From the mind of Tom Beland

Creator of True Story Swear to God

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Same ol', same ol'

What to do.

I try to get past those three words and I can't help but cry. I've been trying so hard to do what the doctors say... what friends recommend... what the internet explain... but in the end, I pick up my brush and its as it's been.

A jittery line.

Everyone tells me to hang in there. To be strong. That this will pass.

So far, it hasn't happened.

And each time I try and it doesn't happen... it kills a tiny bit more. The hand knows what the brain is telling it to do, but it can't seem to execute those lines that I could do in my sleep at one time.

I feel as if I'm letting so many people down. My readers, Image, comics shop owners, my wife, my characters. Each time I try to draw Lily, there's this feeling of loss that hits me. As though I'm losing that character. Each time I try, it seems a little worse. I just tried to draw that familiar look, where she's looking at the reader, with her shoulder up a bit. Jesus... I can't execute that image and it fucking kills me.

I'm getting emails from readers who want to know when the next issue is coming out and I can only explain it so many times to where I just ignore the emails. It hurts too much to give the run-down over and over. I want to yell, "IT'LL COME OUT WHEN I CAN FUCKING DRAW AGAIN" but I know that's not the right thing to do.

I just miss my art.

It's hard to be strong when you're losing something that has gotten you through so much in life. No matter what happened to me in my life, I've been able to express it on paper. This is the first time in my life where I'm afraid to touch a pencil and pen. When the jittery lines appear, it's like throwing a brick through a stain glass window.

Lily will tell me things like "I don't really notice it" to lift my spirits, but it doesn't help. It's there. Because I can feel it as I draw and see it in my line. It's not about what the reader can see. It's about what I see. This isn't a bad back or a sprained knee... this is my art. I can't put work out there in hope that people won't notice the messed-up line work.

My art has been my entire world since I was five years old. And now I can't do it.

I'm taking pills I wouldn't take in a million years. I'm wearing a magnet bracelet. I'm seeing two doctors. I'm emotionally fucked up and the one thing I would do to ease my mind is the one thing I cannot fucking do. Each time I try something, I sit down and nothing has changed.

My cartooning is more than art. It's my sanctuary. It's my Hundred Acre Woods.

It's that place I can turn to when the rest of the world is hitting on my skull. My cartooning is what got me through mom and dad dying. It got me through my first divorce. It got me through the times where I truly didn't know how I was going to buy food, or pay rent. It's what I did to meet people in school. It's how I got girls to notice me. And it's what I did... for me.

It's what I did to show the world how I met such an exceptional woman who's changed my universe.

It's what I did to spread my wings and soar.

I could be sitting in Starbucks at a table, drinking a coffee and sketching in one of my books. But what nobody can see is how utterly breathtaking it is to create even the simplest doodle. To draw the egg-shaped circle that is the head. To divide it up so the eyes rest on the horizontal line... so they even up. To then fill out the face... the eyes, the nose, the smile. The hair. To then breathe some life into that simple drawing.

I miss it more than I miss my parents.

If it came back to me, I'm confident I could take having cancer. I could hear the news and say to the doctor, "I can deal with this... I once lost my art." If you're an artist, you can understand that.

If you don't draw, you cannot imagine how that is so much a part of my life. When I see people, anyone, the first thing that comes to mind is how I could draw them. What makes them unique, artistically. Do they have a round or thin face? Their eyes. Their smile. Their hair. Their bodies. How could I translate that to the page. And in every case, I could sit down and do it.

And now... forget it.

I'm not going to give up. But even as I say that, it kills me that I even HAVE to say it. But the pain of trying hurst that much more each time. I'm terrified. I'm emotional. I'm irrational.

I just want to draw again.

I miss it so.


Tegan said...

I cannot help you, but I wish I could. I have no good advice, just the usual old crap. I'm thinking about you, and hoping you get your art back. Good wishes, headed your way.

Peter said...

I'm with Tegan... I'm thinking about you too, man. You make me wish I felt half as strongly about my art as you do. If I don't draw a day or two, I can't say it affects me much. I envy your passion, even though it's the source of your pain right now.

I wish I could do something to help fix this, but you have to do that. Maybe what fixes it will be acceptance. Acceptance that things aren't what they were, but are what they now are. Different, but still good. Look what Charles Schultz had to put up with from his hands.

Good luck Tom.

Anonymous said...

This is extremely sad to here about.
I hope you don't take offense to advice from someone who may be a little drunk and is incredibly not knowledgeable about art, but maybe this is your next graphic novel. It is an emotional story and if your situation was the story it would help explain the jittery line work, and be a part of the story, and part of the art. I'd read it. Actually if you did this shit situation as a comic it would make a hell of a lot more sense to have the lines not look perfect. And maybe, just maybe, the pressure of caring about the lines looking perfect being gone could help you get through the jitters. Besides, art should not be perfect always. It should reflect where you are physically as well as emotionally. And this is definitely is both physical and emotional. Ask yourself if the greatest artists who ever lived would have their art ended by a struggle like this, or DEFINED by a struggle like this. I think that they would keep going, but I may be totally clueless.
I hope I am making sense and that the beer is not just making me ramble without a point. Alcohol makes me long winded.
Thanks for listening.
Jim Yeske

Anonymous said...

Peter and Jim Yeske both make good points.

Taking them in reverse order... I like Jim's idea of taking this experience and putting it in TSSTG. Remember, Harvey Pekar wrote about his experience dealing with cancer in "Our Cancer Year," so there is a precedent in comics.

And I agree with Peter that accepting that things may no longer be as they were could be a viable option. I may not be an artist, but I have written professionally, and I know that sometimes a creative person may be too close to their art, so... I hope I'm not going to upset you by putting this out there... but would you consider posting something you've recently drawn, or tried to draw?

I know your art means so much to you, and you want to do the best you can each and every time, but maybe we won't see your current efforts as being as bad as you might think it is.

In any case, you have my admiration, respect and support. You've got your fans behind you, and more important, you've got Lily. Not everyone going through a personal crisis is similarly blessed.

Don't give up!

Gary Dunaier

the4thpip said...

I know words don't really help, but I can promise that I'll still buy all your comics once you get through this. We fans don't forget easily, and we can be patient.

Meanwhile, I am looking forward to more Marvel scripts from you, like the Isla Muerte sequel.

Hope things get better. It seems 2008 is a pretty crappy year for many people.

Peter said...

I should have also pointed out what the4thPip just said. I plan to continue buying your books. I think most if not all of audience feels the same way. Your work is a combination of your art and what you choose to draw about. We all enjoy the package.

Such tenderness in this site. You should all know that when Tom and I were in high school together, the bulk of our interaction consisted of calling each other "Dick."

Feel better soon, dick.

Tom Beland said...

Thanks everyone. I've read what you're all suggesting and while I can understand the logic and appreciate the warm thoughts (even "dick"), I have to be able to be comfortable with how the art looks.

It's no secret how deep my art is to me. But if nothing happens by a week from tomorrow, I'm just going to suck it up and do the damned book. I'm not thrilled about this, but I think I've given it as much time as needed to determine what I'm going to do.

I've already determined that I'm switching to computer lettering and I've been assured that I can learn it in no time. That's going to help.

Nothing about this makes me happy. There's a difference between telling someone that maybe this is how it's going to be... and being the person who has to accept it. But the decision has to be made and I truly believe that quitting the series because I can't draw as well is not an option.

So... don't think your thoughts and opinions have gone unnoticed. It's just such an emotional time for me and I've had such a difficult time with it.

Thanks for the kind words of support.

Peter's a dick. And I mean that with the deepest respect and love. If I wanted to insult him... I'd post the our Captain Sumo and Arachnoid photo. ;)

Anonymous said...

As someone who was one of the people that you made friends with through your art at school, I am deeply saddened by your loss. I know from first-hand experience just how much your preferred medium of communication means to you.

Your success means much to me as well. I can say to other artists "Tom has really made it." and "You should see the things Tom has been doing with line!" (sorry to rub salt in your wound, but your modulation of line is better than exquisite.) Your current problem makes my bouts with writer's block pale in comparison.

I'm happy that you took the time to post your anguish, so that you might move through it cathartically. Sometimes that's what we need the most--to get it off of our chest. We're all pushing for you, and hope that you can get past this to get some great books out again.

From Napa,
Thomas Emmons

milo said...

I can't dare imagine what would happen if I couldn't write my poetry or my software. They're my life. Words and code, they are the way in which I express my most intimate desires, and my attempt at making a better world. Don't give up, man. Hang in there. The fandom is with you.

Anonymous said...


Everything I would have said has already been said. We're always here for you Mr Beland, and we will wait for as long as it takes for anything you produce, whether it be written, drawn, or even spoken.

(I have posted here before, but for some reason the stupid google/blogger thingy won't take my username and password anymore, so will have to resort to being Little Miss Anonymous. Grr... argh...)

*much hugs again*


Tom Beland said...

Thanks Kayla... and Tom... and everyone.

Sorry I don't respond very quick... it's just tough for me to focus on this issue. I still have my sense of humor, but there are times when it's really taxed to the limit.

Had a long talk with my sister and she was incredible. I'll never get over how much she helps me. Lily also. Having two, let alone one, person in your life who can help you stand back a bit and get a better perspective is a huge help.

Pete... I'll call you this week.

Brian said...


Seriously, find a good acupuncture practitioner and give it a try.

My wife - the "Spell Cow" gal - has had great results and swears by it.