Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2013 Realizations & Resolutions

(1) Keep it simple, sunshine! I do not have bottomless reserves of resolve, but I do have a lot on my plate (a bit more than the average joe). Forming a lot of complicated plans that require attention and perseverance rapidly exhausts my motivation. Applying myself to a few, simple, as-concrete-as-possible plans will work better.

(2) Lock in a bedtime. I hate giving up the day. So do the kids. But without enough rest, we're none of us doing ourselves a favor. In 2013, the kids will be in bed on time. Me, too. I'll rely on the health benefits of sufficient rest to buoy us all in unexpected ways.

(3) Create something every day, and no matter how small, signify the achievement with a mark on the calendar. I'm not interested in back-burnering this facet of myself any more. I've believed that, by instead devoting the time, attention and resources to the family, I've somehow made things "better" for us. Of course, there's no way to quantitatively assess the truth of that belief. For all I know, I've been kidding myself for years. To indulge in creative efforts, I'll have to sacrifice other "nonproductive" activities. Historically, I've been afraid of what that sacrifice will cost me, but it's time to push back against that fear and discover what--if any--effect my acting creatively will have. Only then will I know if what I'm doing--or not doing--is worth it.

To buttress and bolster my efforts, I've created a new "Inspiration / Aspiration" board, featuring the work and concepts that, over the years, have stuck with me however varied my tastes have run. I had created close to a dozen of these things between 2010 and 2012, and by comparing a bunch of them, I finally noticed the important overlaps among them. I've distilled hundreds of images down to these lucky 13. I really like how it feels to look at this collection. If I can do something that elicits the same reaction, I'll be content.

Let's all have a great year!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Triumphant Cub

The Wife asked me for this image--she even doodled out the composition for me--so I moved it to the head of the queue.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Comic Story Laboratory

In '08 (maybe '09?), a local library invited me to teach a 2-hour class on making comics. I dove in and created a mini-comic as a "syllabus" to convey information, jumpstart some creative thinking and demonstrate how to assemble a mini-comic. However, it didn't take long to realize I'd bitten off more than I could chew: There was far too much information to convey in such short period of time, let alone an 8-page mini-comic. I recycled the mini-comic and added a touch more information in '10 to teach a series of classes at Artworks on the Square. Enjoy!

Saturday, December 31, 2011

2012 Resolutions

I think it's prudent that, before I formulate any new resolutions for 2012, it's best to assess my progress with 2011's resolutions-slash-realizations.

Re: Life revolving around my Daughters: Success. Hands down, the time I'm spending with them now, while they're young (6 and 2.5, respectively), is the best life choice. I'll never look back and instead wish that I'd spent more time working or sitting in meetings or idling in traffic (the bane of living near Atlanta); it's a no-brainer.

Which isn't to say that there won't be 'unintended consequences' for putting so much of my life on hold or leaving my life so wildly out of balance (as those annual letters from the Social Security Administration projecting my future 'benefits' seem to imply). And being a stay-at-home dad certainly doesn't augment a resume'. But I won't regret having had this much time with my girls, because most fathers don't have that kind of opportunity. And fathers matter, beyond the provision of resources, when it comes to the long-term well-being of their children.

I'll happily continue with this resolution into 2012.

Re: Avoiding Politics & Economics: Another success. Honestly, it's hard to avoid these topics; they tend to dominate most news outlets (at least when the Kardashians aren't grasping for the limelight). But to my credit, I haven't let myself get outraged to the point that I feel obsessed about re-posting a story on my Facebook wall or Twitter feed. (Cutting back on my 'social media' addiction has helped, too.)

Which isn't to say I've been 100% faithful to this resolution. I confess: I added both Freakonomics' and Robert Reich's blogs to my Google reader. In my defense, they offer refreshing and often entertaining perspectives, which goes a long way to soothing my anxieties. Additionally, I have spent more time reading about scientific discoveries and breakthroughs, which helps me feel more hopeful, as do the writings of Presbyterian minister, Frederick Buechner.

I'll re-up this resolution, too.

Re: Restraining my appetite for the new & novel: I did so-so with this resolution, considering that people only have so much 'willpower' and that it's a resource easily exhausted.

I don't drink, smoke or do drugs; I diet and exercise (usually); and my wife and daughters are enough to keep any guy fully engaged and occupied. So, in answer to that old Adam Ant song, 'Goody Two Shoes' (You don't drink/You don't smoke/What do you do?), the only vice left to me is shopping. It thrills me to discover an artist or musician or author or creative team or comic or ANYTHING. Something new & novel triggers a switch that helps me experience something akin to transcendance. So when that trigger gets pulled, I tend to go whole-hog, diving into Amazon.com, credit card at the ready, hunting for deals on everything I can find about my latest obsession.

But not so much in 2011. I managed to rein in that monster more often than not. Willpower, like any muscle, can be strengthened over time, and mine got a solid workout last year. And saving money (or, at least, not accruing more debt) doesn't hurt, either. For 2012, I'll do even better; I'll continue to exercise restraint while also revisiting and strengthening my appreciation for the books, CDs, DVDs and comics I've already acquired.


Re: Drawing and selling artwork: Total. Failure. I think I did about six or seven pieces of finished art this year, all of which I either gifted to someone or donated to charity. I found it impossible to carve out the time necessary to warm up (let alone make art), devoting myself instead to childcare, chores and other family activities, with my part-time school bus driving job bringing up the rear. I also realized that my aversion to doing 'fan art' was a key component holding me back. Honestly, in the past, 99.9% of my artistic output was fan art, and people liked it well enough to pay for it. Somehow, I got in the rut of thinking I had to be 'original' or working on something 'more important.' Pfft!

Instead, I should be doing everything I can in order to figure out what works and let whatever-that-is be my art niche, at least for a little while.

I've also been toying with the idea of establishing a free artists club in the area. Nothing improves morale and encourages artistic growth like being surrounded by cartoonists and illustrators. Perhaps 2012 is the year to set that plan into motion, too.

Obviously, this resolution carries over into 2012, but perhaps takes a higher priority. Because spending more time drawing means less time wasted reading about Politics or Economics and less money spent distracting myself from the existential dread that I've somehow wasted my life by not living up to my potential and that it's too late to change. And it also won't hurt to further develop my artistic style (whatever that might be), which will, I hope, suggest a greater purpose to which I might apply myself (such as a comic book, webcomic or children's book). I can think of no better, healthier or more satisfying way to augment my income--and ultimately make my living (which, now that I think about it, is a great turn of phrase).

Outlook for 2012? Optimistic. I don't know why, but I feel that 2012, Year of the Dragon (oh yes, I'm a Dragon, baby!), will be a pivotal year. This coming spring, we intend to move to a new rental, closer to my daughter's elementary school, and that will afford us an opportunity to improve the stewardship of our resources (i.e., responsibly dispose of stuff we don't need or use). I might even get an art studio-slash-'man cave' out of the deal--something I've craved for YEARS that, I'm sure, will help maintain some important boundaries. With luck, I'll soon change jobs (AND avoid an ugly commute), which can only improve the family's bottom line and enable us to buy a house a couple years down the road. I want to look back, in January 2013, and see that I'm well along in the process of changing the course of my life--and even, maybe, gaining new momentum. Like I said last year, any progress I make automatically benefits my family and, from there, radiates outward into the community. Which is about the best anybody can hope to do.

So far, so good.

Have a great and worry-free new year!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

I regret not having finished my annual McChristmas card on time this year, but I can't let the day arrive without posting something. So, to hold you over until it's finished, enjoy this little greeting from my "super" family! Have a merry Christmas!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

It's the Great Gourdthulhu, Doc Neurotic!

It's the Great Gourdthulhu, Doc Neurotic!

(aka, Happy Hallowe'en!)

I was in a 'Nocturnals' mood, and this Nocturnals/Peanuts mashup seemed like a good idea at the time. It took waaaaaay longer to get done than I'd planned (obviously; it's November 10th). I often found myself working on it in 15-minute blocks of time between work, chores, playing with the girls, running errands, tending to the sick and doing assorted other family-centric activities.

In other words, it might be late, but I'm just glad I finished it (which doesn't mean I won't go back and fiddle with little things later; I'm just declaring it 'done for now').

But I also want to take a moment to ask: Where's the 'Nocturnals' love these days!? It's, like, THEIR day. Send Dan Brereton a friendly reminder of how much you miss his crew.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Dangerous Nuts

My first love was newspaper comic strips (can you guess which was my favorite?). My second love was super-hero comics, especially Marvel's "Fantastic Four" (which led John Byrne to create what analogous super team?).

I've mashed up my favorites to get this team snapshot. Not totally thrilled with the composition, but inspiration struck and took root, so I rushed to get things done, working in spurts around other priorities. Still, it was a challenge, finding a balance between two very different art styles (one of extreme minimalism, the other of extreme detail), hence the flat colors and dearth of modeling.

Most important, I had FUN. Itch scratched.