Crafting my Hustle: What I Learned from Visiting Artists at CCAD!

Laurenn McCubbin, Tanisha Robinson, Spike Trotman, Molly Crabapple, and R Stevens at Thursday's panel!

By Colleen Clark

This past weekend, CCAD hosted an AMAZING three-day symposium, called "Crafting Your Hustle," featuring four visiting artists. I may be biased (two of the artists focus on comics and one is my new boss...) but I found this to be an invaluable addition to my knowledge and motivation concerning my career.

Two CCAD faculty members, Charlotte Belland and Laurenn McCubbin, organized the entire event, which included workshops, lectures, panel discussions, a networking mixer, and studio visits. The artists were:

Molly Crabapple, known for her political, journalistic work with Marvel and DC Comics, The New York Times, The Paris Review, CNN, The Guardian, The Daily Beast, Der Spiegel, VICE.

R. Stevens, known for Diesel Sweeties, an incredibly popular and influential web and newspaper comic that has been consistently updated since 2000.

Spike Trotman, known for Templar, Arizona, an awesome and long-running webcomic. Spike has also edited several comics anthologies and is a master of crowd-funding. She is a genius at independent marketing.

And Tanisha Robinson, co-founder of Print Syndicate LLC, and an overall incredibly business-savvy local business owner. She contrasts with the other artists because she employs artists and collaborates with them instead of marketing herself independently.

Molly Crabapple with my portfolio during our studio visit.

Each of these artists learned how to become successful by "crafting their hustle," aka learning how to market their unique skills. On Thursday March 6, there was a large panel discussion, where I learned a lot about making money and projects through crowd-funding, taking jobs you don't necessarily love and making something special from them, and inserting yourself into a marketable area that isn't already saturated with artists. The main idea, in summary, was that an artist entering a struggling economy has to figure out how they are going to make themselves stand out. This is a lesson that has been reiterated to me time and time again from my teachers and peers, but it still feels refreshing when talking with artists who have made incredible reputations for themselves outside of the CCAD community.

Here are some specific quotes from the panel that taught me a lot:

"Being perpetually dissatisfied is an important part of ambition." — Spike Trotman

"I don't have an employable personality, so I became an employer, an entrepreneur." — Tanisha Robinson

"Ten things done are better than one thing that is perfect." — R. Stevens

"You want to seduce the whole world with your art." — Molly Crabapple

"You have to make good, consistent work consistently [in order to keep a following]" — Tanisha Robinson

And my personal favorite, "Persistence will get you places that being a prodigy won't." — Spike Trotman

Each of these people found an avenue in the cultural world that needed art. They each figured out how to translate their dedication to their artistic skill into dedication towards finding out what kind of art the world was demanding. This was INCREDIBLY inspiring to me, because I find myself lost when thinking, "who will ever want to buy my art? whose life will be affected by this, who am I making this for?" Each of these entrepreneurs are so successful because they found that out first.

Spike Trotman speaking with some students about her career.

I got the incredibly lucky opportunity to meet with Spike and Molly in one-on-one studio visits on Saturday, and these were invaluable moments that I will remember forever. Spike gave me lots of advice on how to become independent with my art, how to keep in contact with my online followers without losing their interest, and how often to make things to keep improving. I was so nervous for her to look at my artwork, but she told me she had seen it before, and she actually quoted one of my comics by heart! This made me almost throw up I was so flattered. It was a huge confidence boost to see that my work was remembered by someone so successful in what I do.

Molly gave me incredible and thoughtful feedback as she looked through my portfolio, letting me know which things to keep in and leave out. I loved hearing her talk about how she got to where she is and what inspires her to make art, because I want to get involved in political causes with what I do too. The main things she emphasized to me were persistence and amplifying marginalized voices in my art. Her art has truly made a difference in the world, and she is one of my journalism heroes. I can't believe I actually got an opportunity to meet with her.

After the weekend was over, I felt inspired and excited about my career. As I'm sure you're sick of hearing if you know any college seniors, especially in art school, my career is starting right now. I spend most days feeling terrified and unprepared. But when I get out of scary senior-land and see stories like these, I start to realize there are very definite steps I can take towards success. Thank you so much CCAD, Lauren McCubbin, and Charlotte Belland for this opportunity!

Colleen Clark is a CCAD senior majoring in Illustration who wishes Star Trek was real. She loves comics, puppies, anything involving Tina Fey, and sharing her art and thoughts through her online blog