A Cartoonist’s Diary

Leslie Stein: Day 4

Only a snippet of a dream from last night. I run into a guy on the street who I met on tour. He invites me back to his house to hang out with him and his girlfriend, who has bleach blonde hair. I am excited when she takes out a pipe that she made out of a Toblerone chocolates package. How inventive!

My little brother is in town visiting. Like any other artist, my family thinks I’m totally insane. I make him leave the house for five hours while I draw, consequently making me feel guilty.

The comic I’m working on is about a visit I had with a boyfriend’s father, a verbally abusive alcoholic who also happens to be very, very funny. We had to take breaks from being in his home and would walk over to the local bar and come back. He locked us out, we crawled through the window, I had a allergic reaction to the cat, and woke up the next day surprised to see a social worker sitting on the couch.

When my brother gets back I thank him for giving me the time to work on my comic… and he takes a nap while I go running. When I get back we decide to go for an indulgent dinner.

Growing up my father used to take us on what he coined “death marches.” He’d walk us all over Chicago and tire us out, and afterwards he’d give us some spare change as a reward. He still does this when we go on vacation but now rewards us with extravagant dinners. I think I have copied this reward system in the way I set up my days. I barely eat anything and work as hard as I can, then I exercise like crazy, then finally eat food, then I go drinking. Probably not unusual.

When we get to the restaurant we decide to have four courses, we start with raw oysters, then share a kale salad, for the third course he gets foie gras, and I get steamed mussels. Then he has fried chicken and waffles and I have linguine with seasonal vegetables. We eat some ice cream when we get home. Oof!

Lately I’ve been looking at Lynd Ward’s woodcuts before I go to sleep. I say “looking” because it’s almost impossible for me not to look at every page for minutes, therefore halting the narrative flow. These images are so beautiful and mystical. I took etching and lithography classes in college but never woodcut printing. I can’t help but think about what tools he used, what kind of wood,  how he figured out so much about contrast and mood at an early age. His essays on his work are lovely. He shares his ideas about the way a persevering reader will come to their own conclusions about the work at hand when reading a visual narrative.

Leslie Stein is a cartoonist living in Brooklyn, New York. She writes and draws the autobiographical comic book series Eye of the Majestic Creature.