Rarely do I get to learn the story of people who have moved away from the comics industry. Artist and creator Thomas Boatwright is an interesting example of someone who did the comics thing for awhile but eventually, initially not entirely by choice, moved on to other ventures. As a fan of his comics I’ve been fascinated by his transition to more craft-like projects, and I think you will be, too. Check out the conversation I had with Thomas Boatwright about his comics career and what followed.
Can you briefly describe your career in comics prior to the injury?
I did self published work like Cemetery Blues through Image and Zeke Deadwood through SLG. Most of my work was work for hire freelance stuff. Nothing major. Just low paying gigs that took care of the bills. Id say the bulk was commissions.
What were some highlights during that period?
The second Zeke Deadwood issue will always be special to me. I felt like it was the first time I had something to say. While having a few jokes, it was more somber and personal.
What were some of the comics you created as both the writer and artist?
All my self-published stuff I worked with my friend Ryan Rubio. Cemetery Blues and Zeke Deadwood were the results of us as a team. He’d draft a script based on our talks, my draft was the roughs, then we’d alter things together based on that.
I first learned about you from your work on Orc Girl. Did you feel fulfilled drawing other people’s scripts?
Orc Girl was great, but otherwise no. I’ve learned I’m difficult to work with generally as if I start to get into the project, I want to start writing it, too. I have to be fully able to make changes or distance myself to the point where it’s just a job.
What caused you to no longer be able to draw regularly?
My arm basically gave out on me. Overuse and strain. Recent tests say my wrist is just inflamed all the time. I used to be one of those draw all the time artists, but now I keep it to around Monday through Friday, 9-5.
How smooth (or rough) was the transition like from comics to other projects?
Pretty easy as I was never just a comics person. I grew up just making artsy stuff. I’ve always painted and sculpted. I was trying to carve out a place for me in comics, so it was easy to stop digging and find another outlet.
Has your comic fanbase made the transition over to your new projects?
For the most part, yes. Whoever hasn’t followed me have been replaced and multiplied by even more passionate fans. Everyone has been very supportive of what I’m doing.The only thing holding me back is myself now as I relearn things and build up my brand.
What drove you to those new projects? Something like puppets seems like a big leap from comics.
I’ve always crafted. I just like creating and telling stories. I sort of figured the mechanics of comics out, so moving into new mediums like theatre and video is exciting. In some ways it’s easier. With a puppet for instance, you make the one, and then act through it. You can emote a lot just waving a doll around in front of your iPhone.
People sometimes refer to Patreon as an online tip jar, but based on the rewards yours seems like a lot of work. Do you find it worth the effort?
I did offer a lot too quickly at first. Patreon is a tremendous resource once you work out what you can give back. Right now it’s mostly behind the scenes and work in progress. As I start making content again, be it videos, or books, I can offer them to a wider group online.
Have you discovered any non-financial benefits to a Patreon campaign?
It does drive me to stay on track. My patrons are always on my mind and I’m constantly thinking of something extra to give them. My current major reward is a craft of the month thing. So it’s pushed me to make 13 of the same item each month. So a series of puppets this month and the last month was making pop-up cards. Learning and sharing small things. It’s a tip jar and something of a small education in business, too.
Do you ever wish to return to comics on a more regular basis?
Not on a regular basis, no. If a story hits me that needs to be told in comic, I’ll do it. But I spent so much energy pursuing comics for money, I ruined the joy of them for myself. I barely can even read one now.
Whether it’s comics, animation, puppets or something else, how do you attain a sense of satisfaction through your art
Personally, seeing to completion is a great satisfaction. Even if it’s not exactly how I wanted it, I can learn from the experience and apply it to the next thing. And I suppose it’s egotistical, but seeing others take joy in what I’ve created definitely drives me to do more. Art is equal parts hubris and self-hate.