general

Happy Happy Rats

Posted in general, work on March 13th, 2018 by Jin Wicked – Comments Off on Happy Happy Rats

Another four days off this week. The fogginess is clearing away from my head and it feels like I can breathe again. Stephen has been giving me much more space, and my productivity is increasing proportionally. Yesterday I went back to the gym for the first time since before the holidays. I am starting out with a trainer to learn how to correctly use the free weights. The plan is to come up with a three-times-per-week workout aimed at building strength that will be the most efficient use of my limited time. My weight loss is also starting to plateau around 120lbs. I have been holding off on the gym in anticipation of that. The addition of hard cardio and starting weight training should hopefully help shed the last 10lbs to my target. Once I am the size I want to be, focus will shift to health and strength, rather than the number on the scale.

Losing more weight has aged me somewhat as my face has thinned out, but I have found that I actually like it. Whatever has been happening to me over the past year, and even moreso in the past few months, I feel much older. In a good way. Perhaps saying I feel more mature might be a preferable way to phrase it. Not that I don’t enjoy a good fart joke, but overcoming my anxiety and self-control issues came with an indescribable aura of adultness.

This poor painting, languishing for two years in the background of most of my in-office videos, is finally finished. Happy Happy Rat No. 0007 is the next in a series of no-two-exactly-alike Happy Rat paintings, none of which since 0001 will have prints made. Starting later this summer, I plan to begin producing at least one per week, and have them displayed at local Twin Cities venues to the general public (coffee shops, antique/resale shops, galleries, etc). There are also several comic stores soon to be carrying my mini-comics.

Happy Happy Rat No 0007

There is also a Happy Happy Rats colouring book in the works, planned to be ready-to-ship by the end of April. Visitors to my Instagram will have seen the pages as I am drawing them. The originals are for sale fairly inexpensively in my Etsy shop. I might do a colouring book pre-order with the T-shirts.

Am I happy? Honestly, I do not know. Sometimes I am. Even often. But other times I am overtaken by a sense of nebulous loss, and of restlessness. I am coming to the conclusion that it is not in the creative nature to be happy or content for very long. Creativity and stagnation are antithetic to each other. I believe it is stagnation that is at the root of my depression — in myself, and when exposed to it too much in the people around me. It is not my place to judge other’s life choices or priorities, but time is so very precious. Right now I have managed to surround myself with dynamic and growth-minded people. I need to challenge myself, and I need to be challenged by my environment. I am not the same person that I was only two years ago, and in another two years, I will be different still. I want to live to my fullest potential, and be the best version of myself that I can. Let nothing be squandered. I have goals, and an actionable, realistic plan to achieve them. For the first time in my life, I have patience. Keep working on myself, and let things happen naturally.

Blood and Ink

Posted in general on March 3rd, 2018 by Jin Wicked – Comments Off on Blood and Ink

The fleece-lined jeans that I bought, deliberately too small, at the beginning of January are now starting to slide down on my hips. I will need a belt soon. I stand over the kitchen counter, attacking a roasted chicken from the grocery store directly with a fork, mindless of the juice and stray bits of pepper on my face. There are no need for formalities or plates here. Sugar is sloth. Sugar is weakness. I am satisfied by the bitterness of the darkest chocolate and black coffee. I am hungry, but it is not a hunger for food. We are beyond that now. This week I had part of my signature tattooed on the knuckles of my drawing hand, as a reminder and a symbol of the commitment to my goals. It burned. It felt good. As I eat, I become acutely aware of the feeling of my teeth.

Every day is a step closer to death. I am alive.

XVII

I have reached another breaking point, and feel strongly that my time is now. I am attempting to have one or two of my team members promoted, so that I can gracefully bow out of my current employment with little disruption. Myself, I am negotiating for a position where I would work three 9-10 hour days per week, as close to my current rate of pay as possible, so that I would net only about a one-quarter to one-third loss in reliable income. This would leave me with one day per week to dedicate to administrative and social activities, and three full days to achieve a good workflow producing artwork and comics.

I cannot tolerate my lack of artistic productivity any longer. Please support my Patreon if you enjoy my work, or care about me on a personal level at all.

Escape Velocity

Posted in general on February 24th, 2018 by Jin Wicked – Comments Off on Escape Velocity
We passed upon the stair. We spoke of was and when.
Although I wasn’t there, he said I was his friend.
Which came as some surprise. I spoke into his eyes,
“I thought you died alone, a long long time ago.”

The heavy malaise that settled itself over me at the beginning of the holiday season has slowly grown, alongside the snow weighing down tree branches outside my office window. My friends keep suggesting that it is seasonal, but I am skeptical. The symptoms are noticeably proportional to how productive I am, and both quality and quantity of sleep I am getting. My sleep has been poor for many months due to a combination of external factors. In a nutshell, inadequate art and creative time combined with sleep deprivation makes Jen literally feel like dying. The needs of managing the equivalent of two full-time jobs continue to edge out room for anything else, gradually turning me into a goal-fueled meat robot unable to focus on anything but milestones and To Do lists. To further remove anything resembling joy from my life, on January 6th I began a strict ketogenic diet to lose the last 25 lbs that I stalled out on back in 2016. I have not imbibed a drop of alcohol since late July, and now I have almost completely cut carbs and added/refined sugars. I feel very clean.

Oh no, not me, I never lost control.
You’re face to face with the man who sold the world.

The new diet, along with a schedule of self-selected supplements (ketogenic-specific multivitamin, collagen, biotin, potassium, and vitamin D), has had an incredible effect on my mental focus and energy levels. Please note that I am not a doctor, nor am I recommending that anyone follow down the path of my insanity. My understanding is that the blood sugar levels are maintained with more stability as the body breaks down fat in place of carbohydrates, which prevents both highs and crashes. I am able to fast for hours or even a day if needed with little negative effect or feelings of hunger. I have lost over 10 lbs so far, and expect to hit my ultimate goal by the middle or end of April. I know that at almost forty years old, I am going to have to remain forever-diligent about my diet to stay the size I desire to be. I do plan on re-introducing good carbs like whole grains, but kicking sugar has been life-changing for me. The days of stuffing my face with donuts to avoid emotional problems are over.

The depression is another matter. It is a simple task to update my website or crank out Sharpie artworks while moderately distracted, but my schedule and environment are just not conducive to the periods of quiet and solitude that I need to work on a 20-24 hour per page long-form comic project. One of my colleagues and friends suggested that I go a simpler route, but that is not compatible with my vision, and I do not believe I would be happier with that than doing nothing at all. Something, however, has to give soon and I do not know for certain what that will look like. I am being nudged toward the edge of a cliff where, at some point, I have to have enough faith in myself to make the final leap. Right now, I am sewing up the parachute to soften my landing. The sooner that I am able to step down to part-time work, the less toll there will be on my mental health. As I stated on a recent podcast, I will torch the rest of my life to the ground, if that is what it takes, to reach my goals.

I laughed and shook his hand, and made my way back home.
I searched for form and land, for years and years I roamed.
I gazed a gazeless stare at all the millions here —
We must have died alone, a long long time ago.

Not the familiar and well-trod numbness of depression, but acute feelings of grief and sadness linger like ghosts in my heart — in spite of everything — for both personal reasons, and the general state of the world. Grieving things that have happened? Grieving things that have yet to happen? David Bowie appeared to me in a dream last year and spoke, and I still have to illustrate that. Perhaps my greatest accomplishment of the last three years has been not the disassembly and reassembly of myself, or resurrection of my career, but gaining the ability to smile and continue dancing through pain, loss, and the things that would have utterly destroyed me not so long ago.

Who knows? Not me. We never lost control.
You’re face to face with the man who sold the world.

Right now my focus is on Instagram and my Facebook page, so please follow me there if you are not already. I received some lovely artwork from friends and readers for my birthday this month. There is a Happy Rats colouring book planned for release in April, T-shirt pre-order in March for the second printing of Stop Fuckin’ Around and the Queen of Assholes playing card logo, possibly a Dollar Late mini-comic by May? Lots of good stuff. Stay tuned.

David Bowie, “The Man Who Sold the World”

Jin Wicked is Sick of Shit

Posted in general on December 20th, 2017 by Jin Wicked – Comments Off on Jin Wicked is Sick of Shit

I am tired.

“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the realm of the dead, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.” Ecclesiastes 9:10

I am tired. I am tired, but determined, like an untamed animal at the outskirts of domesticity, with fading vision and loosening teeth, sleeplessly rummaging the streets to find his next meal. This has been a — difficult Christmas. Once Thanksgiving passed, a melancholy settled over me that has been mitigated only by the volume of work I am challenging myself to do. Since moving here to Saint Paul, my first two Christmases have been over-shadowed by broken promises, disappointment, and heartbreak. Until now, I had loved Christmas. Last year I unceremoniously donated almost all of the Christmas decorations that I brought with me from Texas. This year, I gave away what remained, in addition to the new tree that I purchased last year. Earlier this December, I finally mustered enough good spirit to purchase and decorate a twiggy 2′ live tree, at which point someone attempted to point out the perceived hypocrisy of buying something and spending an hour on an activity other than work. After that I was ready to throw all of Christmas into the dumpster forever.

Shit I am absolutely done with: people telling me who I am, people telling me what they believe is wrong with me, being belittled and disrespected, having my generosity and goodwill taken advantage of, laziness, and cowards.

I want to go to the gym and lift heavy objects over and over until I am strong enough to punch every single obstacle and obstruction out of my way.

Because fuck if I am going down without a fight.

Dragon

I can feel myself dying. My ears are pricked high, to the thunderous bellow of oblivion, barrelling down its tracks toward me every day. Some days, it fans the flames of purpose and urgency within me. Other days, it does its worst to silence my enthusiasm and smother it into unquenchable sadness. We are all suffocating in a world Hell-bent on sowing the seeds of its own economic and ecological destruction — of consuming itself with apathy, greed, and a lack of compassion. How does a country like the United States, a nation I have been browbeaten my entire life to believe was founded upon so-called “Christian” values, reach this point? I am an atheist that regularly attends Catholic Mass. I listen to the lessons of Jesus and I take them to heart, without any promise of eternal reward. It is enough for me to do good and serve my fellow man. I believe in charity, community, dignity, social justice, love, and sacrifice.

Where did Jesus instruct us to openly mock our brothers and sisters, who are asking only to be treated with basic human dignity, as snowflakes? Where did Jesus preach that the poor must have brought their plight upon themselves, and we should worship riches and the wealthy as inherently virtuous? Where did Jesus teach that the loftiest measure of righteousness is how much we manage to deny others, and wield power over our neighbours? Are we really so selfish, short-sighted, and cravenly afraid of people different than us, that we are willing to abandon the values we claim define us as a society?

Literally the only way this world will survive as we know and recognize it is by mutual understanding, rebuilding communities, reigniting our devotion to the values we say matter to us, embracing sacrifice, and figuring out how to work together. Your brothers and sisters struggling to nourish their families are not the people holding you back; it is the men and women above you, with boots upon your neck, setting us against each other and manipulating religion and nationalism to act outside our own best interests. They have all the might of the government, military, and the police behind them. The only legitimate way to fight back is to refuse to participate when it is safe to do so. Buy local. Buy independent when you can. Repair things instead of discarding and replacing them. Reject conspicuous consumption. Become more self-reliant. Barter with your neighours. Talk to your neighbours! Talk about your feelings. Talk about your fears. Own your mistakes. Be brave. Be confident. Be vulnerable. Let go of judgement. Invest in education. Invest in your community, institutions, and social network. Wield the tools of democracy. Work hard. Never give up.

Somehow in spite of all this, I have to maintain a certain level of contradictory optimism. I have to believe that we still have a future. I have to believe that this world is still capable of being saved, beyond what comfort I can bring to my immediate family and friends. I am studying the “Rule of Saint Benedict” in my continuing shift to a lifestyle of minimalism, temperance, and simplicity. At this point, I have nearly everything I could possibly need. All I want is a very basic level of comfort, health, safety, and to practice my arts in peace.

And I will fight for these things.

Even if I am tired.

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.