I am pleased to announce that I have my first cartoon on the New Yorker website, inspired by my own telecommuting wardrobe (and Robert Caro, who famously wears a suit when he sits down to write every day). You can read it here.
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.
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.
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.
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:
My self-help cartoon is on GoComics today. This was one of ideas that at first made me think, "huh! Why, this will write itself!" and then required coming up with about a bazillion aggressively unfunny book titles and lousy drawings (plus a trip to Kramer Books to research actual self-help books) before finally settling on the final version. Here are a few sketches:
And the final version, at long last:
Today my cartoon, The Worried Well* starts running on Go Comics (home of many of my other favorites Tom the Dancing Bug, B. Kliban and the two Richard Thompson classics, Cul de Sac and Richard’s Poor Almanac).
Astute readers may notice that the idea for my first cartoon, Oh Shut Up, originated from my You Can’t Put Art on a Pedestal show at the DC Art Center a few years back.
*The Worried Well is also the name of the bar I would like to open, if I were to ever receive some sort of windfall. (Mental health professionals use the term 'worried well' for patients who aren't mentally ill per se, but go see shrinks to feel less anxious about their lives.) The entire bar would be therapy themed. There would be portraits of famous shrinks on the wall, the bathroom would be wallpapered with New Yorker couch-gag cartoons, the drink menu would be divided into sections titled, Love and Work, the two main reasons people go see therapists). Coasters would have illustrations of various mental ailments. I’m even thinking there would even be a parapsychology room with Tarot cards and a palm reader, in case patrons decide to nix the whole clinical psychology thing and just give the fake science a go. Anyhow, you can see I’ve really thought this through. If any angel investors out there are interested, please drop me a line.
New comic! Like everyone else, I have love-hate-why-did-food-receive-more-likes-than-my-drawing-what-is-WRONG-with-you-people type relationship with social media, which I tried to illustrate here:
SPX was over a whole week ago so this post isn't very timely, but I wanted to get some of these thoughts down before I forget, and they all go off into the void. And so:
- I’ve never sat behind a table before hawking my work for strangers, so I was unprepared at how overwhelming it was to exhibit. (To be fair, I know how overwhelming it is just to attend SPX, so in retrospect, I probably should’ve seen it coming.) It got much easier the second day, though, after the initial shock wore off.
- Regrets, I have a few. Mostly not introducing myself to more people, not having a sexier table display (though this post by Yellow Cardigan was an absolute godsend for us noobs), and not making little pins with little cats on them, which is basically a wasted opportunity at SPX.
- There are different philosophies on how much you should talk about your work to onlookers. I tried my best to read the individual person (did they want to chat? Would they rather browse in silence?) and generally erred on the side of keeping my mouth shut unless they asked questions, which was easier, and how I prefer to look at work.
- Yes, most of the money I made went right back into buying comics. This I do not regret.
- You learn a lot by silently sitting behind a table and watching people look at your work. What page they open to? Do they laugh? Do they open to more than one page? Did they ignore the book you thought they would pick up first? This is all valuable feedback.
- As Tom Spurgeon said of SPX: "I got a lot of stories from people all weekend but the general shape I heard about the most was an artist's astonishment at being told something they made was personally meaningful to this real-life human being standing in front of them. It doesn't get much better than that." Amen.
SPX is now over, but you can still buy some of the work I was hawking. Phew! It was overwhelming, humbling, and exhausting, and I'd do it again in a heartbeat. I also learned it's much easier to sell work from behind a table than it is to browse the work of other people in a comic-convention setting. Who knew?
Coming to the Small Press Expo this weekend? Swing by and say hello! My table is H7A:
Below, a small preview of the stuff I will be hawking. Books are all $5, the Museum Guide is $1 (and the postcards are free).
Who doesn't love to complain about the creative process? Definitely not creative people, I can tell you that much!
I may decide to do a cleaned up, non-sketchy version, but I like the spontaneity of this one for now.
Another semi-fatalist cartoon:
This June I will be exhibiting at Wild Hand Workspace, a gallery/workshop in the Monroe Street Market in Brookland just bursting with charm. I'll be displaying original work, comics, and some print goodies for sale.
Wild Hand Workspace presents a solo show by Dana Jeri Maier.
6-9PM on Thursday, June 18th
11AM - 2PM on Saturday June 20th, Sunday, June 21st & Saturday June 27th
6-9PM on Thursday, June 18th
Wild Hand Studio 8
Monroe Street Market
716 Monroe St NE 20017
Remember that Museum Guide I did last summer? And remember how I have to overwork everything within an inch of its life? Well, here's the net result, which is an updated version of my Museum Guide, with additional gallery floor plans and text. The cover is based on the Museum Plan for the Prado Museum in Madrid, Spain (pictured on the right).
You can buy a copy here. Below are a few more preview shots, plus some rough sketches that I liked, but did not make the cut in the final version.
A few more interior pages:
A drawing that made it into the Bench guide, amid a few other doodles:
The drawing below did not make it into the Guide, but I have a soft spot for it anyhow:
A new cartoon I've been working on:
Here's how it started in my sketchbook:
And on the right is a super-embarrassing first attempt that I am still on the fence about sharing in the first place.
Will I draw this again to get it perfect? Maybe. Will I keep going on this one and overwork it within an inch of its life? Also a possibility!