Right on the heels of my grandmother passing away, I attended a 1-week intensive graphic novel workshop at the Center for Cartoon Studies.
The timing could not have been more surreal. On the one hand, I am thankful that I had the time away to isolate myself and process my grief, particularly through art and with the guidance of new mentors. On the other hand, I felt so much guilt going off and doing this when my family was in such pain. I wanted so badly to back out and instead use the time to go down and help my family take care of everything we needed to.
In the end, my dad flew down to help my mom and aunt pack up my grandmother's belongings in Florida, sort things by grandchild, and drive the long trek back up to New York in a truck. There was so much heartbreak watching photos stream into text threads of items I associate so clearly with some of the happiest memories of my life, removed from their natural habitat and put forth into the void of "does anyone want this?" I found myself saying I wanted everything that no one else wanted, occasionally having to set boundaries for myself, acknowledging that I have a very small apartment. I wanted to be there, on the ground, to walk through the halls of my grandparents' house one last time before it was disassembled, and now I don't know that I'll ever get the chance. The house is now up for sale.
If I was in a different stage of my life, I might consider buying the house myself. The idea of a stranger entering and living in a house that was so specifically built and occupied by my loved ones seems wrong. But to what lengths can one go to protect themselves from having to let go? How would I feel, living in a home that would only ever be bittersweet, tainted with loss and grief and wistful memories? Not to mention, I have a home and a partner and a job in Boston. I can't uproot everything just to cling to what used to be, sacrificing what is still here.
As with my grandfather, Grandma Rose did not want a funeral. I understand the reasoning, that that had attended so many for their friends and family and the idea of subjecting those that outlived them to planning something during their grief felt unnecessary. I understand, but I also lament the lack of opportunity to say goodbye and receive closure. We will still have the chance to pay our respects at their grave site at our convenience. I am just sad that I cannot have that clear reason to gather with my family.
The silver lining is that the workshop ended up giving me all the tools I need to work in earnest on my graphic novel. I now feel like I understand where the book is going, and I have had the time and space to process my feelings about my grandparents and the impact they had on my life. I've been working nonstop ever since I returned, and I only hope that I am able to keep up with it in the coming months and years so that I can actually set this story onto paper. I hope to share regular updates on that as I have them.
My best friend and I went to see Lucy Knisley celebrate her new graphic novel, "Kid Gloves" last week and it was such a great experience.
Her comics were my first introduction to graphic novels, and I've since developed a deep love and reverence for the graphic memoir genre. When I read Lucy's writing, I feel like I am receiving very heartfelt learnings from a wise (and witty) older sister. 'Kid Gloves' is so moving and heartbreaking and informative and lovingly rendered, and as a person very new to aunthood and the baby world, I couldn't put it down. Please read all of her books if you haven't already!
Also, thank you for the excellent portrait, Lucy! We were both incredibly starstruck and impressed by your artistic/physical endurance. We will cherish this forever!
Above you will also see a watercolor portrait of Linney, Lucy's beloved cat who is the subject of many funny and touching comics.
This is a mini comic that I made on a whim this past month. Some friends of mine recently went through a sudden and painful breakup, and it reminded me of something I had written when I was 19 and experienced my first breakup. I think I shared it here a while back. It was such a painful time. I remember calling my ex and him asking, "Why are you even calling me? I don't think this is healthy." We hung up and I sat on the floor by the Christmas tree sobbing, while my dog looked at me in concern. There's nothing quite like a longterm relationship ending, especially when you think it should continue.
Unrelated, today is my brother's 30th birthday! I'm younger, but this still makes me feel old.
This is the scene I mentioned earlier that is a flashback within a flashback (actually... within a flashback because the whole story exists in the memory of myself in 2016).
I'm still working on it, and might end up splitting the text of the last panel into another one, but hoping it comes across clearly.
This scene fits in with the central introduction of me as a child, pouting because of my own sensitivity. My grandpa happens to be telling my dad about how my mom learned to swim, and how at first she was afraid of the cold lake water. I'm hoping this will juxtapose well; I go from being really scared of fishing to alerting my whole family that an alligator is right near the dock. The goal is to show my childhood self through a similar growth in hardiness/courage, and how that was inspired by both my grandfather and my mother.
We'll see how it comes across once it's colored and inked!
This portrait was for a friend of mine from high school. He wanted to surprise his fiancée with something personalized for Christmas and chose this family photo from right after they adopted Luna the corgi. I used my new lamp with a hollow opening to record a time lapse (almost) start to finish, which I've never done before. I may need to look into a different app however; the one I've been using only records for 20 minutes at a time.
Yesterday afternoon I unpacked and then we had a few friends over and watched a few epsidoes of The Chris Gethard Show before heading to bed. A couple friends may come over for New Year's Eve, but it will probably be a very small affair.
In the meantime, I brought out all of my comic storyboards and am trying to pick up where I left off. A roadblock that I am experiencing right now is that so far I have started with a scene that leads into a flashback, and within the flashback, a memory is shared. I want to illustrate the memory, but I'm worried that it's too multi-level to have a flashback within a flashback, à la Christopher Nolan. I suppose it's an interesting problem to solve, and it could be a good opportunity to break away from the traditional framing that I've been gravitating toward just to give myself structure. But I still feel a bit out of my depths. Hopefully something compelling comes of it.
I got this mug during my return to Alfred last spring; my memory card had just failed right after I had finished documenting a painting of mine that I stumbled upon in one of the administrative offices. I was really excited to see it, so figures that I didn't end up getting a photo of it. By the time I realized there was a glitch, the offices were closed, so instead I wandered around the book store looking for a replacement and getting nostalgic, wondering why I had never stocked up on school memorabilia before (answer: I was an existing student and was poor). I got a couple of t-shirts and this rather simple cup. I'm not really a coffee drinker, but every now and then I will have half a cup to avoid falling prey to dangerous weekend nap impulses.
Here are a couple of photo updates on the comic I've been chugging away on. I haven't shared much about it in writing because I am still figuring out where I want to take it (though I do have a lot of storyboarding done, and have a growing set of Google documents that include a story framework and various thoughts, ideas, and memories). That said, I have very little time to work on this project with my full-time work schedule, not to mention 2 hours of commuting every day. But I'm still trying to chip away on the weekends for now, even if each set of week days seems to negate my weekend momentum.
I recently listened to a really wonderful interview with Debbie Tung (creator of "Quiet Girl in a Noisy World"), hosted by The Introvert, Dear Podcast. She talked about the struggles of choosing to quit her full-time job as a developer and pursue art full-time instead; they asked her if she recommends this choice to other artists out there, and she was hesitant to encourage that choice because it makes life quite hard economically. Not to mention, Debbie lives in the UK, so there are not the same concerns about student loan debt and access to healthcare. Here in Boston, it's almost impossible to afford rent even with full-time work - not to mention a mortgage (condos around here typically start around 400k, and houses are basically inaccessible unless you are up for paying 600k or more). I sometimes daydream about moving out to the country into a little cottage, where I can be alone with my brushes and pens and enjoy an uninterrupted creative process, but it's something I'm far too anxious to pursue in this stage of my life. Right now, I have health and dental care through work, a 401k, and a stable paycheck, which is a lot more than I had working in retail. Plus, comics are very hard to make a living off of unless you have proven success through a book deal. It's not the same as running an Etsy or doing commissions, which I take here and there but don't actively pursue or advertise. For now, I'll continue to cherish my free time and continue my work during the week.
Hannah Dunscombe is a painter and portrait artist based out of Brookline, MA.