The 21st Century is a grand time to be an artist. More than ever before, hard-working artists/illustrators/burlesque dancers are able to connect with their audience, keep in touch, sell them their wares, and more. A shining example of this model is Megan Rose Gedris, aka Rosalarian.
I've been a fan of hers for a while now— both as a creative force, and as an independent, self-employed artist. Megan has cut out a niche for herself, she's part of a thriving (smutty!) business, and she does it largely on her own. She is, in two words, my hero.
Says Rosalarian, "I've wanted to be an artist since before I was able to form memories. I remember wanting to specifically become a comic artist at 4th grade Girl Scout camp, when one of the chaperone moms was illustrating some comics during dinner, and I realized that was a thing I could be.
"I didn't really study art anywhere. I took a few classes at the local community college, but I'm mostly self-taught. I have no student loan debt, which is a nice state to be in."
"I really love drawing with pencils and ink in sketchbooks, and I love doing watercolors, but mostly, I work digitally, with a Cintiq tablet and a combination of Photoshop and ArtRage. Digital work goes faster, and since I'm usually working on several series at a time with lots of tight deadlines, speed and ease take precedent over what's the most fun."
"I won an Emmy for some animated commercials I did back when I worked for a TV station. I'd only been doing that kind of stuff for a year or so when I got nominated. I didn't think I had a shot at winning, so I was very surprised. If I'd known I might actually win, I probably would have gotten a better haircut. My hair was terrible."
I've seen no small number of fish tails swimmin' through her work, so I had to ask her: Why mermaids?
"Mermaids are always beautiful, with a hint of danger to them," says Megan. "They get to be in the water all the time, and eat lots of fish, and not wear pants."
The illustration to the left is from her independent work, Darlin' It's Betta Down Where It's Wetta, a beautifully realized piece of erotica. That's right, she's a professional smut peddler. Wanna make something of it?
In the past, Rosalarian's hard work wound up online— for free. This was not the plan, but phrasing in the contract meant it was up for grabs… for good.
"I learned what I'm worth, and I've learned to value myself. I've learned that I actually do have enough talent and drive to create things worth reading, and that's what attracted someone to try to take advantage of that. I am incredibly picky about who I work with now, and I have lawyers look at contracts. You're never too much of a small fry to have a lawyer."
To me, there are few things more respectable than a woman that owns herself, and celebrates what she loves. Even if it's Burlesque! Hell, especially if it's Burlesque.
[Seen here, with nachos.]
"I've been doing burlesque with Super Happy Funtime for about three years now. It's nice to be involved in an art form that is very much a collaborative effort, since drawing comics is such a solo thing the way I do it. It's just like making dirty comics. Take any ol' scenario, find a reason for people to be naked. That's entertainment!"
"Filthy Figments is a comic porn site where all of the content is drawn by women, with a female audience in mind. It's opens to readers of all genders, but women are our primary audience," says Gedris.
"Gina Biggs, the gal who runs and founded it, asked me out of the blue one day if I'd like to be part of this project she was working on. I don't know that I'd publicly admitted to really wanting to draw dirty comics, so I have no idea how she knew I'd enjoy the hell out of it, but I was incredibly happy to be asked. Gina is such a fantastic person to work with, one of those people I trust to do right by me always."
If you haven't seen it yet, go grab an eyeful of Amanda Palmer's wonderful TED Talk on The Art of Asking. It lays out what it's like to be a creative artist; struggling or otherwise. This is the age of digital media, and yeah— it's too easy nowadays to simply download someone's hard work. But if you've worked hard to build an audience, a fanbase, then you can simply ask them to help support the good work you're doing.
It's no different whether you're a musician, a writer, or a graphic artist: ya gotta eat. Where some folks employ Kickstarter to generate funds on individual projects, other artists— like Rosalarian— never really stop working. That's why there's Patreon.
"Patreon is a way for readers to help support creators who make things they love. So many internet creators do things for free, and happily, but it reaches a stage where you realize you could do more if you were making money from your efforts. If you don't need to work a day job or spend a lot of time on commission work, it frees you up to do cooler things, and more often. Plus, readers actively want to support artists they like. Long before Patreon, I had people asking how they could give me money for what I do.
"They'd just paypal me money out of the blue because they liked what I was doing, and they were smart enough to know that money can keep a project alive. I'm that kind of reader, myself, though I always wondered if it was just because I'm also a creator. Turns out, lots and lots of people understand that art is worth investing in."
"Right now, I'm gearing up for another couple of burlesque tours, hitting up the Midwest and Texas in October and Florida in December.
"I'm looking forward to the latest Smut Peddler and Monster Anthology books to be in print, since I have short stories in those. Mostly, I'm looking forward to things slowing down a bit so I can draw even more comics. I've "only" been drawing about 30 pages a month lately."
It's hard enough, finding the means to express yourself— let alone deciding what it is you're going to say. Whether or not you believe 100% in what you can do isn't always the deciding factor. Sometimes, it's just a matter of knowing where to start.
So write. Draw. Paint. Sing. Play guitar. Shake what your mamma gave ya, before a live audience, if that's your thing.
'I have something worth sharing.' That's the first thought, the first impulse. You go from there, in any of a thousand directions. The steps aren't always easy, but the fruits of your work— sharing something you put time and effort into because there was a 'your work' shaped gap in the internet, or on the bookshelf… Damn.
I am personally inspired by Megan Rose Gedris. I happen to like what she does. I'd like to do that sort of thing (self-drawn, short run webcomics) myself, if I'm honest.
This isn't about me, though. It's about an artist that does what she loves for a living, who's connected with her audience, and just keeps on going— project after project after project.
Take what inspiration from this that you will: For an artist, for a business model, hell. For a person. She's pretty cool.
[All artwork courtesy of Megan Rose Gedris. You can visit her Patreon page here.]