More snow! Last weekend I fashioned some weatherproofing for my camera and walked over to Fulton’s Pond to document. The day before we saw someone ice skating on the pond. I have a pair of skates, but I’m a little too nervous to venture out for that, as charming as it sounds! Maybe if the cold was more consistent, but we’ve had a few mild days here and there.
The more rigorous drawing schedule over the last few months has been a good way to figure out what I feel most productive listening to at different times of day/during working sessions of different lengths. Lately I've been listening to a lot of podcasts and audiobooks as opposed to music, my usual go-to. I think this is partially because these pages have no dialogue, so I don't have to worry about messing up any text, but also I listen to a lot of the same playlists and artists on repeat to put myself into a kind of trance and channel certain emotions, so it's nice to listen to stories sometimes to break that up. My regular rotation includes...
Morning drawing sessions (1-2 hours):
Evening drawing sessions (1-4 hours):
Weekend drawing sessions (4-10 hours per day):
During my 2-week retreat from work over the holidays, I didn't post any updates on the comic because I was too busy working on it! And since then, I've been waking up two hours earlier than usual on work days in order to spend an hour or two working on it before work – rather than hoping I have the energy left after. I rarely have energy after work these days; our company has just launched vaccine distribution sites at Fenway and Gillette and we have lately been hiring to support these and a number of COVID-19 testing sites, plus we've continued to hire for positions related to the core business.
Between December 20th and February 6th, I did 23 additional pages, which means in a month and a half, I more than doubled the number of pages I had from March through mid December. (This isn't super surprising though, because they are naturally less time-intensive compositions. But at the same time, I can definitely feel that I'm working faster.) Currently I have 45 pages total, so I have 14 left before the end of this very very long chapter/proof of concept. Another way of looking at it is that this was a period of 47 days, so I basically cranked out a page every other day, even after I resumed working 45-55 hours a week at my day job.
Once the last 14 are done, I'll go back through all 59 and make edits (mostly darkening line work and cleaning up shading). And then will need to start doing some research about what to even do with a proof of concept for a graphic novel!
I don't have updated good quality images on the new panels because I simply haven't had access to a scanner. I'm hoping to stop by my office before the end of the month though, and maybe by then I
will have all 59 finished and ready to scan. Perhaps I should also spend a little time doing the chapter header page to make it an even 60 :)
Above are a few snapshots from my desk. There are a few pages not shown, but this should give you an idea of the change of page structure compared to the very regimented 16-panel composition. Things are getting a little more "out of the box" and with that, I've also been able to work at a much faster clip. These are bigger panels too, which means more room for detail, often more white space, and hands in less pain from trying to squeeze everything into tiny panels.
We had such a nice quiet Christmas this year, staying in our cozy apartment. It was fun to decorate a new space after having decorated the same living room for 8 straight years. That room had a lot of very dark stained walnut woodwork, and so with decorations, it quickly became a lot to take in.
I broke up the week by working on the comic from around 9-5 with an hour break for lunch each day, and then in the evenings worked on baking. On Christmas Eve, we decorated cookies, dropped some off at Chris's parents' house and swapped gifts (with masks; we were only inside for a few minutes), and then went home and Zoomed into my childhood church's last candlelight Christmas Eve service. The church started around 100 years ago and is shutting its doors for good today. After that, Chris's extended family had a Zoom call while we cooked.
We made a later dinner, then we watched A Christmas Carol (with George C. Scott) and went to bed. In the morning we had cinnamon rolls for breakfast, opened gifts, and made dinner. There were a lot of desserts throughout the day. In the evening we went for a walk (it was strangely mild and breezy), and then watched Charlie Brown Christmas and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone while we played Wingspan (the most amazing board game ever).
I always feel the need to capture some of my favorite ornaments, too. New ornaments this year include: a glass pierogi (nod to our Ukrainian roots from my cousin Emily), guinea pig, cardinal, and snowman from from my mom, a penguin that I picked up at the Corning Museum last holiday season, and a felt owl that I found at an arts market here in Mansfield. I included some other pretty ones, and a couple from my Harry Potter collection from childhood.
Cooking and baking!
For baked goods this year, I made pumpkin pie, poppyseed bread, decorated cutout cookies, and sugar cookies with almond extract. For Christmas Eve dinner, we did pierogis with mushrooms and onions, minestrone soup, and homemade applesauce with rolls and ginger ale. For Christmas day, we did deviled eggs, a casserole with potatoes, onions, and cheese (my mom's "cheesy taters"), green beans with garlic and parsley, and maple ham (for Chris), more pierogis (for me), and sparkling cider. It was a lot more dishwashing that we are used to for two people! But so worth it :)
These aren't great quality photos, but we enjoyed using my grandmother's dishes to celebrate. The fancier dishes and platters are decorated with tiny ornate roses.
We went to Endicott for Thanksgiving, though we took every precaution possible. We got PCR testing done ahead of time through my work and got our results ~30 hours later. We wore masks when we first arrived and the results hadn't come in yet. I've been avoiding going out in public at all the last couple months, and Chris wears his mask, social distances, and brings his lunch to work - even if he's working in an empty house. We didn't stop anywhere on the way.
It was nice to have a Thanksgiving together, since I haven't seen my parents since December last year and Chris has never spent a holiday in my hometown. It was just the four of us, so it was very quiet. We went for a few walks, enjoyed my parents' excellent cooking, and went up to Round Top and down to Grippen Park, two public parks down the street, to enjoy new lookout areas and a hiking trail. Chris wasn't feeling great the whole time, which has been our major ongoing struggle since he got sick in May. We just wish we knew for sure whether it was covid, given the too early/too late timing of his two tests in May/June and the low-sensitivity antibody test that he got almost two months later, which the doctor didn't think would catch anything. We can't wait until the vaccine is released.
We got our tests done late in the evening when no one was around, so I ducked into the office to use the scanner and capture some of the latest drawings. I'm now in a pretty sad part of the chapter and am finding it both cathartic and really hard to draw some of these scenes without becoming very depressed. I've been taking more days off between drawing sessions, partially to not get overwhelmed, and also because my day job is very high-intensity lately and I have little energy at the end of the day.
Last weekend I spent most of my time working on a commission, this week I worked over 50 hours at my day job, and this weekend was managing a lot of holiday preparations (including illustrating and printing my holiday greeting cards) so I haven't done any comic drawing at all. I find this usually happens around the holidays though.
Next week is my last week of work, and I'm using my remaining vacation days to take a load off after a really rough year. With cases rising, Chris and I again have Covid tests scheduled proactively given rising cases, but we decided not to go anywhere for the rest of the year. It'll be a little sad, but better safe than sorry. It will be nice to have a two-week retreat to work on the comic as well.
Mansfield may be a little smaller than the city, but we still had a nice turnout for an impromptu celebration in the town square! What a relief...
Also, the leaves are pretty much done now, but we went out for an evening walk and were able to catch a few remaining fall scenes with the moody light at dusk.
According to my last few blog entries, I have been spending time exclusively on nature walks and furniture arrangement. But I have been drawing too! It’s just that since I've incorporated higher quality scans, I've had to start saving up new pages in batches to scan them in-person rather than post lower quality photos each week.
I had hoped to finish these first 18 test pages by August (meaning, within five months), but I officially finished up yesterday (eight months). With illnesses, politics, and a move, I'm okay with that. And then last night, I was very antsy during election coverage, so I redid an entire page that I wasn't happy with between 8pm and 2am. There is one other page I would like to redo (page 2), as well as a couple individual panels, which I would need to retroactively photoshop in to complete an otherwise solid page.
Here's a spot-the-difference! I'm kind of embarrassed by the original (right), but I think this shows how much you can learn and refine a style with a few months and a lot of practice. Here are some clear changes that have developed:
This is what all the pages look like together so far. I'm enjoying the ladder of purple part-way through. Funny how patterns like that develop unintentionally. At this point I don't think I can photograph them as a group anymore because the footprint is too big! Channeling Jo March with her pages-on-the-floor technique.
I started yesterday with a scenic walk in a pretty chilly wind. A lot of the leaves have suddenly fallen already because of the big snow last week. The pond near our house is so charming and I made a friend in the small duck pond in the park. I'm still watching election coverage as I write this and am trying not to fall into a panic spiral while results remain unclear. That said, the closeness of this race and the hypocrisy, callousness, selfishness, and cruelty fueling the Trump movement speak to the shameful state of this country. I cannot see eye to eye with any individual who supports Trump and his conspiracy theories, as he stands for so many hateful things and is incapable of exhibiting basic human compassion.
I'll wrap this up with some calming photos of ducks and fall leaves and moving water instead.
We've officially been in our new place for three weeks and for the most part have everything set up the way we want. We're just waiting on a little island for the kitchen and some doors for a shelf in the bedroom. I can't be productive until I have my space set up exactly the way I want it, so getting every detail set up has been a priority. I've briefly worked at my desk here and there, but excited to find a rhythm again. While we were moving I wasn't able to do any drawing, but I only have a couple pages and change left until the format of this chapter changes significantly.
Here is an unnecessary number of pictures to celebrate having everything settled in (finally)! Arranging the books into every nook and cranny has been a challenge, but pretty fun to figure out. Note the Harry Potter book collection in English, French, German, Dutch, Polish, and Italian... Also we get some great sunshine in the living room in the late afternoon so I've stationed as many plants and sun catchers as possible by the windows. I'm also really happy with the hanging glass float. I put some wire lights in the netting so at nighttime it's a gentle light source. During the day, it catches the sun. Before, this was hanging on our deck, and before that, in my grandparents' lanai.
Chris's desk for music is set up in the living room, while mine is set up in the bedroom. We figured I would need a quiet space where I could shut myself away to work without taking the living space out of commission. I put a lot of decorations out that I inherited from my grandparents too. I hadn't felt comfortable setting them out when we had roommates because many of them are breakable, so it has been nice unpacking and finding a spot for each of those.
I decided to do the same with a cross section of my snow globe collection from childhood. I still have a half dozen more tucked away in a box but these are my favorites. Bermuda, Baltimore Aquarium, Boca Grande, Endicott, 1000 Islands. The most fun snow globe to shake is the Aquarium one, because it looks like the dolphins are nosing through the sand. Another childhood collection that came out of storage is a stack of around 100 cardboard coasters. I've been collecting them for over 15 years.
Bathroom and Kitchen
An inevitable truth I had to face over the last couple weeks is that I have far more framed pieces of artwork than I have the wall space for. I have two suitcases filled with the surplus, and some large items stored in Chris's parents' attic too. I just hate clutter and that goes for wall clutter too, so I had to show quite a bit of restraint (doesn't seem like it though, does it?)
My various collections above the bed were such a pain to pack up and then rehang but I like the type trays clustered together in this way, rather than scattered throughout the space. I ended up numbering each item so I could just match them with the appropriate compartment rather than try to find a good spot for everything all over again. So far no rocks or coins have fallen on our heads. They were fine in the busy living room at our last place - I think only a seashell or two came loose over the course of 6 years - so I think we should be fine. (Knock on wood.... just not on the wooden type trays.)
I'm going to try and squeak out a few panels before dinner now. Glad it's a three-day weekend!
There have been a lot of changes in the last couple months. First, Chris finally went back to work (very cautiously) for about a month and a half, though has experienced some setbacks over the last couple weeks. But for the most part has seemed to resume some vague sense of normalcy.
In the second week of August, we got a beat on a family friend who had a one-bedroom apartment open up in Mansfield. We were originally looking to potentially purchase our first home, but with the economy the way that it is, it just seemed like a risky time to buy and put all our eggs in one basket for the next however many years. I really didn’t like the idea of moving to a new place that might not be our forever home after 8 years in the same apartment, but we had been putting off moving for years with this excuse and it just felt like the right time. So as of a week and a half ago, we did it!
After making the decision, I also bought my first car, which will be a big help because we are now much further from the city. I can still take the commuter rail without needing to drive there first, but while I continue working from home, I needed a way to get around in case of an emergency. Soon enough, Chris will have a van for his electrician work, so we will have both on hand.
In the middle of August, my guinea pig also returned for a multi-night stay at the vet, during which she had an infection and resumed GI stasis. It has since stabilized and she’s doing much better, and she seems happy in her new home.
I used some vacation time last week so that I could settle into the new place, and am pretty happy with how we have it set up. Also, over the weekend I found a rail trail that is literally across the street, so I’ve ventured down there three times already. Here are some pictures from a recent walk!
Before we left, I stopped by my office for the first time since March (in the middle of the night) to scan in all of my comic panels up to this point. I've since updated the Key limes page with these better quality images. Since my last post, I cranked out several additional pages, and at this point have only 2.5 pages left before transitioning to a much more opened-up structure. I'm excited to settle into my new desk set up and continue chipping away after a month-long break!
Also, over the weekend I turned 30! About time, I feel like I've been in my 30s for the last two years. The Trump era has us all aging faster than usual. #hellograyhair
Hannah Dunscombe is a painter and portrait artist based out of Mansfield, MA.