Category Archives: art life

Dragon Comics 139

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First you go viral. Then the virus kills you.

If you’re asking someone to submit content to your website, and the very first thing that person says in their response is, “Before you go any further, is this a paying gig?” and it’s not a paying gig, then what you should say is, “Sorry, no.” What you should not do is send a poorly worded boilerplate description of your website that doesn’t answer the original question in a straightforward manner, and then, when the person whose favor you are asking reiterates that they need to understand whether or not you intend to compensate them for their work, get all bent out of shape and snarky about it. You’ve wasted their time by not just answering the question.

I’m lucky because I have The Man looking after me, and before that I had a very solid and well-paying corporate writing gig, but I know too many freelance writers getting shafted by a system that runs on their talent but devalues their skill.

Drawing a comic is better than getting riled up about it. So actually, I did profit from the exchange.

1000 Origami Cranes

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Yes, I counted them.

On December 8, 2015, I decided to implement 2 minor changes in my life. First, I began teaching myself to play the ukulele, and second, I began folding 1000 origami cranes. Now, just under 5 months later, my time investment has manifested into accomplishment. Not that I will ever be performing Led Zepplin’s greatest hits on the ukulele for an appreciative audience, but I can make songs come out of the thing, anyway. And here are my 1000 paper cranes.

If you’re unfamiliar with the legend of the 1000 paper cranes, it’s an old bit of Japanese folklore: whoever folds these cranes in less than a year and keeps them in their home will be granted a wish, or lifelong luck. Some say they stand for prosperity and health, or for prayers for peace. Things like that. It was a more obscure superstition until after World War II, when a little girl named Sadako Sasuki, dying from leukemia caused by her proximity to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima as a baby,  started to fold them in the hospital while praying to beat the cancer. She didn’t make it, but her determination was communicated throughout the country until she became a symbol herself.

Traditionally, the cranes are threaded together on 25 strings in bunches of 40. I think I may put them into a less rigid accounting, but the main thing is to keep the rainbow pattern.

I never had a specific wish associated with these cranes. I’d like peace and prosperity and good health, surely. But really I was just trying to remind myself what it’s like to see a big project through to the end. For me, the end wasn’t about wishing, but about returning to the beginning. From the beginning, I knew that when I finished folding cranes, I would start writing a new book, a different book from the other books I’ve written, a book that would be unconstrained by the world’s notion about what’s OK. A horror novel, a ghost story, a tale of obsession, a metaphor for addiction. A book where extremely messed up things happen to wholly innocent people because the world is inherently unfair. A book without apology, that doesn’t care if it offends you, because frankly, the world doesn’t care if it offends me, so why pull punches? My 11th unpublished novel…

Selling is boring. Selling is the worst. Creating things is exciting, and it is the best.

To that end, I’ll probably be changing the format of the blog in the near future, but it’s uncertain what that would look like right now. It doesn’t seem possible to just stop drawing comics, but it been proven repeatedly that 4 comics a week isn’t feasible. There are other things to do.

Z Lazy B

Please do not argue with me concerning the definition of the phrase

Please do not argue with me concerning the definition of the phrase “pure country.”

If I were a better artist, I would be uploading a funny comic right now.

The Rabbit and I, after a long journey that involved treacherous mountain passes, unpaved country lanes, and, no joke, an actual living, breathing BLACK BEAR standing in the middle of the freaking road, made it to the very isolated Z Lazy B Ranch, where there is no cell phone service and no accessible wifi. Since I rely heavily on existing images when I draw, and since I sometimes needs to do more research to make a joke work, even though I had an idea for a comic, I didn’t have the materials available to actually create that comic.

Currently, I’m sitting in the Octavia Fellin Public Library in Gallup, New Mexico, enjoying the free wifi. I have done the research necessary to draw the comic, as well as the research necessary to write the story I’m working on. (Sample question: what movie would my character’s mother be most likely to rent from Blockbuster in June of 1992 for the purpose of bonding with her child? Answer: Edward Scissorhands. Queries about what resources were available to LGBT students at Columbia University in autumn of 1992 will have to wait until I have more time.)

Anyway, the above image really communicates the general sense of where we are. We are staying in a cabin identical to the one in the picture (ours is next door). These horses come by every evening, chomping clover, and don’t seem to mind us petting them. The dog comes over every day and just hangs out. We took a long, rambling walk on Tuesday and she stayed near me the whole way. Even when she went after a jackrabbit, she came back to me. I imagine it must be incredibly boring for her when it’s not hunting season. Even though the Rabbit told me that labs don’t point, I swear this one kept pointing. I kept telling her I didn’t do that kind of shooting.

I only wrote 2100 words, which is not really that impressive, but, after we get some supplies for the Rabbit, I hope to write at least 3000 tonight, and maybe draw a comic. It’s possible that we’ll have enough wifi at some point for me to post it for Friday.

Back in Business!

So much room for activities.

So much room for activities.

The Fox acquired some kind of book on extreme cleaning, which advises readers to throw away any material possessions that do not inspire joy, something along those lines. Amongst my many possessions are numerous items that most likely do not inspire joy in me, but letting go of them can be complicated as well. For example, I have a drawer in my office that contains nothing but letters people wrote to me in high school and college. I have another draw that houses every notebook I used in school during that same time period. Do these things inspire joy in me? Do I really need to save them?

Probably not. But maybe. What if I want them later? And even if I did toss them, first I would have to go through every single one of them to ascertain their particular contents and meaning.

It’s easier to keep them in drawers.

This is where I work now.

This is where I work now.

After many days of ignoring the problem, I finally got it together to knock my work space back into some semblance of order. It’s not perfect–there are still many things (besides the old letter and notebooks that need to be sorted–but at least it feels like an office again, and not like a precursor to an episode of Hoarders.

This layout never occurred to me in the past because I wouldn’t have my back to the window. Originally, I was going to try turning the desk the other way and pushing it up to the window, but now that I have nice curtails I can pretend the window is a wall, if need be. Plus from this vantage point, i can fully experience the joy of living in a library.

While I was putting some things on the high shelf and noted that, by the Fox’s book’s measure, I could easily part with probably 60 or 75% of my books. Individually, I no longer have an emotional connection to many of them. However, the concept of having a library does bring me joy. As long as the books are organized, they’re not any kind of burden.

Cozy reading corner.

Cozy reading corner.

By the time this is published, I’ll be at camp with the Rabbit, who is much more vested in keeping a clean house than I am. However, we can both agree that it will be lovely to come home and have this space so beautifully cleaned and laid out. There’s an excellent possibility that the rest of the house will be in worse condition than when I left, but my small oasis of creative peace should theoretically remain.

This Has to Affect Productivity

In 6 days the Rabbit and I leave for our writing camp! This is a desperately needed escape, and while I had a smashing time at my sister’s wedding in Washington state, most of what was going on did not nourish me as an artist, except in the sense that the scenery was gorgeous and I took a lot of pictures. Most of what was going on involved me nourishing other people; there was no quiet space to listen to the voices.

Before I go, there’s something I’ve been meaning to do.

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My unnatural habitat

Here you can see that I haven’t cleaned up the myriad scraps from “Flying Sea Turtle Honeymoon Express Departs Vancouver on Schedule,” nor has the wrapping paper from the Boy’s birthday been put away.

It would probably be a really nice space if it wasn't so hazardous to navigate.

It would probably be a really nice space if it wasn’t so hazardous to navigate.

In addition to the mess on the floor, here you can see that my desk is also covered and pushed into a corner where it’s scarcely accessible. I haven’t used this desk in months. I just keep stacking important things there, and the cat keeps knocking them off. You can also see the desk chair facing the wall, and the milk crate with all my tax stuff, which has been sitting there since April, because it’s difficult to get behind the desk to put it away.

At least I tried to try.

At least I tried to try.

And here you can see my first feeble attempt to tackle this mess. (Note the presence of the mystical broom.) Basically, I took everything off that one chest of drawers and the corner under the shelves, sorted it into piles, and wandered off. It’s been that way for weeks.

So ultimately, my once-awesome office is a terrible place to work. It’s not conducive to anything except distraction. Every day I promise to fix this issue, and every day I spend so long avoiding it that it’s no longer even an option.

Looking over yesterday’s comic, I feel a little disappointment. I always fuss over the script, but by the time I start drawing it’s late at night and I’m tired and the art suffers. Hundreds of people read my TSA comic (my traffic is hugely up since the Man and I have started posting links on Reddit) but maybe it would have been thousands if the pictures weren’t so slapdash and unremarkable.

Maybe, if this office were an inviting place to work, I would better honor my commitment to myself and spend more time on the visual details.

So that, along with the fact that the man and I went swimming and watched a movie after dinner and then stayed up way past his bedtime playing Words with Friends, explains why I didn’t draw a comic or paint a picture today, and why tomorrow I better either have some new art, or else a photo of a perfectly clean and organized office. This time, I really could use Matt Paxton‘s help.