Epic.

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My mother just sent me a link to a site documenting a journalist’s trek on foot from southern Africa to South America (I’ll give you the link in a minute). This isn’t just another endurance stunt —Paul Salopek is a Pulitzer Prize winning writer for National Geographic so his trip is all about science and journalism. He started earlier this year and will take seven years to complete the odyssey.

I have always been fiercely attracted to this sort of epic journey.

A few years ago, I was in thrall as my pal, d.price, rode his recumbent bike some 5,000 miles from Eastern Oregon to Key West. I loved Travels with Charley and On the Road.  Kon-Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl (finally a movie!), Bill Bryson’s Appalachian trail book, A Walk in the Woods, Cheryl Strayed’s Wild. The Happiest Man in the World by Alec Wilkinson describes Poppa Neutrino’s quest to build a boat out of garbage and sail it across the Atlantic. Mike McIntyre walked across the country with no money and relied entirely on The Kindness of Strangers (which is the name of his amazing book about the trip). The list goes on.

Ten years ago, I wrote a proposal for a book in which I’d follow the original epic travel journalists, Lewis and Clark, from St. Louis to the Pacific. I was going to adhere to their path and record the differences the couple of centuries had wrought. My editor said, “Make the trip, write the book, and then we’ll see.”  I didn’t. Life got in the way. Good thing Jefferson wasn’t counting on me.

Recently, Jenny has been urging me to drive across country with our dogs. I am sort of intrigued by the idea. Pros: 1. It seems romantic and epic and larger than life. 2. This is the perfect time of year for it. 3. It would be a great symbolic start to my life on the West Coast.  Cons: A) I don’t have a car. B) I think taking the dogs would make this a really bad idea. C) This is really her fantasy and she’ll already be across the country in her office in LA while I check into a long string of Motel 6s. For now, the cons have probably won but I still like the idea a lot, particularly if I could get a travel companion who I could stand to sit next to for a couple of weeks and who would be willing to stop and draw along the way.

Maybe next spring.

What intrigues me a lot about Paul Salopek’s journey is its emphasis on slow. He is taking seven years (!) to do this because he really wants to absorb the world as he goes. And he is looking for people along the way who are also seeking slowness in this madcap, speed obsessed world.

I think that’s the right thing to look for. Boy, it’s hard to slow down. I sat in the park this morning with my dogs and did a drawing. It was a small drawing, just filling a little box on the page, but I had to catch myself mid-way because I was tearing through it, barely looking at the arch I was drawing, just scratching out hasty, inaccurate and ugly lines. What the hell was my rush? It’s Sunday morning, I have nowhere to be till brunch, everyone else is sleeping, and yet I am belting through this drawing as if I was in an Olympic event. If I was Paul Salopek, I’d probably be half way to Rio by now.

Even though it’s been several weeks since I left the rat race, I still have my rat cleats on. I can feel it in the need I still have to accomplish things, to generate product, to log hours on my calendar. I so very much want to focus on the journey, the process, not the finish line but all these decades in the business world, in New York, still have me panting and pushing. I remind myself: I am on an epic adventure that will probably take another few decades to finish (in fact, I would like to push off the ending as far as possible) and what matters is the daily walk through life — the things I see, the people I meet, the lessons I learn.

If I’m really honest with myself, the reason I am not driving across country with my dogs is that the monkey is telling me I need to get to LA and start getting on with it. There’s no time for meandering and roses sniffing. I need to set up shop and start making something of myself. The monkey is wrong, again, of course. I make something of myself every day. It may not be something that can be direct-deposited, it’s true, but it’s also something that can’t be accelerated. Step by step, day by day, eyes open, head up.

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Here’s the link to Paul Salopek’s journey.  (I have put off giving it to you till the end of this blogpost for fear that you would rush off to read it and never come back to finish my blather. Clearly, I am better at slowing you down than I am at putting my own brakes on.)

Chatting. In my house. About stuff.

Recently Cynthia Morris came to visit me and we sat down for an interview because she wanted to know more about A Kiss Before You Go and the whole process of recording your life in a book.  Cynthia has started drawing fairly recently but she is a life coach and deals with creative people all the time. She describes her job as helping “people enjoy their talents and create on their own terms”.  I like that job description.  She gave me some solid advice on the direction my life is taking and I offered my own thoughts on how she could create an illustrated memoir.

Here’s a video we shot of the chat in my living room.

Cynthia posted her notes from a conversation we had once the camera was off about my advice on “8 Ways to Live an Illustrated Life“.  I hope it’s useful.

On the Road

Here are a few souvenirs from my  whirlwind tour to San Francisco. I spent some time at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

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Waiting to see Christian Marclay’s “The Clock”. I watched this piece from 2:32 until 3:27. I could have stayed much longer but the film gave me an incredible sense of how much time I was wasting by watching it. The seats were incredibly comfortable. So of course I napped briefly. I think it was from 2:44 until 2:49

 I really love Jenny Saville's work. This painting is about 10 feet tall. It's super raw but also almost photographically rendered in places. Super fleshy . She's a disciple of Lucien Freud. And I'm a disciple of a disciple of a disciple of Lucien Freud.   I love to take photographs in museums but I almost always get in trouble when I do. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art has a crazy rule that you cannot wear a backpack with both straps on. It has to hang off one shoulder or else a guard will come over and correct you. Mysterious and strange. like so much Modern Art 2 days ago

I really love Jenny Saville’s work. This painting is about 10 feet tall. It’s super raw but also almost photographically rendered in places. Super fleshy . She’s a disciple of Lucien Freud. And I’m a disciple of a disciple of a disciple of Lucien Freud.
I love to take photographs in museums but I almost always get in trouble when I do. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art has a crazy rule that you cannot wear a backpack with both straps on. It has to hang off one shoulder or else a guard will come over and correct you. Mysterious and strange. like so much Modern Art.

These pages were drawn in idle and potentially bored moments and turned out to be the best things I got from the trip.

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Watercolor, PITT artist pen, gold ink.

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Watercolor, PIT Pen, waterbrush

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Left: Watercolor, PITT Pen, waterbrush. Right: India ink, dip pen.

Baltimore!

Jenny & I and Tommy Kane & Yun drove down to Baltimore for the weekend. Our main objective was to eat crabs. And we certainly did that. crab a1c1921ab44d11e2950722000a1fc86f_7 We also stumbled into a half-dozen divey bars around town. This was one of our faves: bad decisions Baltimore also turned out to have some amazing art on virtually every corner: atomicman

We saw this Amish version of the Scream propped in someone’s window. scream

The art highlight of the trip was  a visit to The American Visionary Art Museum. AVAM They don’t allow cameras inside, so check out their site for more.AVAM pig It’s  a museum devoted to untrained artists and it is so moving, inspiring and awesome.  AVAM car I’ll be thinking about what I saw for months to come.  It is well worth a return trip just to reexamine everything again. black and white We also went to the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival and drew critters and ate funnel cakes. sheep sheep2 sheep3 dog in nest

The weather was amazing. jENNY James

And it was a fantastic time with some of my favorite peeps.

tom and yun

An Illustrated Journey continues down the road.

While copies of A KIss Before You Go are being loaded into warehouses, work continues on my next book, An Illustrated Journey: Inspiration From the Private Art Journals of Traveling Artists, Illustrators and Designers, the sequel to An Illustrated Life.

I just did the lettering for the cover (you’ll notice on Amazon that they uploaded the art for the cover before including my handlettering — that’ll be fixed soon) and the design for the interior continues. It’ll be a lavish book with work from forty of my favorite artists and will be out at the end of February, next year.

I’ll talk about it more in the months ahead but meanwhile you can see some of the art work from the book on my Pinterest page.