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Author: JF

Skate thoughts

Skate thoughts

Perhaps the sentiment in my above graphic seems corny or extreme or terminally childish but I assure you that it is also genuine. For me skateboarding has become a tremendous source of comfort. And there are those days.

Whatever anxiety is eating me alive, when I step on the board I am calmed. It’s impossible for me to skate while worrying about other shit. Skateboarding is difficult in a way that demands and, eventually, rewards focus. Progress is hard-won but thrilling.

It’s also a free play activity. Zig and zag however I feel. Not unlike the sort of unconscious play state we get from picking up a crayon and doodling. Even when honed in on learning a specific move, it’s still in the context of whimsical leans, carves, and scrapes as I play my way to the goal.

I could rhapsodize on and on but you get the idea, right? People achieve similar nourishment from other activities, whether playing music or meditating or hiking in the woods. I’m grateful to have found a thing that maps well to my needs and hope you’ve got your thing too.

If you follow me on the accursed platform you’ll see me post clips of my own skateboarding. It’s a bit of self-indulgence that clashes with my usual self-deprecating nature. And yeah, I’m not even good at it! I’ve rolled around on skateboards for most of my life, but I never tried to learn tricks or rode a ramp until my late-forties (yes, I will accept your old man pity points). If you want to watch skateboarding online you have myriad more impressive options than my rickety ass wobbling through the basics. Regardless, I’m proud of what I can do and am inspired by clips of other fledgling skaters finding peace upon their boards.

Hummingbirds and Mysterious Orbs

Hummingbirds and Mysterious Orbs

Here are a couple of new publications, available at my shop now! Both are short, humorous comics, black and white interiors with color covers. Sharp-eyed readers will note that these are reprints of previous work (from my 2021 year of minicomics, color covers are new for these editions) but the print runs on the original editions were so extremely low that I am confident that these are new to you.

I Demand Excellence is about an artist confronting his own mediocrity and his own clogged ear canals.

I was messing around with that dead line-weight and talking about art angst stuff without being too precious.

Hell Bent for Nectar is basically a story about hummingbirds being little bastards. Not gonna try to explain it more than that.

Catching up

Catching up

As mentioned previously, I will be posting new work to Refreshing Rectangles soon. But, in the meantime, here’s a round-up post of the main things I worked on over the past few years.

In 2021 I created and published a new, paper minicomic every month, roughly 140 pages of work. I wrote an in-depth post about the successes and failures of this project. These minis are now mostly out-of-print but I’m going back and reprinting some of my favorites with new, color covers.

In 2022 I published two issues of a new comic series Gnarcadia, about a group of kids creating a space to skateboard from an urban dump zone. There’s some success and failure in those issues as well. After issue 2 it got backburnered but I intend to bring it back with a new issue in a new format.

In 2023 my comics output was mostly limited to 4-panel strips with the title Schmizards posted to Instagram. These have yet to be collected.

I also started getting more into creating sculptures from laminated plywood shapes. I spent the most time working on this black cat guitar stand design.

Otherwise I made a bunch of one-off pieces, cut from plywood on a bandsaw, laminated, and then painted. All of my woodworking art is sold via my Etsy store.

There were other small or dead-end or commissioned projects throughout these years but the above is the tidiest summary for the record. Onward, to the new!

… and we’re back?!?

… and we’re back?!?

It’s been a while since I last posted so here’s a brief explanation on what happened and the posting I intend to resume:

  • I stopped writing comics reviews and other comics hype stuff, which was the original purpose of this blog.
  • I am going to start posting here again, mostly about my own creative work.

Less-brief explanation:

  • After that period of writing about comics I realized that it was taking a bit more time than I’d intended and I liked doing it a bit less than I’d expected. I wanted to reclaim that time for working on my own comics, so I stopped posting to the blog.
  • Of course that coincided with a stretch of wandering in the woods on my own work, experiments, false starts, angst, crying fully-clothed in the shower, etc.
  • *boilerplate harangue about the hell of social media and wanting a venue outside of someone else’s Pavlovian wealth sieve*
  • Once I settled down on some actual projects I started blogging about that work, but behind the paywall of my Patreon. The thinking was, “I have this Patreon from the last project. Use that?” It’s been unsatisfying and pointlessly exclusive.

Voila! I’m back out here in the Zuck-less blog wilderness ready to shoot my mouth off (within reason, I assure)! More soon!

P.S. I’m also discontinuing the new comics release calendar I’ve maintained. I had hoped it would be a useful service but I can tell exactly how few people ever look at it so I’ve decided it’s another bit of personal overhead to reclaim. Poof!

Sk8 Dad Summer by Brett Hamil

Sk8 Dad Summer by Brett Hamil

It’s rare that I pick up a comic so precisely aimed at my own personal situation. As a dad recently returned to skateboarding myself I felt obliged to check out Brett Hamil’s Sk8 Dad Summer. But I was nervous. Other parents often horrify me. What if I dislike this Sk8 Dad person? And what if that hits a bit too close to home and opens up a fresh vein of self-loathing?

I’m happy to report that my fears were unwarranted. This ~60-page volume published by Birdcage Bottom Books is a thoughtful, sensitive examination that got me, yes, stoked. The book starts with a middle-aged man deciding to build a backyard skateboard ramp while thinking back upon a beloved ramp of his youth. From there it’s a chronicle of how that decision fits with the complications of adulthood and fatherhood.

Hamil’s drawing is lovely. Pared-down yet vivid. Most of the book’s text is narration and the drawing always enhances the message–no talking heads or rote illustration.

Though highly readable this is no lightweight fare. Hamil left me with lots to chew on, from how childhood experiences become formative, to the importance of life-affirming activities, to the expectations others put upon us and those we put upon our children. Despite the personal relevance of some of the details for me, it’s not a pandering work. There’s a lot here for anyone in this messy, confusing life whether or not they can ollie.

Self-hype: GNARCADIA #1

Self-hype: GNARCADIA #1

OK, maybe I’ve been a bit neglectful of Refreshing Rectangles for the past month or so, but I have reasons! Mainly, I’ve been working on my new comic book series Gnarcadia. The first issue is out now!

The issue introduces a cast of young skateboarders seeking to make sense of the urban detritus in which they dwell. I plan to make many more stories with these kids, so maybe you should meet them.

You’ve got 2 ways to grab the issue:

Road Show by James the Stanton

Road Show by James the Stanton

Stanton’s bouncy, elastic drawing is impossible to resist. It’s immediately recognizable and overloads the senses like a Jolly Rancher Slurpee on a hot day.

The story starts out as the seeming main character drives to join a cross-country road race, but a suspicious roadblock immediately thwarts this premise. The race and that character fall by the wayside as a series of increasingly outlandish monsters commandeer the narrative. It’s a freewheeling issue that escalates all the way.

Stanton’s hypnotic, swooping lines are backed by exhilarating color. Everything is bright but with a watercolor softness that accentuates the blobby forms.

In reviews I don’t like to say that an artist reminds me of another artist, but as I was reading Road Show the drawings gave me a tingle similar to what I get off Sergio Aragon├ęs. Their styles are completely distinct from each other but they both work the same clump of my cartoon-processing brain cells. I wouldn’t have mentioned it except the feeling was rewarded a few pages later by this bit of chicken fat:

The issue ends without resolution but with a tantalizing panel promising further escalation. I’m braced for Stanton’s next kick to the retina.

Field trip: the Silver Sprocket store in San Francisco

Field trip: the Silver Sprocket store in San Francisco

I was fortunate enough to visit Paris several years ago. Most attractive to me of all of that city’s cultural sites were the comic shops. It was mind-boggling to be surrounded by attractive displays of beautiful books by artists mostly unfamiliar to me, and not a cape in sight. I got the same feeling in the Silver Sprocket store located in San Francisco’s Mission District (1018 Valencia St).

Display of books published by Silver Sprocket

Silver Sprocket is a publisher but their online and physical stores carry books from a wide variety of independent and small press publishers. What’s most striking about the store to me is how much they fit in there. I’m used to stores having a section or a rack devoted to interesting independent work. The Silver Sprocket store is not small, it has a lot of shelves, and it’s all the good stuff.

I love a lot of book shops but I’ve never been in one this comprehensive when it comes to what’s interesting in American comics. They carry bigger independents like Fantagraphics but what’s more impressive is the amount of inventory from publishers like Perfectly Acceptable, Peow, Glom, Kilgore, Strangers, Shortbox, etc plus tons of self-published work. If you’ve been missing small press shows during the pandemic a visit to Silver Sprocket will be dangerous for your wallet.

Everything about the shop is designed to be browse-friendly. Given the chance, one of these books will catch your eye and go home with you, so the layout is all about maximizing that chance. Lots of tiered, forward-facing displays.

There are shelves for specific publishers, all ages books, LGBTQ, and other groupings. Shoppers are encouraged to sit and read.

Sit and read a while.

Another striking feature of French comics shops mirrored by Silver Sprocket is walls covered with art. It’s a gallery above all the books, all for sale, plus bins of additional prints to peruse.

If you like the kind of comics I talk about here and you’re in the Bay Area then the Silver Sprocket store is a must-visit. And if you’re unfortunately located elsewhere, their online shop is pretty good too.