Not gonna’ lie, I’m in the middle of a pickle. I have been for at least two months now.
See, I work as a caricature artist at an amusement park. It’s seasonal employment, so I would usually work until school started up again. For the last three years, I enjoyed my job. True, there were the occasional frustrating customers and rainy days that ruined business, but I loved what I did. I felt like I was bringing joy to people, and that meant something to me.
Then came this summer. My third year of doing this job. I’m graduated and out of school, so I could stick at this caricature job longer.
I’m starting to think it might have been a mistake.
Staying as long as I have this season made me really hate my job. I hated the customers after a certain point because they would complain about my drawing or say I drew their kids’ teeth weird or (this last one happens far more often than you think) start a line that would only end an hour after the park closes.
There are other reasons, too, but suffice to say, I was really starting to not like my job.
My friends and family keep saying, “But you’re being paid to draw! It’s what you love to do! And you’re making lots of money out of it!”
This is different.
For one thing, at this job, I’m drawing things that I don’t see myself drawing in one year, let alone five or ten. Caricatures is a skill, but once you develop a good sensibility of it, there’s not much else to learn from it. It’s a field that stalls after about two or three years because you know all the tricks, and the only way to get out of the funk is to break off of whatever company you work for and start your own business. But that’s a business growth, not really an artistic one. I feel that, at this point in my caricaturing career, I have learned everything I need to learn, and there’s nothing new, no matter what the veteran artists say.
For another thing, because I’m bored with caricatures, it’s obviously not what I love to do. What I genuinely love to do is make comics, telling stories through pictures. Comics never gets old for me, and even if I feel like I know everything, someone (this time around it’s my editor, Michael Marcus) will come over and remind me how much I still need to learn. That fires me up! I love not knowing everything in comics because I love to learn and I love to draw and keep drawing and achieving! I keep trying to do better in this field because that’s what I want to do. I want to make the best comic I can!
I don’t feel this way about caricatures. Especially at an amusement park, the mentality is more like, “Find customer. Draw them. Tell a few jokes. They pay. Move on to next customer. Do this in less than five minutes.” Lately, I had the good fortune to draw caricatures at an art festival, which felt different in some ways, but the set up only differed by a few degrees: “Customer approaches. Get them on waiting list. Draw them. Chat with customer to make them comfortable. Give them sketch. Move to next person on the list. Do this in less than five minutes.”
However, and I hope you let me indulge in a little aside here, drawing caricatures at an art festival is an entirely different game to drawing at an amusement park. In fact, I’m really tempted to leave my amusement park job and draw caricatures solely at art festivals. The crowds are different, for one thing: art festival folks tend to be more understanding of the artist and make less demands than amusement park crowds (“Can you draw copies of this sketch”ers and “can you draw a family of 9″ers, I’m looking at you). Plus, art festival crowds tolerate your personality quirks more. I sang a song about Nilla Wafer Top Hats for a 13-year-old girl at the art festival and people loved it! People at amusement parks tend to give the hairy eyeball more often than not.
That being said, caricatures still feels like a process, and it’s a process I’m not sure I want to do day-in-day-out for more than four months at a time. I could barely tolerate it after three. And it’s a process that doesn’t lend itself to improvement over time in any way.
For those of you readers who say I’m getting paid well to do this, you’re wrong. I’m being paid EXTRAVAGANTLY WELL to do this job. Trust me, I’m sitting on more money now after four months of working than I have ever earned in any job before this.
But here’s the thing, and my friend Casey made a good point of this last time we had lunch together: You can work a job that gets you lots of money, but what will you do with it? You can’t buy happiness. Trust me, you can’t. I might have all the anime I could ever want to watch and buy whatever food and clothes I want, but that just keeps me wanting more shit. I DON’T WANT MORE SHIT. I WANT TO ENJOY WHAT I DO. While I have made more time to make comics, I feel like now my job is preventing me from working on my comics! I miss being able to brainstorm story ideas while at my work place and getting paid for it!
Ultimately, that’s why I want to leave my caricature job and work somewhere new. I’ve worked in libraries, and I’ve worked as a janitor, and I am honestly comfortable with getting either of those jobs until I get my comics off the ground and in the hands of publishers or readers. Working as a librarian or janitor suits me well: I work independently and get my shit done, but I have the ability to think as I work and I get to think about my stories and my comics. Neither of those jobs pays very well compared to working as a caricature artist, but I know I’ll be happier. That’s what matters to me.
I said earlier in this blog post that I was in a pickle. Maybe I’m not in so much of one now, since I got these feelings off my chest, but it’s still a pickle: should I work a job I loved before and now barely tolerate to keep getting good money? Or should I leave for a lesser-paying but more satisfying job?
Especially with student loan bills coming in soon? I haven’t started getting them yet, but they’ll be starting around November. Those are an entirely separate panic attack.
I’m not too concerned about if my current employer find this blog post: I already made my concerns known to them. We’ve worked together to an extent to alleviate my boredom with the job, but my managers and I are both well-aware that this job as a caricature artist is only temporary. At most, I’ll be at this job until the end of October, and then I need to go somewhere new.
So….This blog post just turned into a giant emotion dump. Blurgh. Please forgive me.