ItsI amazing that I managed to log in to this account on my phone in the first try. It took 2 days to remember my Reddit password and I still haven’t gotten into Twitter. Guess I’ll buy a new laptop tomorrow, but I’m not happy about it. Also not happy about blogging on my phone. After 3 days of sliding around a 1.5″ x 2.5″ keyboard, it’s time to concede defeat. I gotta have a real machine.
Radical self care. For me it tends to take the shape of being incredibly selfish. Sometimes it seems like something I don’t get to do very often, but on the other hand, drawing webcomics is incredibly selfish in many ways. It’s absolutely all about me. My art has always been all about me. The difference is, it used to be novels that a half dozen people read, and now it’s comics that 100s or 1000s of people read. But they’re still about me, my life, my experience, what I’m going through. Even if they seem political or altruistic, even when I do something like the Patricia Jabbeh Wesley comic the other day, or all those Bonnie Jo Campbell comics, I’m still in it. It’s still about me.
My brother told me yesterday that my comics were getting very dark. I say the world is getting dark. The comics just reflect my perception of it. But actually, I’ve been taking great care of myself since the election.
Not, of course, as good as my kitty, Lupin (pictured above). We could all take lessons on radical self care from cats.
Apparently, my genius cat, whose terrible behavior has been documented elsewhere in this blog, decided to swipe at The Man because–get this–he stopped petting her. You can’t win with cats. And yet, just as I’m sitting here writing this, she politely tapped on my hip to signify that she wanted to sit on my lap. So I should change my posture to accommodate that fleeting desire. Which lasted all of 25 seconds. Now she’s sitting on the desk looking suspiciously like she’s going to knock a mirror on the floor. I should take care of that.
I had a rare opportunity to write about my cat today. I mean, someone else specifically requested professional quality writing about cats for publication on a paying website, and I wrote about mine. I have written about her before and also attempted to paint her for this blog. This cat is a very particular representative of her species. We’re talking the archetype of Kipling’s cat who walks alone. She wants all the comforts of home and none of the restrictions, and while we mostly understand each other, there is clearly nothing I can ever do to communicate to her that there is no type of animal, dead or alive, that I would even enjoy receiving as a present. So she just keeps trying.
Actually, I should count myself lucky that she’s never brought me a rat, but that’s probably just because there aren’t that many rats around here. There must be Norwegians, because there are Norwegians everywhere, but I’ve never seen evidence of one. If she got a rat, it would probably be a packrat, but it doesn’t seem like she’s ever brought a packrat in. Maybe they’re super-delicious and she keeps them for herself.
Also, I recognize that it was extremely unprofessional to draw that woman’s hands with zero fingers but I did draw her fingers, over and over again, and all of them looked super freaky and I called it a day. No fingers for you, freak out lady. She’s lucky. I originally uploaded a version where the joint on her left arm was backwards. It looked crazy painful. Her hair started out with best intentions but lost something in translation. That rat is just gross as can be. Actually, it could be grosser. But it’s pretty gross. Seriously, if my cat brought that inside I would probably cry.
Last night, as I was getting ready for bed, I walked through a darkened hall and stepped on something cold and slightly moist with my bare foot, and I knew exactly what had just been squished beneath my naked skin, because I’ve stepped on dead mice before. The cat helpfully leaves them in my path, on the only rug in the entire house, because, despite the fact that I feed her regular food and treats every day without fail, she apparently considers me a terrible hunter. The mice are pretty easy targets; they live in the compost heap and even I’ve killed one (by accident, with a pitchfork, while turning the pile). I can’t get myself worked up over mice living in the compost heap–they’re kind of cute when they’re alive, and even though my neighbor in convinced they probably carry the hantavirus, the heap is a pretty safe distance from the house–but the cat is vigilant about their community, and spends many hours a day sitting on the wall, gazing down at their home with dedication to an ultimate goal.
The dead ones are better than the disabled ones. In her quest to teach me how to hunt, she tried bringing me creatures with broken backs, still alive, but unable to walk. She must be perplexed when I let The Man finish them off for me. He grew up on a farm, and has more experience killing animals. In addition to mice, she has gifted me with many lizards, a sizable number of songbirds, and on one memorable occasion, a snake. It was a worm snake with a broken back, able to dart its head around, but paralyzed on the back end.
To her credit, we had a terrible cricket problem in here before she decided to move in, and, mysteriously, since her arrival, the house is no longer infested with crickets chirping their heads off all night in the walls.
In case it’s not obvious, this is another insomnia comics. Insomnia comics are drawn the night after insomnia, when the gears of my mind are sticky and don’t want to turn. I’m sure plenty of funny things happened today, but they didn’t want to be comics. There was the mom pushing a kid in a stroller even though that kid was clearly old enough to walk, and threatening to take away his dinosaurs every time he made a sound even though we were in a room full of screaming kids, for example. That’s weird, right? But I’m too tired to make sense of it. Oh, and then there was a conversation I had with my 86-year-old grandmother, during which she made fun of climate change deniers. And at dinner, we bumped into some friends we hadn’t seen in a while, one of whom is a physicist, who told me that his Ph.d. thesis disproved the concept of teleportation. There’s got to be a joke in that somewhere. Maybe tomorrow I’ll remember how to be funny. Right now I’m just kind of stressed out.
Today also should have been the day that I started my holiday bulletin board, but I was too tired to think of a picture or decide on any text. As my mother always said, “Tomorrow is another day.”
There is something, to me, unspeakably comical about this photo of a baby and a mountain lion. The mountain lion is real and alive, behind a thick wall of plexiglass. This mountain lion is relatively young; I remember he came to ASDM when he was still a cub, and he was very active, pouncing all the vegetation in his habitat flat. Once, a couple months ago, a dove flew into his enclosure and he stalked it for a good 5 minutes. He looked just like an enormous house cat: chest down, tail up, hips twitching. However, he didn’t have the slightest clue how to hunt. While a group of humans waited in anticipation, cheering him on (did you know in America it’s illegal to feed live animals to other live animals for spectators who have paid to be there?) he slowly crept forward and then, still a good 15 feet from his prey, pounced.
The bird flew away.
The humans sighed and laughed.
Undoubtedly, that mountain lion would pounce that baby if he found it in his habitat, but since it’s at the window, the mountain lion is used to just looking. Anyway, I know it’s not the best photo I ever took, but none of the other ones from that shoot really blew me away, even when I cropped them. This is the most interesting one from that day.
I think I’ve finally come through to the other side of this sinus infection. Hallelujah! I woke up this morning only slightly congested, took a handful of OTC meds, and was basically able to breathe all day. It’s a modern medical miracle. Last night I seriously thought I was going to have to live with impacted sinuses for the rest of my life. Although I have a zero percent chance of finishing my entire list tonight, I got through a good part of my week’s goals. There’s one more project I can squeeze in tonight.
I don’t believe in holding historical figures to our modern standards, but I also don’t believe in celebrating shameful chapters of history. It’s important to study the past from every angle and to acknowledge the parts of it that make us uncomfortable along with the parts we want to glorify.
There was a bravery to the life of Christopher Columbus, the explorer, in sailing across the ocean in a direction that none of his people had ever sailed before. Columbus was acting in accordance with his time and his station in life, and according to the morality of his culture; by the standards of the time, he deserved glory and accolades for his success. Yet, there can be no bravery in the exploitation of people who couldn’t compete with him in terms of weaponry, and were unaware that his overtures, designed to gain their trust, did not reflect truly friendly intent.
There’s no honor in being the progenitor of the American slave trade.
We can’t hold Columbus entirely responsible for the genocide on the mainland, and yet his arrival in the western hemisphere still marks the beginning of the subjugation of native people in the Americas by white people of European descent. It’s 2015, and I don’t think we should be teaching schoolchildren a happy cartoon story about what happened in 1492 without discussing the enslavement and eventual murder of most of the continent’s original occupants. I don’t think we should celebrate Columbus Day as a national holiday. I think it’s a lot more honest to celebrate Indigenous People’s Day and talk about what really happened, even if it makes us uncomfortable.
I like a day off as much as the next person. It just seems like we should be more careful with our shared history, and more conscious of how our decision to frame that narrative reflects on our culture, and on people who continue to experience racism and oppression as a result of the brutality of history.
Happy October! My funny little black cat, who has been the subject of at least two other blog posts, gets her chance to shine in the spotlight, or rather, glower in the shadows. I knew I wanted to do a black cat bulletin board this year, and I was trying to figure out how that would look on a black background. At the same time, after searching for relevant text, I found this Rainer Maria Rilke poem:
Ah, “invisible.” That was the key. I went in yesterday and blocked out the poem, then inked it with a silver metallic Sharpie, which died halfway though, so I had to run out to the nearest Walgreen’s and buy their last silver Sharpie, but even so, the text didn’t take that long. Maybe an hour. I went back in today to put it together. I had some big ideas about making the eyes sparkle with the gold and bronze Sharpies, but it didn’t look as great as I thought it would, and the bronze Sharpie was dying, even though it was new in the package. Anyway, yellow is more striking.
I used black construction paper for the ears, nose and mouth (the background is black butcher paper, so it’s a subtle difference) and the whiskers are the silver Sharpie again. Very minimalist, which took a lot less time than usual, but I did spend quite a while on the eyes.
This is more or less a true story, as long as you accept the premise that I have such a deep personal understanding of my cat that I understand the precise meanings of her vocalizations. Fairly certain this translation is accurate. The only thing that I’ve exaggerated is the size of the lemon tree and its proximity to the pool. Everyone knows you can’t plant trees that close to an in-ground pool.
It’s hard not to feel sorry for someone who has to walk around in a heavy black coat in the desert summer, but at the same time, she also has the option of hanging out in the air conditioning and waiting until the sun goes down to hang out outside. I get that she wants to be near me, but given her typical feline disdain for swimming, it’s hard to see why. Like, we don’t have to be together all the time (that you’re awake), Cat. When I’m doing stuff you don’t like, such as hanging out in the sun or submerging my body in water, you’re not required to join me. It’s your choice, meaning it’s really not cool for you to complain about it the whole time.
Fortunately for desert cats, there are always cool tile floors upon which to splay ones furry limbs.
For the record, the cat is perfectly capable of swimming. I once saw her swim the entire length of the pool to get away from a another cat that was threatening her. So she could totally jump in and join me instead of whining about it.
Anyway, this comic took about 5 hours to draw, and it among the best ones I’ve done so far. I’ve come a decent way in a year and a half. Maybe I will be ready for my next big project when the script is finished, hopefully in August.
The problem with painting from live models when you want to paint a cat is that cats make terrible models. They have no trouble posing themselves; effortlessly, they assume all manner of provocative positions, seemingly begging to be capture for posterity. And then, just as you start to get the outline of a decent sketch, basically the moment they notice that you are looking at them, they move.
So I don’t know about this little painting. I did it about a month or so ago and of course it’s not quite right because the cat was done long before I was. You can sort of tell what it’s supposed to be…but it’s not great. Can’t recall my original motivation in using so much red in this painting. The cat in question, my current cat Lupin, is a real Halloween cat, almost completely black except for a few white hairs and a little charm on her throat. She does spend a lot of time lying splayed out in the sun, so her belly is bleached brown, but she’s generally hard to capture visually because she basically sucks light into herself like a black hole.
While I was working on my original painting and trying to make it into the one I published (and also covering up a lot of the red and some of the silver) the cat just randomly sat down in front of me in almost this exact post, but I decided to just ignore her, knowing that if I tried to make any serious study, she would immediately move.
Even though they look similar, this is a totally different cat, Suna, who passed away a couple years back. She was actually a tortoiseshell, even though here she looks entirely black. I knew Suna as a kitten, when the Bear and I went to school in Ohio, and then many years later as a mature cat when I came out to the Sonoran Desert. I can’t remember which moment in time this sketch is from, but it’s either 1997 or 2005. I suspect the former.
I was looking everywhere for this picture when I first started the blog; I wanted it for another post on cats last year, but it was just nowhere to be found. Friday night I ditched all my friends who wanted to go to a bar and randomly started cleaning some of the clutter in my office. This sketch was stuck in a transparent plastic report cover along with the design for my second tattoo and a bunch of Winsor McCay reproductions. Makes perfect sense.