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:
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.
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:
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).
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
- My Misspent Youth: Essays, by Meghan Daum
- 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.
- Career of Evil (Cormoran Strike, #3) by Robert Galbraith. Still loving the new incarnation of J.K. Rowling.
- Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
- Here and There: Collected Travel Writing, by A.A Gill
- Stoner by John Williams.
- The Patrick Melrose Novels (The Patrick Melrose Novels, #1-4) by Edward St. Aubyn
- 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.
- So You've Been Publicly Shamed, by Jon Ronson
- The Human Stain (The American Trilogy, #3), by Phillip Roth
- Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One's Looking) by Christian Rudder. Fascinating! And more than a little horrifying.
- American Pastoral (The American Trilogy #1), by Phillip Roth
Books I Abandoned in 2015
- 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.
- 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.
- Purity by Jonathan Franzen. Couldn't get into it myself, but curious to know what Obama thinks of it.
- 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
- Killing and Dying: Stories, by Adrian Tomine
- Rosalie Lighting by Tom Hart. This completely blew me away. "Turning pain into art" takes on a whole new meaning after finishing it.
- 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.
- 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.
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:
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):
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:
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:
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:
Earlier this month I was interviewed with Brightest Young Things, who came by my studio to chat and take pictures. I am in equal parts pleased and flattered by how it came out, and they even managed to sneak in a shot of my extremely unalphabatized bookshelf (above), which is secretly one of my favorite things in my room/studio. Take a look and see where the sausage is made.
Also, it's your last chance to see my show at Wild Hand Workspace this weekend, open Saturday and Sunday 11-2. As you can see, I got a perfect outlet for my mice-in-cocktail glass obsession:
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
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:
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:
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: