How to brew the best cup of tea whilst having an existential crisis

This comic was inspired by the fictional self-help book titles of Johan Deckmann.

A big thank you to all my friends at Get Messy for yesterday’s hilarious discussion about the book titles we would create. The two I cooked up became the subject of today’s comic!

What about all the other moments?

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I went a little wild today layering paints on top of each other. The result is a bit chaotic! I really enjoyed playing around with comics on the page and exploring the relationship between the panels and the surrounding space.

When I started art journaling a few short weeks ago, I felt a little anxious that starting something new would mean leaving comics behind. I’m so excited to discover that the opposite is true: the realm of comics is expanding!

Take me with you

It’s one of those moments: I’m really enjoying the Totems class over at Get Messy and I’m loving this taste of the wild and wonderful world of art journaling. 

Yet whenever I start exploring something new, I can end up feeling like a creative harlot. I get anxious that I’m abandoning the things I’ve been caring about and working on — in this case, comics! 

What better way to explore this than in an art journal spread that is also a comic!

You can check out some of the things I’ve been getting up to in the Totems class here and here

It’s time to live!

Today’s comic is one of my favourites from early 2016. Nearly a year later, ‘How To Be An Insurance Salesman’ still cracks me up. And it reminds me that calculating risks is no match for an adventurous spirit and an open heart. This is a great thing to keep in mind as we begin the new year: It’s time to live!

Thank you so much for joining me this year on all sorts of creative explorations. I really appreciate all your visits to Follow The Brush and all your lovely and supportive comments. 

Wishing you all a happy and healthy new year. May 2017 be filled with creativity and joy!

Hitting the dance floor

Writers live twice. They go along with their regular life…But there’s another part of them that they have been training. The one that lives everything a second time. That sits down and sees their life again and goes over it. Looks at the texture and details.

Natalie GoldbergWriting Down the Bones

I’m thinking the same must be true of cartoonists. I certainly enjoy the moments in my day all over again when I draw them as cartoons. This effect is enhanced when the moment I am capturing is already a celebration. 

I used to love dancing but a nerve injury in my foot has caused my dancing shoes to gather a considerable amount of dust. Then, last night, I went to a beautiful wedding and my husband and I danced together for the first time in years.

I have recently been experimenting with a new form of rehab which is allowing all sorts of things to become possible again. The band was playing and the lights beckoned. I thought why not give it a go? I was surprised to find my feet moving to the beat and that wonderful energy moving me around the dance floor. 

Today, drawing this cartoon, I get to enjoy that moment all over again and to celebrate new possibilities. 

If you don’t do your dance, who will?

Gabrielle Roth 

The Queen of the Underworld cooks dinner

One of my favourites from Lynda Barry’s Syllabus is the suggestion to draw yourself going about your day as Batman. I had a go at this some time ago and the cartoons still crack me up each time I look at them!

Then I wondered: what other characters could be going about my day? The Queen of the Underworld immediately popped into my mind and it turns out she was the perfect fit.

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The Queen of the Underworld has brunch with her BFF

One of the things I love about this exercise is that even if you try to remain faithful to the ordinary activities and moments that occur during the day, they can’t help but become extraordinary (and just a little bit hilarious)!

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The Queen of the Underworld brushes her teeth

This is a perfect thing to try on those days that seem unremarkable and uneventful. Eating porridge might seem uninteresting but what if you were an astronaut? A movie director? A shaman? A mermaid? Why not give it a go?

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The Queen of the Underworld visits the spa

Where I’m From

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This is something I’ve been thinking about for a long time now and it feels like the beginnings of a much bigger piece!

Chapter 4: The Great Rodeo in the Sky

In which our heroine meets old friends, takes part in the Great Rodeo in the Sky, and traverses the universe on the back of The Great Bull made of stars.

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I hope you have enjoyed ‘The Cowgirl and the Golden Lasso’. Thanks for following our heroine on her adventures!

You can catch up on previous chapters here.

Chapter 3: The Gypsy on the Moon

In which our heroine lands on the moon, eats Portuguese custard tarts with the moon-gypsy, and has her fortune read in the cards.

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To be continued…

Join our heroine tomorrow for the concluding chapter: The Great Rodeo in the Sky!

You can catch up on the story so far here and here.

Chapter 2: The Convention of the Birds

In which our heroine flies on the back of an Eagle, joins the Convention of the Birds atop a great mountain, and catches hold of the moon with her golden lasso.

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To be continued…

Join our heroine tomorrow for Chapter 3: The Gypsy on the Moon!

You can catch up on Chapter 1 here.

Chapter 1: The Cowgirl and the Golden Lasso

In which our heroine attempts to bale a barnful of hay, dances to the music of the fiddlers three, and is given a wondrous gift.

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The story continues tomorrow with Chapter 2: The Convention of the Birds!

* * *

I wrote this story for a dear friend, drawing on the experience of story-writing I had with Lynda Barry on the recent Writing the Unthinkable workshop.

One of the most enjoyable things we did on the workshop was to create a complete zine in the space of an hour. We made a booklet out of a few sheets of paper folded in half. (Hey presto!) At the start of each chapter, we drew a frame. then we went on to write a short, timed section of the story, returning at the end to draw a picture within the frame.

When writing a story by hand, it’s always interesting to know that at a certain point the pages will run out. By the time you reach the last page, you must somehow wrap things up and reach the end of the story.

According to Lynda Barry, there are books on story structure because it exists. It is something we know intrinsically. In the workshop, when we did each piece of timed writing, she would let us know that we had a few minutes left, a minute or so left, and when it was time to finish the sentence or phrase we were on.

With only 5 or 7 or 9 minutes to write a story, you might think most of our stories were left dangling somewhere in the middle. But when my classmates read their pieces to the group, they almost always rounded the story off perfectly. Even though none of us knew where we were headed when we picked up our pens, somehow we reached the end of the story as if we were headed there all along.

I hope you enjoyed this first chapter! The story continues tomorrow with Chapter 2: The Convention of the Birds.

You can read more about my experience at Writing the Unthinkable here.

Where was her skin?

Today I returned to an exploration of the selkie folk tale, ‘Sealskin Soulskin’. 

The seal woman is missing a part of herself — her Soulskin — and she can’t thrive without it. But just as she longs for this reconnection, the other seals, too, are waiting for her. She is pulled toward the sea. They are calling her. They are ready for that moment when she dives back into the water.

9 things I saw while walking in the park

I am usually an introspective walker. While I walk, I’m often more alive to my thoughts, feelings and daydreams than to the things that are going on around me. 

When I went for a walk in the park today, I had the idea to notice a few things and make a comic about what I saw when I got home. 

This totally transformed my walk! I noticed so many things – things too numerous to make it into the comic in the end. Life was running towards me, laughing and playing and kicking the ball across the field. 

Inspired by the quick timed drawings we did on Writing the Unthinkable with Lynda Barry, I spent a minute on each scene. The result is less ‘clean’ but more alive. I also had way more fun with it. There’s nothing like the seconds counting down to put some juice into your pen.

I was also inspired by the list comics we made in Summer Pierre’s Writing and Drawing Comics e-course earlier this year. (If you have ever wanted to take a comics class, I can’t recommend this class heartily enough. Summer Pierre is an awesome, enthusiastic and inspiring teacher. And there’s a new class starting on September 12th!)

I got to enjoy my walk twice today. Once while I was walking and again while I was making this comic. 

Fancy having two walks for the price of one? 

  • Next time you go for a walk, notice a few things. See what catches your attention. Nothing is too ordinary, nothing is too weird! 
  • When you get home, list a few of the things you remember. 
  • Spend a minute drawing each one. 
  • Enjoy your walk all over again!

The self-portraits of ‘Igor Stravinsky’

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It’s been two weeks since ‘Writing the Unthinkable’ with Lynda Barry. And what an incredible experience it was: 5 days in a room with the rockstar hero of my creative world! Writing, drawing, looking, listening, laughing, crying, and doing it all over again.

Self portrait July 27On the train ride back down the Hudson the day the workshop ended, I felt I was returning home with a sack full of treasure I would be enjoying for a long time to come. Since then, I’ve been wondering how to begin unpacking this treasure.

Like all good stories, why not start at the beginning…

One of the first things we did each day was to ‘take attendance’. We took a blank index card and drew a frame. At the top of the card we wrote our camp name (more on this in a moment!) and the date. We then had 2 minutes to draw a self-portrait, making sure to include the whole body.

Self portrait July 28This was a wonderful start to the day. Before we knew it, our hands were in motion and we were already making contact with ‘the back of the mind’ where all the good stuff is!

The first morning, Lynda invited us to choose a camp name for the duration of the workshop. During lunch I considered all sorts of names, but none of them seemed to fit.

Then I remembered a movie I had seen the week before about Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky and I started to laugh out loud in the dining hall. Yes! Igor Stravinsky! That was it! The name was alive. And I felt alive just thinking about it.

At the center of everything we call ‘the arts,’ and children call ‘play,’ is something which seems somehow alive.
― Lynda Barry, What It Is

Self portrait July 29This was one of many such moments during the week when a drawing or a story or a character made me want to laugh or dance or cry with recognition.

Having a camp name was very freeing. It gave me the feeling I could step outside what I normally think I can and can’t do, can and can’t be.

To add to this sense of expanding possibilities, we drew ourselves as fruits and vegetables, royalty, and monsters. We drew ourselves deep beneath the sea, up in outer space, and dancing our asses off at a disco.

We hung our attendance cards on the walls of the workshop room. Pretty soon, the wall was covered with hundreds and hundreds of drawings. The space felt rich and alive and full of energy. Did we really produce all this work? Walking around the space, looking at our gallery of self-portraits, it was incredible to see how the drawings grew even more alive as the week progressed.

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Lynda dared us to find a ‘bad drawing’ among the lot. It wasn’t possible! And during the week we got to see that there’s no such thing as a bad drawing. Here’s a page from Lynda Barry’s Syllabus that asks, ‘What is a bad drawing?’:

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Syllabus is an incredible resource, filled with course notes from years of Lynda Barry’s classes and workshops. Many of the exercises we did during ‘Writing the Unthinkable’ are in there!

Drawing a self-portrait on an index card is a great thing to do before starting any creative work. In fact, its probably a great thing to do before starting anything at all. Why not give it a go?

A good & true friend

A good and true friend

So happy to see the return of my good friend, comics! I haven’t seen this guy since The Creative Harlot. I have a feeling he’s gonna stick around for a while!

A little goes a long way

4 daily diary pics

The day has been filled with moments far more interesting than I first imagined…

With a house move and renovation on the go, it has seemed lately like there is little time for creativity. Then I remembered the magic that is Lynda Barry’s 4-minute diary. I spent some time over the winter practicing this every day and it has felt so good to return to it.

Tea with an old friend

There’s nothing like sharing a cup of tea with an old friend.

Here’s how it goes:

  • Spend 2 minutes listing what you did during the day.
  • Spend 2 minutes listing what you saw during the day.
  • Write down something you overheard. 
  • Do a quick drawing. (The 4-minute version includes a 30 second drawing. This time around, I took a little longer for this part.)

These few minutes have the effect of turning the whole day into a space of creative possibility.

Often, when I sit down to write about the day, it seems as though nothing “special” has happened. By the time I have made my two lists of the things I did and saw, there is always something I feel excited to draw. Making pictures of these moments, I am able to enjoy them in a new way. And I realise that the day has been filled with moments far more interesting than I first imagined.

Here’s a video of Lynda Barry talking through a timed version of the 4-minute diary. Why not give it a go?

Sometimes a little bit of creativity goes a long way!