The End of "The Boiling Point"
I've been considering this seriously for over two years now, but I'm not ashamed to say that when I came to my final decision yesterday and notified my major remaining clients via email there was indeed some uncontrollable sobbing on my part.
I've been drawing political cartoons since high school. I started drawing them regularly again in college with a vengeance in 2001 (which is when I started this blog) and I've been drawing them professionally for newspapers and paying web clients since 2002. Over the years my cartoons have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, The Guardian, Boston Phoenix, Bay Windows, Metro Times, The Rochester Insider, Women's eNews, In These Times, Ms., The Funny Times, Campus Progress, Girlfriends, The Minnesota Women's Press, and other assorted fine publications. I've been interviewed by NPR and the BBC, appeared in art exhibitions such as "She Draws Comics: A Century of Women Cartoonists" and come in third place in the Detroit SPJ Journalism Awards for editorial cartooning. This past fall I was elected Vice-President of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists (a position I'll hold until this September).
So why am I quitting? It's not as if the world is running any lower on evil wars, economic injustice, environmental disaster, homophobia, transphobia, racism, misogyny... And while he's no Bush, I'm certainly no big fan of Obama.
- The political cartooning market sucks. This is really no secret. I started out in 2002 with one paying client, the Boston Phoenix. Over the years I picked up and dropped more, and at my peak I was appearing regularly in six or seven print papers. In the past two years, as my clients eliminated or cut their political cartoon content, that number dwindled down to two, and finally, just one (the Metro Times). I did have a few fabulous web clients, but my cartooning income had halved, then quartered itself.
- The relentless deadlines. There are no vacations or sick days in freelance weekly alternative political cartoons. When I had pneumonia in 2003... I had to draw or risk losing my papers. When I had severe carpal tunnel problems in 2008, my husband Masheka had to illustrate my cartoons for me. I had to draw a cartoon the morning for before my wedding and while on my honeymoon. Sometimes you need to take a break--but you just can't. (And yes, I know I could have drawn some extra cartoons and saved them up for a rainy day, but still!).
- I'm just TIRED. And it's not just because I'm hugely pregnant and exhausted all the time, though that certainly doesn't help. I've tried to develop a thick skin and ignore or laugh at the nasty hate mail, the "hope U burn in hel" and "you can't draw" and "you uggly dike bitch I hop the papers cancel you're stupid cartoons" letters and comments, but after a while, it gets a girl down. I wasn't getting paid enough for that kind of abuse.
- I need to make room for other things (and a tiny new person) in my life. I have a lot of other passions and projects I've been wanting to tackle over the years, but drawing political cartoons in addition to working full time and having some vague semblance of a social life has made it difficult to pursue them fully. With the peanuts I was earning for political cartooning, I was theoretically doing it for fun--but I wasn't really having fun anymore.
I'd like to do a graphic novel or a cartoon book on body image issues (along the lines of my "Your Yucky Body" cartoons) someday. I love writing science fiction. I LOVE to make things, and I've recently been having an amazing, hate-mail-free time blogging about sewing and style at Polka Dot Overload.
Not to mention that Masheka and I are expecting our daughter (our first child) on June 18. I'm going to be going back to work full-time after a 12-week maternity leave, and if I'm this exhausted and finding it this hard to draw cartoons and while pregnant, I'd be foolish to imagine it would be any easier while taking care of a newborn.
Despite all that, it was still a hard decision. I'll definitely miss:
- Having a regular public outlet to express my outrage. I'm still furious and I'm still angry and I still want to fight injustice and make change in this world. But I'll just have to do that in other ways and venues.
- The fans. You are awesome. Every time in the past I thought about quitting I'd get an amazing and inspiring letter or comment or meet someone at a cartooning convention who'd been reading my work since the beginning and I'd get new energy to keep drawing.
- Hanging with fellow political cartoonists. I've loved being a part of the AAEC and Cartoonists With Attitude, and I've made some of my best friends through these groups. Obviously I'm still a cartoonist and they're still my friends, but I will miss some of the camaraderie in griping about what it's like to be a regular political cartoonist.
But as I said above, I won't miss the hate mail, the comment trolls, or the never-ending deadlines.
So what's next for me? As mentioned, I have a new blog about sewing and style for those of you who care about such things, Polka Dot Overload. And Cartoonist Baby will be here in a matter of weeks. I'll be leaving this blog and my complete cartoon archives old (1998-2008) and more recent up indefinitely.
I may post occasional political thoughts or cartoons here again, and I'll let you know about those graphic novel or book projects, but it'll probably be rather silent here for a while. For now you can always read the work of my amazing friends in CWA, folks like Ted Rall, Brian McFadden, Matt Bors, Jen Sorensen, Stephanie McMillan, Keith Knight...
Signing off for now...
Your Angry Cartoonist
P.S. A head's up and apologies in advance to my Facebook friends who are readers or fans... I'm going to be changing most friends I don't know in real life to limited profile status (or possibly just deleting), as I would like to make my Facebook page more of a private space for real-life friends and family so I can safely share photos and thoughts about my daughter when she is born in June. I hope you understand.