Last night was the second week of my fall 2017 Comics Studio workshop. It’s the third time I’ve taught this class, and it’s different every time.
One of the exercises from last night was:
“Draw a comic that answers the following questions,
1. What is fear?
2. Where is it located?
3. How do you conquer it?”
I often participate in these exercises along with the students. Here is what I made for this one:
Even though I plan the exercises, I am often surprised at what comes out of them. My students are thoughtful and creative and brave. They come up with things I never would have expected. They inspire me, and I try to be as in the moment as they are, only drawing what comes to me in that moment.
Try this exercise, if you like.
What is fear?
Where is is located?
How do you conquer it?
Why would Giles think his name is Archie? I have been a fan of Archie Comics since I was seven-years-old and happen to have an Archie bobblehead doll that Giles loves to play with. He runs around the house carrying it, shouting, “Ah-chee, Ah-chee!”
One of my nicknames for Giles is “chonchy.” This is something our mom called my sister and I, one of her little pet names for us. I probably call Giles “chonchy” more often than I call him “Giles.” It’s possible that “Ah-chee” is his attempt at “chonchy.”
I wonder what his friends will call him. What all the nicknames of his life will be.
Today, September 6, 2017 would be my mom’s 59th birthday if she were still alive.
When I think about being a mom, my own role as Giles’ mom, I think a thousand times a day what my own mama would think about how I am doing. How would she do this or that…and especially the light on her face as she would hold Giles, play with him, talk with him.
Grief doesn’t go away. You don’t move on. Sometimes I know how to hold it and sometimes I don’t.
I put Nina Simone on for Giles’ nap today. Her voice, cool and deep and full– music seems to be Giles favorite thing, the thing that fills his heart. Well, that and food. And books. And balls. And laughing. He loves it all.
Mama was the most alive person I knew. Until Giles. He is so very alive.
She is in his eyes. She is somewhere in him.
Viola Rose Moriarty would be 59 today. She was an artist. Her life was her best art. She was my mom.
From her blog, April 4, 2010:
Today I called my family in Denver to wish them a Happy Easter. We had coffee with the NYTimes and sportsreporters and Ina…the Sunday morning slow start. Ahhhh…….
And then we finally pulled on some work clothes and got started.
We worked on our list of home chores, taking care of the live things first. Toilet scrubbing and floor washing and paying bills and writing thank yous and making donations, both in things to pass on and in the checks we could write now. We prepped for the week and cleaned the fish tank and the litter box and filled bird feeders and cleaned out the gardens, watered and fed the plants, finally making lists for things that can’t be done today and how much we’ll need to fix or do them later—all the little and big maintenance things that keep a home running.
Today we “counted” the chickadees starting their nest in the little house just outside our backdoor as they do every spring, and the forsythia’s first yellow blooms. We counted the garlics and crocuses and bits of herbs and bulbs that all made it through another winter. They survived and so did we. We tested the fish tank water and put out the bird baths.
And then we had a good salad for an early dinner and went to a movie at our arthouse theatre where we are members.
I love this feeling of participating in my life, of doing it together with Jon. Of making a home.
Foundation in lovingkindness. We do the best we can for all who reside here with us and around us.
This “making a home” stuff– this is where I feel most like my mom. More even than making art. I am making a home, participating in my own life. Foundation in lovingkindness.
Happy birthday, Mama. I love you.
Thanks to mom friends Lizzie (panel #5) and Frances (end image) for their words which I used in this comic along with my own.
People mean well when they say “enjoy every moment” and “it goes so fast” (even I do it sometimes). Maybe the next time you feel like you are going to say one of these things, just say something else instead.
“You look great!”
“Your baby is awesome.”
“You’re doing a great job.”
“Can I buy you a coffee?”
Weaning was hard. We started when Giles was nine months old. It was slow, and difficult, and most of all, emotionally exhausting. The guilt, the ups and downs of my moods, the crying and feeling all the things. It took us so long just to choose which formula to get. I held Giles in my arms, giving him a bottle of formula for the first time, tears pouring out of my eyes and a beer in my hand.
The hardest part was one week after I nursed for the last time. Suddenly my emotions hit me. Hard. Every half hour or so I sobbed uncontrollably. Nothing specific would set off the crying jags, and I couldn’t stop them. It was almost like I was immediately postpartum again, with roller coaster emotions and hormones.
Apparently there is a thing called “Post Weaning Depression.” Once I figured this out (through a mixture of online research, texts with Berkshire Nursing Families, and a friend), I felt a lot better, just knowing it was normal. After a couple weeks my hormones leveled out.
But there was a period of time when I felt so awful and didn’t understand it.
It takes our bodies and minds a very long time to balance out after giving birth. I don’t know how long because after a year things are still changing. Maybe I will be living in a transitional state for the rest of my life. Maybe we are always in a transitional state.
And we never get out bodies “back.” That is not a thing. We only move forward.
I’ve recently started painting with acrylics, and I love it! My mother-in-law gave me her late father’s art supplies, which included a set of acrylic paints, an easel, and a pad of paper pallets (kind of like wax paper that you can use as a paint pallet). I got some canvas boards and started playing around, and fell in love very quickly.
There’s something about painting: using brushes, the squishy paint, playing with color and light, the amount of time it takes…it’s meditative and fun and physical. It connects me with my mom. I’ve always preferred pens and markers, but now I really understand the pull of paint.
I’ve been doing a lot of still lifes, and some portraits and self-portraits. Inspired by my sister I am making comic paintings– this is what I am most excited about. My new thing. I remember so clearly as a kid seeing this print hanging in the condo of a family friend:
Drowning Girl, by Roy Lichtenstein
Something really attracted me about this. And even though it’s been many years since I’ve seen it, it stuck with me. That’s how it is with the best art– those special pieces that stay with you, stitched into your mind.
I’m really excited to make more comic paintings. There’ll be an exhibit at Images Cinema in August.