Okay! I’ve written plenty enough about the self employment part of “Self Employment for Bohemians”. Let’s get on to the Bohemian part.
I have maintained self employment for a specific reason, to buy myself time to do whatever the fuck I want. And it turns out I want to draw and publish comic books. A lot. More than anything else! Not kiddy comic books mind you, but comics as a means of personal expression.
It was my very good fortune, as an undergraduate, to attend a university that had a daily student newspaper offering comic strip slots to four or five kids at a time. It didn’t pay, and you didn’t get credit, but damn! You got to drop your pants in public every day of the school year in front of 20,000 fellow students! So it was that I penned a daily strip, “Aluminum Foil”, for the Massachusetts Daily Collegian from ’76 to ’79. Talk about growing up in public. Nail a good, funny strip and get instant kudos! Hand in a dog of a joke, and you are an instant goat! Fair is fair.
The editors were concerned with covering campus news and building a good resume for themselves, and consequently had a very hands off policy towards student cartoonists. Fine with me. I got very used to having it my way. I took the opportunity to exercise my imagination and develop my chops. Not that they were so darn great, but anyone who draws 400 plus daily comic strips is bound to improve, at the very least!
Upon graduation, I was convinced that the world of professional cartooning would open up to me, via some magic process that I was pretty vague about. To say I was naïve is an understatement! It didn’t happen, that’s for sure.
However, being a do I yourself type of person, I determined to jump right into publishing with a collection of my college strips. Although greener than green about printing, publishing and related matters, I did manage to finance and publish “Benb & Gerald”, with a run of 500 books. I was able to actually sell most of the run within six months, a pleasantly successful first effort.
This was twenty five years ago right about now, in the winter of 1980 (I’d graduated UMass in December ’79). In the ensuing years, I’ve published on the order of sixty plus comic books, magazines, graphic novels and the like. More important than the publishing, I have pushed myself to the limits of my abilities on a sustained basis, engaging in the process of making art as a matter of habit. For me, the decision to lead the life of the artist is a matter of process and ritual. It is my particular method of being fully human, fully aware, and fully alive.
I take it as a matter of faith that the muse will show up if I do. Engaging in the process of making art on a regular basis is a ritual invocation of “the other”. It has always been my intent to induce a psychic state where I can access the deepest pools of self, psyche, spirit, and collective unconscious. The beauty of it is, one never knows what is on the menu. If you are willing to open up to communion with “the other”, anything can and will happen. The process of making art is a path to the ecstatic, the path to truth, and the path to direct knowing.
For what it’s worth, the ideas coming out of my process could be on any subject. I do have a reputation for writing about the nature of reality and the human psyche, true enough. But the muse tosses everything from political slapstick to the pitfalls of addiction my way as subject matter, so it is indeed a wide open field I frolic in.
Anyhow, I could go on here about the ups and downs of my cartoon career, the ins and outs of various characters and books… hell, I frankly don’t have the juice for such a big recapitulation just this minute! I’ll take the easy way out, and implore you to visit my web site, where there is at least some information about Steve and his goddamn comic books: http://www.stevelafler.net/
Thanks for indulging the artist statement here in my how-to business primer!