by Barefoot Justine
I remember having no talent.
I remember how, as a young college freshman, I couldn’t even understand composition. To my ignorant ears, it sounded a lot like pretentious abstract nonsense. What a fool I was, but what did I know.
I remember how as a young student I worried incessantly about whether or not I had my own “style.” Of course, I should have been working harder on fundamentals. Not only do I remember it, but I regret it. Style forms itself around the fundamentals, but never fundamentals around style.
I remember all the long nights I wasted in the basement of my best friend’s house–what a mess that person was, dead now–watching the dumbest stuff on TV. God, if I could get all those hours back. Once time is wasted, it’s never coming back. Opportunities are like that too, once wasted, gone forever.
I remember meeting P. Craig Russell and Val Mayerik and how they took me under their wings. I remember for the first time how it felt to trust mentors enough to do what they said without question, but even that was something I had to grow into. If I remember correctly, I was a trying student. But I do remember that once I caught on I worked like a devil to catch up. I remember that I knew I had not only a lot of catching up, but a lot of growing up to do.
I remember how my parents put every obstacle between me and my becoming a professional artist. I remember that I bulldozed through every obstacle they put in my place. I remember what it felt like to have such a fire burning in my belly, a fire so bright it blinded me to everything else. I shone like a demon but flew like an angel.
I remember all the work I did, all the lonely nights tracing and drawing, and working on my own comics. I remember the dark lonely hours.
I remember when it all finally started to show on the paper. I remember how I began to bleed all I had internalized in my studies through each line.
I remember how grand it was to get published, and to be a working artist.
I remember how it felt to have realized a dream out loud.
I remember how when I met Frank Thorne and he tried to convince me of Hal Foster’s mastery and genius… how I simply couldn’t see it. The work was old-fashioned, had no style, and was boring. What a fool I was. Frank had cast his pearls before swine, and the swine had been me. I have repented Frank! I have see the light! Hal Foster was, as you knew with such certainty, a God among men. I remember the fool I was, but will never forget what I have gained in wisdom.
I remember how much it hurt that the better I got and the more my work matured, the more my audience lost interest. I remember being heartbroken. I remember aching and crying.
I remember when I broke, gave up, sold my art supplies.
I remember every moment of those two years I spent in exile in South Korea, drinking my life away and illegally gigging in Itaewan bars with my guitar in my lap, a pick in my right hand and empty shots at my elbow.
I remember how I suddenly felt compelled to draw. Two years it had been, and now I could draw like I had always wanted to draw, free, loose, wild, expressive, and I filled a whole book with ballpoint pen sketches of wild-eyed characters and tumorous creatures.
I remember being diagnosed with cancer. I remember how I suddenly knew that the tumor inside me had created a sense of urgency, and how the accursed thing, like a demon, had possessed me and came out in my drawings.
I remember how when the tumor was gone I had no more desire to draw.
I remember Jeffrey Jones. I will never forget how honored I was to have been your friend.
I remember hearing that Jeff Catherine Jones had died, right as I had been trying to reconnect with her. I remember how my heartache called me back to the drawing table with a vengeance.
I remember landing at SAW and becoming revitalized as an artist and as a woman with a purpose.
I remember Dan Adkins, and how I had failed to call you in the weeks before you died. My stomach hurts as I think about it, and I shake away the urge to cry. I remember how Jim Steranko had urged me to call Dan. I did not listen, Jim, and I will never forget that.
And when my students struggle, when they fail, when they make bad decisions, when they are blind, I can see in them weaknesses I would rather not remember about myself. And when I see the ones who struggle and rise above temptations, when I see them trusting and taking the hard road, I see the best of myself, and I am proud that they help me to remember that I am that strength and wisdom as well.
It is because I remember that I ache to make them see.
One day, I hope, they will remember, and will remember me.