Trying to keep up with the project. Here are some drafts of a chapter about some sensory memories from my grandparents house. I wrote this last fall so have been playing around with how that could work visually. I kind of like the idea of it reading like a children's book, with text on one page and a visual on the opposite page, recalling how I was a child when I was absorbing these memories.
I've also been working on some less exciting things, like making diagrams, building out chapter outlines, and mapping out different character motivations and intersections to make sure things are closing off by the end.
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!
I've been taking my time incorporating different artifacts from my grandparents house into my own home. It's tough because I feel like my home would become a museum if I put out every little thing that I've inherited when I only have so much space. But I've picked and chosen specific items that mean a lot to me and have tried to find little ways to incorporate them with what I already have. I already feel a sense of relief having bits and pieces of their lives together in mine.
An inventory, below:
Stamped glass sun catchers: these used to hang in my grandparents' lanai and would sway back and forth in the breeze.
Wooden stool: Grandpa Andy made this by hand and put a Smokey Bear sticker on either side. He had several of these, and kept his trusty dictionary and current reads on one of them, right next to his armchair. He carved his name on the bottom.
Pink lamp: Grandma Rose bought these with her own money back in the 50s. There were two and they lit their bedroom their entire marriage. The light that it casts feels incredibly nostalgic for me and reminds me of going to bed in a sleeping bag on their carpeted floor during summer nights, while my parents stayed up reading. My cousin now has one and I have the other.
Miniature glass jar: I don't have much information about this jar, but it's very sweet. I filled it with some shells that I collected at the beach near my brother's house. My aunt found a ledger in which Grandma Rose kept detailed records of all of their antique acquisitions, the condition, price, and date.
Seashell coasters: these really say "Grandma and Grandpa's house" to me. When we arrived at my grandparents' house each summer, we would sit on the couch in a row and discuss the journey and catch up after a year apart. In front of the couch was a low coffee table with a ridge going along the edge so that things wouldn't roll off. In the center of the table was always a small crystal bowl filled with Hershey kisses or Dove chocolates, and this stack of coasters. Grandma and Grandpa were very invested in the use of coasters. Interestingly. I have a collection of disposable coasters that I've been working on since middle school. They even contributed to this over the years, including Smokey Bear coasters, coasters with German beers on them, and one from a local rock radio station. I love having these on my night stand now.
Solo Certificate cup: this is a commemorative cup from Grandpa Andy's first solo flight. The other side of the cup is decorated with little planes. I believe there are several of these and they were separated between the grandchildren.
Carnival glass bowls: my grandparents had a vast collection of carnival and depression glass. They were definitely tightwads, but they found the deals to continue their collection. These are holding a collection of pysanky made my various family members. The three on the right were all made by Grandma Rose (my first of hers in my collection), the orange egg by my mom, turquoise egg by my aunt, and the egg with roses by my mom and gifted to Grandma Rose.
Souvenir spoon: the Misura women were very into collecting souvenir spoons in the 90s. Grandma Rose even bought and sold on eBay for a while! This is one spoon from her collection (along with another gifted to me by my mom).
Crystal punch bowl: while I don't do enough entertaining to have much use for this yet, I figured a nice way to have it out and functional would be as a catch-all bowl on our coffee table. If I lived on my own, I might display pysanky in it, but I worry right now about leaving them exposed and vulnerable all in a group.
Snow shoes: these are also very "Grandma and Grandpa's house" type item. They hung, exposed to the elements for decades, in their lanai. The irony of snow shoes hanging in a tropical outdoor space was never something I had thought much about, likely because they were such a fixture and I associated them with their lanai before I even knew what snow shoes were.
Olympic pin collection: the coin collection is something I inherited mostly from a former patron of my mom's library, but the pin collection and type tray were all Grandpa Andy's doing. He worked in the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, NY, and, being a social buttrfly, collected and traded different Olympic pins with people visiting from all over the world. Interestingly, he has a ton representing Poland.
Glass fishing float: This was also a fixture in the lanai, and hung out there for as long as I can remember. I loved the way light filtered through it in the summer sun, making it glow with a watery teal light. It's much heavier than I would have imagined!
Shelf: Grandpa Andy built a few of these, One of them hung in the dining room and held a gingerbread clock and two three-legged pigs that I sent them for good luck after I graduated college.
Stickers: there were dozens of these window stickers decorating the sliding doors that led from the dining room out to the lanai. Every year, Grandma Rose would measure our height with a sticker and move it up the window.
Grandma Rose, and the six women descended from her. Grandma Rose and I shared a birthday, and a name. Grandma Rose shared her gift for lovingly detailed crafts and passion for making with all of the women in the family. Grandma Rose bought her own bedroom set with her own money, before she was married, and kept it her entire life. Grandma Rose signed her name, "With All My Love Always" in a photo to her beloved husband. Grandma Rose received roses from Grandpa Andy every year, and was the inspiration of his rose tattoo on his bicep. Grandma Rose had a garden, and in it she fed a stray cat she called Sweetie. Grandma Rose had a sweet tooth and couldn't say no to a chocolate, or cake, or a cookie. Grandma Rose saved the card I sent her, even when she didn't always know who I was when I saw her last. Grandma Rose loved her daughters, and was so grateful to Aunt Mary who took great care of her after Grandpa died. Grandma Rose and Grandpa Andy are together again, dancing the polka, just like the night she first went up to him and said hello. Grandma Rose and I never got to say goodbye, but I know she felt the love we all felt for her. We will miss you, Grandma Rose
Our family has been thinking about my Grandma Rose more than usual lately. Grandpa Andy has been gone for almost 3 years, and last week my aunt and cousin took the difficult step of moving Rose into a nursing home. This was not an easy decision, but was necessary in order to provide Rose with the full-time care she needs to face the challenges/risks associated with Alzheimer's and old age. My Aunt Mary has been doing a beautiful job taking care of her independently, allowing her to stay comfortable at home for as long as possible, and meeting all of her needs. I know her heart breaks the most with this change.
Here is a photo of her cutting out star shapes during a craft activity for the 4th of July. She has always been a very crafty lady.
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.
It has been such a wonderful week at my parents' house. As you can see from all the photos below, the main attraction was my niece and goddaughter, who is the sweetest baby ever. She's always so happy and only cries when she is uncomfortable and needs to change positions, take a nap, or eat.
I arrived last Friday afternoon after a rainy, misty drive, and Juliette arrived with my brother and sister-in-law the following evening. JJ had some dinner, took some time to bang a wooden spoon on the table (provided by grandma), and then prepared for her nightly routine. This included a bath in the kitchen sink, pajamas and a fresh diaper, and bed. They have this big suit they put her in that makes her look like a marshmallow, but it prevents her from rolling in her sleep so she stays on her back.
The next day we mostly hung out with the baby and I (clearly) took as many photos as possible. I also took quite a few videos, particularly of her testing out a a goofy blubbery noise with her lips that was quite amusing. At one point we went back and forth making the sound and I was laughing so hard I could barely make the sound back.
On Christmas Eve, mom handled the cooking, and Juliette was passed around from lap to lap. My parents call this a "pass-around pack". We did a couple of small photo shoots, including one with the guinea pigs to compare to a similar pose of my brother with my parents' guinea pigs Jemima and Manfred. We took another of Juliette in my dad's old cap from when he was a baby, and another with a HESS truck (my brother was fond of those as a kid).
We opened Juliette's presents on Christmas Eve afternoon, before dinner, and at that point she was a little tuckered out and had just woken up from a nap. Then we had a traditional Ukrainian dinner of fish, pierogies, and mushroom soup while Juliette sat patiently on Andy's lap. From there, it was time for the Christmas Eve service at church; she got a kick out of the carols, and eventually fell right asleep, even as candles were passed around for the final hymns. My dad's congregation got a big kick out of her and it sounded like they had heard a lot about her and seen photos over the last six months.
On Christmas morning, the baby and family needed to head out to Buffalo where my sister-in-law's family lives, so we had a quick breakfast of French Toast Casserole (prepared to perfection by grandma), and then we packed up the car, the baby, and the dogs, and they were on their way. My parents and I stayed behind and exchanged the remaining gifts.
Since Christmas, I've been very sleepy and have been doing a lot of napping. It may not have been the most productive week of my life in terms of art, and I had been pinning a lot of high expectations to this week in terms of progress on my comic, but I think given that it was Christmas and I'm so rarely near my family, I made an exception and softened the pressure I was putting on myself. Next week it will be back to work again, but at least it will only be a three-day week.
This afternoon the Buffalo crowd swung through once more to pick up some remaining items and break up the trip back down to Long Island. Luckily, we'll be seeing everyone again in February for Juliette's baptism, so it wasn't as hard to say goodbye as it was the week she was born, or the weekend we babysat and weren't sure the next time we would see her. I'm just amazed by how quickly she is growing! Would it be selfish to extend a "free babysitter" offer every other month so I can spend some quality time with her?
Anyway, vacation is quickly coming to a close. Tomorrow we're going out to Friendly's for breakfast, then I'll make the drive to Boston. We are having a New Years Eve Eve party to celebrate our roommate Hardik who is moving to San Francisco in a couple weeks. But it will be nice to have a mellow New Years Eve and New Years Day to settle back into the groove. Happy 2019!
Check out this adorable Christmas gift from my sister-in-law and Juliette! A Christmas tree finger painted by Juliette and embellished by mom. Plus these post-crafting photos. It sounds like she enjoyed the painting, but not mom preventing her from putting her hands in her mouth, or being dirty afterward. I sense an artist in the making!
This weekend, Chris and I went out and got our first full-sized tree. This has been a dream of mine since I first moved in, though there was at least one year where I settled for decorated a floppy houseplant, and several with a four-foot tabletop tree.
Since moving out on my own, setting up holiday decorations has always made me feel closer to home. My mom always had an extravagant collection of humble-looking wooden Santa figures on the mantlepiece. Every year my brother helped my dad with the Christmas lights, and I sat and untangled the gold beads as my mom hung them in loops around the tree. On an afternoon that was free of precipitation and preferably above 40 degrees, my dad wrestled with white Christmas lights on our rhododendron and burning bushes, and a petit pine tree out front.
Decorating the tree was a family affair, usually done in front of Peanuts Christmas and The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, both recorded on a VHS tape from an airing on cable in the very early 90s. Closer to the holiday, we would watch The Snowman and drink hot cocoa.
Our tree never had a theme, but rather it was made up of heirloom type ornaments that hinted at our various interests. We had three mini carousel ornaments; one could even be hooked up to a Christmas light socket, causing it to slowly rotate with a quiet "bzzzzz". The carousels all connected to our upbringing in Broome County, NY, the carousel capital of the world.
There were plenty of book-related ornaments, some made of glass, others of wood or metal, representing my parents' careers as librarians. I was always partial to a brown-haired angel in a light pink dress, mostly because it was pink and sparkly. It was one of those delicate frosted glass ornaments that need to be packed in wads of tissue paper, and I usually hung it on a lower branch along with about 15 other ornaments that my parents covertly redistributed over the course of the evening.
There are little Victorian house ornaments whose windows are illuminated by a planted light, reflecting my parents' interest in history and architecture. Here and there are golden ornaments from the annual White House collection, which my cousin Jackie sent periodically while she was working in the FBI. For a while, there was a light-up Starship Enterprise because of my mom's obsession with Star Trek, and later we added a Zeppelin, referencing Randy from A Christmas Story shouting "It's a Zeppelin!" on Christmas morning.
As a kid, we added an assortment of Harry Potter and American Girl Doll ornaments to celebrate the younger generation, and a significant collection of basset hound ornaments to celebrate our family dog. Most of the former have been passed back to me to hang on my own tree, partially so I have things to hang, but also because my parents have more ornaments than they can fit on the two trees that they usually install. There have also been some recent additions of Big Ben and the Eiffel Tower to celebrate trips to Europe.
Over the last few years, my mom has started making ornaments out of her pysanky, and she creates a new design for each year. The first one that I received broke after a tragic hammer related incident, and I keep the other two very safe when not displayed.
Chris and I have also started growing our own collection, including a large blown glass orb from his mom, a ceramic BB-8, and a Tom Brady. While I don't have any Santa figures, I do have some glass snowmen and little trees and pine cones that I decorate with twinkle lights. My parents also gave me a small wintery vignette made of wood with built in lights, which they found in Rothenburg, Germany (a walled town tracing back to medieval times).
They say that nostalgia does not mean living in the past, but bringing the past forward. I like to think that by continuing to decorate my tree with old and new ornaments, I'm bringing forward a lifelong tradition into other parts of my life, while also creating slightly varied traditions in my own household.
After finishing decorating the tree, my family would sit together and play a round of "I spy with my little eye...." while calling out specific characteristics of an ornament on the tree. The only light would be from the colored lights of the tree, which reflected in our eyes as we admired our work. I'm looking forward to having a rich enough selection of ornaments to keep the "I spy" game going in the years to come.
This is my parents' cat, Link. Six years ago, he followed my brother Andy and his wife home one day and they adopted him. Shortly after, Andy needed to move to a different apartment that did not allow pets; my parents "temporarily" took him in, and since then Andy and his wife have bought a house and adopted two dogs without demanding Link return to them. This is because it was pretty clear that Link found his forever home with my mom and dad, who now have an empty nest and are both retired, but love to dote on Link. That said, Link was named after legendary Nintendo character - a complement to my aunt's cat [Princess] Zelda - so my parents regularly adjust this name to the more affectionate "Mr. Binky".
My dad likes to think that Mr. Binky is our deceased basset hound Dewey reincarnated. Dewey died in June 2011. Binky was found in June 2012. When asked his rough birth date, the vet estimated June 2011. He also sometimes races us down the stairs the same way Dewey did (albeit a bit more gracefully).
Binky likes many things. The auto-feeder that dispenses his meals at specific times (he doesn't know that this was incorporated due to weight gain), the indoor water fountain, the birds in my parents' [multiple] cuckoo clocks, the cushy back of the couch, and the view from the window while my mom fills the bird feeder in the backyard.
Binky does not like the cat that my parents' feed once or twice a day with Binky's personal stock of canned wet food. They call him "neighbor kitty" even though a good neighbor kitty would not taunt an indoor kitty like Binky with his outdoor access.
Here is Mr. Binky/Link waiting for me to turn the faucet on in the bathroom so he can paw at the drain and get his head all wet.
Hannah Dunscombe is a painter and portrait artist based out of Brookline, MA.