This is probably going to be a long read. Mainly it is written for those people from way back who originally invested in Deep Breaths, but I think it will also function as a general update. I appreciate that you guys have stuck by me without too much nagging about the comic for so long, and I really would love it if you guys would take the time to read this letter. It’s from the heart.
First off, I want to thank you all so much. You gave me a portion of your hard-earned money in the hope that I would be able to return comics to the world for you to view. Unfortunately, I also have to say that I am extremely sorry that I haven’t been able to do so.
There were a lot of events that went toward what I see as one of my worst personal failures (so far), that is my failure to deliver a timely comic for your investment. I think the biggest contributing factor though is that, looking back, I can see that I was not really ready to move to California when I did, and once I could no longer afford to either continue my Master’s Degree or move back east to a cheaper state, things got a lot more complicated for me.
Some years ago when I first attempted to start Deep Breaths, I was still in school, and I still thought that I would be able to fairly easily find a decent job in the animation industry. However, the recent economic climate has not been kind to late-20-somethings who never got a chance to “pay their dues,” so to speak, by taking a low-paying, entry-level position. After some time, I began to realize that to stay afloat and begin to pay back my mountain of student loan debt, I could no longer even accept an entry-level position; they simply do not pay enough money. It seemed (and still seems) like the career that I spent so much time and effort attempting to achieve is no longer open to me.
I’ve had a few terrible jobs here and there along the way, but generally they paid less even than I could make from commissions, often in addition to taking all my free time that might otherwise be spent doing art. So it has been a very long struggle. Not only have I been battling my way through my own financial minefield, but I have also been battling my own somewhat extreme depression. I had to deal with not only the career and financial issues, but also issues with my family who are (at least in my parents’ generation) fundamentalist Christians, who don’t even want to hear that I’m gay, much less that I’m a furry artist living in California with my boyfriend.
Perhaps I am not personally to blame for the way the job market is and was when I graduated from an expensive art school, or the way my family has reacted to me, but it is very easy to think of myself as a failure. I’ve failed as a computer animator, which was my biggest dream back in the day. I’m not so sure I even care much about that anymore; corporate studio art positions are notoriously stressful, time-consuming and competitive. I’ve struggled to make a meager living doing furry art commissions, but I can’t really say that I’m financially successful. And for quite a long time, I’ve also failed as a comic artist, even after a bunch of awesome people tried to fund me for a month or two to do it. Always it just seems that life and finances just get in the way of me being able to do the art that I think will be most gratifying.
Several times, I have tried to devote time solely to working on Deep Breaths. Each time, I have been able to complete a few pages, and then life seems to snap me back to the regular grind. Once I can finally devote time and effort to the project again, it seems that my art has changed enough that I would have to start Deep Breaths over again anyway. I feel like I’ve been stuck in a loop that I just can’t seem to get out of.
Even now, when things are getting marginally better, I still feel like I can never quite make enough money to have anything at all leftover at the end of the month, or to put much of anything towards my own personal sanity. I work at home, so a lot of the time I’m by myself. I have no car to visit friends, and I live far enough away from things that even public transport is not a viable option for me getting out of the house. Even online friendships are a challenge for me, since at the end of a long day of working at a computer I usually cannot even consider spending more time staring at a screen for social purposes. I used to play video games socially and go out with friends, but as I spend more and more time on my art trying to make ends meet, those extra things seem more and more like parts of a past life.
I don’t think that these things are necessarily a good excuse, but hopefully I can at least explain a little bit of my mind and the circumstances that I think have brought me to this juncture. I have a ton more experience as an artist now, to be sure, and that’s a good thing. I’m better at managing money and time, and if nothing else I can at least say that even in this dark economic time, moving into a potentially dark political time, I have still at least been able to barely keep afloat through my own business. But I need a change. I am beginning to feel very strongly that I either need to figure out how to make my art actually viable in a long-term sense, or to figure out something else to do for a living. For obvious reasons, I’d rather try to make my art viable.
I’ve gone back and forth on this, especially since I have not been able to devote time to Deep Breaths as I originally had wanted, and I still deeply regret it. I think in the end though, if I am ever going to be able to do it for real, then I need a change. I think Patreon could help provide that for me.
At this point if I am going to make this life viable for myself, I need to change up my business plan. I honestly think that as much as people enjoy getting commissions from me, and I enjoy doing commissions, it is time to start transitioning to a business plan that would allow me time to work on my own projects, such as Deep Breaths, while ALSO fulfilling at least some of the day-to-day financial needs. I will still continue to take some commissions (as I probably always will) but it would certainly be nice to do commissions less often, and maybe if I’m a little less stressed about finances all the time, I could enjoy the commissions more and put more TLC into them.
So I have decided that I will launch my own Patreon page, April being the month of my 30th birthday. What better way to mark a new decade in my life than by (hopefully) introducing a way for me to work on my own art that I can be passionate about, be a little bit happier, and receive a bit of money each month to work on my own personal projects?
At first, a lot of what goes up on the Patreon feed will be some stuff that I’ve already done in relation to Deep Breaths and other personal projects, as well as sketches and other WIPs from continuing commissions. I will also be hosting at least one live stream of 3-4 hours every month, where I will work on streaming commissions, and be available to answer questions. Anything that I make through Patreon, though, will first be used for two things. First, I will fully color the 15-page comic, Open Road, that I did for Heat 13, with the same main characters from Deep Breaths. These colored pages will not be posted anywhere but the Patreon feed. Secondly, after I have completed coloring, I have made plans with a printer to use all proceeds to fund the printing of a book. This book will be equal parts Open Road comic and Deep Breaths artbook, with much of the art that I’ve done here and there through the years, showing how my art has evolved. This artbook will be sent to all my original backers who gave $15 or more. For those who gave more, I will also send the prints that were originally part of the rewards, and possibly either a t-shirt or a wall scroll with Deep Breaths artwork.
After I’ve done this stuff to fulfill at least some of the rewards to the original backers, I will use the proceeds to devote time to working on Deep Breaths, and perhaps other comics in perpetuity. Those who gave enough to have their characters appear in the background of Deep Breaths panels will still get that; I just need to use Patreon to move forward from here and not get distracted from the project again. The more I make through Patreon, the more time I can spend on making art and comics that everybody can enjoy, including myself.
ALL original Deep Breaths backers will also have access to a mirror of the Patreon feed for one year. I have looked into it and there’s no way for me to offer freebies to people through the Patreon website, but I can post the rewards up on my own website and do it that way instead.
Finally, I can certainly understand if a lot of you are just fed up with waiting at this point. Unfortunately, I am not in a financial position right now to offer immediate refunds; however, if you are reading this as an original backer and you’re just getting more and more angry as time passes, please feel free to shoot an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and I will work with you to make a refund. It won’t be right away, but it will be as soon as possible. I hate so much that I’ve made you wait for so long and I’m willing to do what I can to make things right.
If you’ve made it this far, then thank you so much for taking the time to read! I hope this gives you a bit of an idea of where I am as an artist, and how I’m looking at moving forward from here. Be on the lookout for more info coming soon! I’m excited to see what I can do through Patreon and your help in the next decade.
So included in this post is an HD file of Kiva. This is the quality and resolution of images posted to my Patreon at the $12+ level and what all previous backers will receive. (Yes, a nude version is available if you become a Patreon.)
Other rewards include monthly 11×17” prints mailed to your house and 10% off commissions.
I will be contacting everyone who donated over the next week or so but if you don’t hear from me by then and you did donate, please email me at email@example.com with your PayPal transaction ID and/or email and date of payment.
Slainte! Prost! Salute! Na zdorovie! Cheers!