Yes, we live an exciting life here in Dragon’s cave. Almost too exciting, if you ask me.
Three cheers for insomnia! Weirding up my world since 1977. This is the comic that Dragon deserves, but not the one that Dragon needs.
Truthfully, silencing my demons is a full time job. This comic is OK. The lettering is influenced by my lack of sleep. Sorry about that first word bubble. Too tired to see straight. If only someone would buy some T-shirts, I might have more time to write better comics.
If you’ve ever watched a nature documentary narrated by David Attenborough, you might have noticed a certain exuberant satisfaction to his voice whenever he describes the eating of one unwilling organism by another faster or stronger or more clever organism. “Take that, life” his intonation seems to say. “You have been consumed by one more powerful and more deserving than you, and in any case, ha! There is a finality to all things, and yours has come. Now let us celebrate the continuation of life through the destruction of life, admiring the rightness of the situation.” Or maybe I read too much into his tone.
Anyway, like many nerd girls, I vastly admire cephalopods in all their forms, and like anyone with a spark of imagination, I cannot help but sit in awe of any sort of megafauna: giant squids, of course, and just as naturally, the world’s largest animal, the blue whale, who is really a remarkable creature. This is probably the fastest and easiest finished design in my Red Bubble store. The sketch itself was done after looking at a few photographs, and the digital design required no augmentation. It’s a bit threadbare in one sense, but I love the way the colors pop on a black background.
You can get this T-shirt in a variety of colors and styles, but I do think the black backgrund works best. If you’re going to go for this kind of dubious humor, you might as well make it stand out. It is also kind of cute as a tote bag or a sticker.
I’m not much of a poet. But Lupin is not much of a cat.
Lupin, a Long-Hair
I am a kitty with fur so fine
I sit on your things to prove that they’re mine
I know that you love me because I’m divine
I love you too but won’t give you a sign
You scream at dead mousies? I’ll bring you some more
You don’t need these books, right? I’ll knock them to the floor
You’re trying to sleep now? I’ll scratch on this door
You cleaned up my fur dread? I’ll just shed four
When your stepkids pet me I’ll scratch at their faces
When your husband gets dressed I’ll eat his bootlaces
When you drop your elastics I’ll hide them in places
When you invite friends in I’ll lick without graces
Because I’m the queen I must always be free
Because there’s a window I must climb up to see
Because I’m the kitty I’ll tell you the key
Because you’re my person you must always love me
(This sketch is from an exercise in the Trickster’s Hat that I did not do properly. But it’s a nice sketch of a cat much more lovable than the one in whose honor I dashed these verses.)
My traveling companion wanted to meet up with an old friend she hadn’t seen in 30 years. He works as a singing cowboy on the Grand Canyon Railroad and she is interviewing people about the intersection between art and culture. Normally, I wouldn’t spend that much time away from my desk on writing retreat, but this promised to be a special sojourn.
My friend’s friend got us on the train for free, for which I was grateful. It’s a pricey experience, even at the lower levels of luxury, and the train takes about 3 times as long as it would to drive (135 minutes to go 65 miles). Since we were friends with the cowboy, we got some freebies and were able to hang out on the back of the caboose and watch the track peel away behind us, which I have wanted to do my entire life. (Yes, it was everything I envisioned.)
While my friend went off to reminisce about the old times and do some preliminary interviewing, I walked along the rim a bit and did a little writing and a lot of sketching. The problems with sketching the Grand Canyon are a) it’s huge, b) there’s a lot going on visually, and c) the shadows change every 15 seconds.
The Grand Canyon is an impressionist’s fantasy. It’s all light and shadow. It was hard to render in pencil. When I did try to focus on the dark parts, the clouds kept moving, so the dark parts kept changing. I’m not dissatisfied with this attempt. If I had kept at it longer, I think it would have improved. The digital drawing tablet might have rendered better results, but the sun shone too brightly to really use the computer.
After I got frustrated with the first sketch, I mailed some postcards to my nephews and sat down in a different place, thinking of focusing on a smaller section of the landscape. Before I started, I noticed that the tree above me cast some interesting shadows on the paper, and I decided to just draw the shadows, as an easier exercise. My sketch is not quite as awesome as the shadows were, plus you can see through to the next page. Oh, well.
Then I decided to focus on one tiny canyon, which you can see in the middle, before getting distracted by some interesting trees. The trees are not bad for the time spent.
Here I try a couple views of a squashed pine cone and a bit of pine that fell on the walkway. All in all, I’m really glad I went, but maybe I shouldn’t have walked so much. I could have gotten more accomplished.
This is among the first drawings I did on the Wacom Tablet: rough, but effective. There’s me—I can draw a fairly decent cartoon representation of myself, or a representation of what I picture as my best self—and there’s my stepdaughter getting her hair combed before bed, smiling because I’m showing her a funny cat video on YouTube. Working from a photograph would probably render better results, but this is drawn from memory, ninety minutes after she went to sleep. It’s flat; the proportions are off. I must live with my faulty perception, and my unpolished ability.
As may be apparent to readers, I’ve never had an art lesson in my life, save for grade school and camp curricula, and a couple semesters of pottery. What I have studied, extensively, to abstraction, to the exclusion of vast swaths of normal human existence, is writing. I have toiled well over my ten thousand hours to mastery. I have taken ten Iowa-style fiction workshops. I have taken craft classes. I have studied with acclaimed writers, and considered their feedback, received their approval. I have organized my own workshops, created circles of writers who read and critique each other’s writing. I have revised and revised and revised.
I could describe for you, in broad brushstrokes or pointillist detail, the way the light plays on my stepdaughter’s hair, how the blond strands glow with natural rivers of platinum and strawberry, the way the tangles of her youthful athleticism smooth out into silky sheets of gold under the thick teeth of my wooden comb. I could show you the surface: the cinnamon freckles blooming across pink cheeks, the cool ice of her sparkling blue eyes. I could show you the hidden details: the wine-colored birthmark just under her hairline at the nape of her neck, the cracked white leather places between her fingers where her skin at times dries out so completely that blood seeps from the gaps. I could write a book about her: the way she chatters about cartoons no one else has seen, the way she hold her nose not only when she jumps into the pool, but also when she swims, one-handed, beneath the water.
The image is what it is.
All my life, my writing has been characterized as remarkably good. Qualified writers who have achieved recognition in their art have told me that I write well. I have sold a couple short stories. In the corporate world I have supported myself solely through this craft since I finished my MFA, ten years ago, but publishing four short stories in a decade while writing web content at $100 an hour is not quite the same as selling a novel.
I cannot sell a goddamn novel. Another successful writer, a close friend, suggests I don’t submit enough, and so I polish my queries and hurl them out in the universe. Some agents, some publishing houses, can’t afford the courtesy of a rejection note. Most are kind enough to offer the form rejection. Occasionally, an agent will ask for some piece of a manuscript before rejecting me. Whenever I get a little traction, the dream gets pulled out from under my feet. My work is not viable, or commercial, or accessible, or whatever it is they seek.
Originally I considered calling this blog “Words Fail,” which I’ve kept as a tagline. Words fail, but not because of my ability. With modesty and humility, I can state that I probably write in the objective ninety-ninth percentile of people on the planet. But that is not, apparently, good enough.
And here I’ve decided to share my infant scribbles, little amusements in which I’ve invested one fraction of one percent of the effort that I’ve put into ten novels, two full-length stage plays, and countless short stories, and already, before I’ve even officially launched my brand or shared this URL with friends and family, people seem interested in what I’m trying to do.
My drawings only hint at their intentions; I can only polish them up to the point where my ability falters, while I’ve acquired the ability to burnish my writing to a fine, mirror-like glow. But words fail.
It’s a really striking image, and much-copied. I love the thickness of the brush strokes, the boldness of the color.
Exercise 31 involved learning from others: pick a famous work, study it, learn from it, duplicate it, and then expand the project in some logical way. The example in the book suggested visiting a ballet school if, for example, your famous work was one of Degas’s.
For my extension, I visited the nearby Tucson Botanical Gardens and sketched flowers.
I like the rougher look to Van Gogh’s work, how it seems sloppy, but it’s not. The colors weren’t really available to me with the materials at hand, but some of them made a nice showing there, anyway.
Sketching in the gardens was so enjoyable. It’s definitely the sort of thing I want to incorporate into my artist’s life to a much greater degree.
As soon as the library sent me the reserve notice for The Trickster’s Hat, I was eager to jump in. Some of the exercises involved writing or other forms of expression, but the majority of them were visual, and I needed no encouragement. It was just what I wanted.
I didn’t love every exercise. Some of them were boring to me. Some of them seemed pointless. Some of them appeared geared to people with even less self-confidence in their creative ability than I had. But I did love a lot of them. Sometimes the ones I didn’t understand at first, or struggled with, or thought stupid, resulted in finished projects I could display with pride.
Almost instantly, I was able to focus on creating, setting aside a big block of time every night, looking forward to that time and curious about the next exercise in the book.
It’s unclear to me why this picture exists, since I didn’t enjoy the film Eraserhead in any way. My boyfriend at the time was a huge David Lynch fan. It’s 1991, most likely.
What I like about this next image is the style, where I worked primarily in chunks of gray, rather than lines. The subject was a guy in the year ahead of us at school, on whom my best friend had a bit of a crush. I only ever talked to him 3 or 4 times, but as the image shows, he was pretty cool for a high school senior.
In college, I did a lot of surreal art, often collaborative, with my then-boyfriend. Our style tended toward psychedelic and depended much more on color than anything I had done up to that point. However, I still sketched from time to time. This image is of that boyfriend, so it’s probably about 1993. At one point, I had an even lovelier nude I had done of him in charcoal, but sometime in the last 5 years, I mailed it to his wife, who seemed a more appropriate owner.