Here’s a web extra for everyone: my comic strip for the Missoula Independent’s annual Comix Issue. It’s in last week’s paper, plus it’s on display at Zootown Brew for the rest of May, along with a dozen or so others. But if you live far away:
I had a hard time with the theme, “Alternative Missoula Facts,” because 1) Must everything always be about Missoula? and 2) Must everything always be about politics? But eventually, I came up with the idea of creating an alternative female-centric history of a few local place names, illustrated it, and sent it in. It’s not my greatest idea ever, but I tried to make up for it with execution.
I urge y’all to check out all the comics in this issue. There are some great ones! Whimsical, unexpected and super-well-drawn. They’re online here.
Potsketch is a benefit auction for the Clay Studio of Missoula. They really have fun with this event. They dress up in costumes and auction off big ceramic pieces– terrifyingly, volunteers prance between the tables, often in high heels, carrying the invaluable vase or whatever raised high above their heads. They also commission fifty or so local artists to create 5″ x 5″ drawings vaguely centered on the theme of pottery. These “potsketches” are sold in a silent auction while everyone’s munching crudites. (You can view this year’s amazing potsketches here.)
This year, I was excited to contribute a piece, a watercolor I called Lil Guy with Teacup:
I was painting at another job all day before the gala, and ran into the women’s room in the fifteen minutes between events, to speed-change and hope that nobody actually needed to use it for, say, peeing. I shucked off my paint-spattered grubbies and slipped into my wedding dress (hey, it’s multipurpose), a cardigan, and some flats, Cinderella-style but without the flowing locks. Then I hopped into the F150 and zoomed over to the University Ballroom.
I’ve been practicing detachment when I give items to charity events, ever since the humiliating experience of watching EVERY. OTHER. THING. sell except my art and some decrepit printer from 1994. But I do let myself enjoy it when things go well. That night, my little art piece got three bids, topping off at a $70 donation to the Clay Studio. So Lil Guy is now in an unknown person’s home, which is a satisfying mystery.
I thought that was it for my Potsketch contribution, but then the woman I randomly sat next to turned out to be a friendly, cool teacher at Willard, our town’s alternative high school. She had fallen for Lil Guy, but didn’t bid in time. “You know, I painted a bunch of studies for that piece,” I said. “Would you like one?” Yes! And that’s how Lil Guy #2 found a home. Bonus: the teacher wanted to pay me, but I demurred, so instead, she donated some money to the Clay Studio. I brought the painting to her classroom and had the chance to meet her students, who were the most welcoming group of teens I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. They even showed me their own artwork.
A couple of days later, I got an email from her, mentioning that her friend, who was also at Potsketch, also loved Lil Guy. I’ve got more, I replied, let’s keep this diaspora flowing! So Lil Guy #3 went to live with the friend, and may eventually lead to an illustration gig down the road… fingers crossed. 🙂
J. had also spoken for one of the Lil Guys, the one that I call Accidental Milhouse. See if you can spot him:
That Lil Guy is going to be framed and hang out on J.’s desk at Scariano Construction.
But did you notice: there’s still one more, the blue-hued Guy in the upper left. Want him? First person to contact me gets him for free!
On a similarly light note… I spend a lot of time on ladders and dropcloths in public places where people walk by and speak their minds. 99% of the time, I love this public element of window painting. The most common utterances are along the lines of “Good job!” and “Wow!” –gratifying, but uninteresting as list items. So I bring you…
Things people say to me, or about me, while I’m painting
(Responses, spoken or only imagined, in parentheses.)
- Do you ever misspell a word? (#1 most common question. Answer: not yet.)
- Mommy, what’s that boy doing? (This one makes me grin.)
- Can I help? (I would love to let you, little girl, but your parents would not enjoy the laundry afterward.)
- Can I touch it? [pretends to stick a finger in the paint] Ha ha ha! (You are a real Seinfeld, buddy.)
- Are you gonna make it look just like the pattern, little lady? (Yes. Yes, I am. And I doubt you would have questioned my ability if I were a man holding this paintbrush.)
- Careful on that ladder! (Again, something I doubt anybody would say to a man.)
- Did you know you smile when you paint? (Aww, that’s great! It’s partly squinting, but I’ll take it as a compliment.)
I applied for and received a grant from the Montana Department of Labor, via the Small Business Development Center, to help me take this trip. (Small businesspeople, I highly recommend meeting up with these folks! It’s free and so helpful!)
It may surprise you to learn that I know next to nothing about brush lettering, despite having done it professionally for years. Back in Georgia, when Jo Knox was teaching me her craft of window and sign art, she tried to teach me lettering with the quill brush, but I couldn’t get it somehow, so my lettering is completely self-taught. I don’t know how to mix the paints… how to palette the brush… how to draw a perfect circle, make a layout, what to hold my mineral spirits in, how to store my brushes in motor oil without getting grease on everything… the list is very long!
So I’m going to unlearn a bunch of habits, and try to pick up some new ones, plus absorb as many tricks of the trade as possible. It’s going to be challenging, and fun! I’ll come home with a new brush and a few beginner signs… and, I promise, photos to follow.
Enjoy spring, everyone!