This past weekend we attended a wedding in Montague, MA, which we visited back in 2018 to check out The Montague Bookmill. Katie and Greg eloped during September 2020 on their originally scheduled wedding date, and postponed their family & friends wedding until things got a little safer with covid. At last, the day came and it was so much fun! Katie did a beeeeautiful job designing and arranging the wedding decor, and since Chris and I are getting married next October, we were definitely inspired by their autumnal vision.
The rest of the photos from the event can be found here, and a couple other detail shots of the watercolor portrait can be found here. This was such a fun portrait. I tried to take inspiration from John Singer Sargent's watercolors of rocks for the big coastal Maine setting, and made use of some of the blendable colored pencils I use for comics. The original photo was taken by Ashley Olafsson Photography during Katie & Greg's elopement in Acadia National Park.
We chose our wedding venue and date earlier this month and we are super stoked about it! I'm still trying to DIY and save money as much as possible since the wedding industry is bonkers (I already bought a secondhand dress from Poshmark and gave my hair its first trim since I did my last pixie cut pre-pandemic), and stationary was next up on the list. I had originally used Canva to design a save-the-date using one of the photos we took this past summer, but then decided something more handmade would feel more authentic.
This took a lot of troubleshooting with our new printer which does not like card stock (oh no!) and I started with some thick handmade watercolor paper that I had on hand, which ended up being more trouble than it was worth and literally too rough around the edges. But I settled on this amazingly soft handmade paper from Italy that my parents had gifted me from a trip for their 40th anniversary. It has a beautiful soft texture and grain, subtle deckled edges, and the way it absorbs ink is very luscious.
I drew the front of the venue with brown colored pencil, scanned it, and assembled it into a custom invitation design using a mixture of Google Drawings and Canva. Each piece was fed into the printer individually, and then I added a copper-colored embossed border for each using an embossing pen and rectangular stencil.
For the envelope, I had hoped to find something a little more of a burnt Sienna color at Paper Source, but settled on this persimmon color ($22.50 for 50; we are sending a total of 40 so decided to get some extra for inevitable mistakes). The maple leaf stamp is store-bought ($8.95) and I used embossing ink, a heat gun, and the same copper powder (which I already owned). Two books of stamps were a total of $23.20. Since I already owned the paper and some of the tools, in total that's $54.65 for our 40 save the dates. I still have a ton of the the Italian paper leftover for invitations, and a different type for place cards and such, so I imagine that will again come mostly down to the cost of envelopes and stamps.
There are some videos below from the assembly line!
School started just about a month ago and has definitely been keeping me busy! I restructured my schedule a little bit so that I get some exercise and work on the comic first thing in the morning, and then work on school in the afternoon and try to break by the evening. During the first couple weeks I was finding that if I started with school every day, I would just fill all available space with studying. Since many people complete the program while working full-time, it just seemed unreasonable to be working at least eight hours every day on school. As much as it's fascinating stuff to sink my teeth into, I just get tunnel vision! (Part of the reason why I'm hoping librarianship is a good career choice as it will be a lot about channeling that detail orientation.) Last week one of my assignments was to build a digital timeline of a specific piece of library science history and I decided to do it about my dad's library. He had a health scare recently and I wanted to work on an engaging topic that I lived through and that I could interview him about. I ended up working on it way more than I needed to for the assignment, but I did learn a lot about the library's funding referendum in 2008, their legal battles against the town, and the history of the town and library itself. I've linked it here.
Amidst the time management calibration, it's been good to have some structure to my days again too. The month and a half after I left my job and before starting the semester were filled with figuring out my healthcare, wrangling doctor appointments to happen in the right order, researching for our wedding, figuring out how to register for classes and doing a lot of school paperwork, and then feeling generally a bit aimless and in shock not having any true commitments after many years of having a day job. Now that I have a few core longterm priorities, it's easier to organize my time and get back in the creative groove.
I spent a lot of time in the summer working on the typed script and developing graphic novel thumbnails for the chapters that are still a little fuzzy, which was helpful but also never quite brings the same satisfaction as cranking out pages. I started another page in chapter one the day before yesterday and just wrapped it up this morning; it's one of my favorites of three-year-old me staring down an alligator. It's a lot of fun to be reworking the original chapter that I had started with, having learned a whole lot about the style I'm looking for and what I'd like to convey. I had done this chapter in pen and watercolor well before the graphic novel workshop in 2019 and I feel like I'm looking through a telescope at the old pages trying to recall my headspace. Some of them are over three years old and it was well before Grandma Rose's death.
Just like my tendencies toward school, if I don't point my focus in the right direction, I'll just plow forward on planning the graphic novel indefinitely and never make any progress on the actual finished work. Planning is definitely important especially when it comes to story and a time-intensive production – if the story isn't crisp, it could take ages to rework and all that time producing pages that don't work is lost – but the work can't be all about planning or it will never feel like it's coming together. And script writing can actually become a waste because the descriptions start to feel like writing prose and there is no sense pouring a ton of energy into what amounts to shorthand for me.
I purchased a few sketchbooks that were on sale last month and have been using those to develop thumbnails in their final coloring too, so I can get a sense of flow and refine composition. I was previously doing thumbnails only in graphite with multiple pages on a big sketchbook page and wasn't really thinking about layout much, so blowing them up channels more of that awareness. I went through and numbered the pages and have certain sections for specific chapters, so as I'm writing, if I need to figure out a layout I have a place to work that will fall in line chronologically.
Setup for school vs. setup for drawing
My last day of work was on the 16th, and I just had my first week completely left to my own devices! I'm trying to get a lot of the important stuff out of the way first: registering for classes and submitting grad school paper work, signing up for Mass Health, doing a deep clean of the apartment and donating things we don't need, planning a couple of family visits coming up, and doing some thinking about wedding plans. But I did reserve a day last week to get back on the saddle with drawing. It felt great! I'm now returning to the fishing scene I had started with back in 2017. Comparing these two panels, can you see a bit of growth? The one on the right I photographed in 2018. I feel like I've learned so much in terms of style, composition, and inventing images out of my head.
Going back to the last day of work, it was incredibly bittersweet as expected. I spent the days leading up to it conducting some virtual trainings and documenting a lot of the paperwork stuff I'd been handling for future reference (nothing too interesting – mostly dense material like sending employment contracts and creating competency-based interview feedback forms). On my last day it was a race against the clock to tie things off before losing access to my email account, like discussing the fate of my 401k, recording my remaining PTO time for my personal records, and cleaning out my inbox once and for all. It's surprisingly hard to let go of the vast number of documents I've referenced for years and projects I've chipped away at, even though I am excited by my next career steps.
In the afternoon, my colleagues set up some pastries, berries, and bubbly out on the deck at work and we had fun reminiscing and enjoying some long-awaited time in person and not in front of a screen. There is a common practice of wearing "animal print" (prints with literal animals) on our team, and without consulting, my manager and I both wore outfits with birds printed on them. One of my coworkers composed a number of beautiful (and funny!) haikus for me which I read aloud. My manager gave me a felt pennant of a gold sunrise to symbolize new beginnings, along with a red lightning bolt pin, a symbol of the Polish pro-choice women's marches (half of our coworkers are based in Warsaw and we discussed the movement in a recent team meeting). The group gifted me a custom book stamp ("From the Library of Hannah Dunscombe") and beautiful bound book from Etsy that collected photographs from my time at work and library due date cards filled out by hand with well wishes.
I spent the following day pasting in a box load of additional work photos and memorabilia that I had stored up, so much so that the book is now practically bursting at the seams! Assembling all of those memories and preparing myself to treasure the happy times for years to come was such a lovely way to balance out my sadness of leaving behind some of the greatest coworkers I've ever had the pleasure to work with.
Also I did end up getting into Simmons! Three of my former managers very kindly wrote letters of recommendation for me as well, which helped me get some extremely helpful scholarships too :)
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.
Hannah Dunscombe is a painter and portrait artist based in Mansfield, MA.