Over the course of my life, so far, I’ve had two Art Families. And I miss them both.
An Art Family is a close-knit social circle of artists, whether it’s visual or performing, who bounce ideas off one another or create art together and generally support each other in a beautiful mixture of friendship and creativity. At least that’s my definition of an Art Family.
My first Art Family was during the rise of the “wave” of webcomic artists that I was a part of, from approximately 2004 to about 2012. My numbers may be off, but that’s not important. I and a great number of webcomickers were all coming up at the same time, seeing each other many times over on the convention circuit. Even if we didn’t follow each others’ works to the page, we enjoyed our collective company and did what we could to help each other out. We split hotel rooms, dinners, and sometimes convention tables. On a few occasions we hosted each other at our apartments when a big show was in someone’s “home turf.” I looked forward to seeing this crew during various shows throughout the year, and I felt a true sense of belonging among them.
But nothing lasts forever. More and more of us took on other jobs or responsibilities, achieved that Next Level of comics where you score a publisher or get hired for writing jobs, or simply moved to another part of the country (or the world), and soon I would see less and less of the old crew on the convention circuit. These days I barely see any of my Art Family on the road, which is where I still like to be, selling my work in person. I miss those days, and I miss seeing that crew as regularly as I did.
My second Art Family was formed during my time as a host for a local burlesque troupe. As much as I love making comics and the visual arts, I have a serious love for the performing arts as well. Doing panels at conventions helped to scratch that itch a little, but that was more public speaking than performance. When I was asked to be a regular host for this troupe after doing guest hosting and being an extra body in a piece, I was elated. I got to perform again. I met dancers, actors, circus performers, and wonderful backstage crews. We came to know each other and I considered many of them close friends. We supported each other not only by performing together, but by attending other productions we would be separately involved in. It was some of the most exciting times of the five years I was involved with them.
But nothing lasts forever, and this Art Family didn’t separate through the natural progression of time and circumstance. My time with this Art Family ended in a proverbial divorce, in a messy series of events regarding social politics and drama. I was not ready for it to end so abruptly, and though this happened almost ten years ago now, the scar remains a deep and painful one on my heart.
I miss them both terribly. The time I had with my Art Families was precious, not only in terms of artistic support but of personal growth and learning. A good Art Family will uplift and enrich you… but like all relationships, it comes with the risk of heartbreak, whether through a natural dissolution or the equivalent of a bad breakup.
But we humans are social creatures, and the reward is often worth the risk and even the injury. Some of my fondest memories of the past twenty years include my time with those Art Families, and I wouldn’t trade them for anything.