This is the story of how Kristen Haas Curtis and I made a thing together, #bythebones, a game of randomized constraints that helps you create diary comics. If you’ve never tried diary comics, this is a fun way to start. If you have, it’s a good way to challenge yourself or get out of a rut.
I’ve been making comics on and off kind of forever. Comics run in my family, so I made them a bit as a kid, and then about four or five years ago I started feeling the need to tell stories with words and images. This June I committed to making diary comics, and Kristen and I devised #bythebones as a way to help with layout and structure, and to overcomplicate things in a fun way.
You can find the full instructions at Kristen's site, hellomizk.com, and you can follow her diary comics and other comics on Twitter (@hellomizk) and Instagram (@hellomizk).
Here are a few examples of my #bythebones comics from the last couple of months, and I'll be posting new ones this week on Instagram and Twitter. If you decide to play along, please use the hashtag #bythebones. Good luck and have fun!
I sketched the top two at the symphony in September. It was the Memphis Symphony Orchestra's opening show for the season and it was fantastic!
The bottom one is of the Rhodes College Jazz Band, which opened for the Sun Ra Arkestra.
Friday night I got to see the Sun Ra Arkestra with my friends. It was one of the most amazing things I've ever seen or heard. They continue, even after Sun Ra's passing, to be an amazing band that can play jazz standards and can throw in discordant notes and singing about space and the occasional old man screaming into a microphone. It was perfect.
The multi-colored pencil was a good choice, though I wore it down to a nub by the end. I regret not having a sparkly pen because they were all in sequins!
The Memphis Urban Sketchers were the guests of Paper & Clay and Question the Answer on Saturday and it was So Fun! We schedule extra Saturday sketches during October because the weather is usually so lovely, but it was chilly and drizzly on Saturday. Which was perfect! It was so cozy in the studio/shop, and the back door was open revealing a perfect view of the Broad Avenue water tower. We all settled in with coffee and snacks and mimosas (provided by our hostesses!) and played with the adorable studio puppy as we sketched the shop, inside and out.
The pink bubble wrap hanging from the ceiling was a popular subject, as was the water tower. I loved getting a chance to sketch the kilns.
The work of both of these women - Brit’s ceramics (Paper & Clay) and Lauren’s jewelry (Question the Answer) - is really amazing and everyone should visit them at their physical shop and online (please google them as I cannot figure out how to add links via my Weebly app on my iPad) and buy all of their stuff.
(Stillman & Birn Alpha, ink and watercolor)
A couple of weeks ago I went with some friends to Snow Lake in Mississippi just to have a couple of days away from regular stuff. We went out on a pontoon boat, floated in the lake, kayaked and did one of those balance board things. We watched Moonstruck, ate a lot of cheese, drank a lot of wine, and just had a lovely visit with each other.
I made the sketch on the left before breakfast on Saturday morning, using watercolor only in preparation for my Sketching with Watercolor class at Flicker Street Studio – I can never seem to leave class prep behind.
On the boat that morning I sketched a few friends with my multi-colored pencil.
After boating and trying the balance board and drinking a little bit of wine I made this sketch that looks messy but feels accurate – it was a bright, sunny, lovely, relaxing day.
I think the every day/everyday practice of sketching informs your big sketching opportunities (like sketching iconic places/travel sketching), maybe even more than the other way around. At the Urban Sketchers Symposium we talk about capturing the stories of the places we visit, but the sketches we do during an average day tell a story, too. I try to think of daily sketching like that - what am I doing today that I can capture in a quick sketch. I often sketch my coffee cup in the morning, and when I run errands I try to take a few minutes to sketch where I am. If I'm consistent, I end up with a page that describes a little bit of my day or my week. It's not exciting or exotic, but it's my life.
I'm ruminating on a trip I took to New York three years ago today. It was three days on my own, an "intense art immersion to help get my painting mojo back." I wrote in my blog about the painting slump I was having, and my goals for the trip (here, here, and here).
At the time I was working on a series of oil paintings about places and memory that I called The Memory Disease. The trip helped it along - I made small black and white paintings when I returned. But at the time I didn't know that within two months we would be initiating the process to sell our house and buy another, disrupting my art-making for months. I also didn't know that a year later I would make the decision to take a break from oil painting and abandon that series altogether.
But now, after a year and a half of working on small ink, watercolor, and gouache paintings (Story of Travel and Small Worlds), and creating a story told in images and rendered in ink (Story of a Girl), I am back at oils working on a new series I'm calling Place Shapes (for now).
I decided to look back at my sketchbook from August 2015 to see my notes about the art I was seeing. What I thought might help me in the studio then could also be helpful to me now.
,But when I looked at it I realized how much of what I saw and experienced there lives with me still, even after abandoning the series that was giving me problems, even going through different ways of working in the studio.
Jacob Lawrences' Migration Series is still a narrative without text and slightly abstracted, flattened out, graphic, with a focus on shapes, and all of that lives in the place where I keep my art knowledge. The thing I bring to the studio other than the intrinsic drive - the thinking and looking and talking and writing - has been been a focus since my dinner and talk with Paul Behnke and Robin Stout (predates that - they got me refocused). The Moroccans by Matisse is still a justification and a goal for every new thing I want to try. Sargent's balance of loose and tight, detailed and not lives in my veins. And the 8th floor terrace at the Whitney is my happy place.