A few bits of news…

Hi.

I feel like I never write in this blog anymore because I’m always drawing dang comics. Thank God for the occasional bits of news so that I can keep the ol’ typing fingers in practice.

A few things:

I’ve added a Links page. After I did this I took my links, or, “blogroll,” off the sidebar but it looked naked so I put them back there. But links will be categorized and explained a little more on the Links page.

There were a few links I wanted to highlight here, though, as long as you’re reading. Continue reading

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August is over, on to December.

Oh no!  Well, I finished my twice compromised challenge and completed my one chapter before November’s end, and I have every ambition to keep on with the graphic novel. But!  Another project has crept up on me and seized my attention.  This would be a short-film involving animation AND live action (I wish that didn’t immediately conjure up thoughts of Roger Rabbit, as this will be a much quieter film) and I have no idea what in my schedule will be sacrificed to make the time for this project.  I don’t plan on taking a class next semester, so that frees up some weeknights.  So what will it be about?  Well, for those of you detective-types, the title of this post is a clue (the titles of posts are always clues!)

This is my problem – I let myself get distracted so readily by other projects.  My painting moratorium has really been great for purposes of focus, but when it’s not painting it’s something else.  Not that these distractions are bad things.  I just finished my collaboration with Molly which was well-worth the time (and which I will share here about one month from now).  I’m working on a music project with my brother that is really fun (will also share in early January) and planning an installation exhibit with Gwen.  Off to the back-burner are my plans for a daily webcomic, an improved online gallery, and any chance at a social life.

Speaking of living in a cabin in the woods (the implied transition), I finally picked up Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago.  I like it, but deciding to purchase it reminded me that I have a fairly large queue of albums that I’ve been meaning to get, and this time of year is a dangerous one for that kind of thinking (“Let’s consider it a Christmas gift to myself!”) Also dangerous, apparently, is publishing a brand new website in one fell click of the mouse… I might have crashed our server (or it might have been a coincidence?)  Check it out, though, I redesigned our website for my company!  (Which much help from Arek, thank you!)

And finally, a question for those of you who blog.  I don’t quite see the difference between tags and categories.  Are categories a more general thing and tags more specific?  I get a little OCD when it comes to organizing this blog… I’d prefer to use whichever is the more general, but I haven’t used categories all along and don’t really get excited about going back into each entry and adding them. But I’ll have to go back anyway to clean up my tags, so now is the time to make changes.  Help!

A compromise compromised.

Earlier this month I took on a challenge which was a self-designed compromise from the more daunting, national challenge of National Novel Writing Month.  I knew I couldn’t complete a 50,000 word novel this November, but declared I would, instead, complete two chapters of my graphic novel (which I now speak of rather freely… hm, go figure.  So much for self-propelling mystery!) Well, to put it bluntly, I was crazy.  There is no way I’ll have two chapters done by the 30th.  This story has been unfolding just fine at its own lazy pace and I would only screw that up by forcing myself to write words and draw pictures that aren’t coming of their own volition, when they have been doing so quite nicely prior to this.  Yes, it’s an excuse, but those are allowed on occasion.  I will hereby compromise my challenge and say that I would like to complete ONE chapter this month.  Just one.  It’s a compromised compromise, but it’s still a challenge.

All right, now that business is out of the way, I have a few other things.  First of all, don’t take this as sounding ungrateful, but I am really creeped out by how low gas prices are getting.  I drove past a station that advertised $1.85 a gallon today, which means that other places in the country are probably getting down near a dollar.  Yes, it’s great, it’s cheap, we can all dust off our hummers again, but it’s still freaky.  I feel like I’m living back in the late 90s.  And who the heck likes the 90s?? (Okay, Alex, I know you do.)

Next, I had another dream about my late cat Pepper again last night.  This one was a different kind of sad, though, because of how realistic it was.  Usually when I dream about her (which is often) she has somehow been resurrected, enjoys full health, and seems perfectly unaware that she was ever dead, to both her and my delight.  But last night she was weak, small, and frail, just like she was in real life before she died.  In my dream she barely had the strength to jump up onto the bed, so I picked her up and she crawled under the blankets where we cuddled.  Just like real life.  I feel like I write about these Pepper dreams every time they happen (which is often) but I did a search to link to some past ones and couldn’t find any.  Maybe that is a good idea for a blog-reader-challenge.  Locate the Pepper Dream Posts!  Whoever finds any wins… a photograph of Pepper.

I had a few other things to say but I think I’ll save them up for days when I have nothing.  Which, you’ve come to know, is most of the time.

National compromised challenge month.

It’s November, which means it’s National Novel Writing Month, which means, if you choose to accept the challenge, you might write a 50,000 word novel over the course of the next 30 days.  Last year I did it, which I’m still proud of (and have even dusted off the old first draft, finally, so that it just may see the light of day before this year is over!)  This year there is no way I could do it.  I’m just too busy.  However, in the spirit of creativity, diligence, production, and self discipline (I’d venture to say those are the four spirits of National Novel Writing Month) I am still going to set a personal goal for myself regarding writing, the writing of my graphic novel to be specific.  There are 30 days in the month, and by midnight of November 30th I would like to have the next two chapters finished in my story.  At first I was going to say I would like to have the entire draft finished (which would only be an additional three or four chapters) but I don’t want to force the story, which has been unfolding thus far at it’s own pace.

This post is pretty dull, eh?  I guess it’s mostly for my sake.  Unless you’re really interested in my personal goals.  In which case let me know and I’ll give you my current list!  (But not really.)

It’s a boy, on paper.

Sometimes when I’m naming characters in my story I choose a name that I really like, but then I think, “Wait, I want to name one of my children that some day, I can’t use it here.”  But then I think, these characters probably are my children.  This is probably the only offspring I’ll get.  So why not use the good names?

That’s not meant to sound pathetic, if it does.  I mean, I don’t even really want kids.

April, parts 1 and 2. Fiction (but just barely).

Part 1.

It was a green arrow, and green always means go, and “don’t walk” always, always means don’t walk. But he walked. He ran. With his iPod drowning out the rest of the world he ran right in front of her car whilst she accelerated through the crosswalk. It was a green arrow, and green always means go. And her car struck him and sent him tumbling forward onto the asphalt. He was, of course, killed. That is, he ceased to be alive.

This was April.

Part 2.

Well he was dead alright.  So dead.  And she might as well have been – her life was over, anyway.  You can’t just drive your vehicle into another human being like that (even if it was an accident – even if he came out of nowhere – even if it was probably his fault).  So there he was, dead, and she thought, “How lucky for him.  I have to live with this.”

You get that feeling in your gut, and it doesn’t leave you.  This was April – it will always be April.

Out of the can: Lynda Barry.

Concerning creative heroes, I don’t tend to keep a very long list.  Usually they include women drummers and comic artists.  Today I add another name to the latter category: Lynda Barry.  Back around the time of my birthday, Gwen gave me a copy of Barry’s book What It Is which I can’t begin to describe and would rather just recommend you pick it up.  I guess I pretty much assumed that she would quickly become one of my heroes, but today solidified it.  Because today Rachel and I went to see Lynda Barry speak at the Wisconsin Book Festival.  First, let me say that this woman is hilarious.  If you know me, you know I’m not an easy laugh, but Lynda had me in stitches.  And her ideas about images and play!  Well, just read the book.  Really.  

Lynda started out by talking about the relationship between play and mental health, and how no one would deny that play is crucial in the healthy development of a child.  But how soon we convince ourselves that the time for play is over.  And as adults, even as kids, we look at things that others are doing and think, “Oh, well it’s just too late for that.”  An eight year old who is interested in ballet will be told that she needed to start when she was four.  A ten year old interested in playing violing will be told he needed to start at age five.  So we don’t try.  We stop playing (writing, singing, drawing, dancing) because we think it is for kids, but then we lament that we have not been gifted with a creative outlet.  Lynda Barry is convinced that it does not have to be this way.

She talks about Image with a passion, about its cathartic capabilities and its specificity.  She told the story of a song that she enjoyed as a child, whose lyrics she understood as, “That would be ecstacy, you and me and Leslie, grooving.”  She was intrigued by this character of Leslie – it could be a male or female, who was it? – until she realized that the words were actually, “That would be ecstacy, you and me endlessly, grooving.”  Which was the better lyric, Lynda asked?  Well, Leslie, of course.  This mysterious Leslie, afterall, was an image.  Endlessly is just some abstract notion.  

Lynda’s younger brother demonstrated a creative difference between adults and children.  He would draw a picture, play with it, and then throw it away without thinking twice.  Adults aren’t typically able to do this – if we create something we fret about what should be done with it.  But creativity isn’t meant to be the cause of stress, it’s meant to be cathartic.  She challenged us as adults to make a drawing expressing something we would like to say to someone else but never would, and then throw it away.  She described a man who had lost his right hand and was frustrated by “phantom limb pain.”  Even though his hand was gone he had the never-ending sensation that it was in a tight, uncomfortable fist.  He could not fix this, as his hand was not actually there to unclench.  So someone (I forgot to write down which scientist) came up with the idea to use mirrors and make a device that, by unclenching his left fist, it would appear to the man as though he were finally unclenching his right, phantom fist.  He did, and it worked, the pain left him.  Barry says that art has the same power, to take away such phantom pain.

Lynda Barry, although my favorite, was one of four comic artists who spoke today.  Paul Buhle, Mike Konopacki, and Seth Tobocman were also present, and although I won’t rehash everything that they shared, I did want to highlight a quote by Mike Konopacki, who said in defense of the literal and understandable medium of comics (as compared to “high art” which requires a three-page artist statement to decipher) that “Communication should not be ambiguous.”  Of course!  This is exactly why I favor comics to fine art, why I will probably always consider myself a cartoonist more than a painter.  Why does something have to be cryptic to be considered intellectually valid?  Doesn’t it take a special kind of intellect to communicate what you are trying to say as clearly and dynamically as possible?  Yes!

Okay, one last thing and I’ll tie it off.  After the lecture I got in line to have Lynda sign my copy of What It Is and got to have a mini-conversation with her which I will probably treasure forever.  Ever gracious, she willingly signed my book as I stumbled through my small talk (as I tend to do around anyone new, not just my heroes).  But I was emboldened, and asked if I could tell her something about my own plight as a cartoonist.  You see, during her talk and also in her book, Lynda pointed out the importance of hand-writing in the creative process.  When we write with our hands it is the same as drawing – it is activating entirely different parts of our brains than the motion I am using right now to type these words.  But handwriting, however essential to the creative process, is dying off.  I shared with Lynda that I had spent time drawing comics in college, and that one of my professors would often criticise my lettering.  My hands are shaky and my penmanship has never been my strong suit (the only class I got Bs in all through grade school!) and since I could never make my handwriting as consistant as my professor wanted, I turned to digital fonts, which were certainly consistent, and consistently impersonal.  Lynda assured me that my handwriting is a unique part of me, and that the personal voice my penmanship offers is more important than the convenience of legible computer text (or maybe even text handwritten by someone else?  We didn’t talk about that.)  Anyway, she also gave me a couple really practical tips for handwriting which I am excited to try out, and maybe want to keep to myself for a little while.  If your hero ever gives you a personalized tip I wouldn’t expect you to share right away, but maybe keep it close to your heart.  Really, it’s something special.

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    Breena Wiederhoeft
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