The Lifters

May 05, 2018


I'm very excited to have illustrated Dave Egger's new YA book

The Lifters

With illustration work I've done in the past, I would never be in contact with the author. But working with Dave on this project was very different. We were in phone contact almost every day I was drawing it. 

Initially he wanted me to draw the whole book in ink, like Walker Bean, but I had recently been doing more and more drawings with pencil, and I wanted to give it a try. He was up for anything. So I sent him this proposal drawing:

He liked it, but he wanted it to feel less like a comic. He also had the idea that the faces in the book would be mostly obscured, or in silhouette, an idea I really liked. 

So I sent him this:


He showed it to Knopf, and then I got the go ahead to continue. 

In the end the illustration ended up looking a little more realistically proportioned...

Here are the two main characters zoomed in a little.


and Catalina:

I hope the book does really well. I loved it before I added my drawings to it. I only hope my illustrations add a sort of sooty depth to Dave's story, and help some reluctant readers enter its world, and see the magic for themselves. 


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The Infinite Corpse events, and "jam" comics

July 25, 2013

So there are two events happening this weekend that I want people to know about… especially if you are in Chicago. Please come if you can. After the info is a blog entry about my history with collaborive comics. Please read if you are interested. Thank you! Hope you are having a great summer!


On display at the MCA Saturday July 27th, 10 am - 5 pm

Museum of Contemporary Art

220 East Chicago Ave, Chicago, IL


Live Performance / Reading at Brain Frame Sunday, July 28th, 6 pm


3221 S Morgan St, Chicago, IL


Collaborative comics have been something I've been interested in for a very long time.

I started doing them with my sister and friends in high school, someone drawing the first panel, and a friend drawing the next. In college in Milwaukee it became something I did with my fellow illustration students, something to do to avoid being social at parties, something that we had control of, and could get utterly lost in. I had no idea that other people did them, or that they were called "jam" comics. 

While in college I spent a small amount of time in New York at the School of Visual Arts. I didn't know anyone, and my weekends were spent by myself, drawing in the room I was renting in Queens. A few weeks in a decided to force myself to get out into the amazing city I so badly wanted to live in. So I entered Manhattan as if it was gigantic party I didn't feel quite comfortable in. I bought a card table and made make-shift dry erase boards out laminated paper and rigged them up with cardboard and velcro in sort of display, and asked strangers to draw comics with me. In retrospect I should have been very embarrassed. I'm embarrassed for myself. I was sort of the comics version of people waving "free hugs" signs. I was young, had regrettable facial hair, and friendless. I had very little to lose. 

That project, which I called "Dry Humor" was a huge part of me climbing out of my awkward teen years. I chatted with drunks, street art vendors, tourists and locals all around the East Village, Chelsea and frequently around the Met. I was harassed by cops for not having a vendors license, and when I told them I wasn't selling anything, they just told me to move to another block so they didn't have to deal with me. People were almost always friendly and I took photographs of all the work. 

It was around this time that I bought a copy of RAWs Narrative Corpse. A book edited by R. Sikoryak, and Art Spiegleman and was a chain comic by 69 of the best cartoonists at the time. It blew my mind.

As the years passed I learned more about "jam" comics, and started drawing them with cartoonists in Portland OR, New York, and finally now in Chicago. It always seemed like the most natural way of hanging out with cartoonist friends. I think many cartoonists would agree. 

My own work is my work, but there is something special about doing collaborative comics. Here in Chicago I am a member of a cartoonist collective called Trubble Club. A hugely supportive and inspirational group. We meet every week and work on our comics together… creating comics none of us would have made on our own, but treating them with the attention to detail we have with our own work. 

We are always trying to outdo our last project, and we had just finished our fifth issue… a full color newspaper edition. It took us 3 years to finally put the finishing touches on. After the fifth issue I wanted to think of a new fun thing to do. I wanted to follow the Narrative Corpse book. Pick up right where it left off. 

So one day I just decided to do it. I drew three panels that followed that project and then mailed my panels to my friend Jason Shiga. I talked to my fellow Trubble Clubber, Nate Beaty about maybe making a website that was just a huge "jam" comic. Something that people could build off of forever. I kept sending out panels to artists I admired, Trubble Club asked artists they were friends with. Eventually we asked 69 artists just like the RAW book. Including R. Sikoryak and Art Spiegelman. Both not only giving their approval, but submitting art. It was amazing. 

The website started taking shape. It started morphing… into something that more closely related to a family tree, or a choose your own adventure. Each additional artist became a branch off of the original group… until it just became a fog of story lines a gigantic 205 artists were included when the website went live. Nate Beaty is a genius.

And now, only a few months later with have over a hundred new artists sending in art. It's open to submissions, just like the dry erase comic. It's open to everyone who wants to do it. And open to all of those who already have gone before. 

I don't think that "jam" comics are any sort of great literature. They are difficult to read and frequently go very south with genitals and excrement… but there is something very magical about having so much say in the way a story goes, and also having absolutely no say at all. It becomes a living breathing story that no one person has control over, and is extremely exciting to watch grow… especially if you had a hand in it. 

If you are reading this and draw or want to draw comics, it'd be great if you contributed. No pressure. I feel a little awkward mentioning it… it makes me feel like I have a weird goatee again and am lugging around a huge card table covered in velcro. I'd prefer to feel like we're hanging out in a corner at a lame party passing time. 


ps I just opened a Big Cartel page to test it out. If you ever wanted any of my work look there or email me.

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May 09, 2012

I learned along with everyone yesterday that Maurice Sendak had died. I was blessed to be a member of the Sendak Fellowship, and to spend time with him these last few years. It feels so strange that I'll never see or talk to him again. 

He spoke about death on a regular basis, and somehow, because of all this talk, he seemed a bit invincible to me. As if talking about it made it impossible.

One day I was sitting with him on the porch of a property he owned, trying to pour him tea through a tea strainer while he read the newspaper. He watched me pour water all over the saucer, and make a mess on the table. He huffed and exclaimed that I had no idea what I was doing. I admitted I had never poured through a tea strainer before, and he laughed and apologized after his tea was finally drinkable in his cup. 

We spent the rest of that morning trading parts of the paper, and complaining about the world. We watched the birds, and looked over the most amazing panoramic mountain view I've ever seen in my life. He told me as we marveled at the beauty, that he knew he'd never see that sight again. I was used to his talk about death, and assured him he would of course see these mountains again... but he didn't respond to me, he could barely look at me. He was tearing up, and his frustration was visible. I have no idea what that feels like, to knowingly look upon something beautiful for the last time. 

Most of the articles I've been reading today seem to be written by people who didn't know him. I feel they reduce him into quotes from his books, reduce him into the grumpy old man in the woods. I admit, I barely knew him. I was just getting to know him. But he blessed me with his time, and he did so with so many other young artists these last few years. Allowing me to come over to his house with my family and friends... welcoming them into his home happily, excited to meet them, excited to share his world with them. Sure he was old, and grumpy, but he was also excitable and electrifying. 

He left this world with new work still on his table, a book to be illustrated, thoughts about self publishing another. An artist should be so lucky... to leave with so much left to say. I feel more inspired by him now as an adult, than I ever did when I was a child reading him, and I know through the fellowship and his recent interviews, that I'm not alone. If you haven't seen them, his interviews by Terry Gross and Stephen Colbert and Bill Moyers will inspire. Thank you Maurice for opening up your world. You were loved, and you'll be missed.



April 05, 2012

My mom was just featured in Fox Cities Magazine, and I'm really proud of her. I just want to spread the word. My mom is the number one reason that I've gone the route of art in my life, and she's been my biggest cheerleader forever, so it's just really exciting to see her getting recognized for her amazing work. Her books are all unique pieces of art. 

From Fox Cities Magazine:

"Kathy Hackbarth loves paper. She took a class at the Sievers School of Fiber Arts in Door County two decades ago and has been spreading her love for the art ever since. In honor of The Fox Cities Book Festival which is soon underway, who better to feature then an artist teaching the craft of bookmaking?
“I love the feel of [paper],” she says. “If I had nothing else to do in my life I would collect paper.” 

Using waxed linen thread, electric drills and bookboard (in addition to paper, of course) Hackbarth makes special books for life milestones such as weddings, baby showers and retirements as well as journals.

Here is a link to the whole article.



February 08, 2012

So I was recently asked by Kaboom! Studios to do a short piece for the new Adventure Time comic book... based on Adventure Time... the cartoon on Cartoon Network. I started writing and doodling ideas as soon as I got the email. I was so excited... HONORED to be asked. Adventure Time is one of my all time favorite cartoons. EVER. I don’t know many people who would disagree themselves. Pen Ward and his team are pretty fantastic. All of the amazing characters! It is boundless in it’s ability to explore ideas... any ideas... piling weird on top of weird, and then chopping it in half to watch the weirdness ooze out. 

The inaugural issue of Adventure Time is out in comic shops today! Wednesday February 8th! Go pick up a copy from your local comic shop! I just got a box of them in the mail, and I really couldn't be happier with how the whole thing turned out. Ryan North's story with Shelli Paroline's art is SO good. It was like READING a secret Adventure Time episode. I can't wait for issue#2. 

And now that I have said that... phew! (Go buy it.) Here is a little more about my comic.

I was given 7 pages to work with... to focus on any side character... and told not to focus on Finn and Jake. So I picked Tree Trunks. I picked her because I have a fondness for elephants, and she’s so much fun to draw... like a toaster oven sized elephant with oven mitts for ears. This is what most of my rough drafts look like... really quick just trying to get the idea out:

When my story was finally approved I decided I wanted to do it in watercolor... because I wanted to get the bright colors I love about the show, but I also really wanted it to be clear that I wasn’t trying to mimic the art of the show. I wanted it to feel like my comic as well as a tribute to the program. 

I did the line art first, so I could keep my lines pure.

And then painted my watercolors on another sheet at my light table. I had to turn the overhead lights on once in a while to see what I was doing... but I very much painted them in the dark.

If you want to read the reason I decided to do this, read on.

The reason I didn’t paint on the same paper is because of something called trapping. If you are an artist who works in print you know what I’m talking about... and if you’ve ever seen a color comic printed in a newspaper or a book and there are weird magenta or cyan or yellow shadow around the lines... that’s what I was trying to avoid. It has always confused me how other artists scan watercolors to print. To trap line art on a watercolor, to me is like recording music in mono, and then making it stereo. You just can’t do it. So maybe there was a way to do it that I just didn’t think of. The idea came to me after looking at a Richard Scarry book where they break down his process... and seeing that he painted on paper that didn’t contain the line art made SO much sense to me. So I wanted to try it.

I can say the process was a lot of fun... and when I finally put them into the computer, and laid the color on top of the lines... it was magical. Like watching a photo appear in a developer bath. 



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