Hello, new readers and old. I can hardly believe we're almost at the end of another year. If you'd like to get straight to the links, feel free to scroll down. Otherwise: here is some seasonal rambling.
There's a lot of grief in my world and the worlds of people near me right now—changes, endings, deaths. I'm thinking a great deal about courage, grace, and integrity...all words that trigger a flare of reflexive fury when I hear them because I'm only human. "How dare you tell me to be zen about this," screeches that inner someone, rending its clothes and tearing its hair. But then the feeling passes, and I'm still here, thinking.
It's cold and clear in Portland this afternoon, and there's dirt under my fingernails. I had lunch with a landscaper friend yesterday and bemoaned the fact that I wanted to garden but felt I had left it too late in the season to plant. She briskly informed me that I was talking nonsense and so I scrambled off to the nursery to stock up on bulbs, shrubs, and creeping groundcover for the stretch of dirt at the side of our house. It's been one of those trash-attracting liminal spaces since we moved in three years ago, but the addition of new windows in the basement make the view a bit of an issue. I'm aiming to fix that.
A couple poems came to mind while I was out there. Seamus Heaney's "Digging
," obviously, but also one of my very favorite poems: "To be of use
" by Marge Piercy (which I've very likely mentioned here before).
"The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident."
I'm feeling the tidal pull of winter urging more reflection, less frenetic action. It's hard, since so much of my work feels like it's built on a persona that is perpetually bubbly and enthused about everything, but life isn't like that. There is a fear among creators that people will leave us if we don't continue to perform in precisely the same manner year after year. Sometimes this phenomenon does rear its head in the form of fan entitlement, but I've been fortunate not to run into much of it. Honestly: you're smart people. You know that life isn't always conducted on the mountaintops. Sometimes you need to hibernate, or sit in the sad places, and having fans who back you up during the high-output and low-output phases of the creative process is immeasurably valuable. So...thank you.
Okay: LINKS! I'm likely going to get peppier here because that's my standard idiom for talking about what's been going on:
- I teamed up with writing coach Deb Norton to release a full week of Inner Critic-themed prompts. If you enjoyed my 100 Demon Dialogues project and found yourself wanting to learn more about your own inner jerk, these speedy 6-minute exercises will help you out. Learn more here or listen to my interview with Deb here.
- Following up on the viral attention my Tattooed Sailor illustration got in October, I wrote a detailed break-down of precisely how much money I've made from this piece before and after it took off on Boing Boing. (These are the kind of posts I really love putting on Patreon, so I'm extra grateful to those of you who signed up to support me there after reading the essay.)
- If you find these kinds of raw numbers interesting, take a look at my 2016 Finances and the follow-up post on how much I've made and spent each year I've been a full-time freelancer. (And if you want more of this from other creators check out David Rees's fantastic XOXO talk from 2016.)
- SPEAKING OF TATTOOS: this is a fantastically-researched deep dive into the real history behind the spread of tattooing culture in the 18th century. I had always fallen prey to the "Cook Myth," but no more! This was an excellent reminder to be more thorough in my research when approaching future maritime history comics.
- My latest educational panel recording is Funding Creative Work, a discussion from Portland's Siren Nation Festival last month. Lots of smart perspectives there from grant officers, filmmakers, and an attorney in addition to my comics-based perspective.
- "How else is anything born but through a foreign body?" A beautiful meditation on translation which pairs extra well with this profile of Emily Wilson's new version of Homer's Odyssey. (As an erstwhile Classics major I am itching to get my hands on this book.)
- I'm hooked on Jocelyn K. Glei's new podcast Hurry Slowly, which couldn't have come out at a better time. You can start with any episode, but I really liked this one with Craig Mod.
- And, finally: holiday fever is upon us, so if you'd like to support my work this year there's lots of excellent gifts available in my shop. I'm particularly excited about people gifting my graphic novel Baggywrinkles, which is an equally effective option for both ex-Navy dads and young readers with an adventurous streak. There are also still five of my original Inktober paintings up for sale. (If your favorite has already gone, you can always grab an archival print—just scroll down to find them.) 100 Demon Dialogues plushies are en route to the warehouse (AHH), but likely won't be available for general purchase until the new year.
And that's it! You can expect another installment of this newsletter around January 1st. Until then, here's a thought from Kay Larson's biography of John Cage, Where the Heart Beats
"That path, of increasing one's enjoyment of life, is the path I think we'd all best take. To use art not as self-expression but as self-alteration. To become more open."
With love and gratitude,