Notes From Quarantine

With nearly everyone confined to quarters for the foreseeable, everyone has a quarantine story to tell. This is mine.

I was leading pretty much my normal life up to the week of March 9th. On Wednesday the 11th, I had lunch with my publisher- ordering actual food from a restaurant- and had a studio visit from a friend’s high school-age son in the afternoon. Thursday I had a date to go to the theater to see a performance of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time with my sister Teresa, but had one wary eye on the headlines- schools had already been closed, and the governor had banned gatherings of over 250 people. I checked the theater’s website that morning to see if the show was cancelled, and saw that a planned matinee was going ahead, but that the status beyond that was uncertain. A few hours later they cancelled the rest of the run.

I had my usual Friday visit on the 13th with my hangout buddy and sometime assistant Jacob Mercy, in which we were careful to avoid standing too close or god forbid, shaking hands, but that is the last social interaction I have had with anyone not in my immediate family. The store my wife Eve manages was slipping into closing by degrees- first, closing one day a week, then taking a planned two week holiday, then shutting until further notice.

Our daughter Rebecca flew home from LA on Tuesday the 17th- classes at UCLA had gone online, but she had intended to stay in the dorms through finals week, but we were worried that flights might be cancelled altogether. The three of us stayed in the house together, apart from a two-day trip to the coast, for the next ten days.

David Chelsea is reading: The Last Cruise
by Kate Christensen

We took precautions on the trip, staying a safe distance from others, and carefully wiping surfaces in the house we stayed at. Here are Rebecca and Eve at Ona Beach State Park:

Here are some glassy pebbles we collected at Smelt Sands:

Rebecca flew back to LA on Friday the 20th (Flights have still not been cancelled; Rebecca says there were four other passengers on the plane). Even though most of her college-age friends are studying from their old bedrooms, Rebecca wanted to spend Spring Quarter with her friends from school. She and four of her best friends have sublet an apartment in LA, where they’re going to spend the rest of the school year.

Eve and I are now alone together in the house 24/7, apart from occasional shopping forays. We’ve been catching up on Ozark and Tiger King on Netflix, and on warmish days we work in the garden. At Seven O’Clock every night we and the neighbors on our street go out on our porches and beat drums and blow trumpets to honor essential workers, and basically check to see that we’re all still OK. So far, no one on the block has fallen ill.

Last Saturday morning, we held a conference call on Zoom among the members of our extended family, to check in and see how everyone is doing. Left to right, our son Ben in San Francisco, my sister Anny in South Pasadena, Rebecca in LA, my mother in Portland, my other sister Teresa in Portland (same house as my mother, actually), Eve and me in Portland, my cousin Sophia and my aunt Anita, both in suburban Virginia, and Anny’s son Ivan in Boston. We are going to make this a weekly habit:

As a work-from-home freelancer, my life hasn’t changed all THAT much. I do miss trips to the store and the library, but I’m basically doing what I did before. I’m still posting my biweekly series of instructional videos created in Adobe After Effects on my Patreon page. The most recent shows how to draw stairs in perspective:

Here’s a sneak preview of the next video:

I’m managing to do paying work as well. My friend Jonathan Dubay hired me to animate this webpage for his handwriting app:

I have also been continuing to post old sketchbook drawings to my Patreon page, including a bunch drawn on a school trip to San Francisco in 1973. And it doesn’t get more San Francisco than seeing one of my artistic heroes, R. Crumb, playing music on the street:


I started a new comics series just before the lockdown happened. DREAM STUFF is a nonlinear, stream-of-consciousness story based on elements from dreams I’ve been posting to Facebook for the past decade. The pages I’ve posted so far feature American presidents:

This haiku comic I posted last week started as an exercise in pure randomness- copying photos that turned up on my Facebook feed over a printed-out perspective grid- but it somehow developed a quarantine theme:

Another comic on Patreon also has a quarantine angle. It all started when a Facebookfriend named Ian J. Miller posted this:

“Murphy’s Law: I socially distanced myself as a freelance artist working from home for 10 years. Then when I decided I was tired of socially distancing I got a day job I really enjoy. Today marks one month since I started that day job and the office is closed and I’m now at home socially distancing again.

At least I have all this toilet paper.”

I posted a comment about how it’s difficult to draw on toilet paper, which got me to thinking that I shouldn’t make a categorical statement like that until I have actually TRIED to draw on toilet paper. My first attempt was a portrait of Ian from his Facebook profile pic, which turned out well enough that he asked me to send it to him.

This strip posted to my Patreon page is my second effort:

Observations: due to the fragility of the paper surface, I cannot use pencil, let alone make erasures. The paper is semi-transparent enough that I can do extremely loose tracing. All the drawing is done directly in ink with a brush. The technique I use is close to drybrush, with faint, subtle initial strokes building tones up gradually. A brush heavily loaded with ink will make a mark that blots and spreads out, so for the most part I keep the brush fairly dry. The brand is Scott, I believe, which has a surface with a tighter texture than some brands like Charmin which tend to fuzziness. l may experiment with watercolor or acrylic down the line.

From the top, the portraits are of Socialist presidential candidate Eugene V. Debs, French actress Julie Delpy, radio host Doctor Demento, and modern dance choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker.

It’s been a while since I’ve done any new premiums for my Patreon page, so here’s a quarantine special. Any Patreon sponsor who requests one can get their own portrait on toilet paper, while supplies last (Eve actually found a package on a recent trip to the grocery store, so I think we’re in good shape). For those who are not yet Patreon sponsors, this may be an opportune time to sign up and see all the fabulous sponsor-only content I’ve been posting, including those pages from my 1976 sketchbook. Levels start at only $1 a month!

Patreon links:

New Comic: Dream Stuff

End Strip #187: Random Portraits From My DE Folder

Perspective Grid Comic: Random Haiku #2

Drawing Perspective with David Chelsea: Stairs In Perspective (Patreon members only)

Sketchbook Drawing: R. Crumb Playing Banjo (Patreon members only)