Another non-starving artist? It’s more likely than you think

By Tonia Cowan

Tonia's trip to the beach.

Tonia works a floor below me at the Globe, which means we are contractually obligated not to speak to each other. We do cross paths every once in a while though, most recently when the power went out and we were packed into an emergency newsroom together.

That got me wondering how you get to be a professional drawer at a huge newspaper (and a blogger). So, I asked her.

So you draw for a living. Is that what you always wanted to do?
Yes. It was one of a series of ambitions that I’m working my way through. It rose to the top when I was five and my grandmother pointed out that it wasn’t a respectable profession. Rodeo clown is my next ambition, but even my grandmother would have acknowledged their importance to society.

Tonia.

Did you think you’d end up at a newspaper when you were a kid?
Oddly, yes. My grandfather was an editor at the Hamilton Spectator when I was small. I thought it was the most glamorous and intellectual profession in the world. But I came at it the long way round. Painter, artist at Newsweek, then newspapers.

If you could do any type of graphic design for a living, what would it be? What’s your dream project?
Uh, I’d like to make web animations that are not relevant to anyone and yet make me a gazillion dollars.

Did people tell you you’d have to stop drawing and get a real job someday?
Nobody has ever said that. Well, not in the past year or two anyway. The one-in-a-million shot is such a part of our culture that everyone will say “Go for it” or “Be true to your dreams.” I think that you have to go with your gut instinct.
The bigger threat to the artist is the romantic notion that you have to be in opposition to society. It doesn’t matter how conceptual your work is, at some point you are in business and have the right to protect your interests and buy yourself a martini now and again. The trick is not to let anyone else define what you should be/earn/draw.
I try to separate the things I do into quadrants a) makes money for me and my employer b) makes money for just me c) makes money for nobody, but is consistent with my bedrock creative impulses d) annoys intentionally, but makes me laugh.

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