Atom

NB: I originally shared this post on Patreon on July 14th, 2017, just after launching the Kickstarter for 100 Demon Dialogues. I wanted to link to it in an essay I’m working on right now, but I’m also trying to consolidate my writing on my own website, so I’m reposting the whole thing here. This kind of low-key time traveling will probably keep happening.


This is a story about the first time I successfully orchestrated a theatrical cue of my own design.

I was a sophomore in high school, dipping my toes into other areas of the dramatic obsession that had consumed me from an early age. Us technical theatre students were asked to light and score brief monologues performed by members of an acting class. It was my first brush with the luminous cellophane gels that would become my livelihood for the next three years and grant me the financial freedom to travel on my own before college.

My friend Kendall was performing the opening speech from The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds by Paul Zindel. In it, a girl describes learning about the enduring nature of the atom for the first time in her life. I’d built up a multi-hued blue Fresnel background wash and a slow, warm Source 4 from house left, carefully trained on her face and nothing more. Kendall ran through the words, savoring the phrases—a tongue of fire that screamed through the heavens until there was our sun—until she closed with three lines: 

Atom.

Atom.

What a beautiful word.

A gentle beat after that last syllable, Jon Brion’s “Row” came in, one note at a time, while the warm front light dwindled until she was just a silhouette in blue. The lilting piano carried the moment for 15 seconds and then faded into silence. 

We’d rehearsed and tried all the individual elements and fine-tuned the timing, but the first time I got to call the shots and watch as light and sound cascaded into something that heightened the emotional impact of her performance, I burst into silent, happy tears in the booth.

Orchestrating the conclusion of The 100 Day Project and launching my Kickstarter this week pushed those same buttons in ways I never could have anticipated.

When I figured out how I wanted to end the series—and I knew a few weeks in advance—I started to panic. I’d never run a daily webcomic before. The notion of an audience investing in a storyline and hanging on every page was entirely new and utterly intoxicating. I’d largely given myself permission to shoot from the hip for so much of the project. Before, there were no wrong answers. Now, it suddenly felt like I had the potential for failure. 

The last few weeks were grueling—all frantic scripting and logistical production and minutia and a million moving parts (on top of the creative work itself). It’s something that flummoxes me when people ask for advice about how to run a good Kickstarter. All I can think is “Just do everything. Work the hardest you can at absolutely everything. And then somehow, magically, it works.” And I don’t think that’s what people want to hear. “Turn thrice widdershins and sacrifice a goat” is way simpler.

Wednesday rolled around and my heart was pounding out of my chest. I’d stayed up way too late finishing the final entry. Folks had sent me photos of themselves on Twitter to draw into the panel (though they didn’t know it at the time). I’d shot reference out my own front door and fretted over the sketches and then, in a rush, poured it out. The finished project resonated with what I’d pictured in my head. It felt, mercifully, right.

At 9:55 am, I posted the final entry, closed my eyes, and counted to sixty before pushing the launch button on the Kickstarter page, and then I counted to sixty again before triggering the blog posts and the newsletters and the updates and the notifications—all these moving parts I’d carefully structured to help guide a new project into the world.  

And when people flooded in to say “YES” to the ending, and the journey, and the campaign, I discovered that all those neurons were still there, lighting up at the pleasure of seeing a well-timed cue resolve all those moving parts into something more. 

New Collection: A Life in Objects

A little promotional chat this week: I’ve got a new box set collection available in my store!

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If you recall I tried my hand at participating in The 100 Day Project this year, drawing a thing a day every day for 100 consecutive days from April to July. I documented a bunch of meaningful objects in my life, complete with context—a miniature museum of personal history.

Here are all the finished entries in one big sheet:

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Once the illustrations were done, I wanted to bring them into one location at the same size they were drawn, so I contacted some printing friends of mine at Eberhardt Press and Twin Ravens Press to create sets of pocket-sized replica notebooks and a handsome, gold-foil slipcase to hold them in. Here’s my original mockup of the booklets, with a die-cut cover:

 

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Once I’d figured out the basic format, I went hunting for the right kinds of endpapers. Kristin at Twin Ravens had sold me on the idea of doing gold foil on the boxes, so I wanted something to match:

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BINGO.

A lot of frenetic proofing and printing and cutting and folding later, we ended up with boxes that could be cut out and assembled without any glue! And a lot of handsome booklets to go inside them.

Then my life became a long chain of assembly line time (500 box sets is a lot of box sets). I folded boxes at home, at the studio, at coffee shops, behind my table at SPX, and on planes:

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A couple weeks of that yielded shippable box sets that winged their way to folks around the globe, which is my absolute favorite part of the process.

Here’s a little video walkthrough of the final result:

I’m so excited to have these new beauties out in the world. If you’d like one for yourself, they’re available exclusively through my store right now. Enjoy!

A Life in Objects: PDF & Print Edition

Cover

As you may’ve noticed, I’ve spent the last three(ish) months working on The 100 Day Project, a creative game of sorts where participants try to create something every day for 100 days. I chose to illustrate meaningful objects from my life with little vignettes of text.

The final collection, A Life in Objects, is now up for sale! I’m printing a facsimile edition in three, 40-page pocket notebooks—the same size as the originals (3.5×5″)—with a fancy belly band.

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The books will be printed locally in Portland at Eberhardt Press, and I’m hoping to debut them at SPX in September.

If you absolutely can’t wait to read the whole thing, why not buy the PDF edition on Gumroad? I promise it’s got all the same treats inside.

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I’m incredibly proud of how this collection came out. More news to come once the printed books are on their way!