I love being on Patreon for many, many reasons, but chief among them is the platform it’s given me to record more conversations with creators I admire. I already keep an extensive archive of panels, talks, and classes on my SoundCloud page, but the support and enthusiasm of my Patrons has allowed me to add candid monthly interviews to the mix. Typically these conversations go up for Patrons first, and then (if the artists are comfortable with it) on the public feed a few weeks later.
Back in September I spoke to Tessa Hulls—a dream interviewee of mine for some time. Tessa’s work defies categorization, but it often encompasses notions of heritage, independence, wilderness, and community—all things I am endlessly fascinated by. She did a staggering number of residencies in 2018, all while juggling enough concurrent projects to make my head spin. I am deeply in awe of her energy and dedication.
In this 90-minute conversation, we discuss merging identities to create powerful new selves, balancing finances as a traveling artist, the transformative power of alternative community gatherings, coming into one’s own as a vulnerable communicator, navigating fine art spaces, “pathological independence,” and the current cultural crucible of female rage. Notes on our conversation below:
If you want to see more of Tessa’s work, I’d highly recommend starting with…
I’m back in the UK for my biennial pilgrimage to table at Thought Bubble (and catch up with English friends and family in the process). Since I was last in the country they’ve changed the date of the festival to September, which has been an enormous improvement so far. The weather is just beginning to turn autumnal, with a good few sunny days still in reserve.
If you’re planning on heading to Thought Bubble in Leeds this weekend, you can find me in the Ask for Mercy Marquee at Table 43. Thanks to some cunning distribution work, I’ve got a TON of 100 Demon Dialogues books and plushies already in the country, plus copies of Baggywrinkles and fresh sets of watercolor skyline postcards!
As per usual I’ve made a goofy graphic to help you locate me at the event. Here’s a map:
Being in the country a week early has left a lot of room for acclimatization and a bit of exploration. I’ve been going on six-mile rambles near Egham with my current host, cartoonist Dave Whiteland. We’re not far from Runnymede, site of the signing of the Magna Carta. Interestingly, it’s a landmark more beloved by Americans, who tend to view the Magna Carta as the precursor to our written constitution, but there are also a number of beautiful memorials and installations by local artists scattered throughout the open meadows.
I have so many childhood memories of England coming into view out a plane window. It’s a patchwork quilt in hundreds of shades of green. Each border is picked out in dark hedgerows like raised lines of embroidery. After the rigid grids and circles of American crops seen from the sky, it confirms this sense of being somewhere other.
England is walking through fields and turnstiles and picking up fossils from beds of flint. It’s the particular smell of petrol and peat and cold air and river water. It’s tea and smooth wood floors and the familiarity of gentleness. It’s not perfect here, but it brings me back to a part of myself that feels foundational and true.
After the chaos of touring all summer, I decided to forego scheduling a separate last-minute event in London or Cambridge. It’s enough to be here, and to see friends, and to have the festival to look forward to. I hope to see many of you there in a few days.
I’m back from a frankly ridiculous month of touring across the Midwest and down the East Coast, which means it’s time to announce the dates for Leg 2 of the 100 Demon Dialogues Tour. But first, some stats about Leg 1:
PRETTY HECKIN’ COOL, RIGHT? I feel very accomplished. Also very tired. Turns out moving house every 1.8 days will do that to you. Check out these lovely smiling faces from the many bookstores, comic shops, and venues I visited in June:
I was especially grateful to how many people participated in my experimental Guest Book idea, where folks filled out name tags about what their demons said to them. Here’s a selection:
Even though the resultant volume is pretty heavy reading, my hope is that people found it helpful to see visual proof that they weren’t alone in their fears. We can get through this together.
If you’re on the West Coast or hanging around the Southwest, I’ve got a slew of stops for the next few months right here (also a bonus visit to the UK and back to the East Coast for a couple comics festivals):
Here are those stops with RSVP links, in case you’d like to invite any local friends to tag along:
826 Valencia‘s Pirate Supply Store (with special guests Rose Eveleth, Molly McLeod, and Anxy Magazine) – 6:30-9pm, July 25th, San Francisco, CA
Thanks for keeping up with this wild and crazy endeavor! I’m looking forward to visiting some new places and returning to old haunts over the next few months.
A note on actually PURCHASING copies of 100 Demon Dialogues:
Due to Some Nonsense, the official in-store release date for 100 Demon Dialogues got pushed out to July 19th (although I heard some comic shops got their copies this week). If you’d like to encourage friends and family to buy a copy in the meantime, you can get both soft and hardcover editions (and Demon Plushies, stickers, postcards, and prints) from my own online shop. This is actually the best place to send folks, because more of the profit goes back into supporting my work, but I also want everyone to be able to get the book from their local shops if they so choose. Keep your eyes out next week for wider availability in stores!
Here’s what happens when you tell people you’re going on book tour:
Their eyes widen like they’re picturing private jets and limousines, booksellers laying stock to be signed at your feet, adoring fans queued up out the door. They congratulate you—assuming you have “made it.” You try not to let the lunatic edge invade your laughter as you thank them, unable to explain that they are wrong.
The truth is, you’re about to spend two months sleeping on couches and washing your underwear in the sink. You’re three months past the date any “real” author would’ve had their tour stops booked by a publisher, but you’re emailing venues anyway because you got yourself into this glorious mess, and you love it, and it’s time to go big or go home.
You fill pads of paper with train times and bus lines—an endless game of Cheap Travel Tetris.
You schedule posts on every social media platform known to man, but still manage to avoid updating your own website.
You learn that the barcode doesn’t scan properly on your entire print run of books. You make a lot of phone calls and hope you can fix everything before the ship date.
You whoop with delight whenever a venue confirms, then falter when you see all the other, more impressive authors on the week’s lineup.
You realize those authors may feel just as fraudulent as you do.
You set up endless Facebook events, cripplingly aware of how often you ignore invites from everyone else.
You find out exactly how many of your friends live in Minneapolis.
You worry nobody will come.
You worry everybody will come.
You throw yourself on the kindness of the Internet—your people, your tribe, your network. They offer rides, couches, venues, connections. You recognize, again and again, that you are nothing without them.
It will feel like a miracle any time you meet a flesh and blood human being who knows your work. These moments of connection will pile up behind your sternum. They will turn your abstract Twitter followers into live heartbeats.
Two months from now you know you’ll come home changed.
This is it, friends! My last convention of 2017! If you’re in the D.C. area, come on out to Bethesda, MD for the Small Press Expo this Saturday and Sunday. SPX boasts an amazing roster of indie comics folks, and I’m so excited to be returning this year. I’ll be camped out at Table K9-A alongside the team from Cartozia Tales. You can check out the full exhibitor list and floor map here.
I’m also appearing on a panel on Sunday at 12:30pm:
Balancing World-Building and Character In Kids’ Comics
Laura Terry, Ben Sears, Janet Lee & Lucy Bellwood all create elaborate worlds for their colorful characters to dwell in. They will discuss how to balance the immersive quality of world-building with the development of character and story, particularly as it pertains to comics for kids.
Sunday, 12:30pm, White Flint Room
So what am I gonna have on hand? WELL.
I just picked up these extra shiny ✨new sketchbooks✨ from my time in Iceland. If you want 24 pages of watercolor studies, life drawing, and landscapes from two weeks in a totally unreal and gorgeous country, this is the book for you. (It’s also available as a PDF if you swing that way.)
I’ll also have a limited selection of miniprints from the 100 Demon Dialogues series, and the plush prototype for folks to get a handle on.
If you missed your chance to order a book or a plush toy through the Kickstarter campaign, there’s now a pre-order store where you can do all of that! No deadlines needed. Just for kicks, here’s a look at the letterpress print design I’m working on for the campaign:
In addition to these new treats, I’ll have gold foil box sets of my first 100 Day Project, A Life in Objects, which sold out in record time at last year’s SPX. (Don’t worry, I’m bringing a lot more this year!)
I’ll also have assorted travelogue minicomics and softcover copies of Baggywrinkles, if you somehow don’t own a copy yet. PHEW. Lots of goodies. Oh! AND. I’m also giving away copies of Mappin’ the Floor, the comic that came out of my three-week stint in the Pacific aboard R/V Falkor. Learn some stuff about oceanography in 12 bright and charming pages—fo’ FREE.
Okay, I think that’s legitimately it from me. SEE YOU AT THE SHOW!
It’s time, once again, for everyone’s favorite West Coast Canadian Comic Arts Festival: VanCAF!
Yes indeed, I’ll be appearing at the Roundhouse Community Center in Vancouver, B.C. this weekend from 10am to 5pm (both days). You can find the Bellwood Comics Empire at Table I2 in the Gymnasium. I’ll have a bunch of Baggywrinkles books, Life in Objects boxes, minicomics, and SUPER SECRET copies of Mappin‘ the Floor in advance of its official release in June! If you say the secret password, you can have one for free.
If you’re attending with a young person who wants to learn more about making comics, they can come to a special comics-making class with myself and Mariana Yatsuda Ikuta on Sunday at 2:30 in the Arts and Crafts Room. There are free workshops for kids happening all weekend, so check out the schedule here and go draw with your favorite cartoonists.
I’ll also be moderating a panel called “Hash Out Your Cash!” with Steve Lieber, Hope Nicholson, Jeph Jacques, and James F. Wright (WHAT A LINEUP) on Sunday at 10:30am in the Performance Center. We’re gonna talk all about money which a topic I’m getting more and more jazzed about discussing with cartoonists, so I hope to see you there! (And be sure to check out the whole panel lineup on the VanCAF site.)
Okay, phew, that’s all for this weekend! I’ll see you across the border.
This is my seventh year doing Hourly Comic Day, and it’s really such a delightful thing. For those that aren’t familiar: it’s a global art project where folks draw a panel for every hour they’re awake on February 1st. It’s a wonderful way to discover new artists, take a look at what everyone’s up to, and chronicle a day out of each year. This year I just happened to be wrapping up a couple weeks in Hawai’i, so there’s a bunch of tropical escapades in here.
You can read the whole comic over here on Medium. I love having these annual visual check-ins that remind me of where I’ve been every February since I was a junior in college—especially if this tropical trend continues. Wonder where I’ll be in 2018…
Did any of you participate? I try not to read people’s till I’ve posted my own, since it wigs me out and I get self-conscious, but now I am FREEEEEE. Link me to your entries in the comments or on Twitter.
It’s been a busy week here on the island of O‘ahu. After completing our three-week ocean crossing aboard R/V Falkor last Monday at 8:30am, the ship immediately went into prep mode for a host of different events to help promote the results of our cruise. Chief among these was getting the gallery show at The ARTS at Marks Garage open, which meant getting my land legs back as quick as I could in order to hang all my completed pages from the comic I’d just drawn at sea.
The opening party on Friday night was a truly fantastic time, and I’m so grateful to everyone who came out. It was also Chinese New Year, so we had a visit from some dragons!
If you happen to be in Honolulu, the show is up through February 3rd, and features all the original artwork from my comic and work from all the other Artist-at-Sea participants from the last three years. There’s painting, animation, fiber arts, music, and (my personal favorite) A KNOT BOARD MADE OF ETHERNET CABLE.
My inner fancywork nerd is screaming with glee.
SO: now that all that’s over, and I’ve taught a variety of classes to high schoolers and kindergarteners at local schools, it’s time to release the finished comic online. CUE TRUMPETS:
You can read the entire comic and learn all about multibeam mapping right here, and the PDF is free to download on Gumroad (just enter $0 at checkout and you’ll be able to download it without paying a dime). In keeping with Schmidt Ocean Institute’s open sharing of information policy, the comic is licensed under Creative Commons Non-Commercial/Attribution, so you can print it, color it, share it—whatever you want, as long as you aren’t turning a profit and you provide credit to the original source.
Physical copies of the comic will be available in the next few months. If you’d like to be first in line to know when that happens, you can sign up for my email list here (I send out updates once a month).
Thanks, as always, to my stalwart supporters on Patreon, who directly enable me to take these trips and bring back educational comics for you all to read and enjoy.
One the best things I did last year, hands down, was attend the Alaska Robotics Mini-Con and Comics Camp up in Juneau, AK. In addition to a super-sweet one-day con in a quirky, beautiful town, it also featured three days of camping with a host of incredible creators—cartoonists, musicians, writers, financial advisors, and A LAWYER (not just any lawyer, either, theKatie Lane, dispenser of exceptional wisdom to the creative stars). We all got to sit around the campfire, play games, share experiences and advice, learn about each other’s hidden talents, and explore the Alaskan wilderness. It was a dream come true.
I’ve been yearning more and more for these kinds of experiences—the ones that tend to happen around the fringes of commercially-driven conventions—and Pat and his team have really hit on something special. I learned so much last year, and gained so many new friends. It was also fantastic to have newer creators rubbing shoulders with some of the industry’s most incredible and prolific superstars—just a really nourishing, humbling week all ’round.
So here’s the deal: you can send in an application here. Trip dates are April 21st-25th, 2017. You don’t have to be a cartoonist to come. There’s FINANCIAL AID (which totally made the difference between me being able to go and not last year). It’s going to be great.
I’m writing today from the outer lounge of R/V Falkor, the research vessel I’m currently working on as an artist-in-residence. At this very moment we’re motoring through the middle of nowhere, but thanks to our Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) there’s satellite Internet on board!
The science team on board are surveying the ocean floor using multibeam mapping, and I’m doing my darndest to learn all I can about their methods and draw a summary comic for the Schmidt Ocean Institute during our 3-week transit from Guam to Honolulu.
We’re collecting data all the way, but our specific area of focus is the seafloor around the Johnston Atoll, which has never been mapped using this particular technology.
So far the trip has carried us across hundreds of miles of the Pacific, with roaring trade winds tossing the spray into white crests around the ship. I’ve never done an open-ocean crossing like this one before, so it’s been even more of a thrill than usual to scramble up the companionway every morning to drink in the view.
The crew are very welcoming and ready to assist with the science operations, and we’ve been having daily lectures on subjects like the Mariana Trench and its surrounding islands, the history of sonar, and the intricacies of multibeam data.
Since it’s not every day you find yourself on a state-of-the-art research vessel, I thought I’d answer some general questions from Twitter! Here’s what everyone was curious to know:
How loud are the engines?
Quite loud on deck! My berth is two decks down, so it’s fairly insulated from the noise when I’m sleeping at night, but there’s a general rumble at all times. Between the rush of the wind and sea and the roar of the engines, you have to speak up to be heard when you’re outside.
How are day-to-day tasks different here than on a sailing ship?
Unlike previous trips where I’ve been embedded with a tall ship crew, there’s not much for me to do here from a vessel maintenance perspective. There are no lines to haul or sails to furl—the crew generally keep themselves occupied with navigation, engineering work, and watchkeeping duties. There’s still lots for them to do, but a lot of it is outside my area of expertise, so I’m getting on with the drawing work.
The science team is monitoring the control room as we map the ocean floor to get a sense of what we’re passing over, the marine technicians are processing data and making sure the systems and sensors stay online (you can even follow live cruise data here), and the housekeeping staff do an amazing job of keeping everything spick and span. The vessel is more of a floating research station than anything, so there are more departments with greater specialization, rather than a collective team who all take turns handing various tasks.
This leaves me somewhat at loose ends—I’m used to being more active—but I’ve got my work cut out for me when it comes to creating this comic, so I’m taking all the time I can to draft blog posts, work on outreach projects, and script the story that will explain our time here to the outside world.
How does the vessel handle?
Given that we’re motoring against the trade winds, the ride has been a little choppy. We did adjust our course to a lower latitude so that the wind is coming at us aslant rather than right on the nose, which means we’re not being slowed down quite as much. In the next few days we’ll turn north toward the Johnston Atoll.
There are stabilizers on board, which help keep things relatively level, but we still make liberal use of Non-Slip Shelf Liner—just like I do back home on my angled drawing board!
How are you getting along with the scientists? Was there any friction to start?
The science team are fantastic! We have a wide range of specialties, so I’m learning a lot about the terrain we’re covering from various angles (oceanographic, geologic, etc.). They’ve all been very patient with my barrage of questions about how things work and the lengthy time it takes for me to work out anything mathematical.
Is there a lot of turnover in the research crew?
Different research teams join Falkor every time there’s a new cruise. This particular trip is unique in that it’s a hybrid Transit Cruise. The ship needed to get back from Guam to Hawai’i, and John Smith (our lead scientist) applied to piggyback some of his mapping research on top of the already-scheduled travel days. All three of the science crew have been aboard Falkor before for various other research trips, so while there’s a high turnover from trip to trip, the overall pool of people associated with the vessel is pretty well-connected.
There are five of us “outreach” crew members: myself, Andrew (Graduate Student from Guam), Brocks Jr. and Sr. (Ambassadors from 11th Hour Racing, a program of the Schmidt Family Foundation, and Sail Martha’s Vineyard, a maritime training program benefitting underserved populations on the island of Martha’s Vineyard), and Jena (High School Teacher from Hawai’i).
Is there an initiation rite for new crew?
I’ll get back to you. So far nobody’s covered me in krill.
What’s the best part? What’s the worst part?
Best: Working on deck with the whole world swaying and the air whipping around like warm silk—especially after months of Pacific Northwest winter.
Worst: Trying to draw straight lines in a rough seaway.
What’s everyone eating?
Our chefs, Peter and Greg, are magnificent. Before I arrived a lot of the shoreside support team were cooing about how lucky I was to be going aboard because of the food, and now I see what they were talking about. In addition to a steady supply of snacks and treats, we get really magnificent meals three times a day (with an extra late-night meal for those standing watch). I mean, just look at this New Year’s Day feast:
Wait, I thought pigs were bad luck on boats?
I hadn’t heard that one before! (Most of my interest in pigs has been around their history as a good luck tattoo.) A cursory Google suggests that pigs are considered bad luck specifically on fishing vessels, which might explain why I hadn’t heard of the notion before. If anyone has anecdotal evidence: leave a comment!
What are the bathrooms like?
Ahh, the perennial question. Like everything else on the vessel: SUPER NICE. I’m so impressed by the standards of cleanliness and design everywhere on this ship. The heads (that’s what they’re usually called on board) are relatively small, but well cared-for, clean, and modern. I’m used to the old torture-chamber-type pump action heads, but these ones flush with the touch of a button like a standard toilet.
The major restriction: only toilet paper can go down them—absolutely no chemical cleaners—because the waste system is biological! The bacterial colonies responsible for breaking down waste in the blackwater tanks are very sensitive, so we can only use a special cleaning solution for the toilet bowls. I’ll see if I can’t snag the chief mate and find out a little more about how this specific system works, since I’m curious myself.
That’s probably enough for today, so I’ll get back to sketching this very complicated-looking hydraulic sea crane. If you have more questions about life at sea, drop me a line in the comments or on Twitter at @LuBellWoo! You can also read up on the rest of the cruise outreach by following #MappinTheFloor on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.