Not my day job: James Davidson

James Davidson
Cover of James Davidson's Moa comic book series
A cartoonist at heart, and an art teacher and deputy principal by day, James Davidson has managed what many struggle to achieve - a career that navigates both his creative energy and his day job.

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“Comics is what I do for myself, and teaching is how I impact the community.”

A cartoonist at heart, and an art teacher and deputy principal by day, James Davidson has managed what many struggle to achieve - a career that navigates both his creative energy and his day job.

James’ love of comics started as a kid where he entered the familiar world of Asterix. He was later influenced by the work of New Zealand Creators, Dylan Horrocks and Ant Sang. For James, these artists opened up the possibility of professional cartooning.

“It wasn’t so much the work that they made, it was the fact that they made it in New Zealand. I remember thinking “I would love to do that”. But, I was at Art School at the time and comics weren’t on the curriculum.”

James completed his degree in fine arts majoring in painting, but he knew that his heart was not in it. He went on to do a teaching degree and started as an art teacher at Opunake High School.

“I started at the school in 2003 as an Art Teacher and have continued working there due to my passion for education and working with young people.”

Now, 14 years on, James is the Deputy Principal (acting) at Opunake High School and the Head of the Arts Faculty.

And he is a comic book writer.

When he is not working with young people, James is the creator behind the comic book Moa, which he draws and colours. Moa is set in colonial New Zealand and chronicles the wild adventures of the Moa Rangers, Kiwi Pukupuku and Possum Van Tempsky, defenders of our native forests. James has combined his love of this land, comics and education into a humorous adventure series where myth and history meet.

So, what did the journey look like to get there?

The biggest struggle for James was juggling both sides of his career. He admits that at the end of the day, it was often his comic work that would have to get dropped. He worked long nights during the week and put in some marathon efforts in the holidays to get his stories finished.

He has had many dreams of turning his creative work into his full-time job. However, ultimately this dream always collides with his other passion - teaching and the educational profession.

“Comics is what I do for myself and teaching is how I impact the community. If anything, I would love to be able to forge a better balance between my two passions. The reality is, is that young people are too valuable to have educators who are in it only halfway so when it comes to time, my art will always come second.”

It took over seven years to finish Moa, and he has noticed his creative energy fall after the completion of that work. When asked what he does to curve times of lost motivation in creativity, James says recently he has turned to working collaboratively on creative projects. He finds having someone to bounce ideas off a great help when it comes to motivation.

And his advice to others seeking a similar creative pathway?

“Make comics! Write them, draw them and then publish them. We are incredibly blessed to live in a time of cheap colour printing and online distribution. Also, there are some great comic making communities in New Zealand which can really help people get into making comics, so find one that fits and get involved.”

James Davidson’s comic book, Moa, has recently been published by Earth’s End Publishing

Follow James' work at the Moa Blog or on Facebook

Written by

Hannah Mackintosh

24 Mar 2017

Hannah is a Wellington-based writer, community organiser and lover of stories.

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