Chicago friends: I can't wait to see you all at the April 20 CAKE fundraiser, CAKE Frame 2, at the Co-Prosperity Sphere! There will be comics performances, live music, live drawing and a gigantic art auction. Cover your walls with affordable art and support an amazing show while you're at it! 30 artists from the Chicago comics community were generous enough to contribute original drawings or signed prints to help raise money for CAKE (which is coming up soon on May 31/June 1), including Chris Ware and Ivan Brunetti. All of the CAKE organizers are donating work too; I just finished the new piece I made for the auction, which I am donating along with the original drawing from this year's Zine Fest. Winter has finally passed, the sun is out and green is starting to tenuously emerge from the gray and brown, so I wanted to make something cheerful, something that everyone would want to bid on to take home, so I made a reminder that we're all gonna die. Happy happy spring!
Friends in and around Philadelphia: take note! Brian Cremins, Associate Professor of English at Harper College and kind-hearted ambassador for comics in academia, is giving a lecture this Friday at Bryn Mawr on Edie Fake's Gaylord Phoenix and my minicomic Medusa. Brian is a wonderfully insightful close reader of comics (I've been an avid reader of his comics review blog since I first found it last summer): if you are in the area and free for a lunchtime lecture, please drop in! Details in the flyer below:
The time has come! This Saturday, March 15 from 11am to 6pm is the one and only Chicago Zine Fest at 1104 S Wabash, plus a whole host of events the night before at The Hairpin Arts Center on Milwaukee. This is an event that will always have a special place in my heart as the first show where I tabled my books, but this year is doubly thrilling since I got to design the poster & branding for CZF2014. Stop by and say hello! I will be tabling on the first floor at table 50, right next to CAKE at table 49. This page has the full list of exhibitors, with a floor map at the bottom. I will have (fingers crossed) a new itty bitty mini for the show, and CAKE is going to debut the 2014 CAKE book, which is going to be AMAZING.
Saturday is also the St Patrick's Day Parade, so check out the green river & avoid the green vomit on your trip down to South Wabash. See you there!
Today is my birthday: I am 29 years old. This is the first day of the last year of my 20s. That feels pretty momentous.
Even more momentous: today is my first day working for myself.
Friday was my last day as designer for Muse and Cicada magazines, after almost two years of heart & soul engagement with my two publications. When I was hired on in early summer 2012, it was my dream job: I got to work with smart, hilarious, and deeply engaged people to create quality magazines for science & literary nerd kids. Be still, my heart! In my role as designer, I was responsible for everything from building raw files to hiring and art directing freelancers, collaborating with the editorial teams on pedagogical design philosophies and really excellent Beowulf jokes, overhauling and redesigning major features and making sure columns are aligned, project management and all manner of post-production work: every design step between receiving raw manuscripts and getting the magazine in the mail was in my purview. My husband has pointed out a tendency I have to say that I have made "nothing" the past two years, since my time to work on my books has taken a back seat to an increasingly consuming immersion with the magazines; it felt pretty wonderful to bring home and survey every issue I worked on to remember that oh yes, I've been pretty busy making things!
With the support, feedback, and collaborative course-correction from the Cicada team, we redesigned the magazine; this process included countless rounds of iterations until we found a successful reinterpretation of the masthead logo, updating the cover and back cover features, and including a connected interior front cover comic by the cover artist:
We also adapted the existing "spot artist" feature to highlight and promote emerging comic artists, including a printed interview:
As a part of this process, we also redesigned the basic body page templates of the magazine, including updating the fonts, adding more photos and larger design elements, and flowing some of the longer stories to the back to make room for extra features:
I also had the opportunity to do a lot of illustration work, especially for Muse. This was my first (and still one of my favorite) projects, in a story about how plants communicate to each other via chemical signals in root systems:
This included some really fun in-depth illustration projects, like the Muse census:
and a 4-page comic:
I think my favorite part of all was designing splashy introductions to some ridiculously fun stories. Vat meat! Zombies! Robot dinosaurs!
I learned so much in the two years working on Muse and Cicada. I feel humbled by the trust and support I was given in my time there, and grateful for how much richer my life is for the friends I made in my tenure on staff. I left for a healthy mix of personal and professional reasons; it was one of the harder decisions I've made in my adult life, but I'm confident it was the right one. Now is the time to take a big risk. I am re-investing in my own practice, diving in with a focus and freedom that I have never had before. Best birthday present a gal could ask for.
Categorize this under "when bad things happen to good organizations:" last August, the custom-built cargo bike/mobile library dubbed the BiblioTreka was stolen from the kind librarians at Read/Write. Curse the world! They are putting together a crowd-funding campaign to replace the bike and reached out for art to support the cause. I designed this to function as a stand-alone image, but it's more fun as a repeated pattern. Hello, tote bag?
Keep your eyes peeled for the launch of the Read/Write BiblioTreka fundraising campaign!
2013 was a hell of a year. There were good things: I mentored a delightfully talented young summer intern! and Sounds and Seas Vol I was collected by the Library of Congress! and nominated for the 2013 LA Times Book Prize for Best Graphic Novel! and I got to do exciting work with Chicago Zine Fest and Saveur! and on and on, but looking back this feels like a year my mom (hi, mom!) would call a "FGO"--a fucking growth opportunity. They are painful and teeth-gritting; no one likes going through them, but you learn a lot on the other side. This was a year of quiet but consuming and difficult transitions in my personal life, and a professional/artistic/work life that felt like an endurance sport rather than a practice I had much control over. Like with any good FGO, I've learned a lot: these are my take-aways from 2013, good and bad.
1) The comics community is amazing. I didn't grow up in a religious home, but living in the south in my youth means fluency in a language steeped in religiosity. When I say I'm blessed to have met and befriended (even briefly) the artists I met this year, I mean it with deep and earnest affection. By the end of CAKE, my fourth show in as many months, I looked around the room and realized that I had seen the smiling faces of the other artists on the comics circuit more often than many of my closest Chicago friends. I felt, and continue to feel, deeply grateful for having found a tribe to call my own. Also, since June I have been privileged to join the tender-hearted & explosively-talented team of Edie, Neil, Grace, Jeff, Max and Ben every week or so to do the work of organizing CAKE, the best damned show in the midwest (nay, the world!). Amazing amazing amazing.
2) People who attend comics shows are the best. Every show it blew my mind: these good strangers woke up, ate some food, put on some clothes, and trekked out to some hotel ballroom or arts center or performance space to see a room full of bright-eyed weirdoes selling experimental, beautiful artist publications. When I started the year, I had 1000 copies of the Xeric-funded version of my book "In the Sounds and Seas;" now I'm down to less than 50, and am placing another order with my printer in January. With the exception of a modest order from Diamond Distribution at the beginning of 2013, a few consignment stores I try to keep stocked and a trickling of orders on Etsy, every one of those books left my possession person to person, with a conversation and a handshake, in the last 365 days. Again: amazing amazing amazing.
3) It is possible to over-extend. My goal going in to 2013 was to do more comic shows, vibrating off the wonderful time I had at CZF, CAKE and SPACE in 2012; my goal going in to 2014 is to do fewer. This year I tabled at CZF, SPACE, TCAF, CAKE, Autoptic and SPX. I work a full-time day job, which means that I spend the weekend before a show doing prep--binding extra minis, ordering extra prints, making sure I have sufficient packaging and business cards, packing my carry-on full of heavy paper goods, and all the little worry-work that comes with traveling--and the week after decompressing, unpacking, and getting my show loot in order.
As fun and inspiring as the shows are, I am an introvert and need a good amount of time to recover from the outpouring of energy at each show, and that means losing 3 full weekends on show months. The worst in this respect was SPX, which was in all accounts a spectacular show--I spent a lot of time with wonderful people, a record number of my books found new readers, and the crowd was delightfully friendly--but by happenstance, the show was sandwiched between two immensely stressful weeks in my personal life, so I was too distracted to really enjoy the joys of the show. Plus, somehow the decibel-level of the expo room (which didn't seem louder than any other) damaged my ears to the point that they still haven't quite recovered. (Hush hush, children. Off to the doctor.) It was a perfect storm of exhaustion, and I felt like I needed all of October to sit in a quiet room to regain composure...and because 2013 has been non-stop, that "rest" manifested in 2 exciting but, again, totally consuming October freelance projects. I look back on the year grateful for the people I met and the audience my book has found, but regretful that I didn't give myself the time to make as much new work as I intended.
4) I really need to insulate my studio. In February I moved to a new apartment with a sun room off the front, with 3 walls of windows. It's glorious in spring and fall, but makes the surface of Venus seem cool in the summer and it's straight-up Hoth in the winter. After years of working at a dining room table or a small desk in the corner of my living room, I revel in having space to work privately, but it needs to be functional. Too many could-have-been-work days were disrupted by unlivable temperatures. No more in 2014!
5) I need to practice better self-care, and be less moved by flattery and obligation. As 2013 steamrolled along, there emerged a growing gap between who I say I am and what I actually do with my time, and that gulf has nurtured a small and manageable but mean-spirited depression. I identify as an artist, but I have felt too exhausted to put pen to paper on more nights than not. I identify as an athlete, but have been too ground down to move off the couch or feed myself nourishing food. This isn't to say I wish I had said no to any opportunities that emerged from the ether: as an early-career artist, it is humbling, encouraging and genuinely surprising to be recognized for the work I put care and thought in to, but here it is at the end of 2013 with TCAF '14 just around the corner, and I am nowhere closer to being done with Sounds and Seas II than I was in August. This is a long game, and I need to pace myself better; I get distracted by the glitter and attention that comes with little projects, things that I can quickly share for which I get immediate gratification for sharing and pleasant pats on the back, but immediately afterward I wish I had spent the time on a bigger, more meaningful project. Time to finally take that to heart and focus on the long game in 2014.
And so, with 12 hours left of 2013, I say farewell and good riddance. Happy new year, everyone--here's to good health, good community, and good work.