I have just returned from the Washington coast, where I took myself on a week-long artist residency at the Sou’Wester Lodge.

The day before I left, I angered some hardcore Beyonce fans by suggesting on Twitter that she had a surrogate. After getting personally trolled by some dudes with a B google alert, I decided not to blog about the retreat while I was out there, for fear of someone crow-barring their way into my trailer and asserting Beyonce’s childbearing in person. No thank you! 

I’ve been visiting the Sou’Wester for the past 15 years. It is a lodge and vintage trailer park located in SeaView, on the Long Beach Peninsula.
The first time I visited, I was 19 and driving to the ocean from Portland as a very-recently landlocked midwesterner. I was accompanied by my fellow IPRC volunteer Fred the Punk Rock Barber. I believe he slept on the floor or the couch of the trailer, but I can’t remember which. Fred would later be immortalized in the comic “Clutch”, drawn as “a potato with a gumdrop head, and toothpick arms and legs holding a donut” (his choice).  It was so long ago that a quest for bagels on the peninsula seemed obscene. People didn’t even register the sounds my mouth was making as I asked “Bagel?”. 

 The Sou’Wester was owned, at the time, by a geriatric couple from South Africa, Len and Miriam Atkins. They declared “Wrinkles are beautiful!” to my shar-pei, Penny, and sold Cabbage Patch Kid clothing on circular racks in their otherwise very beautifully decorated lodge. They had hand-carved furniture furniture and ornamental rugs that looked very familiar, like items from my Syrian grandfather’s house. 

When they were both in their 80s, they sold the lodge and trailer park (called “TCH! TCH!”) to some plucky Portlanders who have since revived the enterprise and introduced it to a group of young artists and sea-seekers.
They have shows, sell records, and offer artist residencies. This is my dream come true!
Staying in a vintage travel trailer within walking distance of a dark and gloomy beach is my idea of a good time. The best time. The best working conditions, aside from those offered by the RADAR Lab in Mexico.
So I trundled myself and Ponyo out there and worked on finishing my 2015 Invincible Summer Calendar. I also worked on thumbnails for my book, Fetch (out with Houghton Mifflin in 2017), and created a portrait of the trailer I stayed within.

If you are in the Pacific Northwest, check them out! Go for a visit!
Walk to the beach, spend money at the local senior citizen thrift shop, and try to stomach the sheer volume of curly fries you are served at the place by Marsh’s Free Museum.

For everyone else (cartoonists and writers especially),
Can I recommend going on an artist retreat to you? Yes.
Do you need to have an organization’s approval and lodgings to go on one?
Find someone with a cabin or some land, or a room or a trailer and ask if you can stay there for a week.
Hole up and work!
That’s all there is to it.
It doesn’t need to be expensive, and you do not need to be part of a “colony” (which sounds very leper or ant-like if you ask me, but of course I would still thrill to be part of one).
You be you. Bring a dog. Be out of touch. Just write and read and listen to books on tape.
If your initials are “CJ”, stay off of Facebook.




Best Foods to Eat on Retreat:
-Salad Rolls
(rice paper wrappers, red peppers from CSA, avocado, lettuce, arugula, soy curls, green onion)
-Peanut Sauce (pb, tamari, sriracha, ketchup b/c I forgot Hoisin and was playing “Chopped” with myself)
-Homemade Frozen Pizza
(cornmeal crust, pizza sauce, daiya, red peppers, eggplant, garlic, tempeh)
– Ashmead’s Kernel apples w/ almond butter
– Lagusta’s Luscious chocolate bars


Sou’Wester Retreat Playlist (from the iPod Beth gave me after she saw that I was riding my bike around with a discman):
Elliott Smith- Jealous Guy
Another One Bites the Dust- Queen
Elliott Smith- Miss Misery
Kaia- 16
Twelve Thirty- Mamas & the Papas
Night Air- Erik Satie
Feeling Good- Nina Simone
After the Rain- Erik Satie
I Put A Spell on You- Nina Simone
I Wish I Knew How It would Feel..- Nina Simone
Mesopotamia- B52s
I Want To Break Free- Queen
California Earthquake- Mamas & the Papas
Four Women- Nina Simone
They Say I’m Different- Betty Davis
Make Your Own Kind of Music- Mama Cass
Mississippi Goddamn- Nina Simone
Zombie Jamboree- Harry Belafonte
Tough Mary- Etta James
Monday, Monday- Mamas & the Papas
Supa Dupa Fly- Missy Elliott

Records from the Sou’Wester:
Staple Singers
Assiyo Bellema (Mississippi Records)
Hasabe (Mississippi Records)
Ali Birra- Ammalele (Mississippi Records)

If your name is Ponyo, best thing to do:
Ignore the ocean and only focus on the small-sized Chuckit ball that is skittering off the hard sand.