If you’ve been here for the last couple years, you might remember that I’m an authorized representative of an intergalactic entity known as The Boat Gnome.
If you haven’t been here for a couple years, here’s a visual introduction:
This spacefaring nautical merchant, operating in association with known Space Gnome representative Shing Yin Khor, accepts trinkets and trades via post in exchange for a special Trusted Trader pin. (You can also trade with the Space Gnome for pins by becoming a Patreon supporter of Shing’s, but you didn’t hear it from me.)
I’m delighted to announce that the Boat Gnome has now updated her ledgers and is open for the 2020-2021 trading season!
Desired items for this season are as follows:
A favorite passage describing the ocean (from an artistic work of your choosing)
A (mailably small) piece of driftwood
A design for a flag
A sea creature in any condition (illustrated, bottled, described with words—ideally not live because the ship has no aquarium in which to keep them)
To participate, print this intake form, fill it out, and pack it up with your trade item of choice AND a self-addressed-and-stamped box or bubble envelope (5×7” or larger) with at least $3.50 in regular postage (for US residents), or the equivalent for a 4oz package (for international residents). This envelope will be used to mail back your Trusted Trader pin. The Boat Gnome regretfully cannot accept thin paper or cardboard envelopes—padded is best!
Mail your trade item and SASE to the following address:
Boat Gnome Mercantile
PO Box 734
Ojai, CA 93024
In exchange, and under no specific timeline, you’ll receive one of these shiny Trusted Trader pins in the post:
That’s it! The Boat Gnome is very much looking forward to pawing over all your mailed offerings and I, as her Representative, can’t wait to file all the necessary paperwork.
If you follow me elsewhere on the web, you’ve probably seen an uptick in posts about something called the Boat Gnome Mercantile Trading Program. Maybe it makes sense, maybe it doesn’t, so here’s a big ol’ post with some background about this zany undertaking and how you can play along.
If you just can’t wait to exchange goods with the Boat Gnome (even if you are, perhaps, a little unclear about what that entails), the Trade-by-Mail Program is already open to Patrons at any pledge level. You can find all the instructions for sending trades through the mail by becoming a Patron and visiting this post.
The Boat Gnome’s desired items for the 2019-2020 Trading Season are as follows:
An interesting shell (level of interest is in the eye of the beholder)
A piece of seaglass (bonus points for unusual colors)
A transcription of your favorite nautical poem (typed or hand-written, as preferred)
A knot (tied in a piece of string, twine, rope, etc and labelled by name)
The story goes like this: there is a gnome—a Space Gnome—who runs a trading outpost in outer space. She releases a list of desirable items prior to sending one of her representatives to conventions around the country. The desirable items are often simple. A nice rock. A cutting from a succulent. A poem. A story.
Traders may present the representative with one of these objects and receive, in exchange, a limited edition enamel pin.
Once a participant has made a trade and received a pin they become a Trusted Trader, and can return to the representative at future events (wearing their pin) and receive additional, special items. Shing also runs a trade-by-mail program exclusively for their Patreon supporters (DID I MENTION YOU CAN SUPPORT SHING ON PATREON?) in case folks can’t make it out to conventions.
I love this project. It’s subversive and human and playful and kind. So when Shing and I were on a ferry coming back from the Wayward Retreat this summer, I screwed up my courage and said:
“Do you think there might be other gnomes? I mean, hypothetically, what if there was also, say…a Boat Gnome?”
I felt self-conscious even asking. Why can’t I come up with my own ideas? Isn’t this plagiarism? But the beauty of this project lies in the fact that it’s not commercial in the slightest. Nobody’s making a profit. It’s a sandbox—a container for play, and as if to prove it Shing immediately shot up off the bench and shouted “YES!!!”
One month later they showed up in the front yard of childhood home in California (long story) and officially inducted me into the Association of Gnomes—a process I can’t recount here, so you’ll just have to flip through this Instagram Story really quick to experience it.
Armed with my gnome hat, I started drafting ideas. Since Shing had already come up with a format for the pins and cards, I decided to keep things simple and just riff on the existing material.
So here’s our Boat Gnome. (Perhaps suspiciously like a smaller version of me, but WHO’S KEEPING SCORE.) I translated this small friend onto a postcard that would mimic Shing’s space-themed offering with a load of nautical motifs.
And then came the PINS, which I wanted to match to Shing’s design so that enterprising traders could line them up in a handsome row on a lapel.
Once I had all my elements assembled, it was time to number all the backing cards and start assembling pins. The final result looks amazing.
The great thing about doing a project that won’t make me any money is that a lot of the perfectionism that usually dogs my steps during production is just…gone. Who cares if this isn’t utterly perfect? It’s a game. People are going to play.
I’ve spent a little over $500 assembling the materials for this project, which would’ve felt impossible three years ago. But I’m finally at a place in my career where not every expense has to turn a profit. There’s so much heart-felt fun to be had exchanging gifts with strangers and friends. And because of the support I receive on Patreon, I can do these kinds of projects. It’s such a wonderful privilege. I’ve already completed over 40 trades with people from all over the country, and the offerings are universally stellar.
Greetings, friends! It’s me again, your friendly neighborhood Artist-at-Sea-on-a-Research-Ship-with-WiFi-in-the-Middle-of-the-Pacific.
This week we’re doing something really fun: a live Q&A on Google Hangouts! I’ll be sharing illustration work from the voyage so far on R/V Falkor, talking about the joys and challenges of drawing comics at sea, and answering YOUR questions! If you want to ask something, fire away in the comments on this post, on the Facebook event page, or on Twitter. I’m collecting questions all week.
You can also hop in the chat box during the call to ask questions in the moment, but the more I know about ahead of time, the more I can prepare to show you, like my mobile drawing setup:
It’s all happening this Friday, January 13th at 11am HST/1pm PST/4pm EST. You can RSVP on Facebook here, or just join the call directly by clicking this link when the time comes.
This trip with OHP was a great opportunity to refine my practice of joining organizations as an embedded cartoonist, merging the duties of a deckhand (line handling, climbing aloft, maintenance, etc.), educator (teaching classes on scurvy and nautical trivia with Baggywrinkles as my de facto textbook), and artist (frantically sketching the students and their activities at every turn). Each trip I take I feel like I’m getting a better handle on this format, and how best to adapt it to different kinds of experiences.
While I completed all the artwork during my time aboard, getting the scanning, cleanup, and formatting squared away in-between all my traveling from August to November proved tricky, hence the lengthy lagtime. I’m thrilled to finally have it all put together. Here’s a look at the trip in photos:
The Oliver Hazard Perry is America’s newest sail training vessel. You can learn more about her and her programs at OHPRI.org.
Big thanks to my supporters on Patreon for making this comic possible! If you want to join them and get a behind-the-scenes look at these pieces as they come together, head on over here.
Just a pre-holiday note to let you know that I’ve opened up a shop on INPRNT, a fabulous service that prints and ships gallery-quality artwork on my behalf. This is a great solution for independent creators, since producing, storing, and shipping prints is a substantial effort that I can’t afford to sustain on my own. I’m so glad to finally have a service I trust on board to help me get you beautiful, affordable artwork for your walls.
If you’ve been lusting after one of my watercolor paintings, or perhaps that handy guide to the secret meanings of sailors’ tattoos, INPRNT is the place to go! (If you ever lose the link, it’ll always be up top under the Shop menu on this website.)
I had a ton of fun wrapping up these watercolor paintings for my top-tier backers on the Baggywrinkles Kickstarter last week. Here’s a look at the final lineup of paintings:
Clockwise from upper left, we’ve got El Galeon (hiding behind PDX YAR’s First Mate), L’Hermione, Brig Niagara, and Kalmar Nyckel (in disguise under a different paint job, for reasons outlined in this Tumblr post).
In the process of getting all of these done, I learned a bunch about making time-lapse videos, which you can check out below:
I put up an informative essay each month about some aspect of my creative process, along with a load of other content for folks to read/watch/listen to/generally enjoy. I serious adore Patreon as a platform for making more of this work possible, so if you haven’t already checked it out, go take a peek! (There’s a lot of free stuff there, too, if you don’t want to commit to chucking some money my way each month.)
Fittingly, I’m writing this blog post from the deck of the Oliver Hazard Perry, a new tall ship in Rhode Island that I’m currently working aboard as a visiting artist. But that’s secondary to the following exciting news of the day: I’ve got a new comic up on The Nib!
For the last few months I’ve been researching and illustrating this brief introduction to the modern world of sail cargo—a movement driven by environmentalism, optimism, and countless volunteer hours. There are a surprising number of operations around the world working to convert tall ships into viable cargo-carrying vessels—or build new ones from the ground up.
It’s a trend I find deeply fascinating, and my only regret was not being able to fit more of my research into this introduction. The sailors working on these vessels are the embodiment of enthusiasm and dedication, and I really enjoyed talking with them during my research.
Of particular interest right now: Sailcargo Inc. are launching their Kickstarter to build a dedicated cargo vessel (Ceiba) from scratch in Costa Rica! Keep an eye on their website for details on the launch.
Fairtransport are also making great strides in building a coalition of sail cargo vessels around the world. Their website has a wealth of information, including vessel tracking and more. View all the ships in their network here.
Of course there are also efforts being made to implement modern sailing technology on existing container ships at a grander scale. To learn more about the DynaRig technology behind parts of that movement, check out this article. There’s some fascinating stuff afoot, and even though it’s moving slowly, progress is being made.
I’ll have more news after my week aboard the Perry, but until then, enjoy the comic!
Many moons ago I drew this in a sketchbook to celebrate the passage of time and its marvelous effect on giving a shit about things.
Who among us has not encountered a previously fraught circumstance, only to find that the anxiety, stress, and strain surrounding it has completely dissipated? What a relief. So I’m printing up a batch of glossy, UV-coated 4×6″ postcards to celebrate the sensation. Preorder a set here to ensure you’re in the first wave.
For the more nautically-minded among you, I’ve whipped up this illustration of the brigantine Irving Johnson of the Los Angeles Maritime Institute, sailing away with a classic sailors’ valedictory phrase. Send it to far-flung friends or keep it for yourself as a reminder that calmer times are ahead.
Both cards feature space for an address, stamp, and message on the back, like so:
Tres chic! Check out the whole selection of postcard offerings here. Enjoy!
That’s right! My latest comic, an examination of maritime history’s deadliest deficiency, is now live! For the last few months, Eriq Nelson and I have been hard at work researching the ins and outs of scurvy in the Golden Age of Sail, and now we’re bringing our findings to you in 18 pages of informative, entertaining comics.
There’s even a Napoleonic Capybara. No joke.
I’ve had such a blast working on this piece—even if the production timeline was somewhat delayed by the Kickstarter I ran this summer. Speaking of which, this comic will round out the hardcover collection of Baggywrinkles comics I’m publishing in 2016! What’s more it’ll be in FULL COLOR! Gosh I’m excited.
Anyway, you can read the whole thing right here! I do hope you enjoy it.
Ahoy, friends! I am so, so excited to announce that Baggywrinkles: A Lubber’s Guide to Life at Sea will be hitting Kickstarter July 20th.
What is Baggywrinkles, you ask? Why, it’s my educational, autobiographical comic series about living aboard an 18th century tall ship! You can read the first five issues online for free, and check out new content from the series every week on Patreon. I’ve been working on these short stories intermittently since 2010, and I’m finally ready to bring the whole bundle together under one cover.
So next Monday (July 20th) I’m launching a campaign to fund the printing of a 100-page, 6×9″ softcover collection featuring Issues 1-5, the never-before-seen-in-print Issue 6 (all about the history of scurvy), and a host of other exclusive goodies. Take a look at the finished cover design!
I’ve been hard at work with a team of stellar professionals to make this collection something you’ll all be proud to own—we’re talking French Flaps, patterned endpapers, high-quality matte paper stock, and deliciously thick covers.
I’ve also got some really neat extra rewards. Like remember this giant guide to sailors’ tattoos I drew for the Vancouver Maritime Museum?
Well, I’m gonna turn it into a super fancy two-color, limited edition letterpress print in collaboration with the fine folks at Twin Ravens Press in Eugene, OR! And there’s more extra rewards to come.
This post is your official warning to watch this space (or follow me on Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, and Instagram) for the campaign launch next week, and to keep your eyes peeled because I’ve got a very special stretch goal that I’ll be announcing once the book goes live.