For many months, earlier in the Pandemic, my elementary school had a banner of this Kobayashi Issa haiku hanging outside their driveway:
O snail Climb Mount Fuji, But slowly, slowly!
The entire family had a very good time yelling “O SNAIL” very loudly whenever we drove past. It made a hard season easier to bear.1
As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I’ve been working on a collaborative publishing project with my friends Tara and Stefan called Tell the Turning. It’s an illustrated collection that’s very much rooted in place: a poetic celebration of flora and fauna, a compendium of walking companions, and a testament to three people finding out that they’re on the same page about the correct pace at which to make something special (slowly, slowly).
In contrast to that preference, the Kickstarter campaign we launched this morning funded quickly, quickly. It took 78 people 4 hours and 42 minutes to turn this from a book we three collaborators believe in very much to a book that will actually exist. Though her poetry’s been published in various external venues, this is going to be Tara’s first book-shaped collection of her work. When I think about the difference it made in my life and career and whole *arm waving* identity as a creator to cross that threshold, I get choked up.
It takes so few people, relatively speaking, to make this transformation possible.
I felt allergic to the idea of crafting a bunch of flashy Instagram graphics to try and plug the launch earlier today, so I just sat in a field and recorded a 7-minute video ramble on the things I love about my collaborators and how capitalism traps us with a false sense of urgency and posted that to my story instead.2 (I’m no expert at these things, but maybe you can watch it at this link? Unsure. It’s pinned on my profile, anyway.)
The Kickstarter doesn’t have to be a runaway freight train. In fact it feels nicer as something intimate, held close to the chest, tucked into a pocket, or passed to a friend.
I have a lot more thoughts about this whole experience (of course I do, hi, hello, I’m Lucy Bellwood), but for now I’m gonna go take a long walk. If you want to investigate the campaign and watch the goofy video I made and marvel at Tara’s work, you can absolutely do so here, but you don’t have to pledge a dime because it’s already going to exist. This is enough.
And now we get to beam at each other and go make something beautiful.
1. According to Wikipedia, the poem was used to title a novel by the Strugatsky brothers called Snail on the Slope. I only learned about the Strugatskys for the first time from Jez last year, which made this feel like a bit of serendipity. ↩
2. Apparently Stefan watched the whole thing with his young daughter and it was the first time she’d heard anyone say the word “motherfucker”! I feel honored. ↩
Over on Patreon:
When I shared some process images from my voting rights comic for Oregon Humanities over the weekend, Katie left a comment saying “I really want to get into comics as activism, because it’s kind of the only skill I have to offer, but I’m not sure where to start”. I’m sure this is a common concern, especially among folks who are part of Patreon because Patrons tend to be oriented toward both creative practices and social good, which is why you’re some of my favorite people.
The post I wrote in reply to Katie’s questions covers pitching, payment, research, and interviews, plus links to folks doing great work at the intersection of art and activism. Hopefully it’ll be useful to any of you thinking about this stuff.
Also relevant: fellow contributor Sarah Mirk’s comic on how Multnomah County passed universal preschool last November is now live on the Oregon Humanities website! She’s such a wonderful visual reporter. Go give it a read.
Luke added this illustrated addendum to the GOES Books site after hearing from some people that they felt guilty claiming a comic without also paying it forward. It’s so good. This project is so good.
Hooray hooray it’s Hourly Comic Day! (Or rather, it was on February 1st.)
I feel so relieved to have gotten back on the wagon after kind of falling off last year. This is my tenth year participating, and the completionist in me is slightly miffed that I don’t have a full run to collect and publish, but whatevvvver. It’s the practice that counts! And I’ll do it again next year.
Going into this round, I gave myself permission to work under whatever constraints I needed to in order to finish and still retain some semblance of sanity while packing and prepping to move four days later. That ended up looking like just putting down pencils every hour, and leaving inking and toning for my week of post-arrival quarantine in Ojai. I also logged out of every social media platform on the 1st, because I’ve found that I often spend the day sucked into staring at everyone else’s work and feeling inadequate and I just didn’t have time! It helped a lot, but it also meant not seeing a bunch of people’s work. If you had favorite hourlies, please feel free to tweet them at me. (I have already seen and loved Danielle Corsetto’s, Katie Wheeler’s, Abby Howard’s, Vera Brosgol’s, and Lissa Treiman’s.)
Also, RE: the FOMO bit, I saw someone lamenting that they’d posted theirs a couple days late because it meant fewer people would see them—they’d missed the zeitgeist bandwagon. And I get that frustration! I do! I feel it! But it’s also been helpful for me to consider what (and who) this practice is for. I do this because I love having a time capsule of the same day every year. I also do it to remind myself that I can Make Comics without it being a huge, stressful deal. I already have everything I need. Why not make comics that bring me pleasure? Even though I’m perpetually nagging myself to loosen up and go straight to ink or get more expressive, I still love the way these came out. My Hourlies from the last few years feel like I’m finally hitting my stride.
Anyway, here’s some comics! I am still deeply dissatisfied with my options for posting artwork on my own website! I’m working on it! (Case in point: this gallery plugin doesn’t have an option to include alt text that doesn’t totally eclipse the image by default. If you need alt text with any of these, the versions posted to Twitter and Instagram are, ironically, more accessible.)
A few months ago I got an invite to pitch a comic for the latest installment of Smut Peddler, the wildly popular, sex-positive anthology series from Iron Circus Comics. The current volume, Sordid Past, captures sexy escapades from days gone by, making this the first time my track record of drawing comics about both maritime history and sex toys (and also the intersection thereof, sort of) has paid off in the form of a professional opportunity. Never again will I joke that my brand is in tatters; THERE IS ROOM FOR EVERYTHING!
The book is already fully funded on Kickstarter and features a truly stunning lineup of artists. I mean, let’s start with this cover from Yuko Ota:
DELIGHTFUL. (And I’m not just saying that because it features a Good Boat.) It’s also chock-full of stories set everywhere from a temple in Pharonic Egypt to a 1980s American arcade, all of them sweet and sexy and consent-driven and magical. Truly, something for everyone.
I’ll admit: I was scared to say yes to this gig. I’d never drawn Actual Sexy Comics before and the folks in this anthology are…well, they’re very good. So many skillful artists who’ve been doing this stuff for years, including people whose work I’ve followed since I was in high school.
Because I’m me, I said yes on the condition that I could make a comic about queer lady shipwrights plying their trade under the radar in 1750s England. This is partly because of a long-running gag that I’m some kind of Boat Pervert, but also because it seemed like a story premise I could really get excited about.
Even with an exciting premise, though, it’s hard to focus on whether or not something is sexy when you’re busy desperately trying to make sure the page layouts are engaging and the anatomy is correct and the dialogue works and the colors look right while also subjecting yourself to scathing perfectionism. But! Contributor Lyndsay McSeveney had made a Discord channel for Smut Peddler artists, and with some wrangling from Harriet Moulton everyone ended up in the same digital space sharing process shots and trading feedback. Seeing all these amazing creators working through their respective anxieties over the course of the project—and cheering each other on—was an invaluable reminder that we all have our demons and hang-ups in doing this work. (You’d think I’d’ve internalized this by now having literally written a book about it but SURPRISE! I have not.)
Anyway, after a lot of self-flagellation (not like that) I managed to turn in a 12-page story I’m very proud of, and I hope you’ll pick up a copy of the book. Sordid Past funded on Kickstarter almost instantly, so this thing is definitely happening—and every $5,000 raised over the initial goal translates into a $5-per-page raise for us artists! This is such a smart move on the part of Iron Circus: limits liability for the publisher, passes Kickstarter success onto the creative team, and generally forms a more symbiotic relationship between everyone involved. I love it.
I’ll be sharing a proper process write-up (including some of the hilarious reference photos I had to come up with) over on Patreon, so join me there if you’d like to learn more.
That’s all! Thanks for reading about this very, very niche thing. I hope you enjoy it.
Hello, long-neglected blog. I hope the tumbleweeds and bits of lint accumulating in the corners of this platform have been keeping you warm, even if they’re singularly unable to keep you company.
I’m back because I launched an odd new project on my birthday last month and I wanted to talk about it here to break my long silence and maybe goad myself into blogging more often on a website I actually own.
So: the new thing!
The Right Number is basically a secular confessional housed in a voicemail box. Dial (503) 673-6267 and you’ll hear a brief prompt, after which you can record a response for up to three minutes. All messages are confidential, prompts rotate every two weeks.
The first two prompts (“What’s something you wish someone would say to you right now?” and “What’s something you wish you could say to someone else right now?”) both elicited a wide range of thoughtful, heart-wrenching, funny replies. I’d say it was working as intended if I’d had any real sense of how this was going to go ahead of time, but I didn’t.
As it stands, I’m very happy with the project so far. The user base is still small—an intimate crowd of willing weirdos—and I’m perfectly content for it to stay that way. Recording freewheeling audio updates over on Patreon every two weeks for the last couple years has taught me that sometimes the quality of conversation and connection I’m hungry for online is best cultivated through sustained, vaguely directed projects over long periods of time.
So: that’s the thing!
If you want to play along, you can sign up for this tiny newsletter that’ll send you an email reminder every time there’s a new prompt (usually on Mondays, but I make no promises).
I’ll see you in the voicemail box,
Every so often the cartoonists of Portland get an open invite to a local theatrical production. Sometimes it’s the children’s theater, other times the opera. Occasionally it’s something with extravagant puppets. We get free tickets to whatever’s on in exchange for producing a batch of frantic live sketches, which then get used to promote the production.
This month the call was for a world premier play called Redwood, a story about race and heritage and relationships, intergenerational and otherwise. I’d gotten a mailer for it a few days earlier and really wanted to go, so when the invite to live sketch a dress rehearsal came in I was all over it.
They issue all the cartoonists with these goofy clip lights and send them to sit in a row towards the back of the theater. We then have to do our darndest to draw like the wind throughout the entire show, capturing gestures, faces, moments, scenery—whatever we like. Here’s what I came up with! These sketches were all done straight to ink with a Pilot Carbon Desk Fountain Pen (the least well-named implement in my arsenal).
It’s a challenge for sure, but one I always come away from feeling surprisingly accomplished. It’s also nice to be drawing for folks who aren’t visual artists themselves, because anything you produce seems like wizardry.
I’m really glad I made time to go see this production—it was powerful and moving and laugh-out-loud funny. You can catch it at The Armory here in Portland through November 17th!
Hello, blog friends!
I know things have been pretty quiet around here lately, but that’s mostly because I’ve been tied up making this new comic for Google!
Federated Learning is a new field of machine learning research that just hit the big-time at Google’s developer conference this week. I landed a gig working with Scott McCloud and an internal team to translate the basics of the field into an explainer comic.
Most importantly: it’s got a Moby-Dick joke in it.
You can read the whole thing here.
There’s a lot to talk about with this gig, and I’m going to be diving into what I learned from my first major corporate client experience over on Patreon. This job is the most lucrative freelance contract I’ve ever taken, and I want to talk about how that’s felt (Complicated! Emotional! Empowering!) and what other folks can do to pursue similar gigs. I’m really proud of what we produced, and I think it does a good job of explaining something I would’ve never otherwise learned about.
I also took lessons learned from building the accessible edition of 100 Demon Dialogues and made sure we had functional alt-text throughout the comic. If you use a screen reader to browse the web, do let me know how it works for you. I’m still trying to get better at making this site and other projects I work on accessible for folks who traditionally get left out of the digital comic-reading experience.
It’s here it’s here! My very favorite comics holiday! February 1st AKA Hourly Comic Day is a group activity where creators around the world illustrate the minutiae of their lives in hasty panels and sketches. Head to Instagram or Twitter and you’ll be bound to see some lovely entries under the #hourlycomicday tag.
I participated for the first time in 2011, which makes this my ninth contribution to the series! (I’m going to do a little print collection next year for #10.) In the meantime, you can read on for a brief window into my life right now:
Thanks to my stalwart crew on Patreon for making this work possible!