Damn, I loved drawing all those bubbles.
I hit a rough patch a couple of weeks ago with the graphic novel. There’s a serious frantic tooth-grinding energy that sometimes rises when I’m drawing. I think it got to be too much. It wore me out.
All my life, I’ve never had the stamina that I thought I should. Now that I’m over 50, I’m finally starting to get over being ashamed about my inability to ignore my body’s pleas for rest. I am built for sprints, or for walking, not marathons. And that’s okay.
So I’m training myself to draw in a healthy and sustainable way. For now, I’m doing single pages about nothing important. I set a timer. I’m allowed to draw for 20 minutes, and then I have to stop and stretch and have a sip (or several long gulps) of water. I find characters in photographs I’ve taken over the years. Often the words they say are just the lyrics to a song I hear while I’m working. Here is one of the silly things I’ve drawn recently:
Both of these characters are things I saw during a trip to Iceland, many years ago now. One is a piece of graffiti near a cemetery in Reykjavik. The other is an antique telephone that I saw in a museum. (The little guys at the top are me riffing on the graffiti).
In some ways, this page feels like a long time ago. I’ve moved on to another chapter – different characters, different textures, different self.
In other ways, it feels like exactly where I am right now – suspended between the past and the future, between the known and the unknown. Not much to do but breathe, float, dream, and panic. And keep drawing. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Let’s see if I can post directly from the iPad where I’m making these images! Usually I transfer the images to my laptop because I like to do my writing on a device with a real keyboard. But I’m in the studio today, and it’s raining. The laptop is at home. I’d have to get wet before I could use it.
(I love that it’s raining. We’ve been having a drought here, and it was a very hard summer for my garden.)
Sometimes I feel a pressure to get the whole story out. But it’s impossible. Stop. Rest. Kiss the ground. This book is not a sprint, or even a marathon. It’s a pilgrimage.
Drawing is seeing. Seeing what moves through the body, the mind, the soul. After I finished this page, I cried for the better part of an hour.
Writing is seeing too. I might cry again when I finish this post. Left Otter and Right Otter (yes, it’s true, I’m terrible at naming things): off they go, into separation.
In my head, I can hear my father picking this page apart. Shut up, Dad.
I think everyone in this book is going to have monster feet.
There’s so much about the world that feels bad and uncomfortable right now. It feels a little wrong to be holed up in my studio making art. Sometimes it feels terribly wrong to be having fun. But it makes me feel less like clobbering my fellow humans when I have to go food shopping, so I’ll go out on a limb and say it’s worth doing.
I decided to do the graphic novel on an iPad, and there’s a big learning curve. It’s going very slowly. But I love being able to erase things cleanly without tearing the paper. I love having a permanent marker that never runs out of ink or makes a mess of my fingers. I love not doing the lettering by hand.
(Full disclosure: nobody paid me to say any of that. Nobody pays me for anything. I am quite possibly the least essential worker ever, at least by any of the usual metrics.)
Page 1 of all the newspapers today is about a certain public figure testing positive for coronavirus. Page 1 of this book is about something else entirely. Here is the news from my studio:
The weird fish is a reference to a little comic I made several years ago. It makes me ridiculously happy.
I finished that little comic I started working on in February, and re-drew all the panels on one of those printed canvases. Drawing on canvas with a fine-point Sharpie is a little like driving on a muddy road. The pen gets thrown around and makes a wobbly line.
Ray Bradbury said, “The important thing is to explode with a story, to emotionalize a story, not to think it… If you start thinking, the story’s gonna die on its feet. You either feel a story and you need to write it, or you’d better not write it.”
I gave a lot of thought to the structure of this thing, but the first thing I did was feel it explode in my heart. I don’t expect anyone else to feel it. I am not that good a storyteller. But I still feel it, and am glad to have written it.
What I feel:
dim fumbling fishy thoughts,
intermittent mind-blowing joy,
the itch of new feathers.