A Sad & Beautiful World – 2012 Year in Review


It’s been a ghost town here at oneofthejohns for months. Let’s just get to it then, shall we? Here’s my year in review post for 2012.

To be completely honest, it’s been a tough, tough year. We lost our father this summer after a long battle against cancer, and five months later my brother Jeremiah passed away as well. The sickness and death and loss has been a lot to deal with, and it’s been a process that has affected my creativity and motivation. That’s not to say that there haven’t been positive things this year, but I had major plans for myself and where I wanted to take myself professionally, and they’ve stalled for various reasons.

Keep reading for the complete, long-winded recap of the year…

The Good

I haven’t had a lot of illustration work this year, but that’s been a fault of my own. I haven’t pursued the work actively, so I can’t really blame the world or anything that has happened to me for the quietness on that front. That’s not to say I haven’t done anything. I did a major project for ICANNWiki, creating a map that all the attendees of the conference in San Jose, Costa Rica were given. It was was exciting work that was a real challenge and pushed me, but allowed me to show off many of my strengths as an illustrator as well.

I also managed to finish the first draft of the Searchers, which is what I’ve been solely focusing on creatively the last couple of months. It has led to mixed emotions for me. I have never written anything of this length before. I have drawn a graphic novel, but most of the comics writing experience I have has been in the form of 4-20 page comics that are mostly gags that include lots of fist fighting. It’s a completely different thing to tackle the writing of a book. To be honest, I’m not as good at it, and I’m not as comfortable doing it. It’s going to need a lot more work and struggling than the drawing part of the book will.

I gave the first draft to some close friends to read, and there has has been really good constructive criticism. At the same time it’s been hard to hear – not that it’s wrong or I don’t want to hear it. The logical part of me knows that when one creates a drawing, it’s really drawing and redrawing, I understand that writing is a similar process of writing, editing, and rewriting. That being said, the emotional part of me that refuses to listen to the logical part of me  makes me feel like I got punched in the gut and keeps telling me, ‘You suck! You can’t do this! Just give up!’

That feeling isn’t as strong now, and I am looking forward to getting more feedback and have already been brainstorming to fix many of the things that have arisen in the first draft. I need to stop focusing on how overwhelmed I feel about how much more work I have to do on the writing, and realize that it’s a big accomplishment.  I know that you can’t make it to a second draft, third draft, etc. without making a first draft. It’s just tough when I want to start drawing.

The other big accomplishment for me is that many wonderful teaching opportunities have come up for me. This has probably been the most exciting thing for me this year. I’ve always wanted to teach, but have felt that I needed experiences as a professional artist to draw from to teach from. This year gave me that opportunity. I have taught three classes at OCAC – a continuing education Crafting Comics class for adults, a weeklong workshop of the same class adapted for teens, a Character Design class for teens, and a residency with Literary Arts’ Writers in the Schools program that will be starting next year.

There’s that saying, ‘Those that can, do, and those that can’t teach’. I think that’s a load of crap. I love comics, I love making comics, and I love the people in my life that have supported me, encouraged me, and challenged me to pursue that and to do my best. I’ve wanted to give other people that same encouragement and support.

If I may for a second, I’d like to point out the work of one of my students from this summer, Maria. Here’s a link to her tumblr where you see some samples of her work. Go take a look. Now realize that she’s only in 10th grade. She’s so far ahead of where I was at her age, and so far ahead of where I was when I started making comics. She’s got comics smarts, and a natural gift for storytelling. The girl is a natural. She’s got a lot of things to work on, but she’ll work those out with time. I can’t wait to see everything and anything she does.


Seeing her work and being in touch with her has been inspiring to me. She’s so willing to learn and to work and just has so much fun drawing. It’s something else I realized about teaching – I’ve learned so much about myself and my work and my creative process in the process of teaching. To have to break down and articulate something that has almost become second nature to you is a difficult process. It forces to look at it and think about it in a different way. Everyone learns! Yay!

Oh, and MK and I won the Carla Cohen Free Speech Award at the NAIBA this year for Americus. It’s the first comic to win the award, and MK wrote a very lovely speech at the conference that she posted on her tumblr. I was unable to go because I was teaching that weekend, but she did an amazing job representing both of us.

The Bad

I have lost two of the closest people in my life in a matter of months. I have been having to learn how to live with that everyday. They meant the world to me, and I am still trying to figure it out. It’s been a difficult process, and it will probably take a long, long time until I’ve sorted it out.

I haven’t made anywhere near the professional strides that I was hoping to in the time that I’ve left Powell’s back in August. I know that finishing the first draft of my first book is an accomplishment, but it’s hard for me to see that, especially when I’m used to having tangible things like finished drawing to gauge that. I know that there’s a bit of leeway dealing with the deaths in the family and adjusting to life changes, but I also know that I’ve been in a creative funk that has been hard to pull myself out of. It’s a fine line between being too hard on yourself and pushing yourself and keeping yourself to task. I’m on a clock, and if I don’t figure things out soon, I’ll be forced to look for another day job, which although it won’t be the end of the world, it will be really hard not to take that as a sense of failure. This sense of failure is magnified because I feel like I want to succeed for both my Dad and Jeremiah, to try to do something meaningful in the face of the loss of both of them.

I also feel like my approach to creating images is stagnant and needs an overhaul. It’s something I felt when I quit Powell’s in August, and it’s something that still needs to be addressed. It’s a big challenge to re-evaluate the way in which I approach drawing and the creative process  and to break out of old habits. But where there are challenges, there are opportunities. This is an opportunity for me to grow and to learn new things, and reflect on myself as well. The trick is I don’t really know where to start or how to reboot the way I’ve been thinking for as long as I can remember.

The Lovely

The positive side of all of this is that as shitty as this year has been, it’s almost over, and tomorrow is a new opportunity. I know that it’s kind of ridiculous to think of time like that because really, what does one year, or one month, or one day matter? Good things happen, and bad things happen. But it’s nice, mentally, to think of fresh starts, new beginnings and all that.

And out of all of the horrible, horrible things that have happened this year, positive things have happened. So many lovely people in my life have given me their love and their support and encouragement. I’ve felt so alone, and it’s been nice for everyone that has reminded me that I’m not.

So here’s to the new year and to everything that is on the horizon!

4 thoughts on “A Sad & Beautiful World – 2012 Year in Review

  1. Love you so, Jonathan. Hang in there and don’t beat yourself up for being not at the level you wanted to be just yet– these things can take time, even not counting such huge losses. I definitely want to help however I can– we’re going to make 2013 so wonderful, I promise. xoxox!

    • Thanks for being such a good friend, and for being there for me through it all, Meg. Here’s to the future and making good things happen in 2013. xoxo.

  2. Jonathan, I am so sorry to hear of Jeremiahs passing. I know you will succeed in whatever you go forward with in 2013, your father and your brother are with in spirit. And I do think of Ben quite often, which is why I go to your blog every once in a while.

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