Just a little scribble that could probably be a comic if I didn’t think that whatever was going on here is probably not funny. Can’t help but think that this drawing means something, but it’s hard to articulate what that might be. I certainly was not trying to draw anything like this.
My mother and I took my brother’s kids to the art museum, where they had tables set up for kids to do crafts. The suggested activity was to create a replica of a striking painting of a church using cut paper. Obviously, we did not do anything like that. I made this dragon silhouette flying across a rainbow sunset. One of the kids is super artistic, and he picked up a pencil drew a very good picture of a chubby dude in a La-Z-Boy. One of the kids isn’t artistic at all, but he drew an accurate picture of a video game controller. And then the little one took my idea of the rainbow strips, but instead of a dragon silhouette, she added an insane and possibly sentient piece of pizza out of colored paper.
My mother talked with the employee who was staffing the table until said employee very abruptly announced she was going to go stand somewhere else and relocated to another table.
I just realized that this image kind of mirrors the late, great mosaic table I made in the ’90s.
I’m finishing up a lengthy editing job and working on my big project, which is coming along apace. I’m also thinking about 2 upcoming scholarly comic projects in which I’d like to participate, once for a forthcoming anthology of Bonnie Jo Campbell criticism to which I was invited to contribute, and the other is for a forthcoming anthology about comics in academia.
I made these little guys a couple days ago, in the midst of the BJC project, on a night I couldn’t bear to pick up the Wacom tablet. Apparently, I don’t know as much about Sculpey as I thought I did, because the blue dragon’s wings fell off the minute it came out of the oven, and it doesn’t really stand by itself, even though it was totally designed to stand by itself. Maybe it’s a pendant that’s meant to hang by the loop in its tail. I had The Man glue its wings back on, because his hands are much steadier than mine. I don’t think I’ve ever crazy glued anything without also gluing my fingers together.
The braided dragon reminds me of Celtic knot work, and also, it’s a dragonicorn. A unidragon. He’s got a single green horn.
The third one is my little sigil I use. It’s a dragon, but it’s also a monogram. Sometimes I draw a little arrow at the end of its tail, and give it an open mouth, but you can see how it’s a dragon, and a cursive M, without the extra details.
Will make more tiny polymer clay dragons soon. I bought all these materials for myself for my birthday last year, and the Girl has used more of it than I have.
Wrote a script for a comic that had been blooming in my mind for a few days and then started to second-guess myself and decided to check my sources, so to speak, before drawing it. Certain recent events weigh heavily. Anyway, I couldn’t have done justice to the subject matter in the time available.
Instead, I settled on something I used to do all the time, and haven’t done in a while: dragons in crayon. And still, you would not believe the tribulation. I wanted to sit on the floor, but had to adjust the lamp to shine on my workspace. But somehow, I knocked the lamp over, breaking the bulb. Fortunately, although it cracked and no longer emitted light, it stayed in basically one piece and was easy to remove.
Then I went to the closet and got another bulb, but it was so well-packaged that I had difficulty getting it out of the protective packaging. Eventually, I dismantled the entire box, but the bulb was still secured in the cardboard. So I gave it another tug, and it went flying across the floor, shattering into a million pieces. Now I had to get another bulb and install that just so I could see well enough to sweep and vacuum the broken glass in order to safely sit on the floor. Probably end up mad as a hatter anyway.
Finally, I was able to draw this majestic mother dragon guarding her precious egg atop a golden hoard. Classic.
As threatened, this day was spent in taking a commuter train into a big city for no particular purpose except to entertain children. The children were entertained. They very much enjoyed the train ride. When we arrived in the big city, the children wanted to eat. Although this big city, like all big cities, is known for offering a wide variety of excellent cuisine, we ate at the food court in a mall. It was an upscale food court, but it was a food court. We walked past some very interesting food trucks and a few famous restaurants in order to eat at this department store food court.
Then we walked on to what is possibly the finest urban playground $55 million can buy. When completed, this playground will cover an astonishing twenty acres land. Even in its unfinished state, its structures are too many to easily count. We didn’t even visit every section of the playground, let alone use every piece of equipment. The slides are without number, and some of them are sort of ridiculously fast. Above, you can see a good chunk of an actual tube slide, on the inside of which I hit my head the first time because it’s hard to navigate that sort of curve while protecting a small child on your lap. You can only see a fraction of the climbing structure you need to maneuver through to read the tube slide. The structure is deliberately designed to make it fairly difficult for full-size adult humans to reach the top. I am a good bit smaller than a full-size adult human and it was tight.
In the picture, Dragon and a trio of dragonets slide down one of the more conservative slides. In the picture, Dragon and a trio of dragonets have the entire park to themselves, which, as you can imagine, is not the case with the actual park, which is filled with hundreds, perhaps thousands of children and their parents.
When we were kids, my brother was considered something of a math prodigy. He skipped the 9th grade to attend the Illinois Math and Science Academy and taught at the University of Illinois before he even finished his BA. While he was in college, he told me, laughingly, Paul Erdős’s statement about mathematicians being machines that turn coffee into theorems.
My brother went on to earn advanced degrees from some of the most prestigious schools in the world. On a recent visit, I mentioned that quote to him and he laughed, this time a little bitterly. He said that most mathematicians do their best work before they’re 25, and that if you haven’t had any brilliant and original thoughts in the field before 30, you’re not likely to, ever. It’s like your brain has lost same particular aspect of plasticity that allows it to uncover new truths about numbers.
That’s never been so of writers. It’s the rare author who has both a mastery of craft as well as an interesting story to tell before 30. Maybe authors don’t hit their stride until 40. It’s not at all unusual to come across an extremely talented person who didn’t even start writing until they had retired in their 60s. So age is actually an asset in this field. And I keep telling myself that. It’s not only the facility with words and the understanding of how to structure sentences, chapters, paragraphs, and stories. It’s also the vast increase in life experience: fodder to create stories. And this increases exponentially. I don’t only gain the experience of my own life. I also get the experiences of all the people I talk to, and all the characters in books I read and videos I watch.
There’s absolutely no reason for a person to feel as if they haven’t achieved enough. In the creative arts, your masterwork can still be in the future.
Today was a rough one for me; I had to report for jury duty at 7:30 a.m. and that sort of thing always throws me off course in a thousand ways. But inspiration came nonetheless. You just have to force yourself to open to it. Although I believe in participatory democracy and the right to a trial by a jury of ones peers, the actual process of serving the legal system in this way is oppressive. Getting up early, going through a metal detector, being forced to sit in a room full of strangers waiting for your number to be called, getting questioned by strangers and forced to conform to their mode of speech and behavior, listening to a nonstop stream of dialog inside a windowless room for 7 hours a day, having this all supersede whatever it is that you’ve chosen to do with your life. Plus, the judge cracked a misogynistic joke and made fun of a potential juror’s accent.
Basically, I didn’t want to do it, and when I was excused it felt as if I myself had been released from a kind of prison. The trial was going to be a minimum of 3 weeks! Ain’t nobody got time for that. I was planning of forcing myself to open to the possibility of jury duty. But it was just too much, and instead I was born anew into the early spring sunlight and opened myself to joy and inspiration and found this comic.
This is part of the child mind, the beginner mind, to approach the task with a sense of innate wonder. Every time, there exists a moment of awe and a feeling of newness, a joy in the process and another at the outcome. It doesn’t matter what anyone outside of that experience thinks, and anyone inside the experience will witness it with the same breathe of amazement. What comes after, when the internal, made external, moves through the rest of the world, does not change these sensations.
What comes after, when the world passes judgement, has no impact on the artist or the creative process.
Another night when I started too late and my head has gone all swimmy such that the screen is blurry. Comic: that’s all.
This situation really inspired a lot of introspection as well as a lot of retrospection on my part. The bullying I dealt with in middle school was fairly intense. There were kids whose taunting was basically nonstop in any situation where adults were unable to see–the bus, the locker room, the halls during passing periods–and subtler but still extant even in class. The kids who didn’t torment me still made their general dislike known. I mean, I was wildly unpopular. My nickname among all but the small handful of outcasts who would even talk to me like a human being was “Anti,” because they were all against me. The entire grade was anti-Monica.
Literally. Just swallow that for a moment.
People are awful.
But there’s usually hope.
We didn’t have #ItGetsBetter in the ’80s. For all we knew, it didn’t get better. But I had hope that it did. I centered that hope around the idea that one day the world would recognize how awesome I really was, and that hope developed around my writing. That was my escape, not only into the future as I imagined that destined recognition, but my escape from the present, as I plunged into these sublime other worlds I could create to avoid living in the ugly mundane world that hurt me.
The Fox and I sometimes talk about this the vast gulf between past and present. A talented kid enjoys the act of creation, takes pride in what she accomplishes, and sees perfection in everything she does. When you’re 12 years old and writing your way out of an almost intolerable life, you have great faith in the greatness of your work and its ability to float you over the rough times. When you’re 40 years old and have a master’s degree in your craft, you analyze everything. You critique your own work. You anticipate your critics. You take it apart and put it together backwards and agonize over single words and get your heart ripped out with every rejection. You recognize the potential to failure and the human frailty of art. But you never would have gotten there if you weren’t first a 12-year-old with an unquestioning belief in your own righteousness.
First you have a butterfly, but as soon as you start caring how others will respond, you get a snake. The more I ponder this, the more I seek out this childish and optimistic way of existing in the world.
This is a small little drawing, I’d say, but it feels complete, for what it is. Needlenose, being aerodynamic, requires no extraneous parts or ostentation. There’s something to be said for pared down design and utilitarian simplicity.
When I dream at night, my dreams usually unfurl like feature-length reels of film: passion, intrigue, and drama in 3 acts. I am a spy, a soldier, a detective. I travel through time. I change genders, I change age, I change race. I change species. I complete quests and solve mysteries. On the rare occasions that I dream myself back in high school or completely naked, I manage to power through the dream without any noticing that I forgot my locker combination or my pants.
My childhood daydreams were even larger. I needed my own island to protect myself from the world. Literally: an island. Specifically: a mansion on an island where I would live in complete seclusion with my books and my faithful manservant. I would write my novels, unaffected by the rest of the world, a one-way system of communication in which my ideas would be received by an adoring public without my ever needing to venture from my protective base. But I know now that what a person dreams and what a person needs are often worlds apart.
Needlenose needs no adornments to fly, and I don’t need an island to exist happily in this world.
I still dream big. But I live economically. Perhaps my lifestyle is not quite so stripped to the bare essentials as this thin little dragon, but it is richer in art than it is in hard currency, and I’m still creating.