Even before the Pandemic, I spent a great deal of time finding connection through machines. It was part and parcel of my work, the backbone of my audience and my ability to make a living. But having spent the past year being forced to mediate all my relationships through the internet or the telephone has left me hungry for connection in space in ways I can’t fully articulate.
Don’t get me wrong: I learned so much over the past year. From Kat. From Rachel. From Erika and Danielle and Robin and James and Sarah and Zina and Jez and Tess and Kristen and Vivian and RSS and Wayward and Hyperlink and everyone. I deepened and renewed and began so many friendships. So it’s a little surprising to me that I’ve had barely any interest in opening my laptop or getting on social media in weeks.
The obvious reason is that I’m currently moving out of my home in Portland for good. My days are full of boxes and warehouses and logistics and flaky Craigslist randos. But beyond the chaos of the move, there’s also the fact that in this post-vaccine, pre-moving-to-Ojai-for-the-long-haul moment, I’m being given the chance to reengage with the physical world—with my flesh-and-blood Portland humans who can give each other hugs and cook together and dance and laugh and cry in the same space. It’s commanding absolutely all of my attention.
I don’t even miss the internet. It feels so strange after a year of feeling like it was my lifeline.
The first funeral I ever attended wasn’t for a family member; it was for a cartoonist.
Dylan Williams passed away in 2011, shortly after I’d spent a formative semester as his student in the IPRC’s Comics Certificate Program. He’d battled leukemia for many years, but I didn’t know him as someone struggling with a disease. I knew him as a generous teacher with an encyclopedic knowledge of obscure and unsung cartoonists, a champion of small press creators, and a source of quiet humor and encouragement.
I’m almost certain that the first time I met Jesse Hamm—or maybe only saw him—was at Dylan’s funeral.
I realize, looking back, that Steve was there, too. And Greg. And probably countless other Portland comics people who would come to feel like a patchwork family in the years that followed. I was just a newcomer to that crowd at the time, still trying to find my place within the medium, but the funeral left a huge impression on me. I ended up drawing my thesis comic about that year in the IPRC program, and my first convention experience, and Dylan’s death, which led to my first Kickstarter, which led to my becoming an intern at Helioscope (then Periscope Studio), which led to the career I have now, ten years later.
I remember using this portrait Jesse drew for his memorial post about Dylan as reference when working on True Believer. It was uncannily accurate and tender, as were his recollections of Dylan as a publisher and community member.
Toward the end of his post Jesse wrote:
Dylan understood that comics are really for and about people — that people are what give comics value. Like he said elsewhere in that interview: “Encouraging people is like the greatest feeling in the world.” And he did encourage people. One blogger recalls: “He was able to say …the things I needed to hear in a way that I actually heard them. [H]is support and encouragement changed my life.”
It felt so true to what I knew of this man, even if I’d only known him for a short while.
I was in the middle of writing a difficult email yesterday morning when I opened the Studio’s Discord page and saw that Jesse was dead. A blood clot in his lung. Sudden and unexpected and impossible and awful and so far away from me at this laptop in California. Far away from my studiomates. Far away from the cemetery where we had buried Dylan a decade ago—the same one where another dear friend buried his mother late last year.
Seeing the outpouring of love and grief on Twitter from cartoonists who’d known Jesse through his threads of advice and educational PDFs, I found myself reaching for that old post about Dylan.
Rereading it this morning wrecked me all over again, because so much of what Jesse wrote about Dylan echoes what people have been saying about him: that he was impossibly knowledgeable, and fucking funny, and deeply opinionated in a quiet sort of way. That he wanted to encourage people. To help us see and appreciate all the thoughtfulness and knowledge that goes into practicing this craft.
I’ve felt distant from the idea of the Comics Community for a while now, trying to figure out my place in an industry that’s changing so rapidly, caught between different generations and genres of creators.
But this loss, like Dylan’s loss, feels like a smack in the face; a radical recalibration toward what brings us to this practice. What binds us to each other as a wider community. How lucky we are. What a wealth of information and knowledge there is out there. And of course, as with any death, the question of who we are. What we’re doing. How we’re impacting the people around us.
I kept thinking about how much Jesse knew, and what a staggering loss that is, but then yesterday a studiomate told me she’d just drawn a page earlier this week with a piece of his advice in mind. “I literally think of him every time I use it.”
That’s how this works, if we choose it. We share our knowledge and our enthusiasm and we welcome people to the fucking table so they can make the things they came here to make.
Dylan couldn’t have said it better. And now we have to keep saying it for both of them.
Perhaps it’s old age talking, but I feel like it’s not overly ridiculous to be okay with deciding that the superhero movie you thought was cool five years ago is actually a bit shit, on reflection.
Graeme revealed the existence of his blog to me as all good blogs should be revealed: in the dark of a winter’s night, through a fence, his face shrouded in shadow. I’d caught sight of him taking his dogs out to do their business in the yard while I was on a walk, so we had a brief, impromptu catchup—me on the sidewalk bouncing on my toes to keep warm, him clutching a papillon under each arm.
Ramble #24 (January 7th, 2021): The 7th anniversary of my arrival on Patreon! Reflections on my first solo Christmas, good quotes about solitude, writing down nice things, thinking about early internet communities, trying out anonymous audio-based support groups, picking a word for the year, stuff about birds. There’s also a bonus recording attached to the original post on Patreon from Tim Dee’s The Running Sky, which is just gorgeous.
Ramble #25 (January 21st, 2021): much shorter. Took a walk. Petted a cat. Tried to figure out how I’ve changed my relationship to being online and whether I could distill that process into replicable steps. (Also, thanks to a truly mystical service Robin turned me onto called Descript, this is the first Ramble with a proper transcript.)
(If you’re universally hot for RSS feeds—and if you’re here, let’s be real, you probably are—you can always subscribe to these directly in the podcast app of your choosing with this link.)
I’m not typically one to evangelize condiments on the internet, but I’m going to write a blog post about chili oil because we’re in the middle of a Pandemic and small businesses need all the help they can get and also I am literally eating this stuff out of the jar with a spoon as we speak so I figure I owe it to you to pass along the secret.
Hot Mama Salsa makes The Good Shit. I tried their Smoky Coffee Chilie Oil for the first time at the Portland Farmer’s Market last summer after Mara dragged me bodily into their booth and pressed a taster spoon into my hand. “This chili oil,” she said with absolute conviction, “will change your life.” 1
I’d never been much of a Spicy Condiment person…until that moment. The chili oil is indeed smoky (one of my favorite flavor profiles), but it’s also complex and salty and unexpected and tastes great on EVERYTHING??? and, whoops, now I can’t get enough of it. (I’ve also fallen for its gentler cousin, Guajillo oil.)
Its primary use these last few months has been in this recipe, which has supplanted all other breakfast meals in our house due to being outrageously fucking delicious. It makes no sense how good this meal is. We don’t bother with most of the fancy extras in the NYT version—just slap a pat of Greek yogurt on your plate, throw some charred greens on there, top with fried eggs, loads of chili oil, and a generous amount of salt and then bask in your newfound culinary paradise. 2
I lick my plate clean every time we make it and experience zero shame.
1. I got sidetracked writing this post because the jar label uses a spelling of “chili” I wasn’t seeing elsewhere. For more on the chili/chile/chilli debate, please enjoy this Merriam-Webster article on the subject. ↩
2. You can also use Lao Gan Ma if you want more of a Chinese heat, but I’m plugging Hot Mama Salsa because they’re a local woman-owned Portland company that I want to support. Also they’re offering $5 shipping on orders over $25 right now. Just saying.↩
Just a heads up that I’ll be giving a talk as part of Design Week Portland this Thursday evening at Figure Plant, a local design and fabrication studio. Design•Build•Business•You explores the unexpected benefits of collaboration, curiosity, and niche passions in a series of brief presentations. I’ll be joined by artist and wilderness guide Hannes Wingate and creative strategy specialist Christine Taylor to share insights about our creative practices and how you can find greater clarity and purpose in your own work.
I’ve got an amazing opportunity to exhibit at the 2018 Ocean Sciences Meeting here in Portland this week (AKA the most impressive gathering of marine science folks in the country) and I wanted to invite you all to come along. I’ll be displaying original pages from (and giving away copies of) Mappin’ the Floor, the comic I drew during three weeks at sea aboard R/V Falkor last spring.
Fun fact: I relinquished ownership of the original pages once the gig aboard Falkor was over, so they’ve been touring all over the world without me to various nautical events: a film festival in San Francisco, the America’s Cup race in Bermuda, the Bishop Museum in Hawai’i, a sailing festival in Rhode Island…pretty neat!
Even aside from the comics stuff, the films they’re showing as part of this art evening at OSM sound really cool. One of them deals with the Blaschka collection of glass replicas, which I had the chance to see at Harvard a couple years ago. Here are someexamples, all mind-blowinglyaccurate. If you ever get the chance to go see them in person, FOR THE LOVE OF NEPTUNE: GO.
I’m really looking forward to doing an event that’s ocean-first rather than comics-focused. Gonna meet a lot of other aquatic nerds!
So that’s it! Join me this Thursday, February 15th, in the Oregon Convention Center Portland Ballroom at 6pm. No ticket required.
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!
We will have: DRINKS (BOOZY AND NOT-SO-BOOZY)! SNACKS! SPARKLY NAUTICAL TEMPORARY TATTOOS! COPIES OF THE BOOK! PEOPLE IN COSTUME! ORIGINAL ART! SCURVY!
Want to RSVP through Facebook? You can do that here!
If you got a copy of the book through Kickstarter and would like me to sign it, bring it along! I would love to give you a hug or a high five to say thanks for making this possible. If you can’t make the party, but would still like to get your hands on a copy of the book, you can order the softcover from me here.
Once again, the details:
WHO: Lucy Bellwood
WHAT: Baggywrinkles release party and art exhibit
WHEN: Thursday, September 1, 6-10pm
WHERE: Floating World Comics, 400 NW Couch St. Portland, Oregon