As a kid, Hiroaki Komura loved to draw, but as an adult he found himself working as an auto mechanic instead of an artist. This happens to a lot of people. Not necessarily becoming auto mechanics, but drifting away from art in favor of more practical pursuits, or ones we perceive as more practical. I used to draw for hours a day when I was a child, but by the time I hit high school I began to meet resistance from my peers and to sense in the world little need for my meagre talents.
But we need art to keep beauty alive in a cold, mechanistic world, I told myself and anyone else who would listen. Great, the world replied, but can you eat art? I made a stab at becoming an illustrator by enrolling in the graphic design program at the University of Georgia, but despite having some top-notch illustrators as instructors and a chance to phone interview one of my idols, Jack Davis, the program's emphasis on page layout and typography-- the head of the program was a calligrapher, the most admired professor the creator of the Legacy typeface-- I came away disheartened, disillusioned and with my confidence badly shaken.
Low-paying "ad building" jobs at a couple of newspapers and another as a graphic artist at the university followed. I worked on art in my spare time, auditioned as an artist for an online web series called "Barbarian Moron" (I would have gotten it if I'd had Flash animation skills, darn it!) and did t-shirt designs for bands. I applied for jobs with game companies, with comics companies, wrote and re-wrote comic book series proposals and mailed them in with all the proper forms. By my mid-30s, I was living in Japan and teaching English, apparently destined to be just a comic book blogger rather than a creator. I still draw and I still write comics when I can find the time, though.
Komura got around the time management thing by just quitting his job and drawing. The thought of taking off a year and just devoting myself to my art is pretty tempting, but not very realistic. Harper Lee, for example, didn't just sequester herself and pump out To Kill a Mockingbird. She did that after friends offered her a year's salary so she could write uninterrupted each day. That's not going to happen for me, and even if it did, there's the matter of personal inertia. Would I buckle down and do the work when I've only done so haphazardly in all this time? I had my chance when I was working part-time and didn't make the most of it, so I have no one to blame but myself for not getting into the field.
Inker Bob McLeod told me on Facebook I have talent, but it confused him that I hadn't made more of an effort to get into the industry. I thought about my biography and while I can find all kinds of moments where I allowed other options to get me off track, the simple answer is I just didn't try hard enough. This guy Komura, on the other hand, made a gutsy decision and now he's living his dream.
I mean, being an auto mechanic is a pretty cool gig, too, but if you have art inside you, the only thing to do is to buckle down and make art. Make time, complete jobs. Mike Baron once wrote you should draw in your sketchbook as if you're getting paid to do it. Or something like that.
So learn from Hiroaki Komura and from me-- chase that dream!