A lovely vegetarian Thanksgiving with the Misura family in my cousin's new home. Last time I was down in Florida for Thanksgiving was when the Misura grandparents were still alive. It was nice to gather together and reminisce about those who are no longer with us. And eat excellent pie
Some friends and family members may have heard that we had to say goodbye to Archie the guinea pig this week. Her surgery revealed an inoperable malignant tumor and we hoped to support her recovery while entering palliative care. But as the sedation wore off, it was clear that she was not herself, and prolonging her life just to avoid having to say goodbye was not the answer. We gathered together with Archie and Ivy on Wednesday night to hold her one last time as she slipped away.
It's been a rough few days in our home, where our routine no longer includes our little pumpkin companion. We remember when we accidentally get food for two instead of one, when we watch TV and we only have one furry friend for two laps, when Ivy does something sassy and I call her Archie, when Ivy returns to their house and looks for Archie out of habit, and when the morning is quiet and her little squeaks for breakfast are absent. She was part of our life and our family for four years, and although we knew she was sick, it's still hard to prepare.
As the days pass, I don't want to get used to her absence, because it means I accept it and I am moving on, but I feel myself adjusting anyway. I know that time slowly fills the negative space with the good memories.
While going through pictures, I tried to choose just 10 that really captured her warmth and personality, and our deep friendship. But the more I looked the more I appreciated the volume of small moments we captured with her, which together tell the story of our time together. So instead I assembled 10 collages.
We miss Archie so much. She was my emotional support when I lost my grandparents, while I prepared myself to move on after a five-year relationship, and as I dealt with stress and anxiety. She licked the tears from my face as I cradled her and worried about her surgery. She made us laugh and she was so smart. We each had our own language with her and she made us feel safe, even when the world didn't feel safe around us. She was a small, humble creature and some may not understand her impact on us, but she was our friend, our family, and our joy. We will try to hold that, even now that she's gone. We love you, Arch McGarch
Whew. 300+ thumbnails in 5 days and have started a final draft of a 20-page scene, so far have drawn 2 pages/32 panels. Been having trouble sleeping though and have been lying awake stressing out about things and am tired all the time, so it's a mixed bag over here.
Recent hospital trip really fueled some thumbnailing. 160 panels to be exact?! These somehow all poured out over the course of 2 hours last night, excited to see where they go.
Twas the night before our 4th anniversary when all through the night, not a creature was stirring, not even me, since I was unconscious because I fainted on a packed train. Thank you to Chris for rushing home to feed the pigs and waiting for hours at the ER before he was allowed to see me. Didn't think year five would start with us sitting on a hospital bed, but glad he was next to me.
While I was sitting in intake I made this doodle on the last page of Twilight New Moon. It's me imagining better commutes that I've had.
Some backstory: sometimes I'm affected by vasovagal syncope due to low blood pressure and sensitivity to blood. Twilight had a particularly bloody scene and I hadn't eaten lunch, so down I went. Usually I just need fresh air and food but an ambulance happened to be called this time and I got stuck in the ER for hours, ironically without food and with blood tests. All is well though! Got discharged, Chris brought me home, we ate pizza, and lived happily ever after. Also shoutout to my very fun EMTs, Andrew and Chris. They were a riot. And the nice nurse on the train who jumped into action.
10/1 First stab at inktober. Not sure how helpful this will be in terms of productivity because I'm trying to focus on thumbnails after work each night and it's not penciltober. But had fun picking this set of panels from my thumbnails and imagining them at a later stage.
10/2 That one time I told my parents there was something in my sleeping bag and when my dad turned it upside down, a scorpion fell out
10/3 When I was 4 years old my parents and brother went to Disney World but I was too scared to join them (giant characters walking around seemed scary). My grandparents sat with me in the lanai that night and let me believe that the white rabbit hopping around their backyard was the Easter Bunny.
10/4 Grandpa Andy watching the rabbit hop around in the yard eating the contents of the garden, while Grandma Rose carefully carries me a cup of cranberry juice.
10/5 Day 5... Upgraded to nice paper from thin sketchbook pages because watercolors were getting a little wrinkly the last couple entries.
10/6 Home sweet home
10/7 These are based on some photos of my grandparents' garden from 1991. My mom diligently labeled the back of each print.
10/8 Added some more flowers to this collection, and think there may be a few more to add before I run out of room
10/9 Alright, time to move on from this collage. By the way Rattlebox is very poisonous and I think invasive in Florida, but very pretty
10/10 One way I've been processing loss is by trying to honor the people who are no longer here with what feels like a sacred study of their faces, their things, and their interests. Some things I noticed while studying Grandpa Andy's District Ranger certificate: he was exceedingly handsome, had a very distinct nose, eyebrows, and boyish grin, and wow was he a lefty. The date stamp and commissioner signature I drew with a set of Grandma Rose's colored pencils, which I'd originally sent to her two years ago as a gift for her coloring books, and which my dear Aunt sent back to me last month to commemorate her. I don't think I'll use them much. I want to preserve where each point was left when she last sharpened and colored with it. Special thanks to my aunt for letting me cherish these little mementos
10/11 The summer we drove to Florida the day Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire came out. We picked up our copy at midnight at the Barnes & Noble release party, in costume, and spent the whole ride down with Mom and Dad reading aloud from the front seat. By the time we arrived Andy and I were fighting over whose turn it was to read independently so we could find out what happens and we had to put caps on reading time. With the three following releases we bought two separate copies of each so we could each read at our leisure.
My commute home... getting into that left turn lane is always the funnest part when there's a Sox game. But it's still faster and less miserable than the train.
Another proof of concept with Blackwing pencil instead of micron, and larger format.
10/14 A little tired today, so just did some light sketches of a nice hot shower
10/15 8pm: I could go to bed early. Or I could start a 20-panel series about my grandma making me Chef Boyardee Macaroni & Cheese when I was a kid
10/17 "Stir once during heating." To be honest, drawing macaroni & cheese has been all I can really handle with work this week, so that's why this has been happening at such a slow pace. Lunch will be served... eventually.
10/19 Getting some milk
10/20 First page done, think I'll try and crank out the last 8 panels today
I still have a label from a can of Chef Boyardee Macaroni & Cheese from one of these summers, which I was using as a bookmark in one of the Harry Potter books. Our grocery stores up north didn't sell the Chef Boyardee mac & cheese at the time so this was always such a special treat while visiting my grandparents. Made even more special by my grandma preparing it for me. I still remember her chuckling because she gave me half a can in a bowl the first time she made it for me, and said I could have more if I wanted. As soon as I finished the bowl, I said, yes, in fact I want more please. She was so tickled by my appetite.
This comic is sandwiched by some panels of me thinking back on our time together while riding my bike to and from work everyday, which is the best time to be alone with my memories (aside from drawing)
10/21 Biking down memory lane, if you will
10/23 Whew. One week and 32 panels = only a single page spread. Lots of great practice drawing hands, dishes, microwaves, and bike helmets.
10/24 Rollin up to the hotel pool like
10/25 My older brother with my dad and a pelican
10/26 Watercolor/colored pencil copy of one of Grandma Rose's Ukrainian eggs. I started this last night at 11pm because I was stressed out by some pet health issues. It was a relief to get lost in her design, learning the pattern and focusing on the same four colors. Even though I haven't tried pysanky in over 10 years, I still feel the appeal of meditating on something small and intricate. It's nice to feel that that is in my blood, even if I'm working on paper and not an actual egg shell. Also you can see her signature in the last slide, a miniature "rm" in cursive.
10/27 Grandma Rose selling her pysanky at St. Mary's bazaar. Simpler designs were $10, more detailed were $18. I think they're worth more! Thank you again to my aunt for sharing this one.
10/28 More diving
10/29 Beach bum
10/30 It's Halloween so here's a drawing of the year our Christmas tree fell over in the middle of the night and broke a bunch of ornaments with sentimental value. That was the last time my parents got a real tree.
Last day of Inktober was inspired by my niece's majestic unicorn look. Can't believe she is almost 18 months and is zooming around!
I think the largest benefit of this was learning that even after a long day, I can still find the energy to work on something creative, even if it's a simple sketch while watching tv in bed. I can still make things and relax at the same time. I went into every project with an open mind, only choosing to work on whatever struck my fancy that day, and my one constant was family and memory. Some days it was hard and I'd spend a whole hour wondering what to draw, but there was always something that grabbed me in the end.
Technically speaking, I learned a lot about the materials I'm looking to use and the size format, having done many watercolors on my chosen paper and with the same setup I'd be using for final inks, so this will hopefully help me envision the project more while drafting. And stylistically this was an excellent way to oscillate between approaches without having to commit to one.
Now that the month is over, I think it will be much easier to come home and know that, until my thumbnails are done, the task at hand is obvious rather than something I need to cast around for. And I still have the flexibility to not work in chronological order if there is a specific scene I want to dig into. Plus, thumbnails aren't meant to feel precious, so the inktober exercise of working two hours a night will hopefully help me churn out content more efficiently.
I was concerned that I would end inktober feeling burned out, but I'm glad I feel inspired to keep working!
Hannah Dunscombe is a painter and portrait artist based out of Brookline, MA.