A pox upon me.

I like to make stuff. Probably too much. I can sit at my tiny desk in the corner of Jack’s old room, oblivious to the workmen ripping our kitchen apart, wiener dogs napping on my feet, frittering away hours on an edit or a paragraph until Jenny pounds on the door and tells me I absolutely have to take a break or I will be crippled by sciatica. Sitting, she yells through the door crack, is the new smoking.

I’m not always efficient. I can piss away time looking for a new plugin for an app or watching YouTube how-to videos or reading a whole book which I just wanted to consult for a quote. But I like to think that all this meandering is filling my well and making sure that the lion that brings me great ideas will eventually yawn, stretch, see me with my head down and drop some inspiration in my lap. Usually works.

ABBW cover proof Over the last month and a half though I have felt distracted. Still about 80% productive, but distracted. We got married and that took up some time. We are doing our kitchen which requite a ridiculous number of decisions and visits to Home Depot. We are just about to launch a new kourse at SBS which takes a lot more work than you probably think it does. Shut Your Monkey is out and about. And I just got the cover proof for my next book which will be coming out before you know it.

But this number of balls in the air  is pretty normal for me. The only problem is that one of those balls is on fire (which sounds like an ad for Cruex).

It all began half way through my visit to Vietnam when I began to feel a tenderness in my ribs. I thought it came from leaning too hard against the edge of my desk but it persevered. Then, on one of the last days I was there, I woke up with a Braille-like rash splayed across my chest. We were having a sketchcrawl that morning and one of the sketchers was the school nurse. She looked at the rash and diagnosed it immediately: shingles. She got me some ointment at the pharmacy, and we went off to draw.

The next day the rash was worse and the ointment didn’t seem to being helping. To make things more interesting, I had to spend 24 hours at the back of a plane flying home to New York. I saw my NY doctor first thing the next day but he said it was too late to do much about it. The antiviral pill I should have taken when I got the first symptoms wouldn’t help at this point and I’d just have to ride it out.

It’s been a long ride. Tomorrow it’ll be five weeks since that day in Hanoi. I spent a few days in bed because if I am run down the symptoms are worse. My rash turned into blisters that eventually drained and left me without a few layers of skin and my nerves in a jangle. On my wedding day, my heart was full but my chest was sizzling. Each day it gets better but there have been a lot of days and there are probably a few score to go.

Shingles do lots of things. Sometimes they feel like someone has belted a bunch of Brillo pads to my chest. Other times they ache or tickle or go numb. I can have sensation in one place that moves to another. It’s totally unpredictable.  Basically they get on my nerves which are like a bunch of rogue electrical cables flailing and sending sparks through my rib cage. Oddly, when I just lay my hand on my skin, it reorients them and they simmer down, at least for a while.

I’ve had acupuncture, taken Vitamin B complex, rubbed on tubs of cocoa butter — but it seems that time is the best medicine. And I have to use my time wisely, not overdoing things, and being patient.  Of course, taking it easy isn’t me, but Jenny’s at the door. I gotta take a break.

I have refrained from sharing this with you for a while because I think there’s nothing more boring than talking about your health. But I did want you to know that I have lots of ideas for what I want to write about here, more than just ads for books and kourses — but for now, they’ll have to just keep simmering in the old brain pan.


P.S. Happy BD, PL!

 

Inspiration Monday: handmade book

I love reading, writing, illustrating and making books. This week at Sketchbook Skool, Jill Weber* challenged us to make a book that shares something about ourselves — so I tackled the monkey.

I’m not terribly good at crafty things as I am clumsy and impatient but this was a very fun project. See the process and results in this video:

Hungry Tim and other news

I know I promised to eschew advertising on my blog but, come on, people, it’s in my blood! I can’t help it. So here’re a few announcements, updates and, yes, ads about things I’m doing that you might like. to know about.

• First, a mini film about an innovation at Sketchbook Skool.

The gist: Sketchbook Skool kourses are now available on-demand rather than by semester. Sign up and plunge in any day of the year. We’re like Orange is the New Black — but with a full palette of colors.

open-monkey-books
Coming in late fall.

• Next, an exciting announcement: we have just completed the final nips and tucks to the design of Shut Your Monkey: How to control your inner critic and get more done and it heads to the printer next Tuesday! You can preorder your copy today, however.

 

inside-abbworkbook
Coming next year!

My other new book, the Art Before Breakfast Workbook has just come back from my editor and I am ready to continue work on the design phase of the book. It looks quite gorgeous already, I must say.

• On Saturday night, I will strap myself into a Lufthansa flight to Switzerland to  work with the students, teachers and parents of the International School of Basel. I have been working on lots of little films and projects to inspire them and can’t wait to see the art we make together during my artist-in-residency.

TobleroneI am also excited to see Basel which I hear is brimming with dozens of amazing museums. I also plan to eat chocolate. I’ll post news of my trip here, maybe even before I get back.

Jack draws in rome
A younger, beardless Jack Tea draws the Colliseum.

• Next, I will RyanAir to Rome to spend a few days with Jack who has just begun his semester abroad (he’s in Abruzzo today). He has promised he will take me to his favorite places to draw. We also plan to eat pasta.

 

Ciao!

Covering the monkey

After three years of thinking and writing, Shut Your Monkey is finally complete. The words are written, the illustrations are completed and the layout is stunning. We just sent the final files to my editors this week and the book will soon head to the printer and be in your hands before Thanksgiving.

The hardest part of creating a new book is working out the cover design.  No matter how many fancy adjectives I’ve used, no matter how many revisions I’ve written, in the end, we know the book will be judged by the cover.

While I have designed most of my books, I wanted to make sure that we pulled out all the stops for Shut Your Monkey. I was lucky enough to enlist the help of one of the top book designers in New York.  Rachel Willey and I batted ideas around for most of the spring and summer and she produced through dozens and dozens of designs. Finally, we and my publishers agreed on a winner. It is fantastic and if you’d like to have a copy of your own, you can preorder it (and the book inside it) right now.

Here is a small selection from the design process.

Reading me.

I don’t usually read my books for a long time after I write them. I’ll have some occasion to look back and read what I wrote and the experience will be quite odd. Sometimes it will seem familiar, and very much me. At other times, I’ll think, “Did I really say that?”, sometimes with pleasure, sometimes with dismay.

Often I am possessed by some other version of me when I write, a version that is a co-creation of the book itself, the inexorable march of ideas and words that surge forward as I write at length, ideas taking on their own voice, connections stopping out of the shadows. That’s one of the prime pleasure of writing, how the process takes over. When I wrote a novel a few years ago, I was constantly surprised at things the characters said, at the way bits of plot came full circle to tie up ends, at the life the story had quite beyond me. I sometimes think back on the characters, wondering how they are now, as if they lived on even though I stepped away from the keyboard.

I can have the same feelings when I draw. I begin with an impulse of what sort of drawing I want to make but invariably where I end up is pretty different. Making a drawing, like writing, is an exploration, an adventure. The destination is subject to change. My mission is to discover myself. And sometimes what I find may be pretty unfamiliar and surprising.

I write my books. But I read them too. And I hope I’ll always get lost in their pages, lost so I can find something surprising and new.

Spine-tingling

My uncle Michael published half a dozen books. Everyone in our family prominently displayed their set. A foot-long row of familiar spines standing proudly together — his books, his name repeated across them. I envied the pleasure I imagined that gave him, that cube of honored real estate.

I made my first book when I was six. A stack of deliciously thick paper. The smell of library paste, a smell I can taste (probably because I did). A clear plastic sleeve filled with a rainbow of markers. Brass paper fasteners.

I treasured the pleasures of bookmaking. Carefully lettering my name on the title page. Alternating pages of drawings with pages filled with large, neatly penciled letters. Numbering all the pages. Making up the front matter: the publisher, the copyright, the dedication. Conjuring up blurbs from my favorite authors to put on the back.

My biggest regret: my books never had a proper spine. I couldn’t run my name and title and the Dewy Decimal number down the edge. It didn’t look right on the shelf.
But that was a minor blunt to my pleasure. I was still “an author”.

A half century later, whenever I visit a book store or a library, I always, eventually, wind up looking for my books on the shelf. I can spot them from across the room, familiar faces in a sea of stripes, like spotting my son on a crowded playground.

No matter how many books I publish or sketchbooks I fill, that boyhood thrill is still there. I love the shelves of books I’ve made, all together, spines aligned like little soldiers.

Oh, BTW, I am soon gonna add a new spine to my collection. Shut Your Monkey: How  to control your inner critic and get more done is in the design/illustration phase and will soon head to the printer.  It’ll be on the shelves of your local bookstore this fall.