -- is success. And not a lot of people are able to do what they like. Most people don't like their jobs. Maybe that's why some people consume conspicuously.
But, yeah, there are times I get no respect.
Sometimes, people don't know what to say when I tell them I draw cartoons. They look at me like I have 3 heads. But, hey, this job is all about drawing silly pictures and convincing an editor to part with good money for them. Most people have never had the experience of getting just one thing they've done published. What cartoonists do is a square peg kinda endeavor.
This was a conversation I had last week.
"What do you do?" I get asked.
"I'm a magazine cartoonist." (I used to say "gag cartoonist," but magazine is more apt. I stole this idea from my friend, magazine cartoonist Benita Epstein.)
"Oh. You're an editorial cartoonist then?"
"No. Magazines," I say. "Those little square cartoons that are in magazines like Reader's Digest." Sometimes I emphasize, making a little square shape with my fingers.
"Oh." Silence. "My grandma used to get Reader's Digest."
There was very little beyond this except a long pause, and then me asking this person what she did for a living (school administrator). Anyway, a total disconnect about what I did, and the conversation died. But it didn't bother me. It happens. At least she didn't ask me to draw Garfield.
If some people think that drawing magazine cartoons is not as cool as strip cartoonists or Web cartoonists or graphic novelists or whatever -- phooey on them. That elitist junk is a waste of time. Like buying Hummers.
The glory of the job (and the scary part too) is the fact that it's just you and that piece of paper and your brain.
And a cartoonist can make fun of religion;
All the time making a point while making a joke.
I would like to say that all my cartoons are quality and all my work just brilliant, thank you very much -- but it's up to readers to decide if it's IMPORTANT and all.
In the meantime, I'm just going to try to make it GOOD.
-- The original version of this post appeared February 9, 2007.