You Might Be An Artist If…
No, go ahead and finish that statement. It’s OK, I’ll wait.
Finished? Let me guess, if you’re not an artist, you probably said something like “…you can paint beautiful landscapes” or “…you find inspiration in everyday life.” Now, if you’re an artist, or friends with an artist, or married to an artist, there’s a good chance you had trouble finishing that thought.
Because artists are…talented, whiny, dreamers, arrogant, motivated, insecure…let’s just say, artists are complex. I could go on, but You Might Be An Artist If… by writer/artist Lauren Purje does a much better job of finishing that statement!
You Might Be An Artist If… (IDW Publishing/Top Shelf Productions)
I’m not sure if this makes me sound self-centered, but my favorite creative works have always been those I can relate to, from music and films to literature and, yes, even comics. I knew nothing about Lauren Purje, a Brooklyn-based artist, or her work before I accepted this reviewing assignment. But the title grabbed me, then the preview images enthralled me. Why? Because I’m an artist and I immediately related to what I was reading!
This new hardcover from Top Shelf Productions, an imprint of IDW Publishing, collects a series of Purje’s cartoons, which originally appeared online. Purje has a background she likely shares with similar “Artsy-Fartsy Folk” (to whom she dedicates her collection) – a BFA, time spent working in an art supply store and galleries. Oh yes, and a whole lot of conflicting emotions, based on her have-to-be-autobiographical strips.
In addition to feeling an immediate connection with these black-and-white pages, I couldn’t help but feel like I was reading a collection of visual tweets. After all, each was short, simply presented, to the point and featured a takeaway. And now I’m thinking about how insulted an artist would be if his or her work was compared to tweets. But hey, tweets are popular! The president of the United States couldn’t live without them!
The cartoons’ abbreviated structure allow Purje to make her point without having to pad out multiple panels with filler. And that’s perfect, because while these moments are clearly torn from the artist’s life, they’re presented in a way that creators from all walks of life can surely relate.
What aspiring artist hasn’t wondered how devoting time to creating art without pay, and then giving it away for free, will help them eventually earn a living (“Exposure”)? What artist isn’t burdened with incredible pressure, knowing that what they create could be the last thing they ever produce, or define humanity in the event it’s wiped out and their painting is found by future civilizations (“Almost Finished…”)? What artist doesn’t want to transform into a hungry tiger and bite someone’s head off every time this interloper makes a useless artistic suggestion (“Thank You, You’re Unwelcome”)?
There are gems like that spread throughout this collection. I’ll be honest, while I, an often petty but really, really genius creator, related to these strips, I can see how someone with no understanding of the ups and downs of the art world wouldn’t get much out of them. The term “First world problems” certainly comes to mind.
With that said, screw those people! Non-artists are lame, anyway. This is required reading for everyone from high schoolers with a gift for doodling to established illustrators.
Thinking back to my earlier statement … I guess I gravitate toward works I can relate to, such as You Might Be An Artist If…, because they achieve what all great art should – help us remember we’re not alone.