November!

Mon 11/30/2020

Well, Biden and Harris won the election... thank goodness! Thank you to everyone who worked so hard to bring about this result. Trump's ridiculous refusal to accept the election results is frustrating and embarrassing for our country, but not surprising. One of the many valuable life lessons I learned from my beloved soccer coach Mr. Innes (who sadly passed away this year, RIP) was how to lose with dignity. Hustle to half field, line up, high-five every member of the other team and their coach, make eye contact, tell them "good game," go home and take a shower, then get back to work trying to improve your skills. Trump obviously never learned these lessons. He even cheats at golf when he's only playing by himself. What a despicable human being. I look forward to watching him being dragged, kicking and screaming, from the White House. Good riddance.

There's still so much work to do. In the short term, flipping the two Georgia senate seats would allow democrats to make some real and lasting changes. In the long term we need to hold Biden and Harris accountable to the ideals that helped get them elected.

The predicted late-fall COVID-19 spike is currently happening, and New Mexico is one of the hardest hit states. We therefore were one of the first states to shut things down again. My family is very hunkered down and are trying to prepare for at least another six months of staying safe at home, to protect ourselves and our community.

Earlier this month I wrote a long blog post over on my illustration blog about how I have been using animation to help me deal with the stress of the pandemic. I also bought a resistance trainer for my bike, because I kept reading about how exercise can help with your mental health right now and I was definitely not getting enough of it. I put it out in the book shed, where I ride for 15 minutes a few times a week while listening to antiracist audiobooks (stronger body, stronger mind). While I'm in there I also try and visualize the 1,500 copies of Isle of Elsi Book One someday not being in my shed, but in the hands of readers. Shoutout to any cartoonists (or authors) with a new book out this year that they are unable to properly promote. It is very dispiriting and frustrating. Hopefully someday when things open back up we'll be able to get our books out into the world!

We try our best to get the girls outside at least once a day, either to play in the backyard, to ride bikes on our street, or to take a walk to one of the nearby parks or public spaces (of course being careful to socially distance from others while wearing masks).

I'm not going to pretend that this is easy. The girls often bicker and fight (they are 2 and 4 and are both learning how to share), and Suzanne especially has been having some really massive meltdowns where she is yelling, slamming doors, throwing stuff, etc. Can you blame her? I often find that kids are just mirrors of the stress surrounding them, and this situation is very stressful. We're trying to take it one day at a time, and to be kind to each other and keep working on communicating with each other. There are good days and bad days.

Wendy has been making some really beautiful paintings at the easel in our kitchen. She talks more and more each day and it is amazing to see her growing in so many different ways. I am very thankful to have this extra time at home with her.

Suzanne has rocketed into a new level of creativity with her daily drawings. She now creates original characters and draws their houses (usually with multiple stories), and incorporates writing, and various objects from around the house or from her books, movies, music, etc. I can't help but think of all the incredibly talented 20th century cartoonists who have similar stories of growing up lonely and isolated. I don't hope that for my kid, but maybe someday there will be an increased output of creativity that will come from all this time of everybody being stuck at home.

I hope everyone reading this is staying safe in your part of the world. Hang in there! We're gonna get through this.

October!

Mon 11/2/2020

October felt like a month where a lot of things that had been in the works for a long time finally came to fruition.


On the art front, my friend Aron Nels Steinke's new book Mr. Wolf's Class: Field Trip was released. I had the pleasure of coloring this book (with some help from my wife Claire), plus my daughter Suzanne loves the series, so it was great to see the fourth book in print. I will begin coloring book five soon!

On the teaching front, The Center for Cartoon Studies announced that it will be offering Winter Workshops for the first time ever! This is something we've wanted to do for many years, but it was never feasible because of how hard it is to travel to/from Vermont during winter break. After the success of our online summer workshops however, we decided to offer three workshops 100% online, including my Introduction to Hand-Drawn Animation workshop. They all run January 11-15 from 11am-5pm ET. Check them out!

In conjunction with the new Winter Workshops, CCS also launched a new merit-based scholarship to support professional development for BIPOC cartoonists. Submissions are due December 1st and one scholarship will be awarded per workshop, which covers the full tuition. CCS alumni and current students also receive 50% off tuition for any of the workshops!

After a long, hot, dry summer which seemed to be dragging into autumn, it finally began to get cold at night in October, which made the leaves begin to fall. Suzanne and Wendy really got a kick out of making leaf piles and jumping in them this year, which was fun to watch. Then, a week ago we had a big ice storm that dropped something like eight inches of snow over two nights, which was very exciting. We made lots of short expeditions out into the snow, and then rushed back inside to cuddle up by the fire.

For a few days this month we had access to a car, so we drove out to Claire's dad's land, to pay him a socially-distanced visit with masks on. The girls have been cooped up at our house since March, so it was nice for them to get a brief change of scenery. Even just walking around his property and playing with Grandpa's dog Nina was very exciting for them.

Suzanne wanted to be a bat for Halloween, so Claire dutifully made her a costume, which she wore once (luckily I snapped a photo!). We were never able to get her to put it back on, not even on Halloween. I can't blame her because we didn't go trick or treating. Wendy did not request a specific costume, but she also wears a dress-up dress seven days a week, so I guess every day is Halloween for her.

Claire's mom dropped off some pumpkins, and my Mom and Liz sent care packages, so we did our best to make it a special day with pumpkin carving, cookie decorating and some candy too. Suzanne has been obsessed with The Nightmare Before Christmas soundtrack, which has been on repeat for the past few weeks. She's watched a bit of the movie, but most of it is too scary.

For about a year now Claire and her father have been working on a new front gate for our house, to replace the '70s Sears chain link fence that was on there when we moved in. Four months ago she submitted scale drawings, photo mock-ups, and plans to the city, and finally this month our permit was approved. We've been chipping away at it on weekends (literally - chiseling out old concrete to remove the Sears posts) and then finally this past weekend we got the gate in place, which Claire's dad had built months ago. There are still a few small steps that need to be completed, including the fabrication and installation of the decorative steel plates which Claire designed. Hopefully we can have it all done by the end of the year.

Other than that? We all got our flu immunizations (shown here are the post-shot donut rewards), and are planning on hunkering down as much as possible through November and December, so that we do not contribute to the rapid spread of COVID-19 in New Mexico, or anywhere else for that matter.

Claire and I voted by mail the day our ballots arrived. I'm writing this on the eve of Election Day, to try and separate all of these October events from whatever is going to happen tomorrow (and in the following weeks). Obviously, if you haven't already, please get out and vote tomorrow! Thank you to all the poll workers and postal workers who have been working so hard to make early voting possible. I'm nervous and anxious about the whole situation, but still hopeful we can climb out of this mess and restore some sanity to our country. Hang in there and stay safe, everyone!

September!

Sun 10/4/2020

Today I turned 41 years old, which is the age Carl Barks was when he began his life's work, drawing Donald Duck (and eventually Uncle Scrooge) comics. Over the next 25 years he created one of the most impressive and beloved bodies of work, totaling more than 6,000 pages of comics.

I talk a lot about Barks's age in my comics lectures (he was 61 in the photo above), because I think it's an inspiring antidote to the all-too-common worries I hear my students express, about "starting too late" or comparing themselves to other cartoonists who met success much earlier in life. It's exciting to think that I'm just at the beginning of creating my best work.

For the last few years I secretly hoped that I would accomplish the goal that I set twenty years ago, of drawing 2,000 pages of comics, on or before today. It would have been very meaningful to me to complete my "training" and begin my "real" work at the same point in life that my favorite, "North Star" cartoonist did. I've only reached 1,844 pages so far, and at the rate I'm going it will most likely take me another three years to reach that goal. Oh well, I'll get there eventually!

On September 12th the National Cartoonists Society finally held their Reuben Awards ceremony, which had been delayed for months because of the pandemic. I was surprised and very pleased to find out that Isle of Elsi won the Divisional Reuben Award in the Online Comic - Long Form category!

It's incredibly validating to receive this award after all the hard work I have put into creating Isle of Elsi over the last decade. It's going to help keep me motivated for many years to come!

As I write this, the election is less than 30 days away. If you don't have a plan yet to vote, please head over to vote.org to check your registration status, find your polling location, etc. etc. etc. Claire and I have requested mail-in ballots which we plan to drop off at the election office in Santa Fe in person. Please everyone do whatever you must to vote in this crucial election!

September was a weird month. At first it was unseasonably hot. I was done with this summer back in June, and it had been a long, sweaty slog through July and August, so I was very grumpy about the continued warmth.

Then in the second week of September it snowed one night?! We had a few days of unseasonably cold weather. I far preferred this to the heat, but was worried we might be skipping over autumn (my favorite season).

Finally things settled down and the weather has been very pleasant the past few weeks. I've been taking more walks with the girls (while wearing a mask, obviously - I'm not an idiot), and it has been wonderful to be outdoors a bit more.

Claire and I are doing our best to keep Wendy and Suzanne in good spirits through all this. We have themed weeks which help us have some focus for our drawing and reading and play sessions. We try to make certain days special (Saturday morning cartoons!) or celebrate when we can (Pizza to celebrate that we made it through another month!) but I'm not going to lie, it's exhausting.

I wonder what Wenday and Suzanne will remember from all this, when they are grown.... I wonder how it will shape their lives moving forward....

Stay safe out there everyone!

 
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