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Goodbye, 2020: Eleanor Davis

Eleanor Davis has been one of my art heroes of 2020 for two reasons: the first being her evocative comic on Hugs to look forward to after the pandemic is over, and reading her graphic novel The Hard Tomorrow, set in the near future that documents her personal life as an artist and activist. She's an amazing human being and an artist who forever inspires me, making life better in ways I never expect but always need. In conversation with the lovely Eleanor on how 2020 panned out for her:

How has this year been for you?

It's been nuts, obviously. My family has resources and we've been able to socially isolate, so we haven't been directly impacted by the economic fallout, and we've been able to stay healthy and not live in fear. But it's been bonkers all the same. In July my husband and baby and I moved from Georgia, where I've lived for almost 20 years, to my hometown of Tucson, Arizona, so we could be with my parents. Our kid is my parents' first grandchild, and my dad has cancer: we didn't want to be separated from them through all this. So that has been a big and intense change for us, and we are people who are not used to big and intense changes. We spend time with my parents every day. It's a small, dreamlike life with a lot of joy in it. It feels like being in the eye of a hurricane.

Did you learn anything new this year?

Absolutely not. I can't understand people who respond to stress by learning and growing.

What was your routine like during the pandemic?

I wake up at 5am, while my husband stays asleep with the baby. I work until around noon or one, whenever the baby wakes up from his morning nap. My husband bikes to his studio, which is the garage in my parents' back yard, and then I take care of the baby in the afternoon. Days that I have a big deadline my parents babysit, which is often. We all have dinner together at my parents' house. Then I get the baby into his pajamas and we brush our teeth & I get him in his little bike trailer and we bike home in the night and go to sleep together around 9pm.

What dish did you cook the most in 2020?

Stir fry. Graham crackers straight from the box.

Artwork for The Nib magazine Pandemic issue

What's the biggest obstacle you've overcome this year?

It has been an intense, heartbreaking year that came at us all like a storm to be fought and weathered, not a mountain to be climbed. Police violence cannot be 'overcome.' It has to be fought, and for the black & brown folks who are targets of it, it has to be survived. As a country (America), we decided that instead of trying to overcome covid, we would allow it to ravage the communities who could not socially isolate – mostly poor and working people, mostly people of color. As a country, despite an intense campaign of lies and voter suppression from the right, Joe Biden squeaked through to win the presidential election: but the hatred from the right has not lessened, and it's hard to imagine that the urgent problems we still face can be adequately addressed through Biden's centrist policies, so that doesn't feel like overcoming exactly either. Sometimes, when I feel joy or peace in the middle of all this, it feels like overcoming despair. But is that overcoming, or ignoring? Is it climbing a mountain, or sticking my head in the sand?

2020 Panorama

What was one of the moments you were most proud of this year?

I was proud when two of my county commissioners, Tim Denson and Mariah Parker, asked me to design a graphic for their 50/10 Plan to reduce Athens' police budget. I was proud when I got it together enough to rent an RV and pack up our house and drive all our stuff and our kid and our cats cross country, when usually I am paralyzed when facing big decisions like that. I was proud whenever I managed to finished a big job despite having a real tiny kid to take care of. I am proud of my husband Drew Weing, an extraordinary cartoonist, as he's finishing up his third book in his excellent kids GN series Margo Maloo. I am proud when my own kid sees a cat – exclaiming "Ca!!! Ca!!" – and then toddles over and touches the cat gently.

Earthquake, Editorial illustration for New York Times

Who really enriched your life this year in a big way?

My kid

The nicest thing you did for someone in 2020?

This is too much like bragging!

The book that helped you the most in 2020?

I have read hardly anything. I really enjoyed the manga BL Metamorphosis. I was obsessed with the book Debt: The First 5000 Years by David Graeber for much of the Autumn. It really helped me get through the election.

The song you heard on loop this year?

Right now I'm listening to Hope Tala, All My Girls Like to Fight

Favorite film/TV show of 2020?

I don't think I've really watched any TV either! I'm a deeply boring person. I guess that Drew and I watched the first season of The Mandalorian?

What's a lesson that this lockdown has taught you?

That people who are privileged enough to be able to quarantine like to talk about how hard it is to quarantine.

What is one question that you found yourself asking over and over again this year?

"Why does America hate poor people," "Why did we think things were always going to get better," "How does anyone think it's possible for us to continue living like we have been," "Why Joe Biden of all people? Why, why??" "Why are we blaming individuals for covid spread when it's been a failure of leadership," "Why aren't we demanding universal paid sick leave," "How do they not see their own white supremacist behavior," "What is the end game for free market capitalists anyway," etc etc etc

Eleanor's illustration 20 Questions for the New York Times

A recent epiphany you've had?

Happiness *is* possible amidst tremendous suffering! (as long as the suffering is happening to someone else)

What’s your number one bucket list item for 2021?

Smooch my friends. Go to a bar with my husband. See my kid get to play with another kid for the first time.

Check out Eleanor's work on her website and Instagram.


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