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The Two-Headed Artist

Two-Head Artist

I remember when I first started freelance illustration at age 19, I didn’t realize at first that it was a business. My lavish accounting system consisted of a shoebox. Anything I thought I needed to save went into the shoebox.

Fast forward 2 years, 2 tax audits and many hard lessons. I found myself an accountant who specialized in artists. Learned that keeping track of expenses and claiming them could reduce your taxable income. That keeping track of receivables was as important as expenses. What comes in, what goes out. I started reading every book I could on business. When computers first came out, I had one with records of all my clients, what they paid, what they liked, the names of their children… etc. How your signature was not only claiming your art, but also how you did business. I vowed to become a good businessman as well as artist.

Fast forward 7 to 8 years, I’m running productions, handling a staff and payroll ( with the help of a bookkeeper) expanding my studio space and offices. Dealing with banks, lines of credit, etc. Then Rocko happened. Lawyers, contracts, investment brokers, agents, publicists. I was so into the way that business was done, I took over the role as line producer, as well as all the other art jobs. I was convinced that the more control I maintained, the more the show would be as I envisioned it. But it turned crazy real fast. I was handing off more and more of the fun creative stuff. I got very grumpy. Yelled a lot. Scowled.

What you find, is that the inspired mind and soul that creates art, is a different spirit from the side of you that crunches numbers, hires and fires people, creates schedules and such. Sitting in network meetings, going over licensing ( No Rocko can’t have shoelaces. That would make the toy cost too much). I quickly felt a loss of my creative side. That was one of the reasons I stepped away for the 4th season.

I believe that is the reason I always have a few years between ending a show and creating a new one that is inspired. But how can we remain tapped into that source while handling the business side of what we do? It’s necessary to keep books, keep track of expenses , do a profit and loss statement every month. But what I found was to try and do that one or two days a month of you can. If you can afford it, hire a freelance bookkeeper, and a reasonably priced accountant. Keep it compartmentalized. Then clear it out. Meditate if you do that sort of thing, or take a good walk or bike ride. Plug back in.

A lot of artists like to have agents handle the business end. That works for some, but it never has for me. So I can’t speak to that. ( and if any agent asks you to pay them to represent you, run away. An agent should be paid based on the amount of work they get for you.)

And if opportunities are presented that might end up being too much business, deadlines, client grief etc.. weigh that against what you would give up with your creative flow. I’m still learning how to adjust. Thats one reason why I moved to Belgium, bought a farmhouse, and I will be working in my studio without a staff or lawyers.

Clear it out. Connect back in.

3 Responses

  1. Thats crazy Joe so which was better for you your office in Los Angeles belguim or both either way don’t care also what software do you use to animate Luna adobe animate or something else and when did you stop using cels also hope all is well

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