These days you can work from anywhere in the world with an internet connection, no office hours necessary. That flexibility is giving entrepreneurs and artists more autonomy over where they choose to live. For some, like illustrator Dee Fish, the oil region is the perfect place to exercise the new work/life balance.
Her decision to move to the area was an easy one based on climate, low cost of living, and proximity to several major cities.
Dee was born and raised ‘sort of all over’ New York, and moved to Florida to attend art school. She remained there after graduation and found success working as a graphic artist and cartoonist drawing everything from simple ad layouts to concept artwork for Disney theme parks and Disney on Ice. But she always had her eye on returning to cooler climates of the north and the slower pace and sense of community a small town provides.
Dee didn’t exactly move here blindly. Her partner Heidi Krug grew up in Titusville, and brought Dee home with her last Christmas hoping she would want to relocate.
“It was miserable, dreary and cold. I loved it,” Dee said. She couldn’t wait to ditch the shorts she was forced to wear for 20 years thanks to Florida’s stifling heat - and enjoy the four seasons as she had in her childhood.
Dee works traditionally, hand drawing characters on 11 x 17 bristle boards in her home office. She then scans and sends the pages off to be colored by another artist, have text added and be published by the printer. An easy feat with high speed internet service.
Dee’s artwork has appeared in comics for IDW, Image, Red 5 and other nationally known comic book publishers, and she can still work with all those companies and more while enjoying the low cost of living our area provides.
She appreciates the opportunities to get creative and try her hand, literally, in all different genres and to hone her craft by mimicking other artists’ styles, but her true love is working on her own projects where there isn’t someone else dictating the work.
“My characters can be, look or do what I want,” she said.
For years she has been publishing an online comic “Dandy & Company,” a traditional comic strip with silly jokes, pop culture references, and cute animals, at www.dandyandcompany.blogspot.com. She wrote and illustrated the epic fantasy/adventure comic book series “The Wellkeeper” that features a magical realm and a strong, bespectacled female lead that, unlike a lot of books coming out of the comic industry right now, parents feel good about letting their daughters read. It can be found online at thewellkeeper.blogspot.com. And she was co-writer and artist for “Carpe Noctem,” a horror comic series available at any comic book store and backed by publisher Hashtag Comics.
When she isn’t working on her own projects, she does freelance graphic design work for companies anywhere in the world - local projects include the 2016 Applefest logo contest winning design and the Shop Franklin t-shirts sold by Gibbons Business Solutions.
Though most days she works from home, nothing beats the opportunity to meet with comic book fans at conventions where she signs autographs, draws pictures for fans, and sells original artwork and copies of her books. She has had booths at most major events in the southeast region, and has even had the privilege of seeing characters she has created come to life in the form of cosplaying fans.
That one-to-one sales ratio that sellers get at comic cons isn’t ideal for making lots of money, but Dee and Heidi, who collaborates on story ideas with her and travels with her to conventions, wouldn’t trade it for anything. They are already plotting their schedule of events for the upcoming year with one of the greatest strategic advantages of northwest Pennsylvania in mind: it is a short jaunt to Pittsburgh or Erie and less than a day’s drive to major comic events in New York, Cleveland, Buffalo, Chicago and Philadelphia.
Dee is looking forward to connecting with a whole new crop of fans from her new home base.