Archive for 2017

Normal

Posted in health on November 20th, 2017 by Jin Wicked – Comments Off on Normal

Updates! Life continues its gradual but consistent improvement. For the first time I feel, I think, what one would consider “normal” in a mental sense. And I know that “normal” is mostly illusory. Recently I discovered the relationship between my long-standing anxiety issues and creative thinking. My pea brain is almost constantly leaping from idea to idea, conclusion to conclusion, and making — to outside observers — sometimes random connections. While that makes for interesting, multi-layered symbolism in my creative output, it is not so helpful when dealing with other humans. While my brain has not stopped running constant models of everything like a computer plotting out moves on a chess board, I have developed the ability to tune it out and react only to real-life stimuli. The practical result of this has been much more stable mood and healthier boundaries. Other people’s moods do not affect my own nearly so much, and I am better able to focus. I am also much better at recognizing when another person is trying to manipulate me, emotionally or otherwise, and then refuse to take the bait or be lead into confrontations. Though I am tired from pushing myself on so many fronts, my anxiety and stress levels are almost non-existent. I would be hesitant indeed to describe myself as having an anxiety disorder any more. I feel, realistically, pretty good about myself.

This has also helped me be more objective about both my own mistakes, and things that have been done to me. I am coming to terms with how my child-hood and teenage years shaped my early relationships, and what changes need(ed) to be made to finally make meaningful and lasting connections. This is to be explored in my unofficially-launched new project, Queen of Assholes, a biography about how everyone is basically terrible, and my personal journey to healing and redemption. That will include depictions of both emotional and physical abuse, though nothing overly graphic. I want to illustrate both how the abuse is viewed through the eyes of the person being abused, and the subsequent ways in which it affected my life. If this causes even one person to reconsider before striking or screaming at their children, it will be a net win for me. Eventually, as my career progresses, I would like to tie this into more general advocacy for adoption/fostering children, and against child abuse.

An old friend and colleague of mine recently attempted to kill himself. Though his reasons had nothing to do with me, it did force me to acknowledge that I have neglected our friendship, and that I have not been available for him like I should have. We are hanging out on a regular basis now, and he is keeping me updated about the details of his recovery. This combined with my father’s suicide last year have that issue also prominently on my radar — in particular men’s mental health, because of the ways that society still stigmatizes men who embrace their emotions or show too much vulnerability as weak.

It requires courage and strength to engage in a sincere self-examination and self-criticism — not self-flagellation and self-loathing, mind — and admit that something needs to change, and that you may need help. There is absolutely no shame in doing what is needed for you to live a healthy, fulfilling life. That may come in the form of counseling, therapy, medication, spirituality, writing, or something else entirely. Forgive yourself. Forgive others. Recognize your self-destructive and self-defeating habits. Feed your mind affirming thoughts the same way that you feed your body the right nutrition. It is possible to get better, if you are willing to do the work. There are truly circumstances beyond our control in life, of course, but so much of our suffering is self-inflicted and self-perpetuated. Why make a hard life even harder by hurting yourself?

Once in a while, I glance over at my ex-husband’s Facebook page. Watching the person he has become in my absence has only driven home how different we are, and how little we had in common. That is only an indictment of myself for pursuing someone who was not a well-fitted match for me, to avoid being alone and confronting my damage to grow up. Though to be honest, I am not certain that I am a well-fitted match for anyone. A workaholic who is happiest in near-silence or with the low crackle of an AM radio, I have minimal interest in the television and movies that everyone else seems to live for. Not a value judgement — I would rather be creating or reading, myself. I prefer a simple life and have been shedding most of my inessential belongings and objects I have no sentimental attachment to. I missed making music and I am picking it up again — mandolin and violin — along with the French I took in high school. I would like to get back to the gym regularly once the holidays are over. Most of the time I would like to do my work in solitude. My ex-husband complained about the long hours I spent sequestered in my office. Thus far Stephen has been accepting of my unusual needs, but I worry about potential feelings of abandonment or resentment over time. We do have a strong emotional bond and are a fine example of two people growing together instead of apart.

I have created an audio version of this — my blog, where I publicly dissect my most intimate thoughts and inner-mechanics of my head — and where, over the last three years, I have DIY-therapy’ed myself into a functional, relatively healthy human being. I guess the definition of “normal” can only be stretched so far. Time to return to the pages of my comic books.

Down to Business

Posted in work on October 17th, 2017 by Jin Wicked – Comments Off on Down to Business

Progress, progress, progress! After chipping away at the work all summer, my arts and crafts website is back up and available. I am still gradually adding in images, titles, and information. I upgraded the content management system behind the site, and at the same time, updated my photos website because it uses the same scripts. The newest version of the scripts required a rebuild of my whole custom theme from the ground up, something I learned when I accidentally broke my photos website earlier this year, rendering it unusable. I also had to finish some incomplete graphics. Currently I am working on my comics websites, setting up the pages for my new projects, and tweaking the old ones so they have a consistent look and layout. My To Do list for back-end maintenance is miles long, so I am segmenting it into manageable chunks.

About one year ago, I recorded the first two episodes of my podcast project, JIN ABOUT TOWN. I envisioned it as a fun way to unite many of my passions, such as autobiography, real-life stories, exploration, education, photography, food, and travel. It was also intended as a way to collaborate with my friends that is accessible to anyone, regardless of experience or professional status, so that I can share my little corner of the Internet spotlight with them.

I struggled with the audio editing, and eventually I moved on to other things. After setting this aside for so many months, something finally “clicked” and I was able to edit both of these pieces with ease. I am especially proud of the second episode, because I condensed roughly three hours of conversations into 45-minutes mostly on-topic. So I must pat myself on the back, just a little bit, for finishing what I started for once, and doing a pretty okay job.

Since these two outings I have purchased appropriate equipment, so quality should improve on future recordings. Getting back to this and knocking it out is a big personal acheivement for me! I feel much more confident in the ability to continue coming back to unfinished work, and tie up the loose ends.

My other podcast, COMIC BROS, has suffered from the difficulties coordinating three overworked, busy schedules. Now that I am more comfortable working with audio, I am looking forward to some “extended family” episodes with my MSP compatriots. (With the blessing of my original co-hosts, of course!)



The first of my two latest videos, QUEEN OF ASSHOLES, was created to tie in with my newest project of the same name — a chronological, tell-all graphic novel biography of the colourful, often dramatic, and sometimes questionable life that I have lived. The video is about my journey to the city of Saint Paul, where I have finally accepted and “found” myself, and a place to call home. It is about the freedom of embracing imperfection, and the joys of being true to yourself. It is also a love letter to some of my favourite places in Saint Paul.



The second video showcases highlights from MSP Fall ComiCon last weekend, with video footage generously and skillfully recorded by my friend Jon Heller. It was created to promote my convention appearances, especially the FREE 60-second sketch cards I debuted at this show. They were a smash hit with those who came to my booth! Feel free to share this video when requesting me at your local comic convention or event! I am dedicated to engaging and entertaining attendees at all of my exhibitions. Hey, umbrella twirling!



I feel very strongly, in the depths of whatever passes for my soul, that I am beginning the work that I was born to do. What, exactly, is art? What defines a comic, and what is the difference? Who is the arbiter, the judge, the jury drawing delineation between the realm of prestigious museums, and more ephemeral pop-culture? Are not all expressions of art the same end product of the basic human need to speak out, be heard, and be understood? Labels are completely artificial, limiting constructs and completely subjective. Is the crude street graffiti and pottery of ancient civilization not of equally profound value as the works of Picasso and Van Gogh? We might sit in awe at the skill of a hyper-realist, but it is the mad scribblings of a schizophrenic that offer us unique insight into the human psyche. I believe that all human expressions have intrinsic value and lessons to teach through shared perspective. David Bowie — a pop-culture figure — artist, actor, musician, and revolutionary that caused many to re-examine ourselves. We are saddled with a President that has broken down the walls between fictional “reality” television and blurred the boundaries of objective fact itself. Comedians and cartoonists carry the torch once wielded by journalists. With advancements in artificial intelligence, consciousness and the nature of life itself will soon come into question.

What am I? I could not exactly answer that, but I can tell you that it does not matter, not moreso than the process of actually being. All my adult life I have worn men’s clothing almost exclusively, and in many ways I am acutely aware of my femininity as a performative act. Yet I have never identified as anything but a straight woman. We are all the sum of expectations that our societies place upon us, and experiences that carve out the shape of our lives like a river through rock. The uniqueness of each path and voice is fascinating, and to be celebrated. I would only have you consider — are you going to discover and grow your headwaters, or simply drift? I choose to master myself.

I have been in a good head-space lately. Life is never perfect, of course, but I have received many excellent reviews at my day job, and I am getting much, much better at handling stress. The day after Fall ComiCon I came down with the nastiest cold I have had since moving to Minnesota — aches, chills, runny nose, cough, sore throat. My computer, after weeks of developing odd quirks and deteriorating performance, chose that day to finally stop working at all. I spent two days troubleshooting with a new video card, replaced the power-supply which was beginning to fail, and finally, I resolved critical overheating by successfully removing and replacing the CPU’s heatsink. I have assembled my own computers for years, but this is the first time I have had to solve a hardware problem without physical help. And I have always been intimidated by working with the processor chip. So to remove the heatsink, clean off the dried thermal paste, and reinstall the chip and heatsink without any damage was a big deal. I danced a happy jig in my office, and I am fairly certain the aftermarket heatsink runs cooler than the original build. Someone is donating a used computer for backup, as well, so I will not have my work interrupted in the future. I managed to eke out almost a full work week while sick.

This is my life — five days per week, I spend about nine and a half hours on my day job including my commute. Most days I have dinner and some quality time with Stephen. And then I devote the other two to four hours that I am awake to my projects. Artwork, comics, photos, writing, websites. Whatever strikes my fancy at that moment in time. I read a little bit, but I do not really watch television or movies. I spend money on almost nothing but necessities, project supplies, and business expenses. I do my best to visit a friend about once per week. There is almost no fat left to trim, my days are very full, but I do not feel anxiety about it. I feel a sense of calm, and intensity of focus, and resolve. I do it because I need to. I do it because I have to. I do it because it is who I am. I do it because I love it. I have turned my work into a meditative experience. Now I have to execute the transition to full-time artist again.

My inner fire will outlast all those who have tried to smother it.

[ Listen to this post. ↗ ]

I wanna get better.

Posted in general on August 13th, 2017 by Jin Wicked – Comments Off on I wanna get better.

Months have passed without a blog here, literally, and I confess — for awhile I almost forgot that it exists. My regular job has been consuming more energy and mental faculties, as over time I have grown to embrace my role in a more proactive coaching and leadership position. While this has not improved my financial situation (i.e. I have not gotten any substantial pay increases) it has helped to further transform how I regard myself. I feel personally invested in, and intensely energized by, motivational speaking, problem solving, sharing knowledge and skills, and helping other people to become more successful. I work with truly wonderful and unique individuals. Being part of and managing a team has improved my communication and listening skills, taught me how to better delegate tasks and relinquish control, increased trust, expanded my ability to view different perspectives, and forced me to develop healthy ways of asserting myself and resolving conflicts. Skills that I probably should have developed as a child, but better late than never! My coworkers have become something of a surrogate family for me — my supervisor adopting the voice of a mother or therapist, as I have occasionally needed. I cannot understate how much change I have experienced over the course of this year. I am tired, yes, but I feel whole and unburdened for the first time in my life. The normal disappointments and mundane pitfalls of life are mere stumbling blocks. I feel equipped to handle almost anything. Ultimately my long-term goal is to return to my artwork and creative business full-time, but it will be bittersweet when I am finally able to move on. Right now, I am where I need to be.

The two-year anniversary of loading my entire life into a 6×12ft U-Haul trailer and moving across the country is rapidly approaching, and with it, the rush of memories. There were many factors involved in my flight, but the one on my mind lately has been freedom from things. My ex-husband was a collector of things, and I became one as well after years of fruitlessly attempting to fill my empty heart with empty purchases. I wanted for nothing, and I was the most miserable I have ever been, drained of passion and vigour. And since moving to Saint Paul, I have filled my small apartment, but now I am surrounded by gifts and mementos and photos and art and books and scraps from the other creatives that have drifted in and out of my life. Little I own is worth much of anything, but I am so grateful, and my world so enriched. I am overwhelmed by the beauty of wild flowers and lanky weeds, friendly hellos from strangers, and by the way sunlight scatters over rain puddles on the sidewalk.

And the greatest pleasure I cherish is not fine food, drugs, sex, or the myriad other ephemeral distractions that serve as the garnishes of life, but laying in bed and gently caressing the person I love as he drifts off to sleep. A casual, sincere, and fearless intimacy I have never known before — someone brave enough to believe in me and take a risk. Someone open-minded and patient enough to struggle through our issues, together. Someone confident enough to show the masculine vulnerability I have come to recognize and appreciate. Someone strong enough to love me without reservation. I am in awe of, and humbled by, the heart placed in my hands, and regardless of what the future may hold — these are lessons that cannot be unlearned. I know peace.

Stephen and I have kept a full schedule since MSP ComiCon 2017, attending smaller shows around the Twin Cities area and Chapel Con in Albert Lea, MN. Chapel Con was an impressive effort for a first-year convention, though I did take a considerable loss after our hotel and travel expenses. In spite of that, all of the volunteers were so enthusiastic, excited, and well-organized, that I will almost certainly be back next year. Next weekend, August 19-20, I will be at the brand new MN Fan Fest 2017 with my brothers-in-art Lance Ward and Bennett Pisek. Stay tuned for more opportunities to see me and my work.

Along with the personal revelations of recent months, a unity of purpose and vision has emerged. My scattershot approach to creativity has not, and likely will never, change. But I no longer sense a division between, for example, my comic work and painting. My artwork, characters, humour, storytelling, videos, and even websites are all part of the larger body of work that makes me who and what I am. They are interconnected, and I am simultaneously building up each to maintain the symbiotic relationship between them. I do not exactly fit into any one box or label, and I am more okay with that now than ever.

MSP ComiCon 2017

Posted in work on May 22nd, 2017 by Jin Wicked – Comments Off on MSP ComiCon 2017

WHAT A WEEKEND!!! SO MANY FIRSTS! MSP ComiCon 2017 was Saturday and Sunday, and what an amazing convention it was! Before I say anything else, I want to specifically thank all the volunteers that make this show possible!!! This was my third Springcon, but my first event participating in almost all of the volunteer activities, including set-up and break-down. Stuffing envelopes, distributing flyers, stuffing the grab bags, hauling and unfolding hundreds of tables and chairs and later pulling them down again! It is an UNBELIEVABLE amount of work! Thursday morning turned into Sunday evening in the blink of an eye — by the end of it all I was starving and tired, with raw blistered feet and a literally bruised body. But it is SO worth it! I can’t wait for next time!

I will not lie and claim it is IMPOSSIBLE to do the things I do alone, but having the right support makes ALL the difference! In the weeks I worked preparing for this convention season, my boyfriend Stephen and my best friend Al have been invaluable making sure I stay focused, fed, and rested. Thanks to their help, I was able to meet EVERY major goal I set for this show. My friend and fellow podcaster Mark Wise offered his graphic assistance with my drawings, so that I was able to finally assemble the dream booth I have been gradually building for the past two and a half years. When my nearly-new car decided to flood its engine and malfunction Friday afternoon — Al came to the rescue, getting my car to the dealership and my merchandise to the Grandstand. And my friends Lance Ward and Matthew Eng offered the extra hands needed for the beautiful backdrop. Stephen, a long-time volunteer with the convention, kept myself and everyone else at the show fed in the dining hall. (Even if he did give my Rockstar drink to someone else, haha!) Lastly, extra thanks to Al, and to Lance’s daughter, Ruth Ward, for being the best booth assistants!

My girl friend Taya is not mentioned above because she did not table with me this year — she has her very own space now. I am incredibly proud of her!

Part of my success belongs to you, and you inspire me to work!

Jin Wicked Booth

Thanks to the many people willing to purchase in advance, for the first time in my career I am selling screen-printed T-shirts! A T-shirt may seem like such an insignificant thing, but I have always struggled with designing them. Creating something people actually want to wear is a HUGE mental victory for me!

Stop F#ckin' Around

This was HANDS DOWN the best performance at a show I have ever had! We grossed as much as I have probably made at every other show in my career COMBINED. Most events I go into hoping to break even, with the main goal of exposing my work to new readers. I made a gamble ordering merchandise up front this year, and the excellent response at this show has taken a BIG bite out of that debt. I am so immeasurably grateful and thankful to all the people who have supported and continued to support me. Most of all, I appreciate the stories others share with me about how they have been inspired by my personal journey to pick back up their own creative passions, or to push their existing projects to the next level. You have one life, stop fuckin’ around!

Picture of Jin

This year I conquered the remaining vestiges of my anxieties and stage fright by carrying my mobile speaker and casually Rick-Rolling the entire convention floor, dancing down every aisle. Some scowled, some ignored me, some gave fist bumps, some laughed because I am an idiot, some laughed because they found it funny, and THE BEST people stopped and danced with me. Any way I can accomplish it, I want to make the world a bit more colourful and fun.

Autographed Baseball

Highlight of the show? Someone requested that I draw and sign a baseball. I do not normally do convention sketches (I prefer focusing on interaction with attendees), but that was too odd to deny. He was thrilled with it, win-win!

Stephen and I will be at BlizzardWorld in Mounds View, MN, on June 24th. He will mainly be vending Star Wars and Batman toys, but I will also likely have a few T-shirts and mini-comics available. Then I will be exhibiting at ChapelCon in Albert Lea, MN, the weekend of July 22-23. As always, you can find my full event schedule on my homepage. Expanding my range outside Minnesota is the next step! Please request me with the organizers of your local event!

Now that my convention preparations for this season and largest event are done, I am excited to shift my focus back to creating new artwork and comics, and getting my much-neglected body into the gym. I also have plans for more offerings through my Etsy store to come soon. Thank you all so much!!!

BLOOM

Posted in general on April 8th, 2017 by Jin Wicked – Comments Off on BLOOM

This winter seemed as if it might last forever, compared to my first here in the Twin Cities. The shimmering lakes along my commute have finally surrendered their ice, and the snow has trickled away, leaving behind its funeral of brown and crunchy things aching for the signs of life. I have been steeping myself in flowers waiting for spring to unfurl — short hikes along the creeks and rivers, afternoons and evenings in the park, faces warmed by the sun. Perhaps the winter only feels so long because I never missed such things before.

In recent weeks a friendship has begun to form between myself and another local creator, Lance Ward. His body of work resonated with me immediately — I believe we shared a connection in part due to the similar soul-baring nature of our works, as well as the duality of being both comic artists and painters. His introspective, and sometimes-effacing, self-portraiture and deep symbolic paintings speak in a different dialect of the languages I use myself. I am also fond of his daughter, Ruth — a budding artist in her own right. We recorded a few podcasts together, and I am excited about ways we might collaborate in the future. Artist to artist, it is nice to have someone who understands your struggles. In particular someone also so inclined to self-vivisection.

While remaining friends, several weeks after leaving me for his own personal issues, the lover mentioned in the previous post found he was not satisfied with his life as-is and returned — stating he made a mistake. We have both been through, and are still going through, a lot — and we have been growing together, helping to foster each other’s improvements. I will not pretend that things have been flawless, but neither of us are the type to rush to anger or hold a grudge. He is able to make me feel protected and safe, while allowing me the freedom and space I need to grow. He is more interested in myself as a person, while being respectful of my work. We can discuss anything without fear of judgement. He can take it as well as he dishes out. He is comfortable with my neediness for the physical affection I have been deprived of for most of my life. He is kind and patient and fatherly when I require that, but stands as an equal, or follows my lead as the winds change. He is not a perfect man, but he is a good man, and our relationship has been good for me.

Last month, we babysat for his one-year-old grandson for about three days. While I found caring for a baby surprisingly natural, and I would happily do so again — the experience did confirm for me that I assuredly made the correct decision having myself sterilized all those years ago. I have been told more than once that I would make an excellent mother, but I need my silence time so desperately to work, and I do not believe I possess the spirit of sacrifice necessary to care for an infant. I am content to help other parents with their children, and be a mentor or teacher when possible. ‘Tis the convention and travelling circus lifestyle for me, and long hours inking into the night.

I am finally conquering the anxiety and insecurities that have plagued me as long as I can remember. One of the most critical elements has been to stop blaming myself for every problem under the moon and stars — the realization that, whether someone wishes to acknowledge it or not — most people are just as fucked up as I am in their unique ways. We are all struggling with our own battles. What separates us, and determines our success, is the ability to evaluate our own patterns of behaviour honestly — and objectively — and be strong enough to make the changes necessary to achieve what we want. In the end, we are all responsible to ourselves for our own happiness.

Another important element has been exorcising negativity out of my life. I do not mean in the practice of being unavailable for friends in need of a helping hand, but the kind of chronic cynicism, pessimism, self-hatred, self-loathing, and stagnation that tends to drag down everyone in its vicinity. This is purely self-preservation. I have discovered that I am simply too sensitive and easily influenced by the moods of those around me. Anxiety and insecurity in others draws out my own. Lack of motivation in others saps my enthusiasm. People who believe poorly of themselves make me feel poorly. I am grieved for those wrestling with these issues, but I can only control my own happiness. I have surrounded myself with people that embody the same adventurous spirit and lust for life that I enjoy. I have many positive relationships with independent, energetic, vibrant, and non-judgemental women — something lacking in my life as an adult. My people are those that live boldly, fear no rejection, fear no pain, and see failure as a learning opportunity to do better next time.

I made a video this week exploring my identity — the monster I feel I created to survive, emotionally and intellectually — and my process of breaking free, making peace, growing, and learning how these facets of my personality can coexist while being true to myself. My “show face” is a performance; part of me, but no longer a mask that I use to avoid hiding any truth or vulnerability. My first video attempts the same themes, but focused on communication.



Life is good. I have been pushing the boundaries of my comfort zone — trying foods I have historically disliked, pursuing previously-unkindled interests such as poker and sports — even going to some games! — exploring novel outlets for my creativity. Searching out enriching experiences to live life to the fullest and broaden my horizons. Being thankful for each day that I am given, and never taking anyone or anything I care about for granted. Bloom.