The Sketchbook Diaries Volume 4
“The life which
is unexamined is not worth living”
Kochalka books are small glances into the life of a
young comic book artist. He lets us see all the tiny
details, both interesting and mundane. He shows the
readers that the everyday life of the everyday man is
every bit as interesting as the latest adventure that
Superman or Spiderman may be having. He
shares his life in a manner that is reminiscent of
Harvey Pekar, Jeffrey Brown, Joe Sacco and Chester
Brown, all great talents in the world of comics. Volume
4 of Kochalka’s “Sketchbook Diaries” series was recently
published by Top Shelf Comix.
As the fourth
volume of the series begins, Kochalka writes, “ When
life goes by so quickly, it’s difficult to comprehend
what’s really happening to us. So I keep this diary. I
draw it as a comic strip because that’s just what I do.
I draw and draw and still the days go by at the same
unstoppable rate.” It is refreshing to witness a comic
artist that meditates on the minuscule events that
happens to many of us in our every day lives. He gives
them a deeper meaning by drawing them and sharing them
with his reading audience.
draws himself as a happy elf, complete with the pointy
ears. He draws his wife Amy and their pet cat Spandy
realistically but still comical. He also draws his
circle of friends, choosing to draw his friend Jason
Cooley who is the guitarist in the band “Punky Brewskies”
with Kochalka, as a cute dog called “Jason X –12”. He
includes everything here, the trips to the vet with
Spandy, periods of writers block, spats with Amy,
“making up” with Amy, band practices and gigs and just
about anything else you could imagine.
Not only are the
“light hearted” occurrences included in “Volume 4” but
the more serious aspects of being a young artist and
husband. The nights of trying reach deadlines when it
seems all creativity has left oneself. Kochalka covers
talking to Amy seriously about when to start a family
and how that will affect both of their lives. Will he
still have the time to create his music and art? What is
more important, to be a successful artist or family man?
Is it possible to be both?
doesn’t only shows the readers his “good side” but also
reveals the times when he is grouchy or unkind. He shows
that even Spandy the cat’s moods can be loving at times
and aggressive at times.
I really enjoyed
the late night and early morning conversations and jokes
between Kochalka and his wife Amy. Any married person
can relate to these conversations that wouldn’t make
anyone else but makes perfect sense to the couple
involved. These conversations seem on the surface to be
completely ordinary but in truth express two people’s
true understanding and affection toward one another.
After reading “The
Sketchbook Diaries Volume 4” I had a new appreciation
for my own ordinary life and the little moments and
exchanges with my family and friends. After reading this
book, I was reminded of the quote by John Lennon: “ Life
is what happens to you while you’re busy making other
plans”. Notice the small moments today: the hug from a
loved one, giving your pet a squeeze, or the sun through
the branches of the tree you pass everyday to work and
know that Kochalka is noticing these things also. They
will probably be in “The Sketchbook Diaries Volume 5”.
The artwork style
of James Kochalka is deceptively simple yet substantial.
Each emotion of the characters is clearly expressed in
the drawings, even the emotions of Spandy the cat are
easily understood by the reader. The illustrations are
heavily contrasted black and white. Kochalka’s style is
energetic and never dull.