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The transformative power of bristol board

So, it had all the makings of a bad day.

First off, I had a headache -- the remaining dregs of the medicine shock from the weekend. (What a wonderful phrase -- "medicine shock." It's precisely descriptive, of course.) There was a little bit of caffeine withdrawal thrown in, though I took care of that soon enough today (of course, hand in hand with dealing with caffeine withdrawal is also dealing with the jitters from too much caffeine taken in, because it's hard to be rational about how much to drink when you have a headache and feel crappy, and the coffee is warm and the demon is whispering your name and looking fine in her coffee wrapper bikini. But I digress.)

Add to that a number of crappy things at work. Work as a whole was fine, but there were a quarter-ton of annoyances. And they all led up to lunch, when I went to the dining hall twenty minutes before they were supposed to close, and discovered they were, in fact, closed. No food for me. So muttering, I went to the nearby mailroom to grab my mail.

I should mention I'm terrible about mail. I receive it at the school (because I live on campus), which means I'm usually going to actually get my mail maybe twice a week in a good week. Add to that my allergy to the phone -- I am the world's worst phone correspondent. I don't like talking at length on the phone, and I'm terrible about returning phone calls. Anyone who's known me for any length of time knows that. I've reached the point where, having been forced by circumstance (not financial) to change my phone numbers recently, I'm just not giving them out to people. I'm going to see about retaining an official voice mail box for businesses, I'll have my home number which I'll give to my parents and my boss and that's about it, and my cell phone number.

As a point of order, if you call me on my cell phone number and you're not either my mother or currently on fire, you're going to get a pretty pissed off Eric who won't want to play your reindeer games. Hell, if you are my mother, you should be at least smoldering.

Anyway, my point is, I'm a total hermit. It's how I am. Despite my being plugged in for 10-16 hours a day into the most extensive and powerful innovation in telecommunications since Gutenberg first said "well, what if we made woodcuts," I'm pretty much Henry David Thoreau if Thoreau had spent less time ruminating about philosophy and nature and more time watching X-Play on his Tivo. And so I had a big pile of bills, credit card offers, and catalogs waiting for me at the mailroom.

And... I had a slip for a package.

Well, I usually do. I buy stuff. Pretty much all the time. So I went back and redeemed it, and they brought out a cardstock envelope, about 9x12.

"Oh cool," I thought. "One of the prints I've ordered has come in." Because as you know, I love illustration and cartoons and art. I'm addicted to bristol board. I love sketches. I love all this stuff. And I'm... well, not comfortable with asking for it. If I make it to some place on the Con circuit this coming year -- a con where webcartoonists go, as opposed to a con where SF dweebs like me go, mind. I don't expect to meet many cartoonists at Baycon or Arisia unless I bribe them to drop by with promises of beer and sushi -- I'll bring a sketchbook, wander the artist's alley... and probably never say more than twelve words to people. If I do manage to ask for sketches, even if they're doing "free sketches," which a lot will be, I'll force money on them, because I'm terrible about just asking someone to do art for me. It doesn't seem right. I'll be incredibly self-conscious about my name and Websnark, unless it's someone I've established a friendship with. And if it's someone I've established a friendship with, I won't ask them for a sketch in the first place, because I won't want them to think I just want to be their friend for the sketches.

Yeah, I have issues. I own them.

Anyway, this means I commission stuff and I buy prints and I bid in auctions. I bid in the Two Lumps auction and lost out, for example. But there is always tomorrow. And I'm usually waiting on a print or two to come in. Today, seeing the cardstock envelope, I assumed it was a copy of a print I ordered not long ago from Aeire of Queen of Wands, for example. No big deal -- just kind of neat, and I needed "kind of neat" on a day when I was in a bad mood.

So I get the envelope... and the return address is the right state for Aeire, but not the right city. And also, last I knew, Aeire's name wasn't spelled "S. Garrity."

"Well, cool," I thought. "I don't remember what I ordered from Narbonic, but that's nothing new." And then I got excited, because as I've snarked before, Shaenon Garrity has a habit of sketching on packaging. Which means hey, original art I didn't have to sheepishly ask for, from someone whose art I love. So I flip the envelope over....

And Garrity's sketched all right. A Snarky, sleeping peacefully away in his recliner with his comic strips. It's adorable and I'll have to ask Garrity for permission to post it, because I absolutely love it.

Right there... right there... I've gone from "bad mood" to "good mood." This thrilled me, and I haven't even opened the envelope yet. This is the power of cool people who draw.

So, I head out to the car, to drive elsewhere, to get some food because I really am pretty hungry. And I take a few moments to have a look inside the envelope... it is indeed bristol board....

But I know the second I look at it I hadn't commissioned it or ordered it and just forgotten.

You guys know, if you've been reading for a while or if you've read through my "My Comics Page" trawl in the corner, that I love Lynn Johnston and For Better or For Worse. I mean, love it. I've been reading it for years and years and years. I've been watching this family grow and mature and deepen and develop in all the ways Bil Keane's Family Circus doesn't for pretty much my whole cognizant life. FBoFW is one of those strips I point at when I'm told by a cartoonist who's loudly declaiming that there's no quality on the newspaper comics page, that there's just bland retellings and Garfield and Nancy. I point to it and say "you do one thousandth of the quality, the depth, the storytelling and the artistic values of this strip, and then come talk to me about the Newspapers." I don't care if it's merchandized or collected or published or printed or syndicated or anything else: this is a good strip. It's funny when it tries to be funny, and it brings the story better than 99% of any strips I've ever read. The woman does payoffs ten years after the plotline introductions, and yet you never feel it's being dragging. (If you want a trip, trawl through the archives and find the strips where Mike's wife was introduced. Here's a hint -- it was back when Mike thought girls were ooky. And remember these characters age in real time.)

Well, Lynn Johnston did an event at the Cartoon Art Museum of San Francisco not too long ago. And Shaenon Garrity's husband works there, and Garrity herself puts in a lot of volunteer time, or so I'm given to understand. I'm a member of this museum (and if you love cartoons and comic strips, you should be a member too), which Garrity knows.

And so, unsolicited, she decided that since Johnston was there, and she knew I liked Johnston, and she further knew I liked original art... she got Lynn Johnston to do a signature and a sketch for me, and then sent it along.

It's a gorgeous piece. I'd scan it and put it up, but I'm never comfortable doing that with an artist's work. It's in blue ink, and features April and Farley's faces (okay, it's actually April and Edgar, I'm sure, but the dog I grew up with in the strip was Farley, so it's going to be Farley to me.) and an elaborate, beautiful signature and date. Maybe it only took Johnston eight seconds to draw. I don't know. It clearly didn't require any pencil work.

But it's the only one of this kind in the world, and she did it for me. (Well, she did it for Garrity, but hey -- it counts.) This is like getting a sketch from Berke Breathed, or Gary Larson, or Garry Trudeau to me. This is one of the strips that kept me coming back year after year after year to comic strips. I'm writing Websnark now, in no small part, because of a love of the form that Lynn Johnston was a significant contributor to forming in me.

For the record? I'm as happy and pleased, artistically speaking, by the Snarky Garrity sketched for me. But the gesture, the thoughtfulness, and the piece itself just blow me away.

I had been having a bad day. I'm now having a good week.

Thank you, Shaenon. I owe you even more beer now.


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congrats, very cool.

Not sure how I feel about a webcritic getting fanart, though.


congrats, very cool.

Not sure how I feel about a webcritic getting fanart, though.


Hey, this is why I go out of my way to tell you about it. Full disclosure.

Also... this is freaking cool. And really, really made my week.

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