My 2016 Christmas card

Dan Holst Soelberg - 2016 Christmas cardIf someone can tell me how to have more time in a day I am all ears. I’m not talking about wanting to cram more activities into a day, I’m literally talking about having more time. I’ve been thinking about this—if I could add about six more hours to every day I would have just enough time to do everything I want. That’s all. Just an extra six hours. If you know how, let me know.

Speaking of non-existent segues, it’s time to unveil my new Christmas card. I’m excited! It’s been a couple of years since my last Christmas card and I’ve had requests for something new. So, I dug deep into my cavernous well of ideas and sketches. Here’s what came out:

Dan Holst Soelberg - Cover of my 2016 Christmas card

Cover of my 2016 Christmas card

Dan Holst Soelberg - inside 2016 Christmas card

And open the card to reveal the horrors that await smiling, candy cane loving children. (click image to enlarge)

What better way to say “bless you on this sacred holiday” than the image of bones in the snow and the threat of bodily harm from a mutant tree? I wrote the poem and sketched this idea a while back but it didn’t feel resolved.

Dan Holst Soelberg - 2016 Christmas card

Left to right: Initial sketch of the card front; Original sketch of the axe-wielding tree monster; Revised tree monster with enormous hands instead of the axe. Without the weapon, I wanted his facial expression to be more animated. The ruled lines are drawn to help me figure out the layout, and to transfer elements to the final artwork.

The tree holding the axe didn’t feel quite right. The image is just a little too close to the axe-wielding boy in my headless snowmen card, so I kept sketching until this monster with huge grappling hands emerged.

Because I was strapped for time (seriously, six extra hours every day would be awesome…even just five!) I had to change up my usual process and find ways to speed it up. First, I drew it at 100% scale. Like most artists, I usually draw at a larger scale, but when time’s valuable, a smaller drawing translates to less time.

Second, I really felt that colour was important for this card (rather than my signature black and white). I like watercolour, but it can be finicky and time-consuming. I recently bought a drawing tablet for the purpose of speeding up my process, but for some reason it wasn’t giving me the results I wanted. So, after a few frustrating minutes of failed attempts, I ditched the tablet for my trusty Apple cordless mouse. It did exactly what I wanted and the result is satisfying. I like how the Photoshop watercolour brush can be adjusted to work like the real thing. The happy accidents feel and look remarkably natural. And if a brush stroke isn’t working, it’s such a fantastic feeling to command+z my way out of it!

The card is available for order on my online shop, and I’ll start shipping them out next week. If you want yours in time for Christmas, please place your order now at this link. If you’d rather buy directly from me, just send me an email at dhsoelberg(at)

Dan Holst Soelberg - 2016 Christmas card

Here is the completed pen drawing before applying colour on the computer. Notice the misspelling of “dear”. Photoshop can do wonders! (click image to enlarge)

Dan Holst Soelberg - 2016 Christmas card

Here is the final product, with the silhouettes completing the 3-act play, and punctuating the punchline. (click image to enlarge)

If you want to buy from me personally, you can tomorrow! As mentioned in a previous post, I’ll be selling my wares at Frost Bite in Toronto on Sunday, December 11 at 11am to 8pm. It’s at Pia Bouman School for Ballet, 6 Noble Street, Toronto.

Click here to go to the event’s official facebook page. You can also go to the website for more information:



My new book is Shadow Abuse

Shadow Abuse By Dan Holst SoelbergI’m excited to announce the debut of my new book and it’s called Shadow Abuse! This book has been many years in the making, and holds a very precious place in my heart. The first copies will be available at Toronto’s TCAF, May 9 and 10. Then I’ll add the book to my online shop May 11.

Without further ado, here is your first glimpse into pages from Shadow Abuse:


Macabre humour is delicious

"Viv is not adept at verbal rebuttal. Her revenge is exacted in ways not so subtle." From the book Oddities of West Blankshire

“Viv is not adept at verbal rebuttal. Her revenge is exacted in ways not so subtle.” From the book Oddities of West Blankshire.

There are many reasons why death and despair are not funny. But reason has very little to do with why anything is funny. In fact, the house that funny built has shut the door on reason. When we laugh, we forget for a moment all the reasons why we shouldn’t. That’s what makes humour such a powerful force.

"Lou bathed for weeks hoping gills would evolve, but he became oversaturated and dissolved." from the book Oddities of West Blankshire.

“Lou bathed for weeks hoping gills would evolve, but he became oversaturated and dissolved.” from the book Oddities of West Blankshire.

Macabre humour is simply delectable. It is my passion. I am essentially laughing at death and despair, and there is something cathartic and exciting about that. I can’t get enough of it, which is why I keep putting more of it into the world. I find great joy in making books that both celebrate and poke fun at the darkest and most disturbing aspects of humanity.

I want to stress the importance of putting macabre humour in book form. Equal to my passion for macabre humour is my passion for books. Books are beautiful and sacred objects. Books are also personal and intimate. When you read, the book becomes your world and the words express an aspect of who you are. Maybe I’m sounding hokey or overly dramatic, but that’s what books do for me. I didn’t realize how personal and sentimental my books were for readers until I met a young man at Fan Expo in Toronto last year. He picked up a copy of Oddities of West Blankshire from my table and leafed through it carefully, page by page.

"Paloma is plummeting fast through the sky. She cannot recall when this started or why." From the book Oddities of West Blankshire

“Paloma is plummeting fast through the sky. She cannot recall when this started or why.” From the book Oddities of West Blankshire.

Then he reread a few choice pages and sheepishly looked up at me, waiting to catch my gaze. I connected with him immediately. He said that his childhood friend owned a copy of my book. He had fond memories of visiting his friend and reading the book over and over and over. He told me he was nervous and excited to meet me. Then he asked me to sign a copy for him and thanked me profusely before leaving. I was floored. Not just because the book was only five years old (yep, I’m already the old guy!) but because something I created went out into the world and gave personal meaning to a complete stranger.

If I could tell one story that explains why I continue to make books, it’s that one. Every book I sell connects me with one more person in the world who shares my passion for macabre humour. There is nothing more rewarding than that.

My books can be purchased at the “Shop” link above. Below is a speed drawing video of a page from my latest book “Dwellers of Lurching Swill”.


Confession through drawing

Dan and Jaime in photo boothThe online world can be a public confessional. There is something exhilarating and cathartic about letting everybody know who you are without shame. The master of confessional artwork has got to be Robert Crumb. Crumb rocketed to fame with the 1960s underground comic movement. So, when he draws scenes from his own life, they tend to look like comic book stories: they’re graphic narratives that reveal the artist’s psyche and motivations. What makes his confessional work so striking is the uncompromising depiction of Crumb’s own fragile, conflicted human state. He is relentlessly honest and does not censor or edit his thoughts. While Crumb has drawn a lot of attention to his sexual aberrations and self-admitted misogyny, he also has an amazing ability to depict banal, ordinary life. I like those moments. That is what I want to show and I’m not entirely sure why.

Dan and Jaime sleepingHalloweenBall of GreyIn March 2008 I started a personal sketchbook. I had the idea of telling my life’s story through photo booth photos and uploading them to Facebook as my profile photo. The photo booth is a place where we take staged photos, and I like the conversations that happen before and during the moment of the flash. So I’d make a drawing based on a photo and draw speech bubbles to flush out the back story of the moment. The only problem is that the traditional photo booths that use film were quickly being replaced by horrible, lacklustre digital booths. What tragedy! I tried the digital booths a few times and just hated the look of the photos. I refused to use them as drawing reference. Then I couldn’t find any film photo booths at all and my idea died. My heart sank at this cold, digital photo booth revolution. So goes “progress”.

My personal sketchbook also depicts scenes from my childhood, as well as current moments that I’d like to remember. In 2011 I started filming my drawings from blank paper to finished product. I’d edit the footage, add a song to the soundtrack and speed up the movie to fit the length of the song.

Looking at what I’ve filled the pages of my sketchbook with so far, I definitely don’t have any controversial Crumb-esque drawings. Maybe I’m not digging deep enough. While my intent has always been to show ordinary life moments, I’d like to be more confessional in my work. I’ve never truly voiced myself through my work before. It’s time.


Hour of the Wolf, with Mike Rooth

"Sabretooth the Barbarian" by Mike Rooth.

“Sabretooth the Barbarian” by Mike Rooth.

I love learning how creative people work. Sometimes learning how others go about their process makes me rethink my own.

Mike Rooth (far left) is completely at home at Toronto's recent Comic Con

Mike Rooth (far left) is completely at home at Toronto’s recent Comic Con

Mike Rooth is a friend and phenomenal illustrator who wrote on Facebook recently: “I’m way better at what I do at 3am than I am at 3pm. The Beast runs wild in my veins at this time, especially after drawing non stop all day and night…”

I’ve felt that. Anybody who’s hit a groove in their creative work has felt a surge of energy that just snowballs. I wanted to know more about what makes Mike’s illustrations better after working hours on end. So I asked him. Mike gave some great insights. He calls it the Hour of the Wolf. I’ll let Mike explain:

“When I’m on my second wind and pushing into the wee hours of the morning on a drawing I can feel those little electrical creative connections link up in my brain meat and send lighting bolts down my arm that blast out onto the page more fluidly and confidently than at 3pm, say. This is a very personal solitary business to work in, and usually at 3am there is no one around to bounce ideas off of or get feedback, so it’s all up to me.”

It’s clear Mike loves creating artwork, and submerging himself in solitude to work for hours on end provides an amazing opportunity to explore and innovate in his process. The freedom he feels to let loose empowers a creative drive within him that he calls ‘the beast’. Mike says it best:

“The Beast likes to run wild. I’m often surprised while working on something very specific – an image or composition that has been crystal clear in my mind from the get-go will often change or go in surprising directions whilst I’m working within the hour of the Beast – and it often does so with confidence, and so I just go where it takes me.”

There is an interesting flip-side to this. While working for dedicated hours without rest can lay the grounds for innovation, you might think that doing something completely unrelated for hours on end would kill innovation and weaken your skills. In fact the opposite is true. A few years ago, Mike took a job as a custodian/superintendent to help pay a few bills. He was not happy about it.

"F.O.R.D.O.K." is Mike's illustration of a well-known mayor.

“F.O.R.D.O.K.” is Mike Rooth’s illustration of a well-known mayor.

“I was worried that spending long periods of time out of the studio doing menial tasks would soften my drawing skills and syphon my creativity and motivation… but a surprising thing happened – my work got BETTER. While I’m outside cleaning up after filthy humans, sweeping up cigarette butts and trash, and scraping bubblegum off the sidewalk- my thoughts are already in the studio, and the Beast is sharpening it’s claws all day waiting for me to get back there… so the time I do get to spend drawing is much more impactful.”

Mike and I will be at the Comic Expo at Humber College this week at two campuses. The event will run Wednesday March 19th at Humber Lakeshore (3199 Lake Shore Blvd W, Toronto), and Thursday March 20th at Humber North (205 Humber College Blvd, Toronto), from 11am-3pm both days. I will have books and merchandise for sale.

Connect with Mike Rooth and see more of his work:

twitter/instagram: @uncouthrooth