Second page of a shorter comic I’m making, based on a stream-of-consciousness thing I wrote in a park with my writing group in August 2017.
This morning I found out that someone I didn’t know had died. I didn’t know him but I’d followed him online for years, ever since he randomly started reading and commenting on my livejournal because he liked my list of interests. I watched him fall in love, get married, welcome two daughters into the world, get divorced. He stopped following me when I left livejournal, but I still kept tabs on him. LJ, flickr, instagram…
I don’t know how he died, and it bothers me.
Amar, what happened? The world is less colorful without you in it.
Shortly after I found out he was gone, I drove my husband to the hospital for one of those routine tests they love to give people over 50. I told him that if I died suddenly, I wanted him to post here and on Facebook to let people know what happened.
Larissa was eaten by a grue. Larissa was in a horrible car accident. Larissa fell down the stairs and broke her skull. Larissa succumbed to the Poltroonian Oyster Flu.
I waited around the hospital all morning, and I drew. I started a little side project to work on when I feel stuck, or when I am waiting. It’s based on something I wrote first thing on a Monday morning in August 2017. This first page is a little busier than I like, but it made the time fly. And I like the way it sinks through layers of fiction into the there-and-then of my actual life: a house, a meadow, insomnia, the moon.
(Mooncop, by Tom Gauld)
The book has a name now, and its own website.
It is a deep rabbit hole. It is a friend longer than a city block.
I get stuck a lot. It doesn’t seem to matter. I write my way through it. Sometimes I make little comics from the writing. They are not part of the book, but they do seem to be part of the process. Here are a couple of fragments:
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.