Peer groups are important for artists.
This is something I said in a recent blog post and also on a couple of podcasts and once to my dogs.
As creators we are full of self doubt. It’s hard to remind ourselves to stop and take a step back, sleep on something, or look at a project from the outside. Our audiences are happy to provide feedback, but they also have contradicting opinions. Our family and friends have supported us to this point and we can no longer rely on them to be objective. They love us and want us to do well and they will always be impressed by what we do.
Since we can’t trust ourselves, or closest friends and family or our audiences to guide up through making sound decisions that lead to creative growth, to whom can we turn? Our peer groups. People who are in the same boat as us. Kindred spirits that are also looking for a second set of eyeballs, a reassurance of direction or a blunt critique.
This has all been said before, by me, to many. Several times. What I’ve never explained is HOW to find a peer group—something that was brought to my attention by a very sincere email this week.
“You say form a peer group. How?”
I feel terrible because I don’t have a solid answer for anyone. And it’s made me realize that my telling aspiring cartoonists to form a peer group is just like when my mother would tell me to “try to make friends” as I would head off into the hell-mouth that was my junior high school. Kind of pointless and really annoying.
I’ve been very lucky to encounter creative people who want to help me grow and whom I want to help in return. People tell me that I forget sometimes how easy I have it. That always ruffles my feathers because it feels like their discounting all the hard work I’ve done along the way. But I think understand their point. It is easier for me now. I’ve done all the work and now I’m experiencing the fruits of that work. But for someone who has the work ahead of them, telling them “Just ask Mike or Jerry, that’s what I’d do.” is kind of dumb and shitty.
I will say that most of the people that I’ve met that have formed my peer groups over the years are people I reached out to. No more complex than approaching them at cons, dropping them a line or an email or a facebook message. You might be surprised, if your work is compelling, who pings you back. I certainly was. And many times I made a life-long friend in the process.
In the meantime, may I suggest Webcomics.com. I know that sounds self-serving, but we did build the thing to help with this exact problem.