Drawing, Knitting, Thoughts, Work In Progress, Zines

Things Happening Slowly Around Here

Green Bean Progress 1

One of the things I’ve found odd about my work as an illustrator over the last few years is a need to be secret. If I’m working on a book, a comic for a magazine, or some other commission, it’s not always OK to share work in progress.

When I first started blogging, back in 2008 (alas, you won’t find evidence of it – I botched the transition from Blogger to WordPress and lost everything), one of the things that kept me doing it regularly was sharing every stage of every thing I was working on. I was also…how shall we put it? A little on the compulsive side. I blogged a lot. I didn’t sleep much.

Since then, I’ve slowed down for my health and sanity, but for the pleasure in my work as well. I’ve learned that over long periods of time, my creativity actually doesn’t respond well to me cracking the whip. I burn out. I stop having fun. It becomes a treadmill and a chore, and for a career path that’s also financially challenging, that makes no sense. It needs to bring me joy. So these days I’m trying to remember that and embrace a slower process, though it’s not always comfortable.

Green Bean Progress

The pages above are from a Green Bean issue that has been on and off my drawing board since February, weathering losses of confidence and direction and needing to be laid aside often for commissioned work. Sometimes I miss the days when I could confidently churn out a Green Bean every two months (heck, I did it every month in the first year. Madness!), but those days are gone.

Now, I regularly take breaks to sit with my knitting. Working a few rows has become a kind of daily practice that reminds me of the rewards of patience, and that the best part of any creative work is the process itself, not the end result.

Jumper In Progress

It was knitting, in fact, that helped me navigate my way back into drawing after my burn out. It began with drawing comics for Pom Pom Quarterly, the first of which was published in winter 2014. The latest, due in the winter 2015 issue, is what’s been absorbing most of my time for the last two months. I remain obsessed with scratch board, again a significant factor in my exploration of working more slowly. Scratch board is about the most labour intensive medium there is. When I worked on Lighter Than My Shadow, I routinely drew 12 pages a week, at times up to 18. For this latest comic I scratched one. One gloriously absorbing, meditative, financially unsustainable but who-cares-because-I’m-hanging-out-with-the-dog-and-enjoying-making-art-again page a week.

Sadly I can’t show you much as it’s a secret until publication, but I’m chuffed with it. I think it’s one of the best pieces I’ve ever drawn. Here’s a little peek…

Scratchboard for Pom Pom

Now that the Pom Pom comic is finished, that Green Bean, the one that’s been on and off the drawing board, will get some attention. I won’t finish it this week, perhaps not even this month. Who knows. What I do know is that it will be one of the most thoughtful and beautiful of all the Green Beans. And so will the one that follows it. All in good time.

By the way, that “I am doing a new thing” card, pictured at the top, was a design created especially for Green Bean subscribers, to explain what on earth has been going on and why they haven’t received a zine for so long. It was inspired by this embroidery, by talented lady and dear friend, Mollie Johanson.

Jack, Thoughts

Enforced Simplicity

Ten weeks ago today, we drove home from the RSPCA with a new addition to the household. If you follow me on Instagram you’ll be getting to know Jack rather well :)

Jack in the Garden

Jack has struggled a bit to settle in here. His background is not the worst for a shelter dog, not by a long way, but nonetheless he’s had a traumatic time, and the transition to a new home is a big deal for any dog (or person, for that matter). Ten weeks in, and things are starting to find a routine, a new normality. We are starting to trust each other, and find some surprising benefits to our new life together.

One of Jack’s biggest issues is with separation. He gets absolutely beside himself with fear when left alone, and as such we’re on a very painstaking training program to build up his tolerance. We started at zero, as in he couldn’t even cope if I left the room. Eight weeks later we’re celebrating the remarkable victory of me standing outside the closed front door for five whole minutes. You have no idea how much work this small-sounding achievement has taken! Jack has his own Skype account so I can watch him on the webcam from outside and check he’s doing alright. Sound nuts? It’s pretty nuts. But it’s helping him, and surprisingly, it’s helping me too.

Because while we commit to this training program, for as long as it takes, he doesn’t get left alone. So I am at home with him five days a week, and my life has assumed a kind of enforced simplicity. My time has taken shape around the routine of walking, feeding, playing, training, and inbetween those times I am creating. I am drawing, sewing, knitting, making, more than I have for many many months. And loving it.

I feel, at last, that I’m stepping out on the other side of Lighter Than My Shadow, and instead of feeling pressure and expectation, I feel curious, and excited to explore what might come next.

Jack and Me

Thanks Jack!