In what I'm hoping will become a standing tradition, Mim and I have decided to look back over the past 12 months at where our lives and our drawings have taken us. Since we didn't get to do this last year, I've also included a list of some of my favourite artwork from 2009.
For me, 2010 was a year of trying desperately to slow things down and try to get my life more centred around the things that matter to me, with the first visible result of this being twolofbees.com itself. To free up some more time, I resigned from a couple of community groups that were moving away from where my interests lay, which retrospectively, I feel that I should have done some time ago. At about the same time that I was starting to feel that I had a firm grip on the reigns and was ready to start devoting myself to projects I could believe in, I busted up my wrists and elbows.
I don't think anything could really have prepared me for the impact losing the use of my hands would have on me. At first the pain was enough to keep me distracted (imagine hitting your thumb with a hammer by accident, now imagine that pain all the way up to your elbows on both arms), but then helplessness started to sink in (Mim, who had moved back in, had to open doors for me for the first couple of months), followed by frustration (freeing up all of your time and then not being able to use it brings frustration to new levels), and then panic (I have a stupendously large number of Things I Need To Do Before I Expire - the thought of having my productive life end before having a chance to do any of them honestly scared 12 shades of any substance you could name out of me). Three months later, I am slowly healing up. Mim doesn't have to write my emails for me anymore, I can now tie my shoe laces and brush my teeth without experiencing lasting pain, and I drew my first picture this year about a week ago.
Also, I'm feeling quite fat now.
Mim had been saying ever since she drew the first Lof Balloon picture that she wanted a way to share "the lof" with the world. We'd both spent lots of time pulling our hair out whilst trying to remember which order things happened in and who drew what when. To help tackle these problems, I decided to work in secret on a database and website that I would give to Mim on our first anniversary. Things more or less came together as I'd hoped for the launch, and our hits have been climbing steadily over the past 12 months. In December, we had over 1,000 unique visitors, which was pretty exciting for us. It's also been interesting to see how often people are clicking the 'love' button, and which pictures are proving to be popular.
Some of the new features I've added since we launched have been Artwork Of The Day, RSS feeds, image tags, comments (currently only by us - I don't think we're ready to deal with spam or handling the depressing reality that nobody wants to comment on our stuff), daily banner changes and page indexes for comics.
It's also been heaps of fun to create new banners. I'm really happy to have finished the rainbow balloons banner before the business with my hands kicked in, though at the moment, I think that the Sea Steve banner is probably still my favourite.
Early in the year, after showing Mim Lof Clouds, she said "Zomg! That's so good! You may now leave the temple." That's possibly my proudest moment, and something I still draw inspiration from. Mim's praise means a lot to me.
Prior to meeting Mim, I'd neglected my artwork a fair bit. I'd done a few sketches here and there and worked on artwork for Neverball and linux.conf.au 2009, but nothing that I felt progressed my "skills of an artist" (though the LCA stuff did wonders for my Inkscape proficiency). So far as my sketchwork goes, I think that 2010 has brought me back to where I used to be before the aforementioned decline (though one look at any of my notes would give cause for doubt). My vector artwork, however, is probably what I'm most proud of at the moment.
2010 contained a lot of drawings with princess hats, and that probably could do with some explanation. As a "let's explore what makes us happy" exercise, I often ask Mim what would make her feel like a princess. One day whilst I was playing guitar, she brought me a drawing of me sitting on a chair serenading her and the word "Princess" floating above her head. Later that day whilst she was practicing on her flute, I drew a picture with the same poses where Mim was playing the flute and I was wearing a princess hat (an image that still makes both of us laugh at its ridiculousness). Since then, the princess hat has become symbolic of feeling particularly special or especially happy.
The other item worth mentioning is that I had Snowscape published in Linux Format Magazine. Admittedly it didn't have my name next to it, and they were talking about an Inkscape tutorial I was holding rather than the image itself, but it's still pretty neat to see something I've done in print (which is a first for me if you don't count the LCA programmes and other 'schwag' items). A few months later, they published in the same section a followup letter I wrote (which didn't have anything to do with drawing).
Mim has done her own 2010 retrospective, but there are a couple of things I'd like to bring attention to.
First up is Sprinkles, who embodies the same wonder as the Lof People, but from a more childlike and self-reliant perspective (whereas I imagine that the beauty and adventure that the Lof People find is a direct reflection of their feelings for each other). I'm looking forward to seeing more of her.
Mim's "cute series" is great as well. The way she takes cute images and infuses them with her bizarre, off kilter narrative is absolute gold to me. We're still tossing up whether these need a 'comic' of their own, or whether a tag is the best way to group them. Speaking of Mim's comics, her Honours Thesis Comic has garnered us a bit of attention and some requests for stuffed Thesis Monsters. I know that there are a couple of pages yet to come for this comic which will give it some closure, but with Mim's PHD application in, I think we can expect it to continue well into the next couple of years.
In addition to her amusing contributions to the Two Lof Peas comic, Mim also has several of unfinished comics that she started in 2010 (in particular, there's a good one about a cockroach, and one that I really like with some origami cranes). Her sense of pacing is great, and it's hilarious to see moments from our lives exaggerated out of proportion.
2010 also saw Mim carving her first pumpkin - a fun looking project that I had to sit by and watch.
As for 2011, I think we can expect to start seeing more of my stuff towards the end of February as my hands heal up (I'm trying to be as careful as possible to not overdo anything at this point).
Mim and I have been secretly working on a project involving a prince and a princess (which actually means that Mim has been working on it and I've been playing Art Director), that is starting to shape up. Doing the writing for it has been really enjoyable.
2011 is also likely to bring us more Loftopus adventures, and some more Grumpy Bunny. I'm planning to revisit the Cave Of Lof and polish off a few other bits and pieces I didn't get to finish last year.
As for the website itself, my todo list for the coming year includes a new home page, a way of showcasing/switching banners, a greater focus on our more polished art, more attention and RSS feeds for for comics and stories, making tags more useable, replacing all of the refinement/sorting options and the love buttons with ajax driven solutions to speed things up a bit, moving the ref URLs for the back buttons into cookies and/or session variables (where they should have been to begin with), a help page with a glossary, info bubbles to assist new visitors, and finally some text based search! How much of that I'll actually manage to do is debatable, but it's always good to have goals ;)
Here are some of my favourites from the last 12 months in no particular order:
And here are some of the ones that stand out for me from 2009: