As has been widely noted, the lifestyle of the cartoonist is uniquely suited to life during lockdown. The monkish existence of scribbling marginalia in the modern day equivalent of illuminated manuscripts requires little adjustment to the new normal. Isolation, delirium, bitterness, failing eyesight and obsessive mark making were uninterrupted by the notice to stay at home.
Except that my once quiet haven of domestic creativity has had to accommodate foreign bodies in the house. Yes, the people who actually share my life are sharing my life. Only more so.
I've seen more of my wife (Phil) and daughter (Clara) than I would ever normally do outside of summer holidays. I’ve had a window into their lives I have previously not been privy to. Zoom conferences, school lessons and even the model U.N. have taken place in adjacent rooms. I can hear real life go on around me in real time. Laughter and friendship and camerardery.
Meanwhile I try not to talk to myself quite so loud. I don’t want them to find out I’m weird.
It’s all been very educational but I’m glad I experience them second hand and don’t have to do quite so much real world stuff myself. To quote the protagonist in the Martin Amis novel Night Train, “It's a drag, not being young, but at least I don't have to take a test tomorrow morning.” Or …shiver… chair a Zoom conference call.
We’ve had to make adjustments. Much more so in the case of Clara who had the full social life of a teenager and would normally be out gallivanting with her friends. The rituals of exams, graduation and other rites of passage have been denied her. My own role suddenly swerved from chauffeur to P.A. when the schools closed. I wasn't expected to park and wait in dingy side streets after midnight (which is way after my bed time) to collect her from Worcester's vivid nightlife. Instead the morning mails would ping into my Inbox asking for her secretary (me) to print out that day's school work on our only working printer. Now even that task has disappeared.
My function is now reduced to making lunches and cleaning up the mess. When she (probably) starts university in the autumn even that role will disappear. How will I occupy the aching black hole in my very soul that most empty-nesters fill with wine of an evening? Get a hobby? Learn to cook? Pretend to like prosecco? Catch up on my Netflix watch list, now long enough to fill several lifetimes?
Nah. I'll probably work on some more comics.
Speaking of which…
My middle grade graphic novel is out July 7th from Random House Graphic
You can pre-order it from the places where these kind of things can be pre-ordered.
You can also see an original page of Kerry art at my store and the techniques I used to create the textures in the line art.
“Kerry needs to get home; his parents are sick. When a spirit in the forest lets him know of a shortcut, Kerry finds himself on a quest filled with magic, self-discovery, and new friends . . . who may or may not help him on his journey. Will he make it through the forest and get home in time to save his parents?”
The reviews are coming in and they are good. Many of them have picked up on what I was aiming for with this book: the timelessness of a fairy tale without it being based on an actual fairy tale.
My interest in fairy tales goes back to college where I first read The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter and saw the movie it was based on, The Company of Wolves. Fairy tales were what I studied when I was first teaching myself to write. They are the pure, undistilled keystones of literature and a source of inspiration I return to again and again.