June! July!

Sun 7/19/2020

Well, I was so busy with work that I missed my June update, so here is a twofer.

For the last three months I have been overhauling my Introduction to Hand-Drawn Animation summer workshop for CCS, so that the entire curriculum could be brought online. It was a lot of work because when I teach the class in person, my approach is to animate on paper with pencil, using as little software as possible. This year was a 180 of that -- using RoughAnimator for all of the assignments and the (amazing!) SyncSketch.com platform for all of the lectures and critiques. This meant updating every single handout, creating a few new ones, and converting hundreds of lecture slides into video files. It was a lot of work, but in the end it felt worth it!

I taught the course last week to 12 students in VT, CT, VA, LA, NH, DC, TX, AR, NC, the UK, and Denmark! It all ran pretty smoothly and it was very inspiring to see how much everyone improved over the course of the week. Big thanks to my teaching assistant Ivy Allie (an up and coming CCS senior!) and my wife Claire, who provided childcare for our daughters that entire week, which allowed me to teach.

In June I finished my fourth Isle of Elsi storyline, which was 106 pages. I then put the webcomic on hiatus while I worked on writing the fifth story. It's gone through two drafts and I'm in the process of collecting feedback for a third draft. I will begin posting pages again as soon as possible - hopefully before the end of this accursed summer.

In the meantime, I've finally starting working on Phase 7 #024! I reinstated my "progress bar" over on the Phase Seven Comics website. Currently I'm very slightly more than halfway done, with a goal of putting it out by the end of the year. We'll see if I can make that happen... there is A LOT going on right now!

Ever since the pandemic began I've been doing a lot of extra administrative work for CCS - first helping them figure out how to bring their program online at the end of last year, then helping to get all the summer workshops online, and now planning for the fall. Like everyone, we're doing the best we can with massive amounts of uncertainty. It has certainly been very stressful watching the pandemic continue to get worse and worse in the USA, with no end in sight.

Claire and I are making every effort to stay at home as much as possible. We're doing one grocery store trip per week (wearing masks, OBVIOUSLY), and trying to order other essentials (diapers, pet food, etc) online. The only two ways we have "loosened up" our quarantine are: 1) creating a "double bubble" with Claire's Mom and Step-Dad. This allows them to watch Suzanne and Wendy twice a week which has been an absolute lifesaver for us in terms of our mental health and my ability to catch up on work. 2) When the Santa Fe Public Library began doing curbside pickup Claire reserved a ton of books and has tied this to our bi-weekly trip to check our P.O. Box which is just down the street.

We got a lot of great picture books by BIPOC creators that we have been reading with the girls. Favorites in this batch included:

On the antiracism reading/education front, since my last post, I read They Called Us Enemy by George Takei (et al) and Citizen 13660 by Miné Okubo both first-person accounts about being forced to live in American concentration camps during World War II. I got these books through The Nib's Book of the Month service which is definitely worth checking out. I also began listening to an unabridged audiobook of Stamped From the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi. The more I learn about the long history of racism in Western culture and specifically in America, the more I realize how little things have changed, and how much work we all still have to do.

More books are already on order from Big Adventure Comics and Bee Hive Books. I'll keep posting recommendations as I keep reading and learning.

Suzanne outgrew her balance bike a while back so we ordered her a new "real" bike (with pedals, a handbrake and a kickstand) back in April. I guess a lot of people are biking more during the pandemic, as one of the few safe ways to exercise right now, so it was super backordered, but finally arrived at the very end of June. She's still figuring it out, but it has been nice to have another excuse to get outside. It has been a very hot summer in Santa Fe, so we have to really try and get outside in the morning before it's no longer fun to be outside.

I went through all my photos from the last month and could only find these few where the girls were actually wearing clothes. It has been a "diaper only summer" for Wendy. She's really starting to talk these days, picking up new words all the time, and recently began sitting on the potty (with her diaper still on) while Suzanne is using the bathroom. There's still a long road ahead of her on that front, but it's the light at the end of the tunnel for Claire and me, after four and a half years of changing diapers. She loves getting dressed up ("Fancy!") and then spinning in a circle ("Dancing!"). She is at an incredibly cute age right now, and seems to be very happy at home with us and her big sister whom she loves to follow around.

Suzanne has been climbing the walls a bit during all this. Claire and I have been trying to institute theme weeks (Under Water, Jungle, Robot, Dinosaur, etc.) which has lead to a lot of focused art-making. Suzanne really loves hanging up her new art in her room, the walls of which are now covered in drawings, posters, collages, stickers, etc. I also broke out a huge box of my old legos which she has been very engaged with lately (which has also been very fun for me). Some days are harder than others, but Claire and I are getting better at figuring out different ways to identify what is upsetting her and how to help her get through the rough spots. Both girls are sleeping pretty well these days, which makes everything easier.

This week Suzanne's preschool is having a meeting to try and gauge peoples' interest in sending kids back to school. Although it would be great for Suzanne to get that socialization, the risk - no matter how small its probabilty - to her (and us) and her teachers hardly feels worth it. The beginning of this school year across America is going to be a turning point, and I've got a bad feeling we're only at the beginning stages of this mess....

Hang in there, everyone and stay safe! Wear your mask. Stay home as much as possible. Hopefully we can get things heading in the right direction again eventually.

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