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.
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 Dialoguesand 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.
Last month I had the good fortune to return to The Animation Workshop in Denmark to teach a week-long course in their Graphic Storytelling department. You might remember the talk I gave two years ago, The View from Aloft, where I distilled my foundational philosophy about social media, online communities, and gratitude economies. This presentation follows up on that framework by talking specifically about crowdfunding and Kickstarter. Thanks to the school’s exceptional video rental equipment there’s now a very nice recording up on YouTube:
I get a lot of questions from folks looking to learn more about this weird practice. It can be the most soul-crushing, time-consuming, heart-tormenting process, but also an incredible jolt of energy, affirmation, and community involvement. Between the generous souls who support me monthly on Patreon and the people who launch individual projects of mine via Kickstarter there’s no doubt that my career would look very different without crowdfunding.
Everything that’s made my campaigns work feels like it’s come from watching my friends get smarter and better every time they launch a project, so it’s great to have this recording to pay it forward to more people. I hope some of you find it useful if you ever launch your own projects (and I hope you do).
Hi friends, I am very excited to announce that I’ll be speaking at Creative Mornings this Friday (October 6th) at 8:30am at the Armory Theater here in Portland.
Creative Mornings is a free monthly lecture series where speakers appear on stages all over the world to deliver thoughts on a communal theme—all before 10am on a Friday. This month’s prompt is PIONEER, and I’ve crafted a talk all about belonging, childhood passions, and curiosity that I am super stoked to reveal.
I’m also hand-drawing all my slides, which has led to working on things like this all week:
WHAT IS THIS PERSON DOING WITH THAT FIRE EXTINGUISHER AND ALSO THAT BABY? Come to The Armory on Friday to find out.
Seats are free, and the CM Team provide donuts and coffee to get you pepped up in the early hours. All you need to do is reserve a spot through this website. I look forward to seeing you there!
Let’s take a brief trip back in time to January, 2016.
When Jessica Abel started posting the podcast adaptation of her storytelling handbook Out on the Wire, I was totally hooked. The series pulled from her own robust career and from interviews she’d done with luminary radio hosts and journalists, but took a wider stance on applying their lessons to an essential question:
What makes stories work?
I appreciated her candor at not knowing the first thing about making a podcast, and simply figuring it out as she went. I enjoyed the camaraderie of listening to ideas and practice exercises from other listeners. Most of all, I loved the way it helped me think about my storytelling work from a nonjudgemental, process-oriented standpoint. It was a community—not just a product.
So I tweeted about the show and how I much I was enjoying it, which I think is why she ended up watching this talk I’d given at The Animation Workshop in Denmark and following me on Twitter. It was one of those “WHOAAA A REAL CARTOONIST IS LOOKING AT ME WHAT DO I DOOO” moments, which I can tell you from experience everyone has. Jessica co-authored Drawing Words and Writing Pictures, which was a really formative book for me back when I was getting into drawing comics and couldn’t find a program that had the rigor I really wanted from a formal perspective.
Fast forward to this summer, when she wrote and told me she’d been teaching workshops about a creature called The Should Monster that was super similar to my inner demon. Jessica’s students had pinned their inner critics to the page, just as I had, in order to defuse their power.
Then she asked if I would be interested in collaborating on a live, online event—part interview, part Q&A—where we could discuss work-life balance, creative practice, and social media.
I was beside myself with excitement—especially because our dates aligned with the launch of my new Kickstarter, which explicitly deals with overwork and self doubt and a million other things.
And then she wrote this essay about it and I had to come to grips with the idea that somewhere along the way, I had become a working cartoonist. And what’s more, I was good at it. I had learned some things that other people might find useful, and someone I really admired wanted to get that knowledge out to a wider group of people.
It’s not going to silence the little voice that claims I’m a phoney forever, but it’ll definitely do for today.
So here’s our upcoming event!
Demons and Monsters with Lucy Bellwood and Jessica Abel
Join us on Crowdcast to talk about
building an audience for your work,
using Patreon, Kickstarter, and self-publishing to pay (some of) the bills,
and fighting off the Should Monsters and Self-Doubt Demons that want to stop us from making it.
Ask your questions and get some answers!
There will be a replay for those who can’t make it, but you only gain access by registering, so be sure to sign up either way.
July 25 (next Tuesday) at 12:00 noon Pacific, 3 pm Eastern, 9 pm European.
At this link: https://www.crowdcast.io/e/demons-lubellwoo !
This event will be online in real time. You can join us from anywhere via Crowdcast, the online platform we’ll be using to stream. (There’s even an app if you’ll be out on the beach and still want to tune in.)
So reserve your spot here, and we’ll see you soon!
I have new video up from my time at The Animation Workshop in Denmark, where I was teaching a class on webcomics and social media earlier this month. (This is the first time I’ve had video footage of my public speaking—thanks, Sam!—which is really exciting.) If you’re a person who makes things on the Internet, or a person who wants to make things on the Internet, or a cartoonist, or a budding creator—this probably has some utility for you.
Things I cover:
How I ended up doing what I’m doing now (full-time adventure-cartoonist-ing, most days)
How social media has enabled me to succeed in crowdfunding, freelancing, and basically everything else
What sailing has in common with being an artist (it’s more than you think)
Communities and gratitude economies and how they shape our work
My unified very vague theory of How the Internet Makes Us Better People
What you can gain by giving your work away for free
I had so much fun teaching at TAW, and I hope this talk distills some of the stuff we were exploring and discussing over the course of my two weeks there. If you enjoyed it and want to see/enable more, feel free to check out my Patreon page! I post a ton of behind-the-scenes, nitty gritty, creative-in-the-trenches stuff there every single week, and I’d love to have you on board.
Yes! It’s here! Convention season! Madness! Excitement! Comics! Emerald City Comicon, the Pacific Northwest’s biggest comics event, is THIS WEEKEND and I want YOU to come out and say hello. The show runs all day Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at the Washington State Convention Center. Hours are 10-7 Friday and Saturday, and 10-5 Sunday. Also: event tickets are sold out! So I guess this is really a post for those of you who are already planning to be there. You can find me tabling with a slew of folks from Periscope Studio at Table Island 1214 (see the ginormo map at left) with my shiny new swallow postcards, a brand new issue of Cartozia Tales (#3! At last!), print editions of Grand Adventure, the full suite of Baggywrinkles comics, and many other goodies. I’ll also be on two (yes, TWO!) panels: On Saturday: It’s NOT Too Dangerous To Go Alone: Finding the courage to do it yourself “How long have you been thinking about starting that comic, game, or band? Feel scared? Join the club! Just don’t let it stop you. Learn how navigate through self-doubt, motivational issues & lack of know-how on your way to victory!” With Erika Moen, Dylan Meconis, Angela Webber, and Kenna Conklin Room: HALL C (610) Time: 11:20AM – 12:10PM And on Sunday: Freelance Like a Rock Star “Do you fantasize about being self-employed but you just don’t even know where to start? Shh, shh, little friend, no more tears – this group of seasoned pros is here to share their hard-won knowledge with you so you can freelance like a rock star, too.” With Matt Bors, Erika Moen, Steve Lieber, and Dylan Meconis Room: 2B Time: 4:00PM – 4:50PM See you in Seattle, friends!
Back in October I had the pleasure of working with writer Steve Nicolaides on a children’s book called Sherlock and Nina. Here are a few preview shots of the finished product:
The story follows 6-year-old Nina and her inquisitive basset hound Sherlock as they solve the mystery of the old Triplescoop Mansion.
I had a lot of fun working on this project, honing my full-color digital illustration skills and getting a crash course in dog anatomy, and am super pleased to finally share some of the artwork with you guys. I won’t spoil the ending, but I’ll finish with my favorite piece from the book — Sherlock and his namesake!
I don’t often use this blog for soapboxing about artistic issues, but this comic deserves a bit of an introduction. It’s part of a short conversation I had with my mother (a freelance writer and former cartoonist) a few months ago while working on an illustration job. I’m proud of how far I’ve come in the past year in terms of understanding my financial worth and being unafraid to charge money for what I do, but moments like this still leave me a trembling, anxious wreck. Money and creativity have a fraught relationship at the best of times, and somehow financial matters always manage to cut to the heart of many people’s insecurities. We often believe we’re worthless. That we’re frauds. That someone will come forward one of these days and expose us. It’s only a matter of time. Taking risks and charging a fair price for the services we offer opens us up for the ultimate confirmation of these fears. If someone refuses our price, we are indeed worthless.
Of course, this is a load of bullshit.
Charging people money for something you love doing shouldn’t be difficult, yet somehow it’s one of the greatest challenges facing new artists in the field. We’re steeped in mixed messages telling us that creativity is simultaneously priceless and worthless. “How hard can it be?” people ask, turning around in the same breath to babble about “talent” and “genius”. The attitude I encounter most often involves folks looking wistfully over my shoulder and saying “Oh, I could never do that” — as if drawing is some God-given jar of pixie dust rather than a craft honed over hundreds and thousands of hours. Conversely, onlookers or employers can be astounded at the amount of time and effort that goes into a job — “Surely it doesn’t take that long!” “But that’s so much work!”
How can we create a system where artists don’t have to overcome so many conflicting viewpoints simply in order to get paid for their work? Of course, a great deal rests on having the confidence to realize that self-worth and artistic worth are separate entities. Often it just takes guts to be calm and up-front about asking for your price. By being professional about our financial requirements, we set a precedent for other artists in the field. But it can be hard to know where to start. It’s a lesson I learn and re-learn every time I take on a new job or decide to increase my fees in relation to the amount of experience I’ve gained since starting out as a freelancer.
This is an awful lot of gabble for such a quick comic, but it’s an issue that’s really important to me, so I thought I’d share some of my thoughts. If anyone wants to read more, I’ve included some helpful links to other essays on the subject at the bottom of this post.
More arts! A while back I did an illustration for folks over at the Reed College Annual Fund. They’ve just launched a fundraising campaign to get recently-graduated alumni to donate to the college. This is what I came up with for their branding:
If you look closely in there you can spot a number of Reed-related gags (I think 6 in total). See if you can find them all!
Has this image compelled you to fling money at my alma mater? Great! You can check out the campaign here.
Stay tuned for some preview art from True Believer later this week as I wrestle with the second half of the inking process!