Tag Archives: dog

The Fishing Dog

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That is a very good dog.

Now we’re in pure Bonnie Jo Campbell territory. The river. The land. Various animals. The semi-feral girl. The boat. The casual sexual violence. I don’t know why I remember this book as being less rape-y than the others, because it’s a decent amount of nonconsensual sex. Gwen acts like it’s no big deal when her boyfriend’s married, middle aged brother forces her, but it’s forced nonetheless. I’m not even 100% convinced that the sex was purely consensual on Michael’s end. Yeah, he turns toward her, but she kind of puts him on the spot. He lets us know that fooling around with semi-feral girls is not his typical MO.

Gwen is such an interesting character, a blueprint for Once upon a River’s Margo Crane, or rather, this story is one of the short fictions that later became the novel, along with “Family Reunion,” where Margo’s younger incarnation is called Marylou. Gwen is so hurt that she doesn’t even know she’s hurt. She’s run away from home, and her boyfriend, Jake, doesn’t seem like anything close to a decent guy. She’s intent on survival, and she’s good at it, but she’s not exactly thriving. In “The Fishing Dog” you think that Michael, apparently the first decent guy she’s known, could be the antidote to Gwen’s misfortune, but in the novel she can’t bring herself to stay with him. Then the cycle comes full circle in Q Road (written and published before Once upon a River, but set years afterward) when Margo’s semi-feral teenage daughter, Rachel, does consent to marry the decent older guy, and balance is restored to the force. Er, land.

Regarding the illustrations, it was not easy to find a reference image of someone using pliers to pull the skin off a catfish that’s been nailed to a tree. I watched a very useful YouTube video on the subject to get it right. It’s been said that you should never read the comments on YouTube. About 10% of them said things like, “This is how we cleaned catfish when I was a kid,” and the other 90% insisted that no sane human would ever skin a catfish like this and the guy who made the video was mentally deficient and probably a lunatic. Frankly, it really seems like Gwen knows what she’s doing, at least when it comes to catfish.

Now I want some fried catfish.


Old Dogs

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Cutting it all the way down here.

There’s two sides to this short, slice-of-near-death story, and this comic reflects one a lot more vividly than the other. It’s a flash piece, just a single moment of almost no action that generates volumes. We have a room and we have characters: three old women and four old dogs. They don’t have heating oil, yet, but they do have firewood, and blankets, and sweaters, and each other. They’re still alive. Aside from the heat, they have booze, nicotine, and sugar. They are living in poverty, but they could be poorer still. Things are not so bad. There’s a quality of warmth to the moment.

At the same time, these characters are huddled together for protection. They are not related, don’t seem to have family to care for them in their dotage, and they’ve come together by necessity to survive a cold world. The last dog, the one with 3 legs who can’t get up on the couch, is the closest to the cold, although the story intimates that it could be the fat collie who dies first, if it ever gets incontinent and they have to put it outside.

Meanwhile, the plastic on the window has come loose, and the cold is invading their warm oasis while they doze. The same image is used in “Bringing Belle Home,” to symbolize Belle’s utter inability/unwillingness to take care of herself. The women in “Old Dogs” are on their own.

My Dog Roscoe

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For once, I take no credit for the messed up things that happen in this comic.

At long last, the wait is over. Here is the first Bonnie Jo Campbell Mothers, Tell Your Daughters comic.

For those coming in late, after I drew my comic about Bonnie Jo’s mother, some of her legions of admiring fans said they wanted to see her entire most recent book made into a series of comics in that style–6 panels summarizing an entire story–and Bonnie Jo said she would like to see that, too. And part of me was like: who am I to say no to this opportunity? And part of me was like: who am I to say yes to this opportunity?

It was a daunting task. You can’t say much in 6 panels, and Bonnie Jo’s work is so complex and nuanced, both in its use of language and its understanding of human nature. And the thing is, I absolutely knew that I had the ability to do it. If not me, who? But I also doubted my ability. I kicked around ideas. I pondered and perseverated. I realized that I didn’t own a corrected copy of the book, just the ARC, which Bonnie Jo had explicitly told reviewers never, ever to cite, and also to burn, which you know I didn’t do. But I did request the complete manuscript, which she kindly sent.

Then, overwhelmed, I failed to decide where to begin. Originally I thought it should be the eponymous “Mothers, Tell Your Daughters,” which, in some ways, I think is the most powerful story in the book, but it’s also 20 pages long, and my brain wasn’t prepared to wrap around that yet. Then I thought I should start at the beginning, but it happens that I have a particular relationship with the first story in the book, dating back to more than a decade before the book was published, and, in keeping with the original comic, I knew that if I did that one, I would have to tell my story about the story, rather than the story itself. And that didn’t seem the way to begin either. If anything, that comic would come at the end of the project.

“My Dog Roscoe,” like most of Bonnie Jo’s work, and also like Bonnie Jo herself, has this sort of electric undercurrent of humor. The concept is ridiculous. You want to shake this character and explain to her what’s actually going on, but you can’t, and to the character, the scenario is life and death serious. That’s another thing I love about Bonnie Jo’s work. She writes about people who either have the worst luck or make the worst decisions or were just born into the worst circumstances (or some combination of all 3), but there’s still something funny about their misfortune. There’s this story in American Salvage where this guy is having an increasingly terrible night (mostly because he makes terrible decisions, because, like the woman in “My Dog Roscoe,” he’s missing some key information about himself) and he literally douses himself in gasoline and sets himself on fire by accident. And it’s terrible. He’s badly burned. But you’re also still laughing a little bit.

Comically tragic.

Maybe that’s just me. Maybe I’m a terrible person. Maybe nobody else thought it was funny when that dude accidentally set himself on fire because he didn’t understand women or the rules of safety at the pump.

Then again, if it’s just me, then why does this work so well as a comic?

Also today, I was thrilled to note that my work was used (with attribution and backlinks) in a post about Venezuelan idiom on a language blog. It’s an Australian website. I think the Australian idiom would be “chuffed.” I am chuffed to see my work travel and see the world.


My Most Popular Sticker Ever

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Johnny the Australian Shepherd Paddleboards Roosevelt Lake, October 2014

Why is “Johnny the Australian Shepherd Paddleboards Roosevelt Lake, October 2014” my most popular sticker design? I literally have no idea. I don’t know why anyone does anything on the Internet. I don’t understand why I keep selling stickers of this dog that doesn’t even have a fandom but nobody wants to buy Princess Sealestia, Ruler of Aquastria merchandise. I mean, it was a cool dog, and his best friend, Mr. Macho Bush Pilot, is not difficult to look at, but really? If anything was going to sell stickers, you’d think it would be the fabulous Blue Morpho Butterfly. Nope, people want notecards of that. And nobody, but NOBODY wants “Vanity Has a Thousand Eyes” even though that thing took me like 3 months to finish and is absolutely the most complicated digital paint thing I’ve ever done.

If I knew then what I know know (i.e., how to use more features Photoshop) I guess I would have made the dude’s muscles a little less ropy and pronounced. Or maybe he really looked like that. Who remembers?

Johnny the Australian Shepherd it is. These stickers are available in 3 sizes: 4″x2.2″, 5.5″x3″, and 8.5″x4.7″. Prices range from $2.32 for the small ones to $5.66 for the medium ones and $9.80 for the big ones. It all seems totally random. I also sell this design on a huge range of clothing, bags, cups, prints, and other completely random things that you can have your designs printed on. But if you want it, you’ll no doubt want it on a sticker. It’s $2.32 of pure sporting canine goodness.

Sketchy Stuff

You didn't hear it either.

You didn’t hear it either.

Submitted for your approval: a few more degrees of weirdness from my fevered brow.

The idea of invisibility is a tempting one, but obviously, people don’t use it for anything other than breaking the law. Sure, some of us are Harry Potter and we’re just employing our ultimately power for the purpose of sneaking into the restricted section of the library, but, by and large, people want invisibility for the purpose of spying. By and large, people want invisibility for the purpose of spying on people in various states of undress. The Invisible Man is not, in fact, someone you’d invited into your home. Of course, if I were invisible I would totally Robin Hood it. Stealing from the rich and giving to the poor would be my calling in life. For real.

I like his leather boots and gloves, and his trench coat and empty scarf. He’s totally inconspicuous in that getup. No one would ever look twice.

Practice makes perfect

Practice makes perfect 

Here comes Tax Day. This year I swore that I would file early. I really have no idea what to expect. We have with withholding incorrectly since we got married and there’s a strong possibility that we’re going to owe the federal government some sum of money we do not actually have on hand. The worst part is that I hire someone to do my taxes every year, because it’s cheaper than spending 3 days crying about how much I hate doing taxes. And I’m still not ready to file, even though I brought him our 1099s and W2s in February. This is 97% my fault.

Anyway, this ballerina, with her oddly muscular arms and her surely uncomfortable thong leotard had to settle for her second choice career. Stay in school, kids!

Clearly, we're missing out on a lot of things that excite dogs.

Clearly, we’re missing out on a lot of things that excite dogs.

Fire hydrants are like newspapers for dogs; everyone knows that. They read smells. I think I read that a dog’s nose is 10,000 times more sensitive than a humans’. I guess this dog is maybe a dalmatian/beagle mix. A dalmeagle? Or a beaglematian? At any rate, he’s picked up on something, recalled that it’s something he’s picked up before, but decided to resmell it. You know, just like some people do with books.

The hot and the cold are both so intense, put 'em together it just makes sense!

The hot and the cold are both so intense, put ’em together it just makes sense!

See, the fire spirit is hitting on the ice cream cone. And the ice cream cone is interested, but ultimately knows how things will end between them. Better safe than sorry, ice cream cone.

Yep. I have like a million of these things. And it absolutely doesn’t matter if anyone else likes them, or even understands them.

Johnny the Australian Shepherd

On our recent sojourn through Arizona, we met a lot of friendly dogs. Johnny was the first of many canids to make our acquaintance on this trip. As we drove up onto the beach at Roosevelt Lake, Johnny was desperately trying to interest his human in a rousing game of fetch. His human was participating half-heartedly while trying to get his paddleboard gear organized. As soon as he saw us, Johnny came running down the beach, ball in mouth, to determine whether we would be his new best friends.

After we spent 45 minutes repeatedly heaving object into the lake for Johnny to joyously chase, catch, and return, his human called him over. Johnny jumped up onto the paddleboard and floated off with his human as I snapped the source image for this digital painting.

Johnny the paddleboarding dog in sticker form.

Johnny the paddleboarding dog in sticker form.

The original and the prints would be in a much higher resolution. It’s a small design, so some of the details are lost in a screenshot of this low res image. However, I’m pretty pleased with it, although it is little.

The reason there haven’t been any new T-shirts in the shop lately is that I started a large digital painting of a peacock a couple months ago. I’ve probably spent more than 30 hours on it so far, and it’s probably 1/3 of the way done! (In comparison, Johnny took me about 2 hours.) I’m sort of bummed out because there was another T-shirt design that I started a while ago and really wanted online before Friday, but that’s not going to happen. So it’s nice to add Johnny to the gallery. I will probably add a couple dragon panels this week, too, but we’ll see. I’m still sick and now my mom’s here.

You can acquire Johnny the Australian Shepherd Dog on a variety of fine products by clicking the link embedded in this anchor text.