Saturday, December 03, 2005

Four to Five More Days...

...and I'll be in the new studio/office/library space. The carpeting is installed on Wednesday, Rick Fortier installs the hot-water heat baseboard after that, and it's all in.

But first:

My fellow area cartooning bud Skip Morrow is having an open house this weekend in Wilmington for his new home gallery space (!). Skip and his wife (and fellow musician) Lorraine will be meeting and greeting folks in the expansive gallery from 10 AM to 5 PM today and tomorrow, with food and drink and free books. Buy their CD while you're at it, it's good listening and among Marj's and my favorite CDs.

If you're in the southern Vermont area this weekend, go for it! Tell them I sent you, please. You can find info, art, and all kinds of groovy stuff here at
  • Skip Morrow's site
  • -- or at
  • Skip's other site!
  • Actually, they both bring you to the same site, so choose your click button without a care.

    Contact info, should you require require directions to the 'real world' gallery for the weekend open house, are available
  • here.

  • Skip and Lorraine have been making music in the Wilmington area for decades. Skip's cartooning career has kept him active and always evolving since the publication of his first book, The Official I Hate Cats Book (1980), which was a tremendous success and launched a series of books. These propelled Skip into a wide array of markets, including greeting cards, calenders, etc. Among my personal faves of Skip's books are The End and Don't Laugh, You're Next (both 1983), his marvelous color illustrations for the Judith Freeman Clark and Stephen Long book series Awesome Facts to Blow Your Mind, Gross Facts to Blow Your Mind, Scary Facts to Blow Your Mind and Weird Facts to Blow Your Mind (all 1993), and the more recent return to solo single-panel color cartooning with The Joy of Smoking and I Still Hate Cats (both 2000).

    Skip gave me a tour of the new gallery while it was still under construction this fall, and it's a breathtaking. Skip's full-size color prints and artwork have been given the kind of showcase precious few museums provide, with ample space and a radiant warm ambience (enhanced with the wooden flooring and Skip's own touches throughout the woodwork); he's an incredible and multi-talented and skilled fellow, Skip!

    Hmmm, a Bissette home art gallery -- now, there's something to shoot for down the road, eh?

    Well, that's a pipedream for the future -- right now, I'll just be thankful to have a clear work space/studio again!

    As I've stated before, this is the first time I've had a dedicated work area since 1997, so this is a pretty big change for Marjory and I. The fact that the room is downstairs, well out of earshot, allows for wee hours, night and morning, of work, which is a luxury I've not had in ages (since moving out of my downtown Wilmington, VT studio in 1997). The new access to my entire library is new, too, though that will take some time to sort out -- still, books are already being shelved, just to get them into the room and out of previous and ongoing chaos.

    When Marj and I moved into our new home in 2002, the basement and top floor (the attic in the original structure) became the deposit spot for literally years of stuff -- artwork, books, comics, magazines, videos, DVDs, files (some in cabinets, some loose), collections, fossils, etc. I won't go into how mind-and-back-bending the move itself was: suffice to say the basement "office" was stacked with boxes from end to end, stacked five-to-six feet high, and the "viewing room" (still a slagheap) was left with a barely navigatable path from the bottom of the stairs to the back laundry room. The studio/attic became so choked with my comics collection and graphic novels/comics history and some paleo texts that the floor above our bedroom has begun to sag.

    Thanks to the efforts of good folks like Randy Duncan and Lea Ann Alexander, among others, the arrangement for the Bissette Collection to be archived and available for public access at Henderson State University has gone a long way toward clearing out this situation; two years of shipping boxes, and I'm still sending them stuff! Clearing the deck of all my past business and creative materials -- the complete records and histories of Swamp Thing, Taboo, 1963, Tyrant, Tundra and more, my entire comics career records going back to 1976 -- is an ongoing project, but a great deal has already been sent to, archived, and even displayed at Henderson. There's still files, shelves, and heaps of stuff to finish archiving (I send complete annotations for everything, to help Lea Ann and her assistants know what they have and provide info for future generations) and then box up and ship to Lea Ann, but it's come a long way, and opened up some space.

    Since my work began with James Sturm, Michelle Ollie and The Center for Cartoon Studies, accessing my comics, graphic novel and book collection has become more vital. I am scanning 200+ images per week for my "Survey of the Drawn Story" class, and that requires the ability to simply find what I need, much less drag it down, scan it, and return it to -- someplace. The previous three years of writing gigs (including one massive research project for a law firm) has left the attic/studio space in complete chaos, though the writing itself has all taken place in a tiny four-by-four-foot area around my computer.

    And as for my own work: though I have a single oversized flatfile, the life and work of yours truly remains in plastic-wrapped bundles, stacks, and mounds in and about the basement and flatfile area. My son Dan and I made half-hearted efforts to sort the three-decades-plus of art and photocopies, but that occasional task was sporadic and none too productive. The new office/studio/library space has already opened up access to the decades of art, and I can see light at the end of the tunnel with this task in 2006. With the help of two computer-savvy amigos, I'll be finally diving into the long-overdue process of digitizing this body of work, so maybe something will come of all this. I feel a great obligation to at least organize, digitize, and store this body of work in a manner that will make it easier for my now-young-adult children Maia and Dan (who has shown the most interest of either in ol' Pop's legacy) to deal with all this, maybe get it into print in some form, in the future.

    When my friends Mike Dobbs and Mark Martin peeked into the new area on Thanksgiving, Mike made the accurate comment, "There's no room for expansion!" Well, that's been worked into the scheme of things, too. Entire sections of the collection and library have been accumulated for specific projects. The shelving unit closest to the new writing and computer desk is entirely racked with books and illustration files gathered over 15+ years for the cannibal movie book project, We Are Going to Eat You. Now that I've found a home for that project (see previous announcement on this blog on signing with Harvey Fenton and FAB Press), as the revision/rewrite process is completed and art/illustrations scanned, an entire shelving unit and two file cabinets of research materials will be shipped off to new homes, and out of here. As that happens, my expansive paleontology library will take its place, in hopes of returning to work on my pet project Tyrant. I've other projects reaching fruition at last (including transcribing and expanding my history of horror comics, hopefully for book publication down the road) which will clear the shelves as they're completed.

    The weeding out of the comics and graphic novel collection is another 2006 task -- narrowing it down to what's necessary for teaching at CCS and still of use/interest to me, passing the rest on to Maia and Dan as they wish, the rest divvied up between the libraries at Henderson University and The Center for Cartoon Studies. So, "expansion" is possible as compression is accomplished, and so it goes.

    I've kept a preferred spot open in the new studio area for my drawing board. First on the board are some long (years) overdue "sketches," all of which turned into paintings, for some incredibly patient, put-upon fans (hence my refusal of commissions since 1999 -- see, they have been patient). Then -- who knows? It's been seven years that I've handled art projects on the kitchen counter and/or dining room table when Marj and the kids were away, or on lapboards in a chair. This'll be a change for the better.

    Would be great to just keep the world at arm's length and see to this process as soon as the carpet folks are done on Wednesday, but no such thing is possible. We're in the first end-of-semester run at the CCS, and I'm prepping for my new class next semester; I'm also prepping for my second session of online teaching with filmmaker and friend Walter Ungerer for our January 2006 online film class with University of Vermont's online class program (more on that later this week, with info on how you can sign up if you're interested in taking our class). I've got two major writing projects to wrap up, and the holidays are almost upon us, including some travel. So, I'll tackle it as time permits, and hope for the best.

    We landed a light snowfall all day yesterday followed by some incredible winds; the power didn't go out, though, and as I bundled up this morn to shovel off the front steps, there wasn't much snow to move as the winds saw to that task pretty much.

    Still, errands to run -- "see ya in the funnies," as my old college roommate Joe Mangelynx used to say.