A few new cartoons

I feel about as comfortable calling myself a cartoonist as I do calling myself an illustrator (that is to say, not at all) but I've been trying to get better about scribbling down my ideas before they get pushed aside by other art. Here are a few, plus some accompanying sketches those fans of showing your work: My museum map... MuseumComicWeb

...which was born from this doodle. (In case you are wondering, my Sacred Childhood Painting is Watson and the Shark, at the National Gallery. Now of course, I can't look at it without wondering why the shark decided to only eat Watson's clothing while leaving the rest of his body intact.): MuseumSketchesWeb

My cartoon, 'Crossroads' CrossroadWeb

...and here is the original doodle in my sketchbook. photo 2

And finally: "These Things Are Not Allowed." NotAllowedWeb2

Original page (you will find a few items that did not make final cut): photo 1

I was debating typing this versus writing it by hand, but finally decided the handwriting was more appropriate for the notes-you-tell-yourself feel I was going for.

Anyhow, some or all of these may be published in the next Mutant by the comic book shop Atomic Books, which is still my favorite reason to visit Baltimore. The anthology will be free with a purchase, so if you need recommendations of comics to buy, I am always happy to oblige.

Artist CV

Oh, the artist CV. One of many ineffectual attempts to impress strangers. Well, we People in the Arts are visual people, supposedly. Maybe this is more how it should be. And this way I can highlight the not-impressive-on-paper with the impressive-on-paper:  CV - Dana Jeri Maier

The Tattooed Potato logo

I recently helped my friend John Michael design a logo for his amazing production company, The Tattooed Potato. Normally when I draw for someone else the results tend to be embarrassing (this wound up prematurely killing my illustration career) but JM had a knack for tricking me into creating something he could use. Here is the final version:


Here are few rough sketches and ideas that did not make the cut:

Rough Sketches for The Tattooed Potato

Here is New York

On the left is a raw sketch for a new interactive map I made based on New York City, its home now on my projects page). I had the idea of creating a map in this vein for awhile -- the original title was much less SFW -- and cranked it out on an unusually productive Sunday afternoon. To be fair, I left out a lot of the admittedly good stuff about New York in order to keep the integrity of the thesis, including my cousin Laura's amazing studio in Williamsburg, the view from the top of the Museum of Art and Design, and the unfortunately-named Burp Castle which is a bar where the bartender shushes you if you talk too loudly, which I so wish bartenders everywhere would do. But overall, I think it's safe to say that the city hasn't quite embraced me with open arms. (On a side note, I am pleased that the two projects whose ideas I blatantly swiped both resulted in pleasant receptions from their original creators.) I'm working on a similar map of DC now, but am finding that writing up the little blurbs is far more difficult. If you hate a city, it's easy to find you have lots of things to say. If you like a place -- or at least don't find it maddeningly cruel on a daily basis -- it's too easy for all of your comments to sound gushy and dull. But stay tuned.

Please stop ruining Valentine's Day

I have a soft spot for Valentine's Day, which always seemed like a holiday that should be a cheerful celebration of the drugstore brand of love ("LUV"), expressed solely by heart-shaped candy and cute teddy bears stitched with bad puns. (The fact that the holiday somehow morphed into something weighty enough to inspire 'anti-Valentine's Day' parties just makes me sad. For a day, let's ignore betrayal and heartbreak and all of the other complications love usually entails, shall we? Let's all just give each other Reeses's Peanut Butter Cups in the shape of a heart and call it day.) So, even though a part of me thinks that if your Valentine's Day gifts are NOT purchased at a CVS, you have probably tried too hard, I'm making my own style of Valentine's Day cards. Also, because my printer just broke, they are each now Limited Edition by default. I'll be selling them at The Fridge (and giving them to friends with candy scotch-taped to the envelopes, natch) but if you're reading this and would like one, send me a message and I may have a comp or two.


Study in contrasts

I don't normally discuss my drawing process -- mostly because it's actually one of the least interesting aspects about my art-making, or at least so mysterious that I don't have much to say about it -- but here's a small tidbit for you. The drawing on the right was started in September, forgotten about, revisted in earnest this winter, and subsequently overworked within an inch of its life. The drawing on the left is the do-over, currently unfinished, but one I am feeling much better about.

In other website news, I updated my about page, for those of you who might care about such things. Includes a handy guide of my default imagery.

Reading and Resolutions

The other day I stumbled on an article on Slate, "My New Year's Resolution: Read a Book Every Day" wherein the writer, Jeff Ryan, resolves to read a book every day in 2012. And then he actually he does it (audiobooks, comics and short books were the secret, apparently). On paper it's certainly an impressive achievement, but my main takeaway from the piece--other than that Internet commenters seem unfairly dismissive of audiobooks--was mostly amazement that someone could, in adulthood, approach the task of reading as would a fourth grader trying to win his class a pizza party. I'm not saying that Ryan necessarily shouldn't be reading books with a number goal in mind; it must have been satisfying to polish off Book No. 366 and overall probably a better use of his time than skimming articles online or playing videogames (the two activities he curbed in order to reach his book-a-day goal). But his piece overlooked one of the best perks of growing up and being out of a classroom setting, namely that it really doesn't matter how many books you've read, or even which ones. Because no one else cares. Once you move beyond assignments or quizzes or trying to impress people (which never works anyhow, and mostly just makes you insufferable), it's a pleasure done solely for its own sake, and if you would like to be challenged or enlightened or comforted or fed a tale about vampires, there is a book that will suit each one of those perfectly reasonable desires. "Reading for enjoyment is what we should all be doing," Nick Hornby once pointed out. "Because here's something no one else will tell you: if you don't read the classics, or the novel that won this year's Booker Prize, then nothing bad will happen to you; more importantly, nothing good will happen to you if you do."

A few days before New Year I started listening to Half Empty by David Rakoff, the second chapter of which wound up being the right thing to hear at the right time; he captured the strain of being an artist and an unhappy person at the exact moment I was feeling both of those things, and needed someone more articulate than myself to phrase it right for me. Which is the whole point of reading, at least for me.

The Bachelor Cat, and other updates

1. I finished a mini comic, The Bachelor Cat, which you can purchase on my shop for $4. All actual Cat Bachelors--they know who they are--can have one for free. Sorry, ladies. 2. I am going to be participating in a group show at Delicious Spectacle in Columbia Heights called One of Five, which opens this Friday. My work will be on display with the lovely and talented Project Dispatch artists.

3. I updated my What Should I Read Next? flowchart to include some favorites from 2012 and did some other reorganization. You can see it and share it on Visual.ly.

4. If you are voyeuristic and/or curious about my work environment, I created a Studio Viewer, where you can see my studio, annotated. It's Beta now (read: still thinking of ways to make it better) and  I'm thinking of expanding this project, so drop me a line if you'd have suggestions or want in.

"The Unsuccessful Artists' Handbook"

Last week I discovered that I was awarded an Artist Fellowship Grant from DCAH, which (now semi-ironically) I will be using to produce a book of drawings and writing titled, "The Unsuccessful Artists' Handbook." This is partially inspired by the ceaseless supply of horrible instruction guides regarding how to be an artist, which I always pick up hopefully and then put down again in disgust--mostly with myself, for continuing to fall for it--when I see they all say the exact same thing. Please note that this will not be an actual handbook. But for that, consider yourselves lucky.

Work in progress for Aviation Meets Art

Next on the pipeline is a show at the College Park Aviation Museum, which opens November 9. Even if you can't make it to the opening, I'd highly recommend checking out the museum at some point if you're in the DC area. It's a quirky little museum with beautiful lighting and all sorts of fascinating flying relics.

On Sketchbooks

I remember one afternoon during the Blended installation I stepped out to buy some art supplies, and realized, while biking to Utrecht, that I had left my sketchbook lying on the warehouse floor. Just asking to be perused or stolen, if any other artists were inclined to pick it up. I panicked momentarily. What was it about those notebooks that compel us to capture every tiny snippet thought that goes through our heads? Of course, my sketchbook was waiting for me untouched when I returned, which should not have been a surprise. As anyone who has ever blogged or saw a friend's eyes glaze over in the middle of an anecdote knows, the contents of your head are never quite so interesting to other people as they are to you. Sketchbooks tend to be fetishized in the art community, seen as containing the raw honesty that can sometimes be absent from finished pieces, and I will never turn down a chance to poke through other artists' sketchbooks (if they let me). 

But it is often forgotten that they also contain a load of crap you would never dream of inflicting on the world. They're a holding ground for scribbles, unfinished to-do lists, boring thoughts, bad ideas--or worse, no ideas--and drawings that belie the fact you have a degree in illustration.

And they take on lives and personalities of their own. My current sketchbook, a moleskin with too-thin paper (I'm very picky) feels like an entity I've been fighting with the last several months. Sometimes it's been a fun ride--other times it's been a physical manifestation of every single limitation I have as an artist. (To a normal person, this probably sounds like a highly melodramatic way of characterizing what is essentially a collection of blank paper, but hopefully at least a few other artists out there are nodding their heads.)

Still, there are occasionally a few examples of sketches that might not be good per se, but still strike me as important. For those curious I've interspersed a few acceptable examples of my current sketchbook here, and I post raw stuff on my tumblr site on a semi-regular basis. Right now most of them are based on a little story I'm working on called, "The Bachelor Cat" which I finally figured out how to end this weekend.

Drawing at Morgan's Seafood

I recorded more of the play by play of the installation on my Tumblr account, but baring recent storm damage, you can see my latest window installation outside of Morgan's Seafood this Sunday, along with some drawings on display at Pleasant Plains (including stuff that's been collecting dust in my studio which I'm grateful to finally show off). Read more about it here.

Schedule: 4-5:30 PM Reception at Pleasant Plains Workshop with new window artists artists Dana Jeri Maier and Elizabeth Stewart at Pleasant Plains Workshop. Refreshments and light fare from local restaurants.

5:30-6:30 PM Art Walk featuring all 4 Georgia Avenue Window Walk installations and other art stops along the way

6:30 - ? PM Reception at DC Reynolds with drink specials and light fare (cash bar)The Georgia Avenue Window Walk is a collaborative effort by The Georgia Avenue Community Development Task Force, Pleasant Plains Workshop, and a committee of neighborhood resident volunteers.

Untitled No. 3, Drawing Residency, and Excuses

I'm in the rare position of having drawings on display at two(!) galleries with opening parties this evening, both up through the weekend and within walking distance of each other. This post is probably too late to convince anyone to show up who already has plans, but in my defense I was in San Francisco the past few days, doing lots of writing and sketching (some of which will find its way here).

Untitled no. 3

Event for RandallScottProjects · By Randall Scott A special 3 day exhibition of DC/VA/MD based artists.

Dates & Time: Aug 31st opening 6pm-10pm Sept 1st 11-7pm Sept 2nd 11-5pm

Location: 2030 8th St NW Washington DC Between U st and V st. U Street Metro Station Limited Parking is available in our lot - look for the building covered in graffiti --------------------------------

Drawing Residency

Dates & Time Opening Party August 31, 2012 6-9pm Exhibition up through 9/3

Location: 87FLORIDA 87 Florida Ave NW

Drawing Residency and the Centipede's Dilemma

20120824-133750.jpgI was very pleased to be invited to participate in Eames Armstrong's Drawing Residency last night. I wasn't sure what to expect--'show up and draw' was the gist of the invite--but as it turned out it was exactly what I'd want out of any residency--namely a venue to draw, drink beer and have thoughtful conversations. The fact that all of this occurred on Philippa's lovely roofdeck on an uncharacteristically not-muggy August evening was an added bonus. A variety of materials were provided for the residency, but I tackled some small pieces I'd been carrying in my sketchbook, that I'd been working on in fits and starts. And I used my own pens since when it comes to my art, I am about as much as a prissy prima donna as they come. "I can’t draw that. It doesn’t interest me. I’ll only use this material and this pen, thank you very much. And this nice paper." And so forth. This can either be constued as choosing the path of least resistance or having artistic integrity, I’m not sure which.

On a related note I was pleased to find the Wikipedia page for centipede syndrome, from which I suffer tremendously when it comes to my art. Specifically it's called, The Centipede's Dilemma, which occurs "when a normally automatic or unconscious activity is disrupted by consciousness of it or reflection on it." Or as the original story goes, a centipede is asked how it walks by some other creature, and then, once it mulls over the question, finds itself unable to move.

Though I appreciate having an official diagnosis, for the most part being afflicted with the centipede syndrome is incredibly annoying. It would be far more useful to have the ability to, (to paraphrase Homer Simpson) draw something that 'looks like the way it looks like' or provide satisfying answers when people ask me questions about my work. Though at the same time, it's a good way to appreciate how marvelous and complex the human mind is, that you can allow a part of your brain that seems to have nothing to do with you to call the shots and create things.

Anyway, an exhibit with some of the work displayed from the Residency will be up at Aether Art Projects and open next Friday. More details and pictures to be come soon, but it should be a good show.

Genesis opening Friday

I get spells of insomnia every so often. There’s the bad kind, where you’re convinced that you’re about to fall asleep at any moment for about three hours--"never fully asleep and never fully awake” as Edward Norton’s character in Fight Club so aptly puts it--and the good kind, which is a 2 AM second wind. It’s a wonderful time to work. The harsh edges of the day have softened, and you’re more relaxed, open to revelations and entertaining thoughts that are not possible to have at any reasonable hour. You might crash unexpectedly and wake up when the alarm rings at 6:32 feeling groggy, but it’s nothing a cup of coffee or four won’t cure. The drawings I will have on display for the upcoming EMP Collective Genesis show were mostly done in these wee-hours, which opens this Friday at the Fridge and is up through the weekend. Details can be found here, and the Facebook event here.

The Why of Wheatpasting

Today I was wheatpasting on the white 14th street strip walkway when a man got out of his car, said hello, and asked me what I was doing. "Wheatpasting," I told him.

"Why?" he asked.

You Have No Idea Who You Are
Photo by Philippa PB Hughes

It's a perfectly fair question, just not an enjoyable one to answer; similar to when someone points to a section of one of my drawings and asks, "what's that?" I can't begrudge the curiosity, even if the answer is long and requires me to explain how I draw in the first place. Unfortunately, there's no good reason to be wheatpasting, other than, I felt like it, or more specifically, I had created a drawing that seemed particularly wheatpaste appropriate and there was no reason not to do it. I didn't have a call to action, or a band I was trying to promote; it was pure art for art's sake, if you're the sort of person who classifies wheatpasting as art.

So I told him that I liked the idea of taking a single drawing and seeing it in various contexts, and that the section of the wall I'd been pasting was one that was probably was overlooked and I wanted to activate the space, and I had an image on hand that seemed to fit the area well, and that technique-wise, yeah it was better to be pasting in the morning when fewer people are around but of course it's hard to get up that early. He was friendly, but didn't seem completely satisfied—as though there had to be some other motive I wasn't revealing. But I guess that's the risk with asking why, as anyone whose interacted with a toddler knows. Eventually, you hit the end of the line, sometimes sooner rather than later.

Anyway, more details for the curious: the piece above was inspired by a quote I saw in the London Times Style magazine about various coffee drinkers (not a Dana original, sadly, though I wish it was). The drawing is composed of the sketch on the right, and you can see it around 14th street before the next torrential rain fall or someone else decides to cover it up.

Sketchbook Update

I am constantly impressed by artists whose sketchbooks don't look at though their brain barfed all over their Moleskine pages. I just got a new one--keeping track of coasters and bits of Stonehedge paper was becoming too much of a hassle--and so far it's been addicting, but also very...messy. I know that's the point and all, but still I'm surprised at how often these drawings will to lead to more visual problems than they solve. Anyway, a few samples below. For inspiration I've been looking at the utterly fantastic sketchbooks of Juana Medina and Wendy MacNaughton and the folks at the Sketchnote Army to see if I can learn a thing or two.

To-do List, with apologies to Ellen Raskin

Spraypaint vs. Micron pens

Been a good weekend, artistically speaking. I finally got around to setting up a new drafting table (thanks, Yeon-Woo!), and snagged a spot in Blended at the last minute, courtesy of screen-printer extraordinare Anthony Dihle. This is a group show by Albus Cavus, organized by AIGA and looks very promising so far.
Blended - Dana's wallBlended - Albus Cavus and AIGA

Monday was day one at the space, a soon-to-be-demolished warehouse across from the 9:30 Club. I attacked the concrete as best I could with brushes, until breaking down and asking to borrow a can of 181's spray paint, who working on a neighboring wall. It was my first time using spray paint so I spent a very sweaty-but-not-altogether-unpleasant day learning how to vary the weight of a line, and that I shouldn't cut corners on a respirator.

Also a few shots of my Inarticulate Series in progress, which as you may have guessed, I'm still trying to properly explain. Title subject to change, depending on how I figure that part out. All are 18x24'': Dana Jeri Maier - Inarticulate Series in progressInarticulate Series in Progress - Dana Jeri Maier

Advice overload

Is it just me, or does it seem as though there's a proliferation of Good Advice being offered these days? Don't get me wrong, I love advice. If I'm running short on time when reading the paper, I skip straight to Carolyn Hax; I have Austin Kleon's Steal Like an Artist top ten list taped over my desk at work (along with Bruce J. MacLennan's Programming Principles, which is a nice counterbalance). I appreciate that everyone has something useful to offer you, even if it's a lead by negative example or cautionary tale. I even offer it myself, at least when it comes to matters on which I feel qualified to offer an opinion. Advice But it's gotten to be--dare I say?--a bit much. All roads seem to lead to some sort of TED talk, or a "you're doing it wrong" themed article, or a "Top Ten Ways You Can Do Something Better Than the Way You Are Currently Doing It by A Self-Proclaimed Expert on the Subject." Perhaps it's a sign we are all furiously looking for reassurance that we're living our lives in the right way, or that advice has gone the way of politics; you just find the people whose opinions you already agree with, and can thus pat yourself on the back for doing the right thing.

The other day, however, I stumbled across Cal Newport's Study Hacks, which I've found useful, particularly the Craftsman Manifesto. It went to the heart of an issue that were always nagging the back of my mind, as someone who deplores simplistic "follow your passion" advice which is all that seems to be offered in the art world, who hated being a student but loves learning things, and struggles with the nagging suspicion that in order to be good at something, you can't rely on flow alone, which can easily lead to not sufficiently challenging yourself. I wish I had a copy of his books when I was a student, too. Probably would've saved me a bit of anguish.