The elephant is a symbol of memory. One strand in this series will be memoir, my stories.

Welcome to the first post in my After Reading series, an exploration of ideas about books, the internet, and machine life. Above is my illustration of an elephant. I sketched the elephant as a symbol of memory. One strand in the telling of this series will be memoir, my stories. Jumbo was a famous elephant whose life ended in my hometown of St. Thomas, Ontario. A life-sized statue of Jumbo has been erected there. The elephant is also used as a brand by the Evernote software I use to keep notes today. It spans the range of time for me. The elephant also symbolizes intelligence and wisdom. Its image is used by religious and political groups. The “elephant in the room” is an expression of important and unspoken truths. The series will make its way through all these subjects. Welcome.

Trump — Evil yes, Genius no

Trump — evil yes, genius no. We are stunned by Trump’s bulldozer run of executive orders. He has caused distress and confusion worldwide. He has accelerated violence. Muslims have reason to be afraid. I rarely use the word, but this is evil. We are angry and venting. Protest is everywhere.  

Analysts call Trump’s tactic a “shock event”, a ploy to numb us in advance of worse things. Experts caution that fatigue and desensitization is exactly what Trump wants, that we are playing into his clever hands, as if he is a mastermind. We are jarred again by this analysis. Should we subdue ourselves in wait for the unnamed big one? Or, we wonder, are the analysts unwittingly colluding with Trump by silencing us? To cry out and wear out, or to smolder in silence? Be sure, anger and protest is the healthy response of normal human beings in the face of hate.

Trump is not a mastermind. Honestly, we cannot be surprised, every action was a campaign promise. I am sure his supporters are very impressed. It was predictable. True, he acted quickly, giving no time for debate, but he never wanted any. We are adapting. We can track more than one event at a time. We have a list: the repeal of healthcare, cuts in foreign aid to groups that support abortion, authorization for pipelines and the Mexican wall, shutting out refugees and banning Muslims from travel. Every hit is in our ledger. There will be a reckoning for everything.

Truth has more genius than Trump. Ego and greed power hate and destruction, but they are weaker than truth and hope. Truth survives all lies. It enlists unexpected allies. Truth provides moral clarity and infinite energy. We will not let up. 

La La Land. It tugs at your heart strings if you’re a twenty-something arts student, and I was once.

It’s snappy, it’s sexy, it’s fun. If a love story is measured by the obstacles the lovers must overcome then La La Land is the complement, lovers falling into each other’s arms then life prying them apart. It tugs at your heart strings if you’re a twenty-something arts student, and I was once. You can’t say it’s too Hollywood — it is Hollywood at its sweetest. If you love musicals and dance movies you will like La Land Land. 

10 Lessons Learned from my first Comic Strip

  1. Just dive in. Draw the first panel, draw the last, draw a couple in between. Rough sketches. Took me about ten minutes. Scanned it, posted it. A hit. Ta da, I was a Comic Artist.
  2. Comic art is about life. You don’t have to be a comic to write a comic strip. Just pay extra attention to what’s going on in your day. Plenty of material there.
  3. Use a square rather than a long rectangle. A square, two panels on top, two on the bottom. Versus a long rectangle of four panels in a row like a newspaper comic. The square work better for sharing images on line. You can see the whole square on Instagram, but not the rectangle. 
  4. One single square is best for the web. Attention is scarce on the web. I put my hand to web comics because I have learned that visuals work much better than text on the web. For the same reason, one square of content works better than four. Precious few will slow down enough to real four panels of story.
  5. Keep your series short too. I intended to start a political comic with the subject changing day to day. Thing is, I started the day before the US election, figuring Hillary would win. The surprise outcome fueled a story 25 comics long. I have no doubt readers could not keep up with every post.
  6. I prefer pencil colour over markers. Thin black ink is essential for contrast on the web. I tried colour markers and they come across more boldly, but I prefer the warmth and texture of pencil colour.
  7. Mind your choice of paper for digital. 50 or 70 lb paper is nicer for hand drawing but shows yellower when you scan to digital. 100 lb “bristol” paper is hard and not so nice for drawing but scans clean white. Given my preference for pencil colour, I tradeoff at 70 lb.
  8. Create a handwriting font of your own. Writing dialog or other text by hand is problematic. It is hard to space it right. Using a standard font loses character. A custom handwriting font is easy to build and keeps your charm. (Full disclosure. I still don’t have one that works just right. Soon.)
  9. Use free digital tools. I draw by hand, then clean up and present using digital tools. I mix and remix the drawings, mostly using MS Paint. Paint does about 90% of what I need. More recently I have used the open source GIMP for complex layering.
  10. Publish your comics on social media. I used a WordPress blog as my comic home, and distributed over Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Google+ and sometimes posted on Reddit. I built it. They came. 

Our Common Cause (and the end of the comic)

The first comic in “The Sky is Falling” was sketched in minutes, satisfying an impulse to start a political comic strip. I figured the US election was a good kickoff subject, and that I would move along after Hillary won. The surprise win of Trump jarred my reality and became the ongoing subject of the strip, a form of therapy as I adjusted to the new reality, both in the US and in Canada. The reference to Star Trek in the first comic was random, but the show’s fictional technology served well to save Chicken Little, and its philosophy to offer hope. The view of earth from space is, to me, a symbol of transcendence and hope. I spent increasing time on each comic, including three hours on this last one. Time for a break. I hope you have enjoyed this strip.