Hello my name is Leif Jones and I need to raise or earn about a thousand dollars in the next week to continue having a place to live.
I'd rather do that by selling artwork I have listed in my Etsy shop or doing art commissions, but I'm putting up this GoFundMe page as a backup. It's also here to explain in greater detail what's been going on with me and why I'm in this situation.
But if you don't want to read all that, please scroll down to the WAYS YOU CAN HELP section to see links to artwork you can buy and other helpful options. Thank you for your time.
WHO AM I?
As I wrote above, my name is Leif. You probably know me either personally, through my published artwork, or via some social network connection.
But even if you feel like you know me well, I'll bet there are some things written below that will surprise you.
That's my fault because I keep to myself way too much, and doing so hasn't been a good thing for me.
I've worked most of my adult life as a commercial illustrator, creating artwork for books, magazines, comics, and games. While on rare occasions I've worked on-site at an office with co-workers and a supervisor, nearly all of my career has been a self-employed, self-organizing, self-motivating, work-from-home endeavor.
Living with other people mostly - whether roommates, a girlfriend, or a wife - has helped keep me focused on a daily routine, which is essential for this type of work. But since late 2012 I've lived alone.
My daughter, who lives with her mother, comes to visit me a couple days a week and stays with me alternate weekends, but for the most part I'm in a situation in which only that self-discipline and self-imposed routine keeps me on track.
What makes all of this a bit more difficult is depression.
Although the more common terms are struggling with or battling depression, I haven't really done either, any more than a fish struggles with or battles water.
Until fairly recently I'd been immersed in depression so completely and for most of my life that I was mostly unaware of it. Instead I'd thought of myself (or been thought of by others) as a pessimist, shy, indifferent, moody, reticent, weird, antisocial, reserved, and maybe most commonly as an introvert. Except I'm not an introvert, I'm depressed.
Being depressed is like being a hundred pounds overweight but all that weight is inside my brain. It makes everyday tasks more difficult, like walking everywhere neck-deep in molasses. It may take me a bit longer but I can do it, and if I need to I will.
But those long-term life-improving goals, those non-essential can-wait-until-next-week-or-next-year tasks, they don't get done. Not without help, not without daily reminders from a friendly face to keep chipping away at them - that the extra-effort is worth it.
So since 2012, since the year of my divorce, what momentum I had in life slowed and eventually stopped. My financial situation went from not-that-great to bad to worse, and then into four-alarm crisis mode.
I realized last year that while I was still doing intermittent commercial illustration work and filling in the gaps with private art commissions, I wasn't doing enough.
I'd stopped attending comic conventions, stopped most face-to-face contact with other creative professionals in my field, and instead become a name that might occasionally show up on your Facebook or Twitter feed. I had to get out into the world and get a job. I needed to do it for the routine and daily momentum as much as for the money, but by that point the money was very much a concern.
You might think I'd look for work drawing pictures at an animation studio or video game company, right?
Well first of all, in order to be close to my daughter I live in a small town where no such opportunities exist. But also in the super competitive corporate art race, if most of my contemporaries looked over their shoulder they might see me as a blurry dot. Being able to draw well, while still essential, has become less important than being able to draw fast using half a dozen computer programs I probably couldn't even name.
Plus that had never been a goal of mine.
THE FAILED SOLUTION
I'd planned to take time off from full-time illustration and artwork commissions, get an hourly job of some kind, and in my spare time focus on what I really want to do: draw a graphic novel I've already finished writing.
I had even taken steps to set up a Patreon page to help support this world of comics and art I was struggling to give birth to.
In December of last year I was hired to work security at a local hospital. There were multiple interviews and training involved, background checks, oxygen mask fittings, a couple of vaccinations I found I was lacking, all of which I wasn't being paid for and was taking time away from drawing. But I figured it would balance out soon.
The pay was decent enough for someone like me without a college degree or much work experience outside of drawing pictures. And at least I wouldn't have to stress about paying bills anymore or take my work home with me.
Except California apparently has two nearly identically named security officer licenses , and while I'd paid for an online course to qualify for the correct one, the school's instructions lead me to apply for the wrong one. No one involved checked that I had the correct license until the job was already waiting for me.
I quickly reapplied for the correct license, being assured that because employment was pending the approval process would be expedited, but it wasn't and I lost the job.
By this point I'd turned down illustration work and was nearly out of money.
ASKING IS HARD
I don't like asking for help. I've been self-sufficient, without any family to support me since I was a teen.
I got my first job working at a bakery when I was thirteen, I started painting signs for local businesses when I was fifteen, and I became a self-taught full-time illustrator at age twenty-two. And now, probably because I never asked for help enough with the little things, here I am at age 46 asking for your help with the big stuff. The stuff I should have figured out by now, but haven't.
I've been told when the correct license is approved, probably somewhere between the end of March and the middle of April, bureaucracy notwithstanding, I'll qualify for a new job with the security company (or find another). But even if I started a job today - any job - my first paycheck would come long after my rent was passed due, my car registration had expired, and I'd run out of gas money to get to work.
THE TEMPORARY BUT MUCH NEEDED FIX
Right now I have money for food for a couple weeks, and enough to pay the overdue portion of my utilities so they won't be turned off this month. And that's about it. Rent, health insurance, soon-to-be-overdue utilities, car registration...none of this I can pay.
Fortunately I have plenty of art supplies, and like I said at the top of this page: I'd rather earn the money if I can. So if you want a piece of art from me, one I've already drawn or one you'd like me to draw for you, let me know.
WAYS YOU CAN HELP
- You can buy a piece of my art for sale in my Etsy Shop
- You can order a private art commission from me, again via my Etsy Shop. Or if you don't like the color portrait option in my shop, contact me about other kinds of art commissions I'm willing to do.
- You can hire me to illustrate something. Comic book covers have been my thing lately, but I do a variety of work - see my website for examples.
- You can recommend to someone else that they hire me to do illustration work. My contact info can be found here.
- You can share this page on your social network. The more people see this the more likely I am to reach my goal.
- You can donate money to this page. The total amount is to give me some stability for the next couple months, but it's the first $1000 that is essential to keeping a roof over my head.
- And because I'm probably overlooking something, you can contact me with any advice, suggestions, or ideas you may have.
Assuming I don't become homeless in the next couple months, getting a stable part-time or full-time hourly job is still the goal.
As is continuing to take on select illustration assignments, occasional art commissions, and setting up the Patreon page for the personal comics and art that I'm bursting to share with you.
Also, more face-to-face social interaction, more hikes in nature, more enjoying the days instead of just counting them.
Thank you all for whatever help you can provide!
Because of your help I spent yesterday with my daughter less stressed than I've been in months. It was wonderful to sit and sketch with her at the park (she loves to draw too) and not worry about the week ahead.
Today I'm packaging and shipping artwork, and tomorrow I start working on new commissions. Staying busy with both commercial art assignments and my own personal projects seems to be the best way for me to maintain the stability of my mental health. One seems to always balance out and support the other, and when one falters, the other does too.
To be reminded that so many people care is incredibly encouraging. Thank you again!