It's not for the feint of art
Over the past couple of weeks I've been working as a lighting technician on The Last Bordello, a co-production between the Tron Theatre and Fire Exit. Like all of the Fire Exit shows I have been involved with in the past, it's intelligent and thought provoking, it has moments of hilarity and points of hangover black brutality, and you should see it if you possibly can. After the opening night performance I was lucky enough to bump into some theatre type people that I haven't seen in a long time and find out what they're doing with their lives now. There was one conversation that has stuck in my head, with Amy Conway.
Amy and I were at university at the same time and we worked on a lot of student theatre productions together (the kindest thing I can tell you about said productions is that they were almost certainly not as good as we all thought they were), but we probably haven't actually seen each other for more than 10 years. Amy told me about her show, Super Awesome World, which she's performing as part of the Vault Festival and then taking it on tour (I'll be on a different tour and can't make any of the shows, so if even one person could go and support her on my behalf that'd be ace!), and I told her a bit about my plans for current and future comic book projects. I made a comment along the lines of 'If I can EVER make any money from comics it's not going to happen any time soon.' We agreed that making a living creating art of any sort is always hard and unreliable, particularly at the start of your career. I made another comment, something like 'I'm in quite a nice position actually, I've been making just enough money to get by with my technical work, and it's given me time to be able to work on some of my own writing and artwork'. Amy got a look on her face, a look that I read as a downtrodden 'Oh, that must be nice for you, I'm finding this a real struggle.' Now, as much as I'd find it useful, I'm not telepathic so maybe my reading was way off base. I felt bad and started going on about how I think it's probably easier to make a living on the technical side of theatre and a bunch of other semi-backtracking statements. And this is what I have been thinking about over the past few days.
I think making any piece of art is incredibly personal, or at least any piece that you genuinely give a shit about. Creating something and showing it to people can be scary enough, they're literally judging your thoughts and ideas. If you're going further than that and essentially trying to convince people that they should spend their money listening to those ideas, and you're relying on that money, that's a level of scary self exposure that I kinda can't get my head round. I make money doing something that I find interesting and fun but I'm not so passionate about it that it makes me really stressed out. I get to create art on my own terms, in my own time and, while I've come to enjoy showing my work to other people, ultimately I do it for me and me alone and if anyone wants to argue I get to say 'I really couldn't give two shits what you think about me or my work' (yes, you specifically) safe in the knowledge it will have no significant impact on the quality of my life. In reality I don't know how well Amy feels her work is going (something that, I think, is more important than how successful other people think she is), and I'm just now realising all of these thoughts are based on one facial expression that I saw after at least two pints and a whisky but basically what I'm getting at is this: Amy IS Super Awesome and she's doing something with her life that is BRAVE AS FUCK and I can't say for sure that I could do it if I was in her shoes.
Also, if I was in her shoes I'd get sore feet.