I’ve enjoyed the work of James Kochalka ever since N’s brother Ken loaned us American Elf years and years ago. Back in 1998, Kochalka decided to keep a daily journal by drawing a comic a day. It seems like a project destined to peter our after a few months, but Kochalka kept at it and is still at it today.
American Elf: Volume One collects the first five years of daily comics. (Regarding the title, Kochalka draws himself as a somewhat balding, buck-toothed elf.) The comics range all over the place: some capture funny exchanges between him and his long-suffering wife Amy, some highlight a moment of beauty or wonder that stands out from the mundane, some celebrate the mundane, and some just defy description. As you would expect from the daily format, there are a few throwaway strips, but as a whole Kochalka’s work is solid and enjoyable. Kocahlka doesn’t pull many punches and so following the lives of him and his family (sons Eli and Oliver are born during the course of the project) is engrossing and charming.
Kochalka is still drawing daily comics. In addition to the first collection, volumes two and three are in print. I would recommend reading the collections; they make for quick, fun reads. But if you have time to kill at the office you can also read all of the strips online.
“But what does this have to do with art?” you might ask. Well, a couple of months ago I saw that Giant Robot was having another Post-it show. And I saw that James Kochalka was participating and that his Post-it was still available. The drawing was of his cat Spandy (frequently featured in American Elf) and was just $20 so I snapped that baby up.