Slow Pens vs. Fast Pens

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: 

Sad commuters. 

Poor, poor commuters. 

Poor, poor commuters. 

New Mini Comic

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: 

You can buy a copy here for $5, or see the online version on GoComics (part 2 is coming out on Friday, June 3).

Self help section

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: 

Ugh . 


UGH . 


Getting there, but still ugh. 

Getting there, but still ugh. 

And the final version, at long last: 

Some recent nonsense

I mentally file all of my artwork into two crudely-labeled piles: the Kind That Makes Sense, and the Kind That Does Not Make Sense. Generally speaking, the Kind That Does Not Make Sense is more fun, though it often arrives by accident when I'm aiming for the making-sense-type of art. Here are a few recent examples.

Below, I was trying to draw what I can only describe as a “pile of crap” for another cartoon (long story), and this is what wound up happening. 

Below is a drawing I started at a restaurant a few months back. I was doodling the guy at the table across from me, and it all snowballed from there:  

Oh, brunch! 

Oh, brunch! 

Here is me having fun with heads in profile, and a new slant-angled Micron pen:  

It took me awhile to realize that there's a sweet spot with weirdness in art: too strange, and it becomes off-putting, and too normal and well, what's the point? You have to be unusual, but still give the viewer something to cling onto.  Being weird can also be used to disguise a lack of ideas, or talent (see how many artist statements abandon explanations in the first place, and just spout gibberish as a means of distractions). 

My Reading Year 2015

Hey, I've done a couple of these reading wrap-ups now, haven't I? Come to think of it, I’m still not sure why. But other people who read also post year-end lists, and it makes me feel obliged to toss my own hat in the ring. 

Anyhow, the usual disclaimers about most of these being audiobooks applies. And as always, I welcome friendship on Goodreads if you want to compare notes. 

As you can see, there was a strong Meghan Daum and Phillip Roth trend in 2015:  

Best Books I Read in 2015

  1. My Misspent Youth: Essays, by Meghan Daum 
  2. The Unspeakable: And Other Subjects of Discussion by Meghan Daum. One of my favorites. You know it's a good book when you buy an extra copy to lend out to friends. 
  3. Career of Evil (Cormoran Strike, #3)  by Robert Galbraith. Still loving the new incarnation of J.K. Rowling. 
  4. Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates  
  5. Here and There: Collected Travel Writing, by A.A Gill 
  6. Stoner by John Williams. 
  7. The Patrick Melrose Novels (The Patrick Melrose Novels, #1-4) by Edward St. Aubyn
  8. Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on The Decision Not To Have Kids edited by Meghan Daum. The essay by Lionel Shriver still haunts me. Mostly this passage.
  9. So You've Been Publicly Shamed, by Jon Ronson
  10. The Human Stain (The American Trilogy, #3), by Phillip Roth
  11. Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One's Looking) by Christian Rudder. Fascinating! And more than a little horrifying. 
  12. American Pastoral (The American Trilogy #1), by Phillip Roth

Books I Abandoned in 2015

  1. Funny Girl, by Nick Hornby.  It broke my heart to put this down, but all of the insight and wisdom and humor that makes Nick Hornby novels so good was somehow lacking in it. 
  2. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, by Cheryl Strayed. 
    Maybe it's just me—everyone else seems to like this one. But I always thought stories that blatantly attempt to be inspirational seldom are.
  3. Purity by Jonathan Franzen. Couldn't get into it myself, but curious to know what Obama thinks of it. 
  4. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie. I might go back to this eventually. I started it just after finishing Career of Evil when I was craving another whodunit. 

Best Comics I Read in 2015

  1. Killing and Dying: Stories, by Adrian Tomine
  2. Rosalie Lighting by Tom Hart. This completely blew me away. "Turning pain into art" takes on a whole new meaning after finishing it. 
  3. Mama Tried: Dispatches from the Seamy Underbelly of Modern Parenting by Emily Flake.  I don't have kids, nor am sure if I ever will or want to, but I will happily read anything Emily Flake writes on any subject.
  4. Exploring Calvin and Hobbes: An Exhibition Catalogue by Bill Watterson. Read it because it was rumored to have some of the best interviews with Bill Watterson ever published, and it did not disappoint. 

Cars, sort of

I've never liked drawing cars. But in the interest of artistic personal growth (or something less lame sounding?) I decided to force myself to draw the cars I saw while looking out the window, on a recent bus journey to New York:

You can also see the headrest of the bus seat if you look closely. 

Fear series

Some notes. 

Some notes. 

Below are few drawings that debuted at a Halloween show at Hole in the Sky last month. In the spirit of the holiday they were all based on the idea of fear (though considering the default expression of anyone I draw always seems to be ‘‘concerned and anxious,” this wasn't much of a stretch): 

Belated Bentzen Ball Wrap Up

Earlier this month I had a gig as a featured artist for Moleskin at the BYT Bentzen Ball, a yearly comedy festival in DC. This involved being backstage drawing the comics, which was just as fun and terrifying as it sounds.

Below is a slideshow of some of my drawings from the event, plus a few of my favorite photos by Nicholas Karlin

Pictured with my favorite sketch of Morgan Murphy. Photo by  Nicholas Karlin . 

Pictured with my favorite sketch of Morgan Murphy. Photo by Nicholas Karlin

Me and Ben Kronberg, while social media-ing. 

Me and Ben Kronberg, while social media-ing. 

Morgan Murphy, me and my sketch of Ben. 

Morgan Murphy, me and my sketch of Ben. 

Taking a shot of Jamison with Stephanie Allynne and Bill Burr. 

Taking a shot of Jamison with Stephanie Allynne and Bill Burr. 

Thoughts from an SPX First Timer

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. 
From my Museum Guide. Turns out I am not the only one who's heartbroken by old men in baseball caps. 

From my Museum Guide. Turns out I am not the only one who's heartbroken by old men in baseball caps. 

Exhibition at Wild Hand Workspace this June

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 - Dana Jeri Maier

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

Opening reception

6-9PM on Thursday, June 18th

Wild Hand Studio 8 
Monroe Street Market
716 Monroe St NE 20017

Debuting at the Small Press Expo

Well, hot damn, I am going to be exhibiting at the 2015 Small Press Expo and I couldn't be more thrilled. Hooray! This means I am a legitimate cartoonist, right? 

In case you want to see some drawings in progress, I am still hard at work on The Illustrated Guide to the $14 Cocktail which will be a collection of philosophical musings on why we pay too much money for booze, plus a bunch of goofy drawings my friends and I come up with at bars: 

Still working out the kinks. 

Still working out the kinks. 

Cocktail math sketch.

Cocktail math sketch.

I will also be exhibiting a new collection of comics in The Unsuccessful Artist's Handbook, Volume 2, and a semi-updated version of The Bachelor Cat with a few new Bachelor Cats I've had the pleasure to meet. A few more new comics below. It will be a wonderfully busy couple of months:

You might need to live in DC to appreciate this one.

You might need to live in DC to appreciate this one.

(a)rtists (l)ove (c)reative (p)unctuation, you know.  

(a)rtists (l)ove (c)reative (p)unctuation, you know.  

Apologies to actual German speakers.

Apologies to actual German speakers.

Museum Guide, Updated

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. 

Guess which one is mine!

Guess which one is mine!

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:

My Reading Year 2014

Here I go again, for the sorts of people who might be interested in this kind of thing. Also, since most of these were audiobooks I am using the words, "read" and "listen" interchangeably, as a shorthand for, "I have absorbed the content of this book in some form or another." If this bothers you, well, I think I know who you are. Anyhow, on we go!

Book I Read That I Liked Well Enough, But Was Glad When it Was Over 
The Goldfinch, by Donna Tart

I’m not sure how I feel about this book, exactly. Greatly enjoyed it in parts, got fed up in others, and breathed a sigh of relief when I was finally done. Overall I would describe reading it as a stressful experience, one that put you into the same frame of mind as the mind-bogglingly unfortunate protagonist.  

That said, I think the whole tome was worth it for this paragraph alone.

Best Book I Read that Came out in 2014
Thunderstruck, by Elizabeth McCracken. Stories that capture loss oh-so-perfectly. And leave you hungry for more. 

Best Book I Read That Did Not Come Out in 2014
The Pale King, David Foster Wallace. For many reasons, this one hit home. And it had several moments that left me laughing hysterically on the Metro and causing fellow passengers to look at me funny. 

Best Art Book
The Art of Richard Thompson (see my gushing here). 

Best Revisiting Childhood
Dear Mr. Henshaw, by Beverly Cleary 

I'm always going back to my favorite children's books from time to time, just because. A few months ago I stumbled on Dear Mr. Henshaw in the used bookstore, and read so much of it I finally decided to pony up the $4 and buy it. This book is sadder reading it as an adult but it also makes you remember certain truths about being a kid that seem worth carrying in the back of your mind, like the way a compliment by a well-respected adult could have you glowing for days.

Book I Felt Kind of Guilty About Abandoning, Then Didn't When I Read Nabokov Wasn’t a Fan Either. 
Crime and Punishment, Fydor Dostoevsky. 
Says Nabokov: "Dostoevsky is not a great writer, but a rather mediocre one-with flashes of excellent humor, but, alas, with wastelands of literary platitudes in between." 

From   Truth is Fragmentary  , by Gabrielle Bell

From Truth is Fragmentary, by Gabrielle Bell

Books I Abandoned Without Regret
The Woman Upstairs, by Claire Messud, and Us, by David Nichols.
Like most people, my first reaction when abandoning books is to say, 'I didn't like the characters.' Which is always true, but also never the real reason the book isn't doing it for me. It's more that the characters didn't inspire curiosity; I didn't care what they'd do next, and didn't want to spend any time with them; their reactions to their situations were too dull/predictable/implausible. Which is mostly what happened here. 

Best Comics 
Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast, a comic memoir I picked up on a whim and devoured in under 24 hours. This is a funny, brutal account of the complications that arise dealing with aging parents, all the more horrifying for how clear-eyed it is. 

I also read Gabrielle Bell’s Truth is Fragmentary on a trip to Istanbul, which wound up being the perfect thing to read when bopping around a foreign land by yourself.

Worst Movie Adaptation from a Much-Loved Novel
Please please please never watch the movie version of A Long Way Down, especially if you’re like me and adore the book. It pained me to turn off a film starring Aaron Paul and Toni Collette after fifteen minutes, but I couldn't bring myself to watch more than that.  

Classics that I Probably Should've Already Read by Now, But Hadn't 
Last year it occurred to me that I hadn’t read anything published earlier than 1999, so I tried to get better about finishing books that have actually stood the test of time. My favorites: The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton, Nine Stories, Raise the High Roofbeam Carpenters / Seymour: an Introduction by J.D. Salinger. I also may have been the only person who hadn't read Of Mice and Men in middle school, so I did. And then it made me cry on the bus.  

Anything you read this year you recommend? As always, let me know in the comments, or become my friend on Goodreads