Always Chasing Something

The spiral that is creative meaning

6/1/20243 min read

I don't know if it's a symptom of getting older or having more perspective on the world and how crazy it is -- but lately, I've been feeling like I need to chase down meaning in my comics work; otherwise, it's a waste of time.

Perhaps because our culture is built on the hustle and the toxic wasteland that is social media promotes this feeling of "you're not doing enough," I'm frequently left feeling like if my art isn't good then why do I bother? I didn't always feel this way either. In 2019, I was painting on scraps of wood I found and I enjoyed it. I'm not a good painter, I never took a painting class. But it was an exploration, and it was very meditative. Then, during the covid lockdown years, I got more into abstract expressionist painting. That helped me handle grief and anxiety about the world and some personal losses.

So, what sets that apart from comics? Comics is just as isolating an art practice as any other visual medium where it's just you and your blank piece of wood, canvas, or sheet of paper. When I started making comics more regularly, it was initially this interactive medium. I was posting comics almost daily on Instagram and people were responding to them. Not just internet people, but people I knew in real life would see me out in the world and say, "hey I like your comics, what's going to happen next?"

Now, here I am a few years later. I still like making comics, and I'm happy to be considered a member of this weird little indie comics community. But, somehow I feel like there's something I'm supposed to be reaching for. This "goodness" that my comics must become, these skills I must develop. Maybe it's because, at my core, I'm lazy, and I don't want to put in all the hours, but something about the pursuit of getting really good makes me want to work even less. And if I'm not doing the work, it must not be meaningful or important.

Something else that ties into this relationship with comics is my relationship with the term "artist" and my identity as an artist. I've recently come to hate the moniker. And I think that is because of the social media and the hustle and the selling of your soul to the Metas, AIs, and Patreons. Everything you make is capital. You made it; therefore, you must sell it to someone. Creativity is no longer being used to benefit society or hold up a mirror to it. It's just another product to push.

Creativity is, or was, a way to think about organizing society and collectivizing it rather than individualizing it. At least, that is the case that Oil Mould makes in his book, "Against Creativity," a book I've been borrowing from another artist pal who may or may not think I'm trying to dismantle capitalism (I am). I'm not done with the book, but it has helped me direct some of my questions about this subject. I recommend giving it a look.

So, how does this all relate to comics and my art? My desire to be so invested in comics has narrowed my initial interest in underground arts. I fell in love with zines because I love meeting weirdos interested in these weird little pieces of paper poorly stapled together. But, as I've done more shows, I encounter more people who are there to make money (and that's fair, shit costs money to make) and not so much trade or make connections. And, of course, post-Covid, everything has become more expensive, there are increased global tensions, and the economy shit is scary. Still, it almost feels like while there's an expansion of comics shows, art book shows, and zine fest, there's an equal rise in costs and people doing things for the clout or the capital. It's weird when the DIY thing becomes a nonprofit or any business. And that's coming from someone who also works in nonprofits.

Perhaps I need to divert my attention and will myself away from this feeling that my art has to be good and bring it back into a collective sphere. Which is that my art has had an impact on others, no matter the quality. There is still value in sharing it with or without profit. Also, as long as I continue to make things for myself and not for the service of others, it will always be mine. As for being called an "artist" thing, I guess I'll just get over it. Titles are meaningless.