Like the real thing


Ah… memories

When I started to draw some new comic pages a couple of years ago, it gave me a bit of a shock. How hard it was to do!

When I was a kid, bashing out comics on folded-over A4 sheets in my bedroom – it was just so easy.

Bish – bash – bosh: 30minutes [or less probably] Job  Done!

It wasn’t just the fact that my critical faculties were childish, or that I didn’t plan it in thumbnail form – figure out the layout – the action – the text – the placement of the text – the flow of the action and panels; didn’t care what type of pen I used; didn’t bother with a ruler for the panel frames; no.

It was just that I was happy in myself about the quality of the work. It was all fun, no pressure. Just for me and a few friends.

Wind forward 30+ years! Now, there’s the whole world that must be impressed! Especially with the internet, there’s more competition. You can’t really try to look like a big fish in a small pond anymore. And you’re a proper artist. Which means:

  • More developed critical – and therefore more developed self-critical faculties
  • You get better all the time, but you’re still a step-behind how good you think you should to be because those critical faculties keep improving
  • Full of self-doubt
  • Comparing yourself to all the other brilliant artists
  • You want the appreciation of your peers – not just your classmates and your mum
  • And finally – the biggie: it’s now about MONEY
  • Oh, and more of a biggie: it’s about other people’s money too

Yep, the money thing ruins everything. He who pays the piper – calls the tune.

Money and the piper

There was a time – long ago, in a galaxy, far, far away – when I would actually [get this] prefer to do work for someone for free than be paid. Nuts eh? It wasn’t because I was a wonderful human being or anything, I think it was – no, I know it was because if they’re not paying for it they should be grateful. You’ll have less to fear when you present them with the finished piece. It’s funny you know, even when I used to play the guitar in gigs and music festivals, I used to love using 90 year old, beaten up ones with bow and arrow necks. Almost as if: whatever I manage to get out of this thing will be a triumph. I was setting the bar low  – and inevitably doing admirably well – under the circumstances. Obviously, I enjoyed the old-fashioned romantic aspect of the instruments too.

Not only that, but because you’re so lacking in confidence as a creative person, you can’t actually see the true value of what it is that you – and less people than you might think – can also do.

A Rare Gift

It was amazing to me, what my creative friend Padhraig said to me when we were  out for a rare pint around 2003, after the IT bubble had burst and I was out of permanent work for about a year. He saw what I was getting for designing a website – which I was finding tedious – and what I was getting for the odd illustration job and he couldn’t understand why I kept doing web design. I probably muttered that I wasn’t a good enough illustrator or there wasn’t enough work or something. He said:

You have to realise that we were born with a rare gift. We can make pictures. Don’t you see that? Not many people can do what we can.

This was the first time that one of my peers, another illustrator had said something like this to me. Not a classmate, or my mum, but an artistic peer. I should have grasped onto that then and made it some sort of mantra, but I suppose I was still full of self-doubt having not hung around with artists since art college but rather, programmers, sales people, bosses, managers. Plus, I had a new house to pay for. I can’t believe that it was 9 years ago. And where am I now?

I guess I should have gone out more – with people more like me. But, tomorrow I’m renewing my membership with Illustrators Ireland and I’m determined to find the time to get out with like-minds – at least once a month!

Time to start seeing my work as the Real thing – not just ‘like‘ it.

– JW


  1. bluemilkspecial

    Nice blog post! And good for you, John! Time creeps along more quickly than we realize and its so easy to put off promises we make to ourselves. I think it sounds like a really good idea to get back into artistic social circles for the feedback and motivation that could provide. You have a great amount of artistic talent, so stop delaying and start doing! 🙂


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