The Truth About Mr. Mug

facebook_mr_mug

There were so many “likes” and encouraging comments about my Mr. Mug book, I’m a little ashamed to admit it was a joke. Mr. Mug was a product of my wry sense of humor, and came forth from whimsical doodles drawn between more “serious” projects. I didn’t think anyone would actually believe I was doing a children’s book in which the main character apparently kills himself.

My favorite children’s book creator, Shel Silverstein, had a dry & dark sense of humor too. He created a picture book called “Uncle Shelby’s ABZ Book” in which he playfully encourages kids to drink ink and put sugar in daddy’s gas tank because there’s a little horse in there and horses like sugar. They put a big “For Adults Only” sticker on the cover lest it turned kids into homicidal demons.

shelby3

I’m grateful for the support anyway. I’m lucky to have supportive friends and family who want to see my work published. Perhaps one day I’ll actually do a book staring Mr. Mug — he seems to be a likable guy.

Meanwhile, a REAL project is nearing completion. Stay tuned!

Vipassana & A New Year

Recently I completed a 10-day silent mediation course called Vipassana. During these 10 days you are not supposed to talk, gesture, touch, or look into the eyes of another human. In addition, books and writing materials are not allowed. Instead you live a simple monk-like existence and meditate 8 hours a day.

With a routine like this, there is nowhere to hide from yourself. No distractions to soothe the pain in your mind. From deep in the subconscious, thoughts bubble to the surface: thoughts which bring pleasure or discomfort, craving or aversion. Your job is only to watch these sensations ripple through the body and remain objective. Equanimous.

habits2

To call it a mediation “retreat” would be misleading. It’s fucking work, and can be torture. There were times I wanted to yell in frustration at my wandering, neurotic, impulsive mind. Us humans like to think we’re independent agents with free will, when in fact we’re dominated by our conditioning and habitual thought patterns. Vipassana helped me understand this on an experiential level, and has given me the tools to affect change.

I really got to experience how all my suffering and unhappiness resides only in my mind. It’s not caused by any person or any situation. IT-IS-ONLY-IN-MY-MIND. The good news is: that’s also where an eternal spring of happiness flows, and all it takes to bathe in those refreshing waters is awareness, patience, and persistence.

The mind is also where creativity lives. If you can hush all your crazy bullshit, magic is there for the taking.

Needless to stay, I’m excited to see where things go from here. I feel like I’ve reached a turning point in my life… coinciding with the turning of the sun. (happy solstice!)

——————————–

Related:
Vipassana TEDx Talk
Learn More/Find a Course

Ten Thousand Hours

I told her I’d only send my manuscript if she was ruthlessly honest. The next three years of my life could hang in the balance, and this was no time for subtlety.

“What you have here are three different books.  Can they be cohered into one graphic novel?  It’s possible, but, ultimately, I think that’s far more trouble than it’s worth.  More importantly, it doesn’t feel like that’s what the books want.  I think they are their own things, and what follows are my thoughts on each of them…”

Thus began the three-page single-spaced critique of my graphic novel.

In the days after receiving this, I went though old journals and added up the time spent working on this book. While doing so, I noticed some interesting things. For instance: This book was conceived the day after the woman I foresaw spending a lifetime with exited my existance. I observed how in the weeks following, I threw myself into the project, working on it five, six hours per day, like a man desperately trying to establish a purpose, a new identity, after having his world turned upside-down.

I also noticed how as time went on, I worked on it less, until last Spring I ceased to work on it at all. The problem with continuing is: I’m no longer compelled like I once was. In fact, the prospect of returning to the book resembles a joyless chore, and while I once firmly believed that an artist must suffer for their art, I choose not to believe this anymore. I choose to live a joyful existence.

The hermit of my book would balk at this. Sorry bub.

The fact of the matter is: I’m a different person now than I was two years ago. My mistake was making this book too ambitious, requiring so much time to complete, its initial emotional catalyst couldn’t carry it though to completion. Had I narrowed the subject matter and made the book a quarter or half as long, I would have something complete right now.

Oh well.

I was ignorant when I began; uncertain of how much time and energy it takes to create a book. Now I know.

700.3 hours. Seven-hundred point three hours is what it costs to get half a book. If you add the life-drawing sessions, the Prince Paupers, the Portland comics, and all the others, I’ve probably spent a thousand hours drawing in the past two years. Catharsis has never been so productive.

So it is with gratitude I place this book upon the shelf, believing with all my heart:
nothing is wasted; everything, a lesson.

——————–

Special thanks goes out to Sarah, who provided an incredibly thoughtful analysis of my manuscript.

Related reading:
http://www.wisdomgroup.com/blog/10000-hours-of-practice/

Prepared for the Best

stocked_for_winter_v2

This comic may be a little premature — apparently winter doesn’t begin until December 21st. But for me, the year is composed of two meta-seasons: the Season of Action, and the Season of… I dunno… Slowness?

The comic above has actually been revised from the first version. Last year, my comics were an outlet to bemoan and emotionally purge. This winter, I refuse to be absorbed in discontent. For someone as blessed as I’ve been, complaining is, at the least, tawdry and tasteless.

Wishing you a happy and warm winter, dear readers.

Something Poetic

He spent the morning watching time seasoned men fell trees. He admired how accurately they aimed the tall and heavy towers, bringing them down exactly where they wanted, sparing the homes from the looming menace and allowing sunshine to once again douse hardwood floors, rugs, and happy inhabitants. The way the ground trembled upon impact was thrilling.

Now, back home, his empty stomach laments over missed breakfast and demands meat. He fixes tuna fish, regretting having earlier sentenced his last celery stick to the compost bucket. He briefly considers going to the garden to obtain fresh celery, but is much too hungry for extravagances. Instead, he walks the plate of sandwich and potato chips to the front porch, rests in the old rocking chair, and resumes reading his novel. By the time the chapter is finished, he’s collecting potato chip crumbs on wet fingers, but since the wealthy old woman has been seducing her young house-guest behind the back of her sickly husband, he can’t help but read another chapter.

With lunchtime consummated, he vaguely wonders what to do next. His options are simple and revolve around wood: he could put the excess cedar siding undercover, he could finish making curtain rods from doug fir poles, or he could split some wood for tonight’s fire. Instead he gets up and sweeps the tan and ocher oak leaves from the porch. “What’s the rush?” he asks. It feels like the seasons, and time itself, are slowing down — dropping like leaves and thermometer mercury. He loves this porch nearly much as anything.

He sits back down and stares into the distance, not thinking as much as watching. Little flies dance like dust motes in the afternoon sun, stark against the forest green backdrop. He knows the rain is coming, and this could be the last sunshine for a while, but he’s okay. He feels okay all over, even under his skin, and he wonders why he hasn’t always felt this way. Is it a secret he’s discovered? If it is, it’s not the sort he could tell you in words and sentences. Heck, whatever it is, he doesn’t even know if it’ll be here tomorrow. Doesn’t know if it will persist past the setting of the sun.

He gets up to split some firewood, one of his favorite activities these days.

Redwood Refresher

trying

Dry lightning has sparked many wildfires in southern Oregon, and thick white smoke lies heavy and stagnant in the valleys, making even close mountains disappear from sight. My throat feels like coarse sandpaper, my lungs like dry paper bags. It was the pursuit of fresh pacific air that caused me to flee to the coast this weekend, and while initially it felt like an inconvenience, it proved itself a blessing.

The Redwood coast is my church. A place where worship flows out, yet I am filled. A place where time and eternity meet, and offer a new perspective. A place crudely depicted on my very own website banner, yet rarely visited in person. Thankfully I was smoked out of my comfort zone and reminded of this unique pagan temple, so close to home.

Rumi has been my morning companion for some time now, and he joyfully followed me into the forest, laughing in his mischievous way; he thanking I, and I thanking him. Rumi is a treasure trove of wisdom and arcane knowledge, and by spending time with him, I feel like my understanding is deepening. If the Bible is the Way of the Servant, the Bhagavad Gita is the way of the Warrior, the Tao Te Ching is the way of the Monk, then Rumi is the way of the Storyteller. It is also the Way of Devotion and Adoration. Rumi, steeped the Sufi tradition, speaks to me more than any other spiritual text I’ve encountered, and goes to show that spirituality need not be so damned heavy and serious. Like a whirling dervish, Rumi’s words fly off the page, playful, humorous, racy enough to make a prostitute blush. Not all translations are created equal, however. I highly recommend “The Essential Rumi” by Coleman Barks.

Ever since leaving my Corporate Life and pursuing the Artist’s Path, I’ve felt a tremendous amount of pressure to perform: to create something big, worthwhile, world-changing. And while that desire is indeed a God-given vehicle by which to move forward, too much of it causes paralyzing anxiety. Visiting the coast helped me gain perspective on Art in relation to Life.

Fact is, I’m not just an artist. I’m a son, a brother, a lover, a friend. I’m a community member, a volunteer, a worker, and an activist. There are many roles I play in life, and while “Artist” is important to me, it does not adequately define who I am. The clean pacific breeze whispered in my ear: being an artist is not a destination but a way of living, a lifetime journey. I could live to be five-hundred and still not “arrive” as an artist. Likewise, I can die without having created something world-changing and still have lived a great life.