1. Got my pen order :)

  2. Ahhhhhhh!


  3. altcomics said: pressure to have an interesting life seems like its own kind of hell

    That’s true! I guess it could foster an attempt at “specialness” that I don’t really want. However, my notions about what an “interesting life” is can be pretty simple, or at least more recently they’ve become pretty simple. It can be as basic as “I should go outside today.” So I go out and I just look around a little more intently, try to focus on small things that bring me joy, trees and the color of a building. Making comics about these things helps me focus on them. Basic mindfulness anti-depression stuff. I’m usually happier if I do this.


  4. Productivity vs. Happiness: The Rest of Your Life


    I’ve spent a lot of time recently thinking about my life before The Center for Cartoon Studies, or, more accurately—my state of mind.  Before I moved to White River Junction, Vermont in the summer of 2011 I was living in NYC struggling to make ends meet and publishing my webcomic Darwin Carmichael is Going to Hell twice a week.  A year before that I was working as an English teacher in Taebaek, South Korea (still publishing DCiGTH) and a year before that I was working as an administrative assistant at New York University just starting out on my long road to CCS.  I was to all intents and purposes a newbie—I had few pages of comics under my belt, virtually no readership, and (I think) I was happy.

    The year following my graduation from CCS has been the most successful of my short career.  I had a comic included in Best American Comics 2013, I ran a successful Kickstarter for a book edition of Darwin Carmichael is Going to Hell with my friend and co-author Jenn Jordan and I also pumped out a decent number of pages for an assortment of anthologies.  It was a red-letter year and yet I felt some of the blackest depression, stress and anxiety I have ever experienced in my life.  My days were busy and my to-do lists were never done.  I frequently felt isolated, angry and unproductive.  I distanced myself from my friends and family (some because of my perpetual bad moods, some through sheer neglect). Clearly, I was doing something wrong.

    One of the benefits of entering a program like CCS is that it pushes you to excel in the quality and quantity of your art.  There are comics I simply would not and could not have made without the guidance, feedback and encouragement of my teachers and peers.  I am undoubtedly a better cartoonist for having gone to CCS and I do not for one minute regret my decision to attend that school.

    Now that I’m a graduate though and am facing the long corridor of “the rest of my life” I feel it’s time to reevaluate some of the lessons I learned over these past few years.  Here are a couple thinks I have been mulling over recently:

    1. You are Not Your Career

    When you are a regular participant in the comics community it’s easy and natural to equate your value as a person with your value as an artist.  Comics are the air you breathe and the grounding for your relationships with your friends and teachers.  Failure to excel as an artist often feels like a personal failure.  “My comics aren’t good enough” becomes “I’m not good enough”. 

    This leads to some questionable behavior and choices.  A balanced life that includes friends, family, physical health and leisure is no longer seen as valuable.  Productivity—pumping out pages, getting published, getting reblogged and liked and noticed—is of primary importance. 

    I think those of us who are especially ambitious, who have always chased good grades and approval (and this certainly includes me) are especially susceptible to this.  It has taken me an entire year to see that the problem here is not that I am not productive, recognized or talented enough but that I see these things as more important then being happy.

    2. No One is Watching

    I have had numerous conversations with my classmates and friends over the internal pressure we feel to be “visible” online and in the world of comics.  If we are not constantly putting new work out into the world we feel like failures and no matter how much we try to keep up a steady stream of work it never feels like enough.

    I think the reality though is that in all likelihood no one cares if you publish once a week, once a month or once a year.  Even if there are some readers out there constantly demanding more (and there are)… fuck ‘em.  We are the main audience for the dog-and-pony show that is our lives.  Please yourself first.

    3. Success Does Not Equal Happiness

    I’ve found the media circus surrounding Robin Williams’ death to be unsettling and I hesitate to add to it, but the lesson I’ve learned from his suicide is that all the success in the world can’t make you happy.  Happy is a state of mind—not of place or position.  You could be happy today if you wanted to—if you actually chose to seek happiness instead of the things we commonly believe are its harbingers: recognition and success.  Be happy today because “tomorrow” might never come.

    In light of these musings I’ve made some adjustments in my life.  I moved from White River Junction, Vermont to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  One major reason is for the more affordable cost of living and city amenities but I was also eager to leave behind the pressure of the comics-is-everything CCS environment.  I’ve also made a pledge (to myself) to choose happiness over productivity and cultivate hobbies that have nothing to do with comics and enrich my life in other ways.  Finally, I will try to see my guilt and anxiety over productivity as the problem rather then the perceived lack of productivity itself. I am going to try to embrace the philosophy of “good enough” instead of chasing some unachievable ideal.

    I hope that by sharing this I can find a few like-minded friends who have also struggled with these issues and that we can all move to a healthier place together.  I guess time will tell.


    PS:  I in no way mean to blame the Center for Cartoon Studies for any of the above.  It’s a great school and I’m very happy with my experience there.  I think the pressures I’ve discussed above are the kind that can breed in any environment where a number of highly creative, ambitious and slightly unstrung people are all focused on a single absurd pursuit.

    PPS:  I am not quitting comics!!!  I’m a lifer. 

    From Other Sophie (Sophie Goldstein). This stuff is all really true. I was never somebody who cared much the top grades and that kind of validation, but at a certain point I decided I was going to make comics into a “career” and then Productivity Mattered. That can be so killer for mental well being. I try to cultivate an attitude towards comics that enables fun and exploration, which is actually a major motivator in my sticking largely with autobio/nonfiction. It compels me to have an interesting life. And also to that end I try to cultivate an aesthetic approach that gets the job done with simplicity.

  5. War of Streets and Houses is nominated for a 2014 Ignatz for Outstanding Graphic Novel!!!

    I’m incredibly flattered…

  6. Edge Desert is a series I’ve been doing in Broken Pencil for a little while now. This one is from their current issue, no 64.

    (Source: brokenpencil.com)

  7. I don’t know, let’s try a little color…



  8. plumsmoke:

    It’s exactly what it sounds like.

    Thx to my webmaster Sophie for her help in making this website a reality. 

    (some ideas: are they good or bad?)

    Webmasterin’. Hire me! Just kidding. Well maybe.


  9. plumsmoke:

    hey pals, i made this thing over this last month! the tape (which is very almost ready) has one long song on the other side, but here’s 6 jams from me to you. 

    I play drums on the first track (pie & coffee), but more importantly more great work from an awe-inspiring lady.

  10. cestbonkultur:

    Sequential Investigations is an exhibition of original art, prints, and wall projections showcasing some of the finest experimental artists working on the periphery of the comics form, pushing and probing the potential of sequential storytelling.

    How to talk about comics in terms that don’t ignore or even exclude one aspect or other? Most people with the slightest interest in the form know that genre trappings or age divisions don’t make any sense at this point. 30 years ago people proclaimed that comics had “grown up”, but that term seems to be moot now that comics for all and any ages have gained general acceptance. 

    The father of modern manga, Osamu Tezuka, is quoted as saying that comics “should be like air”. Depending on your interpretation, that prediction may have come true, as sequential narrative has become a natural form of expression, both for traditional comics artists trying to break into a steadily narrowing mainstream, and for artists from other fields who test the comics grammar in new, often unexpected contexts.

    That is probably the common denominator between the artists presented in this exhibition: that they use the form as naturally as breathing. Their work doesn’t relate to comics as they were, but as they have always been at their core, that is, a set of syntaxes that anyone can use to communicate their own personal message. These are no “grown-up” comics, or even a “new” kind of comics as the exhibition title could be construed; rather, they are distinct, artistic visions that are also very clearly recognizable as comics. Within the sequential framework the exhibitors probe and explore the possibilities of comics and, as it were, chart the unmapped areas in the process.

    Contributors: Dunja Jankovic, Sophie Yanow, Aidan Koch, Warren Craghead, Derik A. Badman, Allan Haverholm, Julie Delporte, Simon Moreton & Oliver East

    Hey if you live the Nordic lands of Europe, go visit this show in Malmö, Sweden! I have work in it with other cool folks!