I strive very hard to not be the kind of artist who feels compelled to annotate her work.
Naturally, the only reason I bring this up now is because I’m about to do just that.
I knew as long ago as last summer that I wanted my design for my holiday card to relate somehow to the presidential election; I reasoned that the campaign would only have been over for 4-6 weeks by the time cards should be in the mail, and given this election’s ubiquity in public life for the preceding 12-plus months, I felt sure it would likely still be hovering over the American psyche.
A light-hearted design, I was thinking. Maybe classic broadside campaign posters, pitting classic holiday characters against one another? I didn’t know. I had time.
Then came the early morning hours of November 9th, and suddenly nothing seemed light-hearted any more. There was anger, panic, horror, shock, anxiety, fear, a sense of helplessness– and that’s just what I felt.
Seriously, many people I know on both sides of the political spectrum were feeling some combination of those emotions. One thing about a charismatic, mercurial leader of any political stripe: s/he, for good and/or ill, can foster of lot of uncertainty in the body politic.
All those states of mind are exhausting by themselves. All together, they’re crushing. More exhausting and crushing still if you have a chronic illness, and you’re afraid you’re about to lose your health insurance. Or if you don’t fit someone else’s image of what an “American” “should” look like, or if … well, doubtless you can fill in your own examples.
So I said to myself, “Okay, we’ve got anger, fear, uncertainty … what do we have left that’s good?” and started scribbling nouns on a piece of paper.
And since I already had campaign ephemera on my mind, I just combined that with the nouns, and as they say in the orchestra, viola!
The inspirations for each piece of memorabilia may be found on this Pinterest board. (Oddly enough, the “Faith” button is a bipartisan combination: it’s mainly an homage to a button from George McGovern’s 1972 campaign, but that decisive period at the end comes from a button from his opponent’s successful re-election campaign.)
The color scheme for this year’s cards was inspired by science fiction author Emmie Mears’ lovely map “These Purple States of America.” The reds and blues I used are a little-to-a-lot closer to pinks and purples than the typical campaign colorway. (As I pored over campaign buttons from the past, I discovered that only one major presidential candidate deviated from the red, white, and blue: much of Jimmy Carter’s campaign swag was green and white.)
The pinks, red-violets, blue-violets, and purples were important to me — not because I wanted to suggest an old, tired cliché like “see, we really aren’t so different from one another.” (I think this most recent election demonstrated just the opposite.)
Emmie Mears says their map demonstrates that
“This country is divided like the grains of sand on the beach are divided. Sure, some might be remnants of shells and others of quartz and others of garnet and others of slate but good luck to anybody trying to claim one of those bits doesn’t exist in any given handful.”
This struck me. To me, the pinks, violets and purples serve as a reminder that we are not alone. Somebody, somewhere — possibly quite nearby — feels the same way you do, and values the same concepts you do.
Over the next several years, we should try to find one another. We’re going to have to take care of one another, in both a spiritual sense and a physical sense. There’s a lot of work to be done. Whatever peaceful, non-destructive, beneficial means you can undertake to effect change — or in some cases, prevent change — do it.
To that end, I’ll endeavor to make more comics and art –and make them even more relevant. I thank everyone from the bottom of my heart for their comments and encouragement over the life of this blog. You keep me going.
Happy holidays. Happy New Year. Hang on to the good things, and — as the original lyrics to the Christmas classic have it — we’ll muddle through somehow.