90 x 90 Starts Monday

Having written spottily this year, I'm happy to say (if with just a little trepidation) that I am about to launch into a daily publishing project.  But first, context. 

In recent years the writing I’ve done for this blog has shifted. Early on, especially 2007-2009, I used it as a primary thinking space to work out ideas. I didn’t realize it so much at the time, but I was also working out a nonfiction reportorial voice, in equal parts critical, journalistic and personal. That turned out to be the de facto voice for what became Spartan Holiday. Over the past several years, I have written at Graphic Tales more as a teacher than anything else, building up a packet of essays and image sets for instructional purposes.  

But now I am experiencing another shift in my thinking about this enterprise. I spent the summer consolidating things. I brought my creative work and my writing work under one umbrella, and in the process have rediscovered some older projects. I have found myself reassessing things, more kindly than before. I’ve been at this a long time as it turns out.




I wrote the following copy for my about page about six weeks ago. 

I write and illustrate, mostly nonfiction. All my work engages the social landscape. Not the natural landscape, but the fashioned one: crappy architecture, signage, vehicles, holdover statuary, people making do. Many of my major projects have been about places. Most recently, my illustrated journal Spartan Holiday documents my travels and blends reportage, memoir and history.

I made work in the 1990s and early 2000s that was more allegorical and satirical: some for print, some animated. Around 2008 I shifted to a more journalistic approach. But I am realizing that my prior fictions and new reports reflect similar concerns. You see what you see.



I recently finished a book manuscript that grew out of the writing I have done here. I expect to see it in print, though I have nothing to report at the moment. I am gathering things up, gaining energy, bringing things forward. Spartan Holiday #3 is in the works, and I am preparing several other publications for market. I’m curating exhibitions and working on some cool Ulcer City swag, too.





To celebrate, I am committing to a scary regimen. For 90 days beginning on September 1, I will be tweeting (and often posting here) an image or several images with some commentary. The images will cover the waterfront of my interests: the history of comics and illustration; vernacular roadside signage I’ve documented in various places around the country, and beyond; ephemera; and my own visual projects. I will also be highlighting particularly useful and substantive GT posts from prior years, and signaling when new products are becoming available on the site. I’ll save the editorial stuff for the daily grind. It’ll be a mixture of beef and cheese curls, so far as density is concerned. The series won’t be ponderous, but it will have enough substance to make it seem worthwhile over the course of a given week. Or so I hope. 

Once there’s enough volume to justify it, we will be creating a page on the site to archive the images, and to capture the range of the series at a glance.

If you are interested in tracking the series, please follow me on Twitter: @spartan_holiday

D.B. Dowd,   North Side Chop Suey  , 2011, goauche painting for "Shanghai Pictorial,"   Spartan Holiday   No.1, 2012. 

D.B. Dowd, North Side Chop Suey, 2011, goauche painting for "Shanghai Pictorial," Spartan Holiday No.1, 2012. 

D.B. Dowd, illustration from "Meet the Bunny," Episode 64,  Sam the Dog,  The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 15, 1998.

D.B. Dowd, illustration from "Meet the Bunny," Episode 64, Sam the Dog, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 15, 1998.

Wu Youru, Forceful Attack at Bac Ninh, Dianshizai Huabao No. 1, 1884. DSZHB was pioneering illustrated newspaper supplement in China, modeled after the Western illustrated news but with a unique Chinese take; Wu was the most skilled and popular of the illustrators to work on the publication. My trip to China in 2011 was partly inspired by a desire to see more of Wu's work. I took this photograph in a Shanghai teahouse, where the owner keeps his complete run of DSZHB (1884-1900). I was lucky to be introduced to him by my daughter-in-law's uncle, Mr. Tuo. 

The Wooden Shoe, Holland, Michigan. I took this photograph in June 2012, after perusing the booths. I picked up some copies of Collier's, 1939-1941. 

Robert O. Reid, cover illustration,  Collier's Weekly , October 14, 1939. One of the  Collier's  issues I acquired at the Wooden Shoe. 

Robert O. Reid, cover illustration, Collier's Weekly, October 14, 1939. One of the Collier's issues I acquired at the Wooden Shoe.