Deep into Drafts of my first Graphic Novel, “Literary Device.” Email Subscribers will get a Copy …. in 2019.

This February newsletter features the latest and best of

IMAGE. The Art of Unboxing. I am thrilled to have a second collaboration, this time with my philsopher-poet son, Sasha Olthof.

I collaborated with my philosopher-poet son, Sasha Olthof. He wrote the poetry, The Art of Unboxing, and I painted the image above. His poem was a statement about toxic masculinity. Having stepped in the training ring last year, I suggested to Sasha that, in my experience, boxers do care for one another. I am thrilled to have this second collaboration with my art, and hope for more.

I am deep into the rough drafts of my first graphic novel, Literary Device, about a sad woman and her encounter with a cheerful chatbot. I am developing the work as part of a course at the Ottawa School of Art, Graphic Novel Illustration, taught by Don Dimanlig. The work is a pilot for the graphic novels I intend to publish as the final products of my After Reading essays.

Heads up. I will be sending a free digital copy of Literary Device to subscribers of my newsletter. Tell your friends to subscribe; they will get one too. Mind you, the work will not be published till 2019.

TEXT. A political spin on my face-to-face essays.

My writing has quieted down now that I have been focusing on developing my imagery, but the After Reading content continues to churn in the back of my mind. I have been thinking a lot about the face-to-face essays, with a political spin. Just after Trump was elected, I wrote my first comic strip, The Sky is Falling. It was therapy for my shock, but I do not joke about Trump anymore.

Later I started reading and talking and listening, trying to understand what happened in the US election. Strangers in Their Own Land by Arlie Russell Hochschild was a helpful in explaining the rural voters who elected Trump. Pundits continue to observe a growing rural divide in Canada. It is good to listen and understand, of course, to understand people who are different, but here’s my shift — are we really so divided?

I have lived in both urban and rural settings; most of us have done so, or have close family or friends there. I am not always liberal or conservative; even politicians can often appreciate the opposition’s view. I am neither rich or poor; both affluence and poverty have visited me. I am not just white or black; genetics informs us that we all have a varied inheritance. I am not just male or female; we are learning to appreciate the fluidity of gender. I am not just an atheist or believer; there is too much mystery to settle firmly on just one set of beliefs. We already connect with and understand each other to a significant degree. We just need to look into the eyes of our fellow humans, and remember. Only our connection will save us from our tribal politics.

I reviewed Confessions of a Sociopath by M.E. Thomas, a memoir that I place in the emerging genre of books on neurodiversity. I was fascinated with the passages on the sociopath’s lack of a sense of self. “First, I didn’t really have a self at all. I was like an Etch A Sketch, constantly shaking myself up and starting over.” I accept the statement, but I struggle to understand it. How can a sociopath have a weak sense of the self while also having a very strong self-interest?

CODE. Piloted a Gatineau River webcam. 

I live on the Gatineau River in Wakefield Quebec. I have painted the River, and now I have piloted a webcam. It was only live for half-an-hour, but a very special surprise to come, hopefully next month.

I cannot express how deeply I am churning the next iteration of my chatbot, Phaedrus. It is all algorithms at this point, Also, my work in comic art is feeding this development in unexpected ways I am not yet ready to write about. More to come.

Catch you next month!

Geese Sanctuary Painting featured on Battlemoose Music Track

This month’s best:


My dear friend, Marcel, aka Battlemoose, is a creator of ambient music, the kind that helps me sleep peacefully. I have witnessed how he records sounds from his environment, then weaves them into a narrative with electronic music. I am very honored to have my recent painting, Geese Sanctuary, above, used as a cover image for his latest track, Canada Geese.

I painted Gatineau River Sunrise.

I have also been working through a drawing instruction book, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, by Betty Edwards. The left brain is specialized in verbal tasks; it is analytical, logical, temporal, and linear. The right brain is better at visual tasks such as drawing, enlisting spatial and relational skills. Edwards offers techniques that encourage right brain engagement, such as drawing upside down. Examples: Spiderman, The Knight Before Christmas.


A BOOKS sub-site has been added as an extension to the TEXT channel. The BOOKS site will feature quotes and reviews of books that I am reading, mostly as research for the After Reading series. Those of you who have followed me in the past know that I have been writing book reviews for years. I uploaded 85 of these past reviews, and then added three new ones.

I will not always be writing my usual four paragraph reviews. The three news ones summarize the books with selected quotes.

Enlightenment: Behind the Scenes, by Marc Leavitt “In one moment, all seeking dropped away and has never returned. From that moment on, I not only lost interest in reading, but in meditation as well.”

Stealing Fire, by Steven Kotler & Jamie Wheal “’When a man knows he is to be hanged in the morning,’ Samuel Johnson once remarked, ‘it concentrates his mind wonderfully.’”

Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence, by Esther Perel “You’re no longer a known entity that I need not bother being curious about. In fact, you’re quite a mystery.”


I am quietly working away on version 4 of Phaedrus, my chatbot. I am going down to “bare metal,” focusing on a Cognitive Application Architecture, something I have been cooking part-time for three years. More to come later.

Mixed Media Artist — Image, Text, and Code. Redesign of After Reading.

Nearly one year after launching the After Reading series, I have learned important lessons about myself, my project and its delivery. Thank you to readers who have helped me reflect on this. You know who you are.

I am a mixed media artist, mixing image and text and code. I have split my content into three channels and sub-sites:

IMAGE. In 2018 my first priority will be visual imagery, with an eye to the After Reading end-product, a graphic novel.  IMAGE is now the site for all my visual work.

TEXT. In 2018 I will finish the last chapter of After Reading Part 1, “Books.” Once the visual imagery is on track, I will begin Part 2, “The Internet.” All the essays are at the TEXT site.

CODE.  Phaedrus, my chatbot, is a clear example of how I mix image, text, and code. A much enhanced version of Phaedrus will be released in 2018. Updates will be posted at the CODE site.

This newsletter has been published at the HOME site. I will continue to publish a monthly newsletter, highlighting updates for the three sub-sites. There is a SUBSCRIBE box on the About page. I encourage you to subscribe. It is the best way to stay connected with my news and the project.

Thank you. Your interest keeps me charged 🙂

Thanks, John
Ask me anything