A few folks seemed to enjoy my Tweet earlier this month:

When the ball drops, I'm gonna stab 2009 in the heart to make sure it's dead.

I have several friends who feel the same way: they’re more than ready for 2010.

For me, the year was colored by a setback at the end of January, when I learned my book release would be pushed back seven months to April 2010. At that point, I’d worked on the book seven months, it was eight months til the original release date of September. Another year and four months seemed like an eternity. In hindsight, it worked out fine: I did a big round of edits to the final manuscript in April, the fall book release schedule was incredibly loaded with heavy-hitters, and now I’m more prepared for the release. But it was tough.

The rest of the year felt like I was stuck in a holding pattern. Where to go next?

Still, there were some highlights.

The best thing I can say about February is that it bought me my first pair of cowboy boots. A perfect ending to the month that I’ve always joked is “a good month to die”, I spent the 28th in College Station.

20 days out of March we had out-of-town guests in our house, but despite the exhaustion, I met some great folks at my first SXSW, and had my first TV appearance. (Any month that ends with seeing Neko Case on the 31st can’t be all bad.)

April brought the biggest life change of the year: our dog, Milo!

Late May, my wife got her master’s, and the Vizthink Visual Note-Taking webinar was a smash hit, which later led to our accepted 2010 panel at SXSW.

In June, the official 2010 Texas Summer of Heat and Death began. The coolest thing I did was silkscreen Newspaper Blackout prints with my buddy, Curt Miller. I also saw a terrific taping of Austin City Limits with St. Vincent. My wife and I came up with an idea for a book, which we’re working on now, but I can’t say anything about…

July and August boiled my memory.

September I had my first religious experience with Texas BBQ in Lockhart. At the end of the month we released our 20×200 prints.

October, the weather broke.

November I taught my first college class, and had a terrific Thanksgiving with our friends.

The 1st of December brought galleys of the book, as if to answer January.

So here we are.

What I learned this year is that even the most modest success  comes with a lot of paperwork. A book isn’t done when you turn in the manuscript. There’s a lot of logistical crap you have to deal with, and if you don’t keep doing your job–read, investigate, dream, make up cool shit–you will be brought down. There were a few side projects that kept me exploring (I’m thinking most of my tea drawings and de-signs), but overall, I kept too busy. I didn’t read enough, I didn’t relax enough, I didn’t allow enough space for myself to grow.

But then, that’s why we tick time off in years: we can say goodbye to all that, and start over.

Thanks to everyone for reading, sharing links, buying prints…y’all are awesome.

2010, here we come.


what happens to the married / we live in a buddy comedy / we fight, kiss, and then eat chinese takeout / there's a little acting / and we get lost / but i will take more

My wife and I were married three years ago today! She’s my muse, my editor, and my best friend.

Happy anniversary, Meg. I love you.


permit losing

no son is perfect

no ink allowed on arms

no pain

no sons to pass it on to

All taken with my iPhone camera, altered with iRetouch, filtered w/ Tilt-shift generator and CameraBag.

These De-Signs have turned out to be a great deal of fun. The perfect side-project: all done on my iPhone while passing time. I look forward to traveling this Christmas, so I can build a collection of new sign snapshots.

We were playing with our new printer rig, and I did a test printing of 4×6 prints. They came out looking really cool:

4 x 6 prints of de-signs

I can see mixing and matching some favorites and framing them. Perhaps we’ll offer them in the store next year?

See the whole collection of De-Signs.


10 good albums I listened to this year:

album cover

1. white denim – fits

At the moment, my favorite band. Saw these guys twice this year — once at Antone’s, once at The Mohawk.

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2. bill callahan – sometimes i wish we were an eagle

My favorite songwriter — at this point, he seems incapable of making a bad record.

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3. the monks – black monk time

A record from 1966 at #3? Yep.

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4. the beatles – stereo box set

Speaking of records from the 60s…

The Beatles’ intentions be damned, skip the mono versions, and go for the stereo. They sound amazing.

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5. cass mccombs – catacombs

I first heard McCombs’ “That’s That” on a White Denim radio show. I went out and bought all his records. This album is probably the best entry point to his stuff.

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6. dirty projectors – bitte orca

I blasted Rise Above during my bus rides last year, while I was making the book, and although that record is still my personal favorite, this one might be even better.

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7. animal collective – merriweather post pavilion

Yeah, this is as good as everyone says it is.

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8. atlas sound – logos / megamixes / 7 inches

Do yourself a favor: go subscribe to Bradford Cox‘s blog. Not only does he give us Deerhunter and Atlas Sound records, he’s constantly posting these amazing megamixes and free 7 inch singles. If only every musician was so generous.

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9. phoenix – wolfgang amadeus phoenix

Phoenix! What a cool pop band. Watch them tear up Letterman and try not to be impressed. This album isn’t perfect, but it’s great.

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10. st. vincent – actor

Her Austin City Limits taping was the best live show I saw this year. Amazing.

10 songs I couldn’t stop playing

Take a listen on my Blip.FM playlist.

  1. when I grow up” – fever ray
  2. stillness is the move” – solange’s cover
  3. 1901” – phoenix
  4. how to be invisible” – kate bush
  5. river of dirt” – marissa nadler
  6. leave me be” – the zombies
  7. money” – barrett strong
  8. fool for you” – the impressions
  9. come to life” – arthur russell
  10. beach on the moon” – kurt vile

* * *

My favorite sources for new tunes: Gorilla Vs. Bear, Pitchfork’s Best New Music list, or Twitter (mainly @woxy, @papertrail, & @fluxistrad).

* * *

Favorite live shows:

  1. St. Vincent @ Austin City Limits
  2. Gary Claxton @ Gruene Hall, Gruene, TX
  3. White Denim @ Antone’s, Austin, TX
  4. The Reivers @ Carousel Lounge, Austin, TX
  5. Andrew Bird – Austin City Limits

* * *

For more reading, see my live music sketches from this year and all my posts about music.


Ten good books I read this year:

book coverMemories, Dreams, and Reflections
by Carl Jung

The best thing I read all year. Jung started his autobiography when he was 81, and worked on it right up until his death. See my map of the book.


book coverEd Emberley’s Drawing Book: Make A World
by Ed Emberley

I discovered this book last year, but returned to it over and over this year, recommending it often to folks as a beginner’s drawing book.


book coverAsterios Polyp
by David Mazzuchelli

A graphic novel that’s as good as everybody says it is.


book coverMap of My Heart
by John Porcellino

Porcellino is one of my favorite cartoonists, ever. This collection is even better than King-Cat Classix.


book coverLunch Poems
by Frank O’Hara

Jen Bekman got me into O’Hara. This collection, written while O’Hara was on his lunch break, includes the great “Ave Maria” and “Poem (Lana Turner has collapsed!)


book coverAwait Your Reply
by Dan Chaon

This is the only novel I read this year. A terrific read.


book coverStitches
by David Small

The drawing in here is really top-notch: Small enjoys teaching anatomy, and it shows.

Every artist’s memoir has one underlying plot: *how I became an artist*. That plot can allow for infinite variations. My favorite page from the book.


book coverTrickster Makes This World
by Louis Hyde

Hyde’s The Gift is one of my favorite books. This book isn’t as good, and took me a few months to finish, but it was worth the read.


book coverSeven Days In The Art World
by Sarah Thornton

My wife got me this after reading one of Thornton’s articles. After reading it, I understood the art world better, and wanted less to do with it than before.


book coverIgnore Everybody
by Hugh Macleod

Hugh’s said the book is “advice I wish I had when I was in my early 20s.” The book sprung from his piece “How To Be Creative,” which was a big deal to me when I found it a year or so ago, specifically for his “Sex and Cash Theory.” Helped me feel better about keeping my day job.

What was the best book you read this year?


visual thinking for writers

In November I taught my second online course for Vizthink, “Visual Thinking for Writers.”

Description  ] [ Buy It ]

It was a catalogue of techniques I’ve discovered over the past couple of years that have helped me with my own writing.

I thought up the course after thinking a lot about the tools writers use, and how young writers are often scoffed at in Q&A sessions when they ask things like “Do you write by hand or on a computer?”

In my experience, it’s not a silly question at all: tools -> process -> writing.

The way you work is important.

My main idea was that the best thing you can do for your writing is step away from the computer, spend $10 in the school supply aisle of your local grocery store, and start making writing with your hands. (See this Wall Street Journal article that asked novelists how they write — well over half of them start with handwritten notes, index cards, etc.) If I was going to teach the workshop in the flesh, I would simply organize it by pens, index cards, post-it notes, scissors, tape, etc.

Here’s a reading list of blog posts I used as inspiration:

I’ve posted some of my slides below.

visual thinking for writers

visual thinking for writers

visual thinking for writers

visual thinking for writers

visual thinking for writers

visual thinking for writers

visual thinking for writers

visual thinking for writers

UPDATE: Here’s some really nice praise from one of the webinar participants:

Austin Kleon’s webinar was engaging, energetic, and expert. My colleague and I went into the webinar thinking we were getting a $60 presentation. What we got was a learning experience that was intelligent, interesting, fresh, funny — yet grounded in solid research about the ways people think about and respond to their worlds. And it’s *immediately applicable* to both our professional and personal lives! If this is what VizThinkU provides, we’ll be back — a lot.– Denise Dilworth, Content Strategist