Sorry it’s been so long in-between posts. I realized while I was typing up the last one that I was probably going to be at least a month MIA from it because it kicked up the very toxic dust of everything that epitomized my “fucked up state of being” for the last half a decade or so. I’m back now, and while I apologize about the time it took to do updates and such, this is also much more indicative of how long it takes me to do things. Don’t ever let someone tell you that having multiple chronic illnesses makes you weak; If I had known this was coming the only thing I would have changed was how much I was trying to pack into a 24-hour period when my body & neurological state would allow for it.
So we left off at me being absolutely crushed, sick AF without being able to see a doctor or pay for medication, and a general malaise about my goals in general. Without drawing, I wasn’t sitting entirely on my laurels. I picked up a lot of other hobbies that I still enjoy to this day: Multi-media Collage making in the style of Jean-Michael Basquiat / Eduardo Recife / Daniel Martin Diaz, Resin Casting, (attempting) from-scratch BJDs of various characters (and fan characters)… Leaving art entirely wasn’t a plan and it wasn’t something I desired. Though every day seemed like it got longer and longer, and even doing my normal day-jobs got more and more draining from the Fibromyalgia + Endometriosis + Thyroid issues running me like a race-horse, I forced myself to continue to work on something. That said, there were certainly days when I really really wanted to draw, when I had been pushing and pulling an image in my head for so long I could see it with my eyes closed and a lot of concentration. Getting it onto paper/tablet was the problem. The very act of drawing or illustrating had been so poisoned in my mind that I very honestly did not draw for 5 years. It was excruciating. 2A does not realize this, and on the off chance they read this I hope it sets in why I have been so careful to shield myself from them even after they have been working on treatment/therapy.
It had been a few years in Canada, by now; I’m living with my partner/wife still waiting on my Canadian residency to go through*, spending my days helping her out with her business which we just got set up online, trying to make social connections with other Chronically Ill, LBGTQIA2S+ folx in the area. We have a cat now, her name is Willow. She somehow outweighs me in unfiltered anxiety. I full expect her to start losing hair when I’m finally able to work in Canada instead of looking for freelance jobs in the states. I am also much more involved with my spirituality (Sanatana Dharma/Hinduism)** and have found not only a wonderful temple family out here in the west, but also my Gurus, who are infinitely more kind and wise and compassionate than any other person I’ve met outside of my Brother and my Wife. And speaking of compassionate, I think this is a great time to introduce my mentor (and extremely loveable Iowa-born Comics Swiss-Army-Man, Phil Hester. In fact, if it wasn’t for him this website may have since gone to the dogs.)
For those who aren’t big into comics, Phil Hester is a Artist-Writer-Editor who has been doing almost every job there is to do at a big-name comics company. He’s been around the ‘biz since the 1980s if I remember right, and is most often noted for his runs with Swamp Thing, Green Arrow, The Wretch, Wonder Woman, and Superman. I had read some of his comics in the 1990s without realizing it was him (Swamp Thing & The Crow, mostly), and when i first met him in person at one of the local artists shows at Mayhem Comics was putting on. I remember looking at his pages, 11″ x 17″ towers in all stages of work (including some really cool ones that were made with a kind of chemical-reactive zip-tone I had no clue about!). I, of course, was in my Blue Lanterns & Undertale phase, and I believe I was drawing a picture of Sinestro that my brother had dubbed “space hitler” because of the pose. Phil came over to say hi and was like “hey, you’ve got a good grasp on your art and the DC characters. We should do a project some day.”
I can not tell you the feeling I had at that moment, somewhere between humbling/astonished/amazed/imposter syndrome/I’m going to piss myself I’m so excited… Me? Lil’ ole rinkity-dink me who had been around the internet so long and yet had next to no-one know about me? It felt like Stan Lee came up to me and gave me a thumbs up and a “nice work, kiddo.” It was life changing.
Over the next few years (early 2010s ~2017), we would see each other on and off at conventions or in the DSM Mayhem location. He gave me a starting project that had been done by a previous artist to see how I would handle the script and character design, but I absolutely dropped the ball on him. I think I produced two character sketches in a 4 month period and he eventually had to call it off because he, like any professional, needed to put time and effort into paying jobs. I felt like the world’s biggest asshole for not having it go much further, at the time. Having about a decade pass since then, I can be much more kind to myself about it: I was working 2 jobs at the time, just starting to deal with how much stress was causing my Fibromyalgia and Anxiety Disorder to blow up, and an endless list of other equally shitty jobs I could move into by working for the IT temp agency. (my advice on temp work: DON’T. ) I didn’t have the time to draw because I was spending 50-ish hours working a week with a constantly changing schedule, no vacation, no sick leave, and no ability to quit without going immediately bankrupt in a traumatizing way. Phil, as is his way, was nothing but kind and reassuring: “this happens a lot. Now isn’t the time. We’ll try again in the future.” I thought at the time that was his way of backing out in a professional way while also leaving my feelings intact.
Fast forward to September of 2021. I don’t remember what day it was, but it had been raining outside for some time. It was a late summer thunderstorm that was less rain and more heat-lightning, the kind that leaves the smell of petrichor in its soggy wake. I had been sick and largely stuck in bed for 4~6 days at a time due to the heat of summer and the Fibromyalgia co-conspiring to dunk my body into the nearest dumpster. It was not great.
During this period of time I was still working on hosting nightly satsangha classes for the temple, and helping out a bit more with social media stuff for the website, since I could do all of that from bed on my ancient 2010 macbook pro (which still works!). I was feeling emotional because it was getting close to the holidays, and while I was still not really talking with 2A they were wondering how I was in an email and if I had any plans. In my meloncholy and the stiffling heat of the bedroom in a unit without AC, I remember sitting down and trying to divert my focus with youtube, pinterest, and other online time-sinks. I eventually checked my astrological charts that night in passing, and felt like I had been punched in the tit! : “You have been mentally working towards an artistic goal that will come to fruition in the very near future***. An old friend or teacher will return to you with an assignment.” Interesting to hear, but also not something that I hadn’t seen before in previous readings. If anything, it felt like this rando app was laughing at me from whatever cloud-based data rack it was sitting on, sneering down on my misfortune like some prickly imp. I was frustrated as hell, so i put the phone down and went back to winding down as much as I could. I woke up in the middle of the night and checked my phone:
<( Hey Heidi, this is Phil. I may have a paying project for you. Interested? )
I read the message again. and again. And again and again. The screen went dark after a few seconds, and I tapped at it just to see if the message was still there. With my body a combination of sleep-deprived, pain-addled, and now undergoing some level of shock, I closed my eyes and fell asleep faster than I think I had that entire summer.
When I woke up the next day, my entire morning was spent looking at this message on the phone and ruminating over it. I felt like it was both a second chance and cosmically unfair. It took me almost no time to dismiss the ‘cosmic unfairness’ as ‘too much importance put on passed time,’ and knew that it was going to be my second and likely last chance. I talked with my wife — Well, I sobbed at my wife for an hour or so, just letting everything come out unfiltered as I felt it. She listened to me patiently, and gave her opinion to me on the matter at hand: This was luck & an A+ Human Being™ coming back into my life at exactly the right time. Even if what I produced looked like stick figures, it would be better to try and fail than not try and mentally live my life as a benchwarmer.
I messaged back saying I was 100% on board. He got in touch with me a bit later and explained the situation: He was doing a story for a Red Sonja compilation series through Dynamite, and needed an artist. Preferably one who was comfortable with doing pencils/inks/spot-shading for each panel. I was still in, I wanted this so badly I couldn’t even tell you. He gave me the editors name, a rough timeline, and a thumbs up. I immediately put myself to work trying to do short 2~5 minute figure studies just to shake the rust off — and I mean RUST. It’s not like you completely forget to draw after 5 years, but between constant pain in my hand from my normal ‘death grip’ on any stylus/pencil I use even just trying to get back in the swing of drawing was still anxiety-inducing, and now, incredibly painful.
Ever since meeting and getting to know Phil and his work better, I’ve had him on my bucket list. My wish was being granted. I was so happy I was basically buzzing everywhere I went!