Illustration, be it sequential comic art, covers, concept work, etc. is a tough business to make a living at. I just finished my taxes and came up with some interesting numbers for the year. I'm a self-employed guy with a young son, lady, pets, and a home we own. Making ends meet is not necessarily a struggle for us, as it's an exercise in time management and juggling. My incredibly kind colleagues and art pals comment at my speed and the truth is, I cringe at how slow I think I am at times. I tend to work insanely late hours lately, though this fluctuates when needs must. I also juggle multiple projects and commissions in a delicate balance. Three Days a week I don't work; I'm a stay-at-home dad to my 2 yr old son. All of this (and taxes) got me to thinking it may be interesting to break down what it is to be an artist of my type in a few parts. Note that these are meant to just be a glimpse into things people don't really thin about when they think of art - The making of the sausage, so-to-speak. And I am super happy with my life. Sure there are times of struggle, but that's all part of life.
Part 1: Time
Time is a friend to no one. There's Just never enough. Below is an average breakdown of my usual workday. On the good days I grab something legitimate for lunch, or have dinner with the lady and son without bringing something to work on or plan out to the table. Multi-tasking, I hear, is a bad thing, but on my best days I tend to juggle and manage 4 or 5 pieces at a time. The typical work day is below - note that I didn't get to eat lunch. I've learned to make it a point to have breakfast at the very least and snack when you can through the day as healthy as possible.
Conventions are even worse when it comes to time. During the large conventions I tend to wake up around 6 or 7am, and begin to work on commissions on my list for that day. Generally I need to be at the convention around 10am, though I usually need about 30 minutes to setup and get water for watercolors, as well as stock up on drinks and snack foods. I will likely not eat until 8 or 9 PM, so I do my best to get a big breakfast each day of the con. It really is the most important meal of the day. Throughout the convention day, I will be talking to table visitors, signing autographs on work I've done that they've brought with them, or signing and selling prints and sketchbooks as well as originals. On top of that I am setting up convention sketches and any tie I am not talking to someone, (and even when I am), I am drawing and painting sketches folks have already set up with me. In the evenings at conventions, after dinner, there is really important shmooze time that is required. It's part of every industry, but there is a necessary 2 or so hours of drinks and talking to editors, writers, and fellow artists. It's where everything from industry news to potential projects are discussed. After this, I tend to head back to work on easier convention sketches (the trickier ones are best done sans alcohol). I usually crash around 3 most con nights and begin it all over again the next day for 3 days straight.
On my non-work days I tend to work from the hours of 10pm-3am as I usually have one or two projects to catch up on or a commission I need to finish up.