Bright-eyed and brush detailed: Insomniac artist paints comics about her life

Auto-bio art: Cartoonist Leslie Stein details her life through watercolor comics.
Leslie Stein

It is the opposite of a dream diary.

A Gowanus insomniac spent every sleepless night of 2014 painting watercolor comics about her life, and now a collection of the dream-like doodles, “Bright Eyed at Midnight” will have its release party at the Owl Farm bar on Aug. 26.

Cartoonist Leslie Stein, who is also a musician and bartender, drew on the people and events in her life for her late-night comics. The book includes stories about customers at the bar, her 1980s childhood, dealing with artist’s block, and playing at rock shows.

“I try to focus on things that are specific to me but kind of universal,” said Stein. She describes her one- and two-page stories as “dreamy meditative comics for the [attention deficit disorder] generation.”

Stein began drawing the series shortly after New Year’s Eve of 2014, working on them every night for several weeks. After posting them online and getting a positive response, she decided to continue making the nightly comics for an entire year. Drawing the strips in the wee hours of the night helped her to unwind, she says.

“Quite frankly, it was actually a beautiful distraction and way to focus on the present, almost meditatively,” she said.

The cartoonist typically works with pen and ink, but she developed a looser, more colorful technique for these comics, using a brush and watercolors for her nightly insomnia adventures.

“This style was all about experimentation and honest self-expression, so it just kind of flowed,” Stein said. “I just played until I found a way it could work with my hand and my drawings.”

After a year of drawing, she cut the 365 nightly comics down to the ones she liked best, and then let an editor whittle the book further down to 224 short comics.

Stein, who tends bar at the Owl Farm, said that it felt more appropriate to hold the release party there instead of at a bookstore or comic shop.

“It felt more personal, family style,” she said. And the bar will serve a special beer at the event, made with coffee and chocolate and aged in-house. Stein says that the combination of alcohol and caffeine is especially appropriate.

“I was thinking a coffee stout would perfectly complement the name of the book,” said Stein.

“Bright Eyed At Midnight” release party at the Owl Farm (297 Ninth St. between Fourth and Fifth avenues in Park Slope, www.theowlfarm.com). Aug. 26 at 7 pm. Free.

Turn around, bright eyes: Cartoonist Leslie Stein with her new book “Bright-eyed at Midnight.”
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

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