Monthly Archives: March 2014

How To Win: Barefoot


(Barefoot alert: If you are not into the barefoot thing… bypass this post, this is for those liberated barefoot friends and fans)

One of the questions I am most often asked to address through my site (usually by other and often less experienced barefooters) is how I get away with going into restaurants and stores and such barefoot. The truth is, it’s rarely a problem, but when it is, there is no one single answer. Of course there are a lot of commonalities in how it is I pull it off, but each situation is different. I have even been asked very specifically how I deal with employees and managers who are confronting me and trying to kick me out or force me to submit and conform to their imaginary health code violations and imaginary liability issues (both of which are utterly bogus, even the liability stance is not an argument that holds any legal water, from the research I have seen it would be practically impossible for a barefoot customer to sue any establishment for an injury obtained through… what… cutting your foot on a paper cup or plastic spork?).

Today, for example was a day in which I had to deal with a manager at a Wendy’s. OK, I know, shame on me for eating corporate fast food, but sue me, I wanted a fish sandwich. The manager happened to be standing in the lobby, she interrupted her phone call while I was waiting on my order and told me that I had to “put on shoes.”

I looked her square in the eye and said: “It’s not a law, you need to look that up, and I don’t need to do that.”

Her jaw actually dropped and she stood there like a cow frozen in the headlights (I know, it’s supposed to be a deer in the headlights, but trust me, this particular Wendy’s manager was no doe).

I took my food, walked past her, sat down wherever the hell I wanted to and ate as she waddled off to the kitchen to take it out on her hapless employees.

And then I got back in my car grinning ear to ear, pumped my fist three times into the ceiling and drove away feeling pretty damn victorious! After all, in a life full of big losses, sometimes it’s the small victories that carry us through.

So, gang, that is one way to handle it! Good luck with this one. Hint: Be firm, calm and confident, after all, we are in the right 100%, and knowing that helps keep you calm.

Gauntlet of Bullshit Keeps Me From Going Home…


My dear friend Joe (from Akron, not Joe Courter) offered to pay for me to travel to Akron Ohio for a movie con the weekend of April 4th through 6th. It was a delightful offer and I became filled with hope and joy in the promise of a lovely adventure… until we both felt our daydreams shattered by encounters with “THEM.”

Damn Them, for they are everywhere, like seemingly well organized bands of trolls composed entirely of bullshit held together by thick gooey strands of regulations and restrictions.

I had the courage to take the long road trip from Florida to Ohio all by myself. I had cleared the decks of other obligations, commitments and deadlines, had made the time and was doing all the numerous things I needed to do to make this happen.

Then we hit obstacle one. They told Joe he could rent a car with his credit card and I could pick it up and be on my way. But they told him I had to have a credit or debit card. Well, for a start I don’t want a credit card. I have lived without one for quite some time now, thank you very much. I haven’t had a bank account in years, either, but was going to get one after I finished working some magic in my own life that would have been completed on April 14th.

So, ‘screw it’ I thought, I’ll just open a bank account now ahead of schedule and get the damn car rented.

Obstacle two: the first bank absolutely positively would not allow me to open an account because I had not yet gotten my Florida driver’s license. I had made the mistake of telling them I had been here for a while, they said I had been here too long to be allowed to open an account with that license. OK, go to hell, I’ll go to the next bank and tell them I just got here and need to open an account. I was learning how to lie to work this abusive system.

So I go to the next bank and they want to do a credit check. Christ, I’m not asking for a loan, I’m trying to open an account to put money IN! My credit has been destroyed by the housing market. I had no other outstanding debts, but had managed to end up so upside down on my mortgage that I had to allow my home to be foreclosed on and I declared bankruptcy as I could not manage a home I owed $56,000 on that would no longer sell for any more than $20,000… not in the ghettos of Akron Ohio. Well, this bank employee spoke to management on my behalf, seeing that I had been anything but financially reckless and that the housing market was in fact the sole cause of my fall from financial grace.

I go home, call Joe, tell him I have a debit card and he goes to make the reservation. Well, suddenly now that I have a debit card, they all decide in unison, Avis, Enterprise, Budget and their cohorts will not allow Joe to rent a car as a gift for me. Obstacle 3 has now been fully engaged in.

We decide to put the car on my new debit card, so Joe wire transfers $800 to my account so I can get the car, pay for a hotel, and gasoline and we will be on my way.

I start calling auto rental places, and along came obstacle 4. The first one would not allow me to take the car out of state. The second place transferred my call to India, and after the fifth attempt to get their well treated and fairly paid employee to understand my name I hung up. I mean, really, if we can’t get as far as my name how are we going to manage the rigors of reserving a car? The next place told me I was not allowed to rent a car on a debit card. So finally I called another auto rental place and They told me they would have to run a credit check. OK, at this point I’m certain you remember how my credit looks. I explained my credit to them, wanting to know, whether or not I would get the car the day I went to pick it up or not. I was not going to go through the ordeal of reserving the car, making plans, prepping for the trip, and packing only to be denied at the counter. Of course, as this person was from Malaysia (also fairly paid with benefits, no doubt) they had no clue. I began picturing Them as grinning trolls with flaming hoops and myself as a tiny quivering poodle on a choke chain.

Sweating, sick, heartbroken, angry beyond all reason, I stopped. This was now OVER.

Here’s the thing, I was not going to let Avis, Hertz, or any other conglomeration of trolls make the decision for me, I was deciding. No, enough was enough. And add to this that for the past 2 weeks while we had been discussing this little adventure and working to make it happen I have been working tirelessly on a deadline, going to meetings, teaching, working working working to get everything done and done so I could go. I was exhausted, and to make matters worse, I was engaging in all of this madness still had no certainty as to whether or not this was even going to happen. I had decided in that moment that I was not going to be able to live in that uncertainty for another hour, day, or two more days. I needed to know once and for all, was I going or was I not going.

I was not going. I took the power from them. I decided.

Exhausted as I was, heartbroken as I was that I was not going to get to enjoy time with my dearest friend in the world (who I have not seen in over a year), sad and crushed as I was that all the work I (and we) had done to get this to happen, I felt all the same an enormous relief. There was no more uncertainty. I was NOT going. I was not jumping through one more fucking hoop. I, the quivering poodle, turned my back, stepped out of the choke chain and left that grinning troll to stand there shaking the hoop, a dumfounded look on his face.

And I began to think… this is the world we have created. This is the world we live in. Why do we put up with this? Is this the world you want to live in, a world where “customer service” means the customer jumps through hoops and performs endless tasks and endures numerous ordeals to please the gatekeepers of banks and rental car places? Why have we allowed this perversion to persist, to come to this? It’s madness, we are now working entirely for “Them” at every turn.

Well, fuck Them.

This is why I have largely turned on, tuned in, and dropped out, this is why I have renounced ordinary society and have followed my own path. Fuck ’em, just plain fuck ’em.

Now, I sit here heartbroken at home, and I ain’t goin’ nowhere no how.

On Being Back At The Drawing Table


Before I’d left for Korea (this was years ago, folks) I swore off drawing. The business had slowly broken my heart, gutted me over the course of years, none of which had stopped me from being prolific as only a true diagnosed obsessive can be right up to the moment I burned out. It was madness. The last few times I tried to draw shortly before swearing it off, I would sit down and battle blocks the size of watermelons, not our watermelons, the ones you find if you climb the beanstalk and visit the giant’s garden, that’s how BIG my blocks were. Yet it got worse than that, by the bitter end, whenever I sat down to draw I would experience such pain in my neck that more than once I sat at my drawing table and cried. It wasn’t what most people think, I hadn’t “quit,” no, drawing quit me shortly after the industry shoved me out. I was actually told by an art director at Wizards Of the Coast that it had come down from on high, by committee mind you, that my work–and notice I’m quoting here–wasn’t… wait for it… “badass enough.” Dear God, really, how could I work in a climate where that was the prevailing mentality anyhow? Damn those prevailing dumbassterly winds! Yes, folks, my work was disliked and my art directors were encouraged not to work with me because my work wasn’t badass enough. Similarly while working for Image (Jim Lee’s Wildstorm) I was told the guys in the office were laughing at my inks because my inks looked like old DC inking. Uh, sure, that’s an insult… being compared to the fucking masters of the industry! Yes, folks, I was officially surrounded by idiots.

For two years I couldn’t draw, didn’t want to draw, and had no interest whatsoever in thinking about or even missing drawing. I started drinking and learning to play guitar and sing songs by Sarah and Maybelle Carter instead. Hard times.

Then, quite suddenly, I felt compelled to draw, it was a force. Out of nowhere, after two years I wanted nothing more than to sketch in a sketchbook, something I had NEVER been able to relax enough to do before. I had cancer, but didn’t know it. It seems the disease was trying to tell me something, and that thing was… “You are an artist.” I had surgery and radiation treatments, but It seems that when they removed the tumor they removed my newfound desire to draw as well. To this day I do not understand any of this terribly well.

Many years later I got the horrible news that my mentor and friend Jeffrey Catherine Jones had died–and just as I had been trying to reconnect with her. It hit me far harder than I could have expected. It compelled me to draw my ass off. That was the turning point for me, the death of Jeffrey Jones, I knew at that point that I would draw, in some fashion, for the rest of my life, even if I ran hot and cold on it. Not only had her death convinced me to draw, it inspired me to tell the story of our long distance friendship, but mostly it told of my strong emotional reactions to that friendship. It was an inward journey spilling out onto the page. I accomplished over fifty pages, told the whole story and had started working on even more autobiographical comics to flesh out what would have been a new graphic novel, then I felt my heart break again.

There was no way, absolutely no way I wanted to step back into that grinder, into the juvenile lowbrow biz that is comics. The very thought of sending out such a meaningful project and such a statement of liberation to have it meaninglessly judged, picked at and rejected killed the project dead. I could not go through the submission and rejection process again. There was no way publisher after publisher was going to send me lame post-its with flippant apologies explaining why they rejected the project. No, no one was going to have that power over me again. Once was enough. The project died. It now sits in a pile of art in storage at SAW, unfinished, unpublished, dusty and done.

But, I kept drawing here and there, a few more comic pages on this, a few doodles, some hard work, some fun work, and here and there a job or two would pop up. I was drawing again, but not like before. I was no longer drawing as I once had: like my life depended on it, I was drawing because I was good at it and it was now easier and more fun than before. But nothing, and I mean nothing, gets me to the drawing table like money. Sell-out, huh? Well, what if my dream, my life dream since childhood was NOT to make pretentious gallery art, but to make a living as a comic artist? MAKE A LIVING! That was my dream, to get paid to draw. So, if that was my dream, and if I pursued that dream doggedly, how is it a sell-out to live for and accomplish that dream? Besides, I always say that the only difference between an illustrator and a “fine artist” is that illustrators are smart enough to find a buyer before they make the work. And I also like to remind people that all of Rembrandt’s portraits were not “fine art,” they were commissioned illustrations, ditto the Last Supper and the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Yet none of this stops this pretentious asses in the art world from co-opting the work of these great illustrators while shaming other illustrators.

But now, here I am at last, not merely teaching drawing, but drawing my butt off. Thanks to Tom Hart from SAW, I am now deep in two rather sizable projects with very real deadlines! I mean, DAMN, that’s what “getting back” looks like. I’m back, working for clients, getting paid, suffering under deadlines, just like I always wanted, and I have to draw a lot in order to get all this done.

Project 1: is work for a DARPA commissioned project, a graphic novel adapting Greek Myth to be used to help soldiers with PTSD. It’s a great project, good pay, and what could possibly be more fun than illustrating Greek mythology? I’ve been watching “Jason and the Argonauts” over and over… what torture!

Project 2: is an “animated” info graphic for UF. We are explaining a complicated and dry series of facts about an essential and important program at UF, and we sold them on the idea of making it entertaining. The angle Tom and I pitched and are working on is that we will be telling a cartoon version of the dry information through the visuals. We are doing a Tom & Jerry like version of the information underneath the narration. Our characters will all be robots. Hell yes! I’m drawing Greek myth and cartoon robots! Frankly, Ive never had better work, so far as fun subject matter goes. Not only am I back and drawing my butt off, but I’m working on two of the most fun projects I’ve ever been commissioned to do.

A person is not different from their nature, and is obliged to act in conformity with it: paraphrased from the Bhagavad Gita

So, what does it feel like to be back at it? Simply put, it feels great. I feel a lot more complete as a person. A hole in my life has, quite unexpectedly, been filled. Funny, but though I enjoy drawing just to draw, just for fun, it’s nowhere near as deeply satisfying as when I’m getting paid for it. It feels good to have something to do with my once ample free time. It feels good because I am doing my duty, which is one of the dictates in the Bhgavad Ghita, that one should do their duty and not the duty of another. It feels good to do my duty, and it is my duty to be an illustrator.

“Following one’s nature is the only way to work out one’s karma.” Lord Krishna

Oh, there are struggles along the way, all week I’ve been upset with my Odysseus pages because they aren’t as good as Wally Wood’s art, or Milt Caniff’s art, or Alex Toth’s art, or Al Williamson’s art, or Hal Foster’s art. My standards have always been punishingly high. And contrariwise, I have been upset that the pages aren’t loose enough and that I have fallen back into the safety net of how I used to draw rather than forging bold new territories for myself… all of this, of course, I expect myself to master on a deadline! And then with the robots I’m a little upset because the backgrounds don’t all look like Maurice Noble designed them. Hmm… maybe I should cut myself a little slack here. And my students think I’m hard on them… wimps!

All said and done, what really matters is that I am an illustrator and I am illustrating.

I’m good at it, it’s fun, and… in the words of one of the great sages: “What’s wrong with that? I’d like to know, ’cause here I go again…”

Barefoot Justine At UF Holi!


Hey group, last week I enjoyed UF’s Holi festival. For those of you who don’t know, Holi is one of Hinduism’s most beautiful, symbolic and vibrant Holy days. As is common with Hindu holy days and festivals, the event is a thing of beauty, a celebration of life, love and color… and that is why I am a Hindu by choice.

Unfortunately, some of “Lord Shiva’s Nectar” was not made available to the attendees of the UF celebration, it would be a better world by far if it had been.

Holi in a nutshell is a celebration of Spring and love, and is always the way with my beloved Hinduism, the event is celebratory and spectacularly beautiful. Those taking part throw colorful dust and colored water on each other, and everyone is encouraged to participate as one with no distinction being made between friends and strangers. I went alone (as fucking always), but my solo trip was made more beautiful when at the very end (while I was talking to Haley, who took these fine photos) an Indian boy with the most charming and ornery of smiles (I think I fell in love at first sight) ran up to me–just as I thought my hair was going go go unmolested–ripped off my hat and smeared red dust all over my hair and scalp. I thanked him for including me.

Happy Holi! Holi! Holi!

The pictures below are from that event.

Barefoot Justine (Mara Andersen) enjoying Holi 2014 - pic by Haley Stracher

Barefoot Justine (Mara Andersen) colorful at Holi 2014 – pic by Haley Stracher

Barefoot Justine (Mara Andersen) enjoying Holi 2014 - pic by Haley Stracher)

Barefoot Justine (Mara Andersen) enjoying Holi 2014 – pic by Haley Stracher)