Needles and Nikki

I discovered two amazing things in one day yesterday – how cool Nikki McClure‘s work is in person, and what a cool venue is Needles and Pens Gallery. I’ve seen Nikki’s work around, in beautiful books like “Collect Raindrops” and calendars, and I’d always assumed her bold black line work was either woodcuts or pen and ink drawings, but NO. They are exquisite papercuts, painstakingly X-actoed out of a single sheet of black paper. Being somewhat challenged in projects that require neatness and patience, to me her pieces up close looked impossibly intricate. What a delight to get to stare at about twenty pieces to my heart’s content, imagining what a calm, centered person McClure must be.

These are some pics from the show off of Needles and Pens’ website:

And I will be back to Needles and Pens! Located in the Mission District of San Francisco where I live, it is my new favorite place to check out zines and other handmade things from the local DIY crowd. Jewelry, clothing, journals, comics, so much that I love…so nice when you find a little piece of heaven in your very own neighborhood.


What It Is by Lynda Barry

When I heard that Lynda Barry, one of my comics artist heroes, had a new book I rushed out to get it. It’s big and beautiful and bound with a hardcover that begs to be cherished. I devoured it in a day, but will go back to it many, many times as it’s filled with densely collaged images that inspire as well as activities that promote creation of your own. Part philosophical discussion on image making and why we do it, part  “how to” on writing or drawing your own stories, it is also sprinkled with autobiographical comics of Barry’s own artistic journey.
This is a fantastic book for anyone interested in the process of making art or writing stories. For those too scared to let themselves create, even Barry shares her fears and neurotic tendencies to judge her work, but gives prompts that help those in search of that “strange floating feeling making lines on paper” can only give. She encourages you to just stay in motion, and no need for precious materials – most of this book was made with ink on yellow legal pads and each page is filled with line drawings of sea creatures, birds, monkeys, extravagant patterns, doodles, collages, and images that provide a glimpse into her crazy creative mind, and make you want to go make stuff.
My favorite page is when she posits a hypothetical scenario where you open an old can of pork and beans and a genie offers to release you from your own can. “If a genie offered to free you from a dull, canned life, what would you say?” If you say, Yes please!, then go get this book. It may not instantly make you an award-winning author or acclaimed artist, but it will help you get one step closer to living “out of the can”.


Three years with Dude!

Today is the three-year anniversary of adopting my dog, The Dude. It’s a miraculous story how he ended up here in San Francisco with me, all thanks to the kindness of strangers.
The first year of his life is a mystery, but somehow this Beagle/Bassett mix found himself wandering the streets of Taipei. Students at a university actually found him on a bus, and took him back to their dorm, but couldn’t take care of him for long. They saw a flier about dog rescue and called Chia-wen, the guardian angel of dogs unlucky enough to be strays in that city. According to the World Society for the Protection of Animals, Taiwan is the worst place in the world for stray animals, and there are over a million stray dogs. When they are captured and taken to a public pound, the majority are euthanized, often in inhumane ways like drowning and electrocution.
Chia-wen is on a one-woman mission to save the strays of Taipei from this fate. She knows she can only make a small difference, and that the only way to solve the larger problem is for Taiwan to implement a more aggressive spaying and neutering program (which she is helping to do on a grassroots level), but she does what she can. To date, she has found homes for over 300 dogs, all while keeping her day job. Plus, she has kept four of them herself.
She zoomed over on her scooter and picked Dude up from the students, got him neutered, placed him in a kennel and kept him there with her own money for almost a year, taking him out every weekend to try to get him adopted. When she finally accepted that at fifty pounds he was just too big for families in Taipei to consider taking home, she decided to send him to the United States. She contacted Wonder Dog Rescue in San Francisco and found out they had room for him. Then she found someone who was flying to the US who agreed to check Dude in as baggage. Chia-wen has done this many times, sending dogs to the States and to Germany. She pays for the crates and any shipping charges, and arranges for them to be picked up at the airport.
Once he got to Wonder Dog, they quarantined him and made sure he was healthy, then he stayed at a foster home in Burlingame for about a month, until I saw a posting about him on craigslist and brought him home with me. Now he lives a dog’s dream life, going out with me on long walks, and acting as poster boy for the collars I make. $1 of each sale of The Good Life collars goes to organizations like Wonder Dog and to support Chia-wen’s solo efforts.
You can check Wonder Dog Rescue and Chia-wen’s blogs to see dogs available for adoption, to donate to their wonderful causes, volunteer to be a foster parent, or to check in a dog as baggage if you’re flying out of Taiwan. (Just a warning, the pictures of strays on Chia-wen’s blog are sometimes very graphic in documenting the level of medical attention they need when she finds them. It could break your heart.)


Illustration Friday runner up

This was another sketch I did in response to Illustration Friday‘s theme this week, “strings”.  It’s how I imagine getting my lazy dog, Dude, to get his booty in gear. Now, if I could only find what would keep me moving forward on my goals like this. What keeps you moving forward?