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January 23rd, 2023

Self Acceptance: It’s Not Just For Sexualty

That R. Crumb comic page nearly everyone knows titled, Keep On Truckin’…which he called “the curse of my life” and “that stupid little cartoon” because it’s been so ripped off and commercialized…that’s actually his riff on a 1936 song by Blind Boy Fuller titled Truckin’ My Blues Away. Each panel in the comic has a line from the song, and a Crumb drawing of various city folks strutting along to the tune. It was a fun little comic and I am truly sorry it caused Crumb so much grief when the rest of the world seemingly just appropriated it. But that happens to artists when some random little thing they do suddenly clicks in the mass conscious. At least he finally did get his copyright back on the artwork.

When I thought to do my own take on Randy Newman’s You Can Leave Your Hat On, I decided to do it in the spirit of the R. Crumb comic, with each panel containing a line from the song and some artwork to go with it, but not an exact rendering of the song, just letting the artwork bop along with it. And I am making Amazing progress on it now. A big part of that is self acceptance of the fact that I’m not a fast worker, I can’t just dash out a drawing, and that I am a hunt and peck draftsman and that is how it will always be. And so I’m finally adjusting my work habits and expectations around all that, instead of trying to be something I am not because I believed I should be that or I wasn’t any good. Also, that I need to walk away from the work periodically and come back to it to see it with fresh eyes, and see what is right and what needs more work.

I find that I am at my best when I let my work habits align with my nature and that I can push myself to get it right if I align my work habits with how my brain tackles a problem. It’s okay to be a hunt and peck draftsman. It’s okay to take my time on a drawing if it’s having a difficult time coming together. It is important to not accept less than the best I can do. I have to look away from my drawing board periodically or I stop seeing the whole for that one part of it I’m struggling with. Once I did a drawing of a seated barefooted figure, and I didn’t notice until I saw the finished strip on the computer screen that I’d drawn them reversed left/right. ACK! See…I drew him with his legs crossed but I put the feet where they would have been if his legs weren’t crossed. I didn’t notice the mistake I was making while I was making it, because I was so focused on getting the feet right. ACK! I fixed it in the computer but it’s still like that on the original artwork. This is what happens if I don’t take short breaks from the drafting table and then come back to it with fresh eyes. If I give it enough time and sweat the thing I want to happen on the drawing board eventually does happen. It’s okay not to hurry it.

The great political cartoonist David Low once said of his workflow that each cartoon took three days to do: two days spent in labor, and one day spent removing the appearance of labor. Herblock did a cartoon every day for the Washington Post for decades and his best was every bit the equal of Low’s. We’re all different in that way. You work what you got.

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