Two Years Ago Today
Two years ago today I started making comics. Well, sort of. I guess two years ago today I started making what lead to the comics I make today. I sat in my living room scanning the internet as one does when one is feeling aimless and disconnected when I happened upon this article by Gary Panter on keeping a sketchbook.
As readers of this blog know, I was going through a lot–the death of an old life, the death of a parent, and the death of a “career” (or at least a dream of a “career”). I needed SOMETHING to help me work through it, but I was having a hard time writing. I wanted something to tether me back to my journal, which was feeling pretty dead to me. Actually, what I wanted was something to help me process my experience in a new way. Luckily, I was doing more drawing and Panter’s suggestion of breaking a sketchbook page into a grid of 9 boxes spoke to me. I thought I could do that, but instead of cataloging one thing like Panter suggests, I could catalog a day by drawing random moments throughout. So that’s what I started to do. Above is the first page I made.
I did not think of these early journal “entries” as comics (I still don’t), but they quickly took on more narrative and specific experience until one day I realized they were actually comics. I couldn’t have been more excited or baffled by this turn of events. Suddenly I not only had an artistic practice to help me through this intense period of my life, but I had a new medium for story telling that felt so natural and right.
It seems sort of a no brainer now. After years of not reading comics outside Lynda Barry or John Porcellino, I had suddenly become interested in reading new books by people I had read and liked. This lead me to learning about new-to-me cartoonists like Rutu Modan, Gabrielle Bell, Lynd Ward, etc.. Serendipitously, I had been given the first volume of American Elf by James Kochalka (who I had never heard of) for christmas by my step dad, Gary. All of this was a new world of comics to me–though for about 2 months it never occurred to me to make my own. I thought I didn’t know “how.” HA!
Since that day two years ago, I have made almost 200 pages of comics. I’ve been published and interviewed. I’ve taught workshops and classes, with more to come. I’ve given two artist’s talks. What’s more, I’ve found an incredible community of cartoonists that I feel insanely grateful to be part of. I’ve met people that I consider dear friends and colleagues. Honestly, more has happened to me on a deeply personal and artistic level in the last two years than in the seven years I spent in New York. I have at last found that “home” I have been searching for as an artist and creator for the last 10 years. This is an utter miracle that can make me want to drop to my knees in gratitude.
I wanted to write this today because I’ve been going through one of those periods of self criticism, where I am prone to feeling like what I am doing is not only not “good,” but it’s not “enough”. (Fellow artists, you know the drill.) This is a very familiar state and the only cure is to acknowledge my actual effort and to see how far I have come. As it happens, I have come A LONG WAY in a relatively short period of time. I am so so grateful to Gary Panter and for every artist that puts their effort out there–you never know who’s path you may be guiding as you lay down your bricks, one day with large hands, another with small. I’m going to keep building.