After 20 Years is an O. Henry story I illustrated for Graphics Classics about 16 years ago. It is about how our perceptions, convictions and loyalties change over years. Drawing that comic made me enjoy drawing someone else's script as a cartoonist - something I usually don't enjoy. I'm getting ready to draw someone else's script for something exciting soon. That along with this sweet profile in my undergrad Arts & Sciences magazine has got me thinking about the past 20 years since I graduated. I stray away from comics and center on other things, but I don't think that makes me any less of an artist. In fact - it makes my art stronger and more satisfying. 22 year old me would be horrified at my production speed, but 42 year old me knows that I am using my time more wisely that ever before.
Nearly 24 years of getting portraits by my dear friend Will Kirk - we're both way better artists now than we were when we were 18.
Attending SPX was a perfect homecoming. It was amazing to see generations of alternative and small press cartoonists together, supporting each other's work. I had an opportunity to renew ties with old friends and mentors, and finally talk to some artists I have wanted to meet for years, and others who I just met there.
The best part was sharing the little half table with two excellent artists who kept it rolling - Jayla Patton and Asia Lae Bey. It was inspiring to see them make connections and get their work out in the world.
I was impressed with the people of all ages who participated in my workshop - even when Eddie Campbell & Chris Ware were across the hall at the same time! It was a honor to participate in this amazing panel discussion about pregnancy and birth. There are so many ways to write and draw about motherhood, and we're all just getting started!
The 2016 election has smacked me around - emotionally, creatively and politically. I've resolved to spend my energy on things that right wrongs, and make the world better through sharing. Does making art count? I hope so!
This year, I am heading to Small Press Expo for the first time in nineteen years! I see this as a homecoming in many ways, an it would not have been possible if not for the support I received from the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council this year. I am thrilled to be an invited exhibitor, and excited to be sharing the table with two of the most talented creators in Pittsburgh: Jayla Patton and Asia Lae Bey.
It's not been a year of new art so far, but it has been a year of hustle and community building for me. I can't wait to talk about pregnancy and childbirth comics with the panel that is taking shape and meet up with old and new friends who love comics and know that the form has no bounds.
I am also excited to teach a workshop for people who (think) they don't draw, and have stories to tell...aka everyone!
This is my first ever back to school season as a mom, and it is hard as hell. I understand so much more about this time than ever. As a person who works with small business owners, I always joke that back to school means that every mom who's been dreaming about finally being her own boss appears at the exact same moment when school is back in session. I feel it this September - THIS is the moment that I will be able to make headway on the projects that have been on the back burner.
It's amazing how the structure around us shapes our creativity. I thought of this when drew this response to Edward Ji's award winning poem "The Storm" for PEN America's Prison Writing Anthology.
Time, space and control combine to limit prisoners' expression of their humanity. The writers in the anthology show that processes and structures may hold us, but we have the power to respond and communicate. The walls are real. They impact us, but they don't stop us.
I think one of the reasons I started making comics is that I like talking way too much. Comics force me to stop chattering, and pare down my message. Also, like lots of people, I struggled with intense fears about public speaking for many years. Comics let you off the hook for that too: what other kind of writing just doesn't work being read out loud live? Film scripts? I've tried my hand at those too!
One of the great things about getting older, is that I no longer completely freak out when I get the opportunity to talk in front of a group of people. If you had told my 20 year old self that I would actually enjoy holding a mic and talking at some point in the future, I would have asked you if we were all going to get lobotomies in the new millennium, or just me.
I was especially honored to talk art at Pittsburgh Arts and Lecture Series - Made Local a few weeks back. Librarians I work with know that I usually resist mixing my creative life with my librarian life. I want people to approach me as a neutral objective person at the library as much as possible, and I am neither of those things when I make art. Still, a chance to talk comics at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh was a leap worth making. I loved talking about the ways that digging around in library stacks informs my art work, and the ways that information, and technology intersect for me creatively in a way that also supports library work.
I even sang a tiny bit - which is insane!
There is really nothing like the pleasure of talking about what drives you creatively with a mix of people from your life and new people in the same room. This is what art is for me: a way to communicate. Getting to see the people I communicate with face to face is delightful!
Check out this rundown from my favorite audience member via Comics Workbook
It's been a busy summer! Take a moment to rest and read this profile of my work that aired today on WESA! If you are in Pittsburgh, please attend my talk at Pittsburgh Arts and Lectures - Made Local!
When I read the first set of Lines Drawn: Comics by Parents and Teachers Who Have Had Enough, I knew I wanted to be a part of the project. My contribution, School Choice, rounds out the the second set, where we considered "active shooter" training for kids. Today is the 19 year anniversary of the Columbine massacre, and we've all sat watching horrible school shooting after horrible school shooting as if we did not have the power to prevent them.
I believe that our fear of becoming victims ourselves, drives our reactions and responses to victims. When confronted by victims of crime, violence or injustice, our first response is often defensive. We set about delineating what makes us different from the victim ("I would never walk alone at night!"), rather than listening for what they might teach us and what they need from us - even if they aren't alive or able to speak. I've noticed that the qualities we detest in people who we accuse of "playing the victim" are the same qualities we are terrified to reveal: frailty, interdependence and need for help.
The way we address the problem now - by focusing on the victim, and potential victims' actions over collective responsibility - reveal our adamant, pig-headed refusal to accept responsibility for the current state of things. Naomi Wadler, the Parkland students, and all of the young people in school walkouts are demonstrating that admitting you are vulnerable and interdependent will make us stronger. Listen to what they say; hear what they need.
We're a few hours away from the "Great American Eclipse" today. I have vivid memories of a partial eclipse in the 1980s. I was terrified that I would glance at it briefly and be struck blind like a nymph who keeps asking to see Zeus in all his glory without knowing what she's getting into. If you know me well, you know I check on astrology like most people check on the weather. This eclipse is a big deal (astrologically) for America in general, the president in particular and all of us individually.
The fate of this country, and my family in it has been weighing on me since before the election. I love America, and I'm not going to give up on the idea that people of different backgrounds can live together peacefully, support one another and progress together. We need to look honestly at ourselves and be willing to accept hard truths about our own racism and sexism, and be willing to discard the ideas that hold us back, no matter how firmly entrenched they are.
My comic about endings, beginnings, fear and elections, Who Does He Favor? is posted at the Los Angeles Review of Books. I made this comic in celebration of the 20 year Anniversary of the Smithsonian Asian American Literary Festival. I feel sure that we are more able to see the inequities, racism and violence in our foundations at this moment. Protect your eyes from all the glory, but don't close them.
I am so happy to have Winter Skin up at ROAR - an excellent feminist website. I especially admire their My Abortion project. It's imperative that we hear women describing their abortions if we are going to have a true understanding of what we are talking about when we talk about abortion
I made Winter Skin shortly after moving to Pittsburgh, 12 years ago. Since I was in a new place again, I was thinking a lot about how each community I join finds a way to remind me that I don't totally belong there. How do you navigate that? How do you learn to be normal? As a kid, I tried like hell to find the guidebook for being myself. I learned from magazines. I learned that there was always something I could buy that would help. I shoplifted lots of make up. I tried to be whiter, less masculine, less foreign, but never managed to pull it off. These days, I never expect to be accepted anywhere, so I am never surprised when I'm not. Still hurts my feelings though.
Just before Election Day, I had the pleasure of being interviewed in a StoryCorps booth by my friend Leigh Anne. We talked about art making and libraries, but we mostly talked about the election. I told her that this was the first time I felt genuinely frightened about the outcome of an election. I knew that many people were foolish, misogynistic and racist enough vote for this president elect, but I had hoped that enough other people would be terrified enough to vote for Clinton too. I am still reeling and don't want to type his name.
I am so thankful to have been invited to contribute to State of Emergency at the Illustrated PEN. Working on my piece, Battleground, helped me dig into the deep structural racism that shapes this country and the way we vote. I emerge from writing and drawing stronger and ready to fight again.