09. Reframing

How I'm turning it into gratitude. Gothic vignettes for a new project. Something beautiful from 1959. Cicadas.

“I struggle with deserve and desire and want. A crisis of faith must be addressed.”
—Journal entry from Saigon, 2015


Yesterday marked the ignoble and heartrending end to a 20 year war in Afghanistan. Only the day prior, Sana Safi, a BBC broadcast journalist and Afghan whom I’ve been following, retweeted a recording of a buddhist nun on finding inner calm. I was deeply moved by this gesture. My heart breaks for the lives lost, and for those that remain and suffer.

Here’s a perspective of the past 25 years. This is an organization I’ve vetted and donated to: Women for Afghan Women. You can also shop on Amazon via this link for the AmazonSmile Foundation to donate .5% to them.

I struggle as ever with guilt and shame at my access to material comforts; at having so much beyond that; at wanting to keep what I have. I question the very act of, and motivations for, verbalizing from my place of safety. Sometimes I feel crazy with the circularity of it all.

The pragmatist in me says why self-flagellate? Do what you can. Stay informed, contribute. Move forward. You gotta eat and laugh and pay the bills. The Highly Sensitive Person in me though dies, over and over again; the fallen toy robot spins on its side forever; the coward holds on to everything, tightly. 

I’ve been working on recognizing and accepting limits. My own smallness but also man-made as well as immutable laws to which we all bend: time, physics, borders. I’ve been getting better at forcing myself to avert the eyes now and again to take rest, and to experience pleasure more mindfully.

Turn it into gratitude may sound platitudinous, but reframing access in this way has helped me with how I feel, work, and go about my day.

Summer continues here in NYC, the air thick and heavy. I’ve been holed up in the studio, steeping, working. The cicadas have emerged en masse. I listen through open windows with the AC off, because I find it depressing to be in a closed box. Their undulating calls come in series of ~15 second waves, growing louder as the temperature rises.

Long after they go quiet, I’ve been writing and painting, sometimes through the night. When I’ve looked up a few times the clock has said 2am or bust!

I’m truly, deeply grateful. 

Thanks for being here.

My “worthy five” recommendations were featured last week in Dense Discovery (choose Issue 152 from the menu), and we’ve some new folks from those parts.


Deep gratitude to all of my paying subscribers (members) for your early support—you make it possible for me to do what I love. Thank you.

If you enjoy my work, please consider supporting it.

Going gothic.

I’ve been antsy to get some moody vignettes out of my head for a while. So I mostly (though not completely) shifted gears from my animated short Chamoe to paint a series of…gothic vignettes. These paintings happen to tie in with a potential artist collab in the fall (stay tuned), so it felt like a perfect confluence of reasons to break from routine. 

I love balancing ongoing projects with spontaneous work anyway, but this interlude has felt particularly exciting because I’ve been working to music again. The track is gorgeous and I realized how much I miss anchoring in this way (Chamoe is, exceptionally and experimentally, narrative versus music-driven).

I won’t say much more yet, but here’s a sneak peek at what I’ve been obsessing over the past two weeks. The basic story for the (to-be-animated??) montage is lost love and dark redemption. Very gothic.

There was a lot of lead up to sketching—vetting music, mood boards, films; writing 4 passes of sequence—but for now I’ll skip to the sketchbook. Apologies for the lack of full context today, but it should still be interesting from a process standpoint.

Thumbnail to style primer, a comparison:

This exercise was pure joy.

First, I loved diving into this so much because it was a break from familiar work during a very dark and oppressively one-note time. It felt like a different meal, in a different place, and it was refreshing.

Second, after many years of being frustrated with what’s in my head not trueing up to what comes out on paper, I’m delighted (and as usual a little surprised) by my ability to execute on vision at decent speed. A lot of this is afforded by growing instinct and a deepening familiarity with tools. I can now focus on what I want to do versus spending the bulk of my time figuring out how to do it.

It’s a return on investment, and it feels good.

Something beautiful from 1959

Another thing I’ve been appreciating lately are vintage animated gems that Animation Obsessive shares weekly in their newsletter. Here’s one, called Moonbird, an Academy Award winning short (10 min) by Faith and John Hubley. Animation Obsessive discusses it in detail in one of their older issues.

It’s lovely. Enjoy.

Until next time.