...because if your reading year has included not one but two books about Mitch McConnell, maybe it's time to admit you have a problem. Anyhow, here's the stuff I read in 2017 as I tried to come to terms with our national crisis. My usual disclaimers about a good portion of these being audiobooks still apply, for the sort of people who are sticklers about this kind of thing.
Also, if anyone wants to join my informal book club for people who read / are reading The Power Broker and want to talk about it constantly, we are currently accepting new members. '
Writer Who Dominated My Reading Year: Robert Caro
In this era of hot take think-pieces written in hours, reading Robert Caro is downright refreshing. His work famously takes him years to write, and it's immensely satisfying listening to well-researched stories that make politics seem fascinating and complicated. Not complicated in the "arcane senate procedure way" though there's plenty of that too (and which Caro actually manages to make fairly understandable), but complicated in a "bad-men-doing-great-and-terrible things" kind of way.
In 2017 I read two more books in Robert Caro's epic Lyndon Johnson biography series, Means of Ascent, and The Passage of Power (yes, I am reading them all out of order). The Passage of Power is my favorite so far, which spans six years—LBJ going from the most powerful man in the Senate, to the least powerful man in the executive branch.
I also thoroughly enjoyed On Power, a collection of excerpts of Caro's speeches, and a superb introduction to his work. And speaking of which...
Best Author Talk
...oh hey, look who I got to meet! One of my highlights this year was attending a lecture by the historian Robert Caro at the Newark Public Library. I am also happy to report that he has an excellent sense of humor. He and his wife Ina graciously signed the WWLBJD? bumper stickers [see photo] that we presented them (printed by me, designed by my friend Tim).
Author I Would Most Like to Get a Beer With: Alyssa Mastromonaco
Who Thought This Was a Good Idea, by Alyssa Mastromonaco.
I tore through this on a plane ride, wishing it had come out about 10 years earlier when I most needed career advice. Alyssa Mastromonaco was Obama's White House Deputy Chief of Staff for three years (the "type of job...no one teaches you to want") and her memoir is a funny and fascinating reveal of what it is like to have one of the most high pressure gigs in the world. If you really can't get enough of what it was like behind the scenes in the Obama White House, I also enjoyed the funny memoir Thanks, Obama. My Hopey Changey Years in the White House by David Litt.
Literally Me, by Julie Houts.
Works in this genre tend to feature writers whose artistic ambitions start and end with publishing a book that would sell well in an Urban Outfitters, but this book thoroughly delighted me. Houts is a clear-eyed satirist of a very specific (and easily mockable) genre of women's culture, and an elegant draftswoman. Once I got to her illustrated essay about a group of women in an Uber Pool who wind up ushering in the apocalypse en route to Coachella I was hooked.
Best Book I Should've Already Read By Now
1984 by George Orwell. I was one of the thousands of people who helped make this 68-year-old book a best seller in 2017. Go figure.
Book I Read Because I Was Going to Watch the New TV Series the Book Was Based On, And Then, Upon Finishing It the Book, Never Felt In the Mood to Watch the TV Series
The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood. Nothing against Margaret Atwood or Elisabeth Moss, by the way. I just never had the emotional energy.
Best Audiobook (and Most Specific Title)
The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell: The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell: Tales of a 6' 4", African American, Heterosexual, Cisgender, Left-Leaning, Asthmatic, Black and Proud Blerd, Mama's Boy, Dad, and Stand-Up Comedian
Like all of Bell’s comedy his memoir is funny, engaging, and thought-provoking. It got me through several hours of mural painting.
The Hike, by Drew Margary
I was ready to write this book off as bizarre torture porn, but the last 30 minutes or so were as fantastic as everyone said they were.
Most Infuriating, but for Different Reasons
The Long Game, by Mitch McConnell and The Cynic: The Political Education of Mitch McConnell by Alec Macgillis
"I want to know how Voldemort became Voldemort," I explained to my fiancé when he asked why on earth I wanted to read such a book. (He replied, "Well, I don't want to know. And I will refer to him as He Who Must Not Be Named.")
Anyhow, if your view of McConnell is of a man with no ideas or principles other than winning elections and sabotaging Democrats, his memoir The Long Game doesn't do much to convince you otherwise. (He devotes an entire chapter to his ”heroic" act of attempting to sabotage the Affordable Care Act and offers three vague sentences on how he'd have fixed it; in fact, his ideas for fixing any problems facing Americans are largely absent.) Fortunately, Alec McGinness' book The Cynic is a fascinating and necessary accompaniment to his memoir, which dives into the harsh political calculations behind the decisions McConnell breezes over.
Other Good Books
What Happened, by Hillary Clinton
Yes, I read it. No, I did not think it was "too soon." As the comedian Billy Eichner put it on Twitter: "Everything we pretend to know regarding laws/policy/diplomacy-Hillary's lived it her entire life. Not wanting her 2 cents is just plain dumb."
Everything is Flammable by Gabrielle Bell
March by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell
Lincoln In the Bardo, by George Saunders
Parts of this book made me impatient, but others put a shiver down my spine.
A few months ago I had the pleasure of participating in the second Aviation Meets Art exhibition at the College Park Aviation Museum. The exhibition is spearheaded by my friend Mike Robb, an aviation history buff who wanted to see what would happen if he got a bunch of artists together to create work on the theme of flight.
Significantly (to the Maiers, anyhow) this is the first time I've exhibited with my dad, a fellow artist who has been creating a fantastic series of bunnies and space aliens for the last year or so:
The exhibition runs to March. A few more images below:
I'm back in the wheatpasting workshop game this month in honor of the DC Public Library's Banned Book Week. The first one was yesterday, which resulted in this awesome wheatpasted collage you can see here.
If you'd like to join me at the next workshops, spots are still available and tickets are free! Details below.
UNCENSORED DC: DIY Wheatpasting with Artist Dana Jeri Maier
Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017, 6:30 p.m.
Shaw (Watha T. Daniel) Library
1630 7th St. NW
Washington, D.C. 20001
Reserve your spot here
Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017, 6:30 p.m.
4200 Kansas Ave. NW
Washington, D.C. 20011
Reserve your spot here
Last month I completed a mural for CHIKO, an amazing new restaurant in Barrack's Row by chefs Danny Lee, Scott Drewno, and Andrew Kim, which has received a lot of well deserved praise since it opened. I'm still dreaming of their catfish friend rice as I type this.
Below are a few images of the mural in progress:
As always, thanks to my friend Natalie of Natalie Park Design Studio for making it happen!
I'll be selling my comic wares at the Vancouver Comics and Arts Festival this weekend. Like you need an excuse to go to Vancouver, but this should be pretty rad.
Anyhow, I'll be at table M2 in the gym. Pacific Northwesterners, swing on by!
Saturday, May 20 and Sunday, May 21
10:00 AM to 5:00 PM
Roundhouse Community Center
181 Roundhouse Mews, Vancouver BC
I’ve been drawing The Worried Well regularly for a little over a year now, and have slowly progressed from the Not Sure What I Am Doing phase to the Why is This Getting Harder, Not Easier? phase, and finally, onto the Huh, Surely I Should Have Run Out of Ideas by Now phase. This seems like as good a time as any to write about What I Learned in list-fashion, so on that note:
What I Learned Drawing a Bi-Weekly Comic for a Little Over a Year
1. If you don’t have a lot to say on a topic, don’t push it.
As some of you may remember, in 2015 I created a mini comic called The Illustrated Guide to $14 Cocktails. A few of the individual cartoons are still lurking around online, but overall I consider it one of my weaker books. But what happened? It sounds like it would write itself, no? Those overpriced drinks just begging to be mocked! All of those fancy ingredients only a handful of people could possibly care about! And so forth. But in the end, I ran out of things to say about pricy cocktails pretty quickly—I had maybe one or two cartoons worth of material that I tried to stretch into a book’s worth, and it just didn’t work. (Also, how do you write about drinking expensive cocktails without sounding like a jackass? Serious question. Please tell me.)
There are, however, LOTS of things that make me legitimately opinionated: the overabundance of Book Shaped Product (ie, contentless drivel packaged up nicely), inspirational items that are really not, Richard Price, the so-called circular firing squad of the left, feeling powerless and infuriated at our current administration but how we cannot use that as an excuse not to act, introvert fetishization, my controversial stance Valentine’s Day is actually a wonderful holiday, not feeling the way you are “supposed” to feel, and many others. My general rule is that if I encounter a topic that makes me want to go on a drunken rant, I might have something I can work with.
2. No one cares about the drawing. Except other artists.
I knew this going in of course, but seeing it play out in real life is vaguely depressing.
3. Nib pens are your friend.
The advantage of using a nib pen? It slows you down and forces you to work in one place. The disadvantage? It slows you down and forces you to work in one place. Right now my favorite tools include speedball 512s, square yellow Post-It Notes for doodles, an assortment of Japanese Pilot pens from JetPens.com (thanks, Eric!), and various glass trays I purchased at thrift stores and garage sales for palettes.
4. It's important to finish things.
To paraphrase Tom Hart: "You can be the type of artist who finishes things or the type of artist who hates himself." And weirdly, one of my proudest accomplishments last year was applying for a cartooning residency I didn't get into. It was only after I completed the application that I figured out what I wanted a collection of my work to look like.
5. It's still way more fun to draw stuff that doesn't have to make any sense.
The awesome folks at LemonBowl DC are kind enough to let me host a few wheatpasting workshops this year. If you ever wanted to learn the not-so-fine art of gluing oversized paper to walls, I am spilling all of my secrets on February 21 and March 8 for $25.
The last one sold out, so get tickets while you can here! Official description:
Learn the not-so-ancient art of gluing oversized photocopies to walls with artist and cartoonist Dana Jeri Maier. You will learn:
- How to go from an 8x10'' drawing to a large-scale, finished wheatpaste
- Where to buy materials for cheap
- Dana’s personal street art philosophy (yes, she does have one!)
All students will receive a limited-edition booklet by Dana containing wheatpasting resources and tips. Glue, brushes, and drawing materials will also be provided for in-class demonstrations, along with wine and snacks to get the creative juices flowing.
And now my long-awaited(?) 2016 reading wrap-up. Most of it was spent listening to the superb (but lengthy) Lyndon Johnson biography by Robert Caro, a book I didn't expect to be in my roster but feels like one of most important works I’ve read in awhile. Other than that, it was a typical eclectic reading year. I read a classic I should've read in high school, a book that made me want to punch the writer in the face, abandoned a book that everyone else seemed to like but me, and gleefully devoured the latest Harry Potter play adaptation despite reviews like this. And I reread a few favorites for good measure.
Best and Most Important
Master of the Senate (The Years of Lyndon Johnson, #3) by Robert A. Caro
So we all know the United States Senate is a mess, but did you ever wonder how or why, exactly it was a mess other than something-something corrupt politicians? I sure didn’t. This book is not only a superb biography of Lyndon Johnson, but a fascinating (and infuriating) illustration of how the senate works, and how LBJ was the first man to come along to figure out how to exploit it to his advantage. It’s also a harsh reminder of how being on the right side of history isn’t enough if you can’t wield power effectively.
Chaos Monkeys: Obscene Fortune and Random Failure in Silicon Valley
by Antonio Garcia Martinez
There’s a lot of interesting content in this book, mostly about how start ups are born, and gossipy tales of the office culture at Facebook and Twitter. Unfortunately, it was all overshadowed by an author hell-bent on making sure you know that he is Smarter Than You with every sentence. Not to mention casual misogyny (the women he's fucking don't even get proper pseudonyms and the mother of his children is obnoxiously referred to as "British Trader" the whole time) and cringe-inducing sex scenes. If you want a more palatable account of start-up culture, I'd recommend Dan Lyon's book, Disrupted.
Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble by Dan Lyons
This was a fun, if slightly terrifying, romp through a certain brand of youth-driven, peppy start-up culture I read this in one sitting.
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
Unconvincing torture porn. And became impossible to take seriously the moment one of the protagonists, an artist, manages to get a show at the Met at the ripe old age of 27.
Book that Did Not Disappoint, Even Though Every Review Said It Would
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts 1 & 2 (Harry Potter #8)
by John Tiffany (Adaptation), Jack Thorne (Adaptation), J.K. Rowling
I'm going to come out and say it: I love Harry Potter. I love J.K. Rowling, who seems like more and more of a brilliant class act every day. I love the adult novels she's written since the series ended. (I have no love whatsoever for any Harry Potter movies except the fourth one, but that is a whole other blog post.) Anyhow, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was everything I wanted it to be. I am eagerly awaiting an audio version.
Book that Did Disappoint, But I'm Glad I Read Anyway
The Mandibles by Lionel Shriver
I'm sure I'm on record somewhere as a huge Lionel Shriver fangirl. Her books We Need to Talk About Kevin and The Post Birthday World are some of my all-time-re-read-every-few-years-and-try-to-foist-on-all-my-friends favorites, and she is better at articulating human motivation than any writer I know. That said, The Mandibles—a dystopian novel that traces a family during an American financial collapse—isn't one of her better novels. She didn't figure out how to make her characters talk constantly about interest rates and currency valuation without them sound like walking Economist articles rather than people, and the whole second part of the book should probably have been cut in half. Nonetheless, it was well worth the read for its insight about our complex relationship with money.
Revolutionary Road, by Richard Yates.
This one is on my 're-read every five years or so' shelf and sends shivers down my spine every time. It's also one of the few books to truly dissect the question: so how do you have a meaningful life, anyway?
Book I'd Should've Already Read By Now, but Am Also Glad I Read in Adulthood Instead of in High School
Lolita, by Vladmir Nabokov. A masterpiece that would have been completely wasted on me at 16.
Other Books I Read And Enjoyed
The Martian, by Anthony Weir. Better than the movie!
How to Be a Person in the World, by Heather Havrilesky.
The Interrogative Mood, by Padgett Powell. A book composed entirely of wonderfully weird and thoughtful questions. (Examples: "When you see an abandoned toilet, do you have any impulse to salvage it or right it or in any way restore to it some lost dignity?" and "Would you like to have been a conquistador—perhaps a benign one?”)
Rolling Blackouts: Dispatches from Turkey, Syria, and Iraq by Sarah Glidden.
Amazing. Everyone who cares about journalism should read this.
Hot Dog Taste Test by Lisa Hanawalt
Lisa Hanawalt teaches us all that not only is your weird, pervy stuff in your brain not only worth sharing, it is what people will love you for.
Mooncop, by Tom Gauld.
Pure poetry. Anything else I say about it will ruin it.
Happy New Year, everyone! As always, I welcome friendship on Goodreads if any fellow readers want to compare notes or recommend titles.
I'm pleased to announce that my cartoon, "Beyond the Safety Pin" will be included in the print version of Resist! magazine. This is a cartoon anthology edited by Gabe Fowler, Françoise Mouly and Nadja Spiegelman featuring work from women and LGBTQ artists in response to Trump’s election, and will be distributed free in DC on Innaguaration Day. You can learn more about it and see more cartoons by the other artists here, and read an interesting NY Mag article about the project here. Apparently I am not the only woman who feels a sick aversion to drawing Trump.
I'm still figuring out how to address our new political horrorshow in my cartoons, and figuring out how but more on that later. In the meantime, I figured I'd use my limited talent for portraiture to draw people who are genuinely inspiring:
Some more of my political cartoons (or more accurately, "politically inspired" cartoons?) are below. And if any readers would like some I'll Miss This Guy stickers [see above], please contact me and I'm happy to send some your way.
In fun-illustration-work news, a few weeks ago I drew my second-ever ketubah (i.,e, a Jewish marriage contract, for all you goyim out there). I'm pleased with how it turned out and fortunately the happy couple was too. Mazel tov, Sarah and Riley!
If you're in the market for a ketubah or know someone who is, please feel free to drop me a line.
I will have some prints and drawings for sale at the DC Design Week Pop-Up Shop, where I fully expect to spend any money I make buying stuff from the other illustrators and designers. Below is a quick preview of what I'll be selling.
The opening party is this Sunday, but if you can’t make it or don’t live nearby everything is available in the shop, too.
Sunday, October 23
Opening party at 2:00 PM
Cherry Blossom Creative
2128 8th St NW, Washington, DC 20001
As an artist, I’ve been fascinated by the amount of material that has suddenly blossomed about the “creative process.” Not only is it impossible to open my email without a barrage of “7 tips for boosting your creativity”-esque clickbait, there are now journals to help you along, Tarot cards to spark ideas, collections of inspirational quotes, coloring books up the wazoo, and all sorts of stuff I’m probably forgetting.
And what always fascinates me is how little any of it helps when I sit down to actually work. The most they can offer me is solidarity; a “hey, it’s hard for all of us, isn’t it?” reassurance that’s handy to have in the back of your mind, but completely useless when trying to figure out what to draw and how to draw it. Perhaps for that reason I’ve always been more consoled by works like Isn’t It Romantic?–the brilliant 2011 David Rakoff essay where he describes in beautiful, agonizing detail the process of how a day devoted to writing will so easily go from “Pregnant with Potential” to “Freighted with Failure,”–than I am by encouraging posters.
This is not to say I think less of the people who find books or journals about creativity helpful. It’s easy to roll your eyes at titles like “Unleashing Your Inner Something-or-Other” (and I may gently mock them in my cartoons now and then) but if someone feels as though they finally have “permission” to draw or paint thanks to a book, or a think piece, or even a wine and paint class, only a churl would begrudge them for it. (Besides, the fact that adult coloring books are a thing now can only lead to more jobs for artists and illustrators, so I’m sure as hell not complaining.)
My Creative Process series adds to the pile of these guides, but without offering any useful advice whatsoever. The goal is just to show what it’s like for me, and, because I’m not particularly unique, what it might be like for other people. I finished it last spring but never got around to posting it, so Parts 1 - 6 are below:
One of the tricks I’ve learned about drawing comics is that your own internal (or occasionally external) rants are a handy source of material in a pinch. I couldn’t figure out how to articulate my contradictory 'social-media-is-poisoning-and-feeding-me-at-the-same-time’ feelings until it occurred to me to throw the Social Media Fairy into the mix. Monday's cartoon is the result:
Some practice sketches and color blobs:
And here are my original notes. I didn’t want the cartoon to be too text-heavy, so I cut down my original rant quite a bit. I also moved her to a bed, since I'm getting tired of drawing a figure at a desk behind a computer.
I'll have some drawings in a show at Marymount University featuring black-and-white work. I'll be displaying a bunch of pieces that were literally collecting dust on my wall for the last several months, so I'm happy to give them some breathing room.
The show runs to October 14 and the opening party is this Friday, September 9th from 6-8 if anyone wants to swing by.
Official show announcement:
Please join us Friday, Sept. 9 at the opening reception for the exhibition “B+W,” featuring the work of Karen Coleman, Dana Jeri Maier, Matthew McLaughlin and Wayne Paige. The event will be held in the Barry Gallery of Marymount University’s Reinsch Library from 6-8 p.m.
The event is free and open to the public.
Curated by Judy Bass and Trudi Vandyck, the exhibit will be on display through October 14. Gallery hours are 10 a.m. - 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Barry Gallery Reinsch Library
2807 North Glebe Road Arlington, VA 22207
The brilliant Richard Thompson, creator of Cul de Sac and Richard's Poor Almanac, passed away last week of complications from Parkinson's disease. Saying “artistic hero” sounds strange, but “Artist I grew up reading and looked up to as a kind of gold standard for what an artist should be especially the more I learned about him” is long-winded, so I will leave it at that. My heart aches for his family and many friends.
There have been many beautiful tributes written the last several days by the people who knew him best, which articulate his genius and humanity better than I ever could, as well as an outpouring of fans writing about their favorite Richard Thompson drawings. Though it’s impossible to pick a favorite, the Cul de Sac cartoon with The Picture With the Shark in It [see above] has a special place in my heart, since that is also my not-so-secret favorite painting at the National Gallery. Google-image-searching his cartoon brought me to this page on his blog, where I learned some fun facts about the painting (the guy getting his foot chewed off apparently “bragged about his shark misadventure incessantly, even featuring a disembodied foot on his coat of arms.” Who knew?!)
If you want to learn more about him, I suggest the superb Art of Richard Thompson, though if you are a friend of mine there’s a good chance I’ve already shoved a copy into your hands. And the documentary made about him a few years ago is also lovely, though near-impossible to view without weeping.
Another side effect of attending SAW was that I began to use a nib pen again, a practice I'd gotten out of the habit of. Below are a few nib pen warm-up doodles:
The advantage of a nib pen is that it slows you down, which makes it ideal for Contemplative Doodling, as I like to call it. (Actually, I just made that up, but it seems to fit.) As you can see, they're a combination of stream-of-conscious imagery and me talking to myself:
I've also been drawing more on the train, in an attempt to make the best of the recent spurt of Metro delays. My sketchbook work is done with a portable brush pen, which is a good safeguard against getting bogged down in too many details:
A few weeks ago I attended the Sequential Artists Workshop for a week long residency. (Can’t say enough good things about it, by the way, and would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to devote productive time to drawing and cartooning—but more on that later.) While I was there I created an 8 page mini comic, based on my disastrous experience trying to wait tables when I was 19: