Don't Cry Over Spilled Ink (Just Get Angry)

Yesterday marked the first India Ink spill I've had in at least five years. Which is a pretty good track record, considering how often I use India Ink throughout my day, and especially if you take into consideration that unitasking often goes hand-in-hand with clumsiness. Throw in the fact that my desk is tilted at about a 15° angle, and it's baffling that I'm not staining my crotch black every fifteen minutes. Anywhoo, you can see the result of the spill above. I thought I'd share this shameful mistake with a public audience. It's the same kind of impulse that led to the creation of the "half-time show".

Anatomy of a Freak-Out

To further sustain my public humiliation, I thought this would be a good way to familiarize everyone with the results of an unsuppressed freak-out. What's a freak-out? Well, the following couple of paragraphs should clear that up. So take my ink-stained hand, and let us tour the diagram together...

The Anatomy Of A Freak-Out

The area above labeled Phase I. (indicated by the white blob) represents the area covered by the original spill. Not too big, but just enough that it covered some of the art.

Phase II. (red) is where I took the rest of the bottle and emptied it onto the paper. I did this to teach the ink a lesson. See, it thought it was being clever by spilling just enough to ruin the page, but not enough to be empty (and thus become useless). Fuck THAT, bottle. First, I'll show you how much better I am at ruining a page than YOU. Then — having sabotaged your plan to remain useful — I will throw your inkless carcass into the filthy KITCHEN trash, where the rotten chicken parts live, as opposed to the white-collar prison of my office wastebasket.

The largest section, Phase III. (black) is where I splashed my hand in the puddle of India Ink, in order to make the Art itself aware it was ruined, and to notify the Art that it had better be more vigilant next time the ink gets an attitude.

So that's the anatomy of a freak-out. I'd like to tell you these episodes are the result of the hours and hours of isolation I experience in a regular week. Unfortunately, that would be a lie; I used to freak-out regularly when I held a steady job, and back then I was practically shoulder-to-shoulder with fellow human beings.

My only consolation in this entire episode is the hope that my spilling of India Ink goes in five year cycles; meaning I have another 1800 days or so to create art I don't want ruined. After that, I'll just have to create sub-par art that I don't mind being destroyed. Unicorns holding hands, toddlers giving each other flowers... stuff like that.

Author's Edit: A Supplementary Note

The Original Fish & Fishermonkey

It occurs to me that now would be a good time to display my most self-sabotaging freak-out to date. The original commission for Fish & Fishermonkey called for a large acrylic portrait. Having never worked with acrylics before, and being quite frustrated by my struggle with color, I smashed the board against the corner of my desk in a fit of rage. Looking back, it was a foolish decision; not just because I had to start over, but also because Mojo took that as a license to smash the rest of my office.

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I'm first! I'm first!

Okay, sorry. I'm over it now.

Too bad I have nothing of value to add...

John Nick

Wouldn't unicorns hold hoofs? Hooves?

You were correct to teach the ink a lesson! How DARE it approach your crotch without even a come-hither glance.

The phased diagram will likely get you some forensic work. Congratulations in advance.

Were the last two words of the caption going to be "Loder Kurt"? Because that would have been backwards.

Jason Santa Maria

Kevin's freak-outs are easily one of the best things during a work day. Because no matter how angry he gets, or how distressed he seems, you can't help but laugh out loud. Kevin's body isn't accustomed to showing true, threatening anger. Though I've never seen it happen, it's probably like when a clown yells at someone. Those moments truly did get me through my day.

Jon B

Even for a disaster the end result (the phase diagram) is surprisingly attractive. I like the grumpy guy looking at the spill too - I think it works quite nicely - you just need to pretend it was intentional and people will love it.

P.S. I don't know about you but when I freak out and destroy something for 'p***ing' me off (like you with the ink) I usually feel quite guilty afterwards when I've calmed down - maybe the ink was being evil, maybe it was old or sick or maybe it was just a bit clumsy - and you killed it. These questions have to be asked.


and you also ruined a fellow's perfectly good sandwich.

Nikki Noodle

Kevin Cornell bleeds BLACK


5 years? I seem to recall a little thing called the 24 Hour Comic and a huge black puddle spreading over my kitchen table around hour 20 while an oblivious Kevin zoned out into his cold coffee.

Rob Weychert

A rare glimpse into the inspiring technique of a true temper tantrum artisan. God bless you, Kevin Cornell.


Your diagrams look like a risk board.


My god, you're fast!

Then again, it probably takes a lot less time to create an ink splotch than to create an illustration (which I'm getting really curious about; too bad it vanished under a layer of unintentional blackness).

Anyway: I used to be like this, too, and like Jon B, I always felt really guilty afterwards, so instead of freaking out I freeze, red-eyed and breathing heavy while I mentally fast-forward to me sobbing in guilt and remorse over the remains of... whatever I used to really value before thrashing it; that works wonders in controlling tantrums.

That, and a heart-felt, thundering "F**K!!!".


You should try inking using a light box. Then you won't ruin the illustration just the ink version. Unless you work out a lot of the details while inking.. then I got nothin!

Joshua Lane

"Unicorns holding hands"... sub-par!?!?

I guess I'll toss those drawings out then... *sniff* *sniff*

Terry Tolleson

"You could cut the tension with a knife if o[nly]... Lo... Kurt."

Nothing ruins enjoying a perfectly good sammich like a 9" Bowie knife between the shoulders. However, I really like the action and excitement that is created by the ink spill. And the victim looking back at the ink gives it that extra layer.

So, that's your handprint, eh? 1) That's a mighty big illustration. Much larger than I ever thought these were. 2) I now have your palm print sucka!


Aw. I'm sorry I missed that. I like three things: people falling, people being scared and people being irrational. Kev, I may be at your place a lot come 2011.

Hugh G.

You did the right thing Kevin. That ink bottle was clearly in league with Lucifer!


Stan - You weren't laughing out loud when I beat up that team of All-Star Ninjas that was harassing you. Maybe you'll just have to start going to the Ninja Farmer's Market yourself from now on.

Jon B. - I usually DO feel guilty after a freak-out... but my guilt really comes from the thought of Kim standing there, tapping her foot and shaking her head. She's not a big fan of the freak-out; but then, she's the "runs on logic" end of our relationship, whereas I am the "runs on instinct" end. Freak-outs are an inherently illogical behavior.

Raymond - This is true. But it was a Peanut Butter & Baby sandwich, if that justifies anything.

Sutter - Yeah, but that was on purpose — I was trying to sabotage everyone else's comic...

TheJones - Yeah - this isn't the original illustration - I do use a lightboard to translate it to bristol... and I do a light pencil drawing then, to help me ink it. So I didn't lose EVERYTHING, thank god :D

Josh - No! I didn't mean your drawings! OH dear...

Terry - These ARE big... but then again... they ARE for a book... (hint, hint).

Ian - Excellent! I'll get started on my bathtub Jungle Juice!


Kim - "Your diagrams look like a risk board."

Yeah, sort of like a volcano eruption hazard zone map:

Phase 1: Hot lava flows; immediate death.
Phase 2: Pyroclastic flows, horrific burns, and death.
Phase 3: Dense volcanic ash fallout, slow suffocation and, like, death.


Only this morning, we were discussing temper-tantrums. Can anyone beat my colleague Leo's classic "throw a G4 Powerbook against a wall" moment?

s. zeilenga

Sigh. Once again, illustrators have all the fun. How do you ruin a photoshop design with such glorious artistic fashion? You don't. I spilled a bucket of paint all over a rectangle selection the other day but it was nothing an Undo couldn't fix.

I need to start inking my sketchbooks just so I can claim a fatality via ink every now and then. The last time I spilled ink on anything was back in highschool 11 years ago. Hmmm



I'd say my most notable freak out was when I was sculpting the face of an old man. About halfway through, I got frustrated that it wasn't looking right, so I shoved my tools into random places on his face.

Some good did come out of it, though. I now have a great place to put my sculpting tools.


Whether intentional or not, the look on the fella's face to the left of the ink splotch is "too" appropriate.

I smell a set up. Kevin, you're too good to spill ink, and the resulting comic was clearly your design, all along.

Detective work is tough stuff, kids, and should be left to the professionals.

P.S. Stay in school.


Dear Dear Kevin!

I only wish I could have been a fly on your wall. You crack me up!


Firstly I like to say DAMN YOU STAN! Now I'm going to have screaming clown nightmares.

Kevin, perhaps you need one of them fancy Dave Cooper Ink Rigs.


RonaldB - Heh, heh... now THAT's an appropriate metaphor!

Robert - Good God... that's impressive. I dream of the day I can afford to smash a computer when it gives me attitude.

S. Zeilenga - Well, who's to say you can't spill ink on the computer? Give it a try! Just don't tell anyone I suggested it...

MattLat - What did the Old Man say? Were his feelings hurt?

Aaron - Well, I'd only intentionally spill ink if I was REALLY unhappy with the drawing. That would then be me punishing the art for being bad. If no ink was at hand, I'd have to resort to fire.

Niff - Well, you don't need to be a fly to experience the freak-out. Next time you see me, ask me to get three coat-hangers out of my closet. I guarantee a freak-out.

BigA - Wow... that thing is pretty awesome... I DEFINITELY need one...


I like the end result. Some nice social commentary shines through. Deep.


I love it! Ralph Steadman-esque


..and may I just add my own hearty AMEN! to your most recent Omnium-Gatherum?


Kevin ... in the spirit of "sub-par art that I don't mind being destroyed." how about some nice renderings of some dreamcatchers ... or even better ... mystic wolves howling at the moon amidst snowy mountaintops?

There are quite a few "trailer-dwellers" in the North Texas area that, I'm sure, would love to rip off the art and have it put on "iron-on" transfers for their black and white tye-died shirts to wear to the NASCAR rally coming up here in early June ...

The Colonel

It has become clear, Kevin, that you (like myself) are a bitter, angry man. It's no wonder Mojo has so many anger issues.

Admittedly, I have put my fist completely through a door. But then again, who hasn't, right?

Russer Butters

Kevin, Kevin, Kevin, you know anger solves nothing. Even if the drawing is really bad and needs punishment, it truly ends up being yourself that needs to be punished. What did the drawing ever do to you that you didn't do to the drawing first. I think I hear a sexual harassment case coming out of this somehow, but anyways, you should know better than to freakout. If you are ever in doubt, just say to yourself, what would Slappy Christ do? That's right he would start brewing jungle juice in your bathtub in preperation for his coming.


Brando - Yes! I'm trying to say something about... um... ecological safety. You know, because Ink's pretty filthy. I'm still scrubbing ink off of all these puffins in my office.

Jamie - Thanks! Perhaps I'll venture down to Vegas... get into the "role"...

BigA - Hallelujah!

Greggie - Those are some good options, as well. Dreamcatchers are pretty useless. When you really think about it, Dreams don't float around like that. Otherwise, when you wake up, your bedroom would be all misty.

Colonel - I wouldn't say I'm bitter.... or angry, really. I'm completely docile when it comes to human beings — I prefer to rage against the machines instead of the Machine.

Russ - Well, I did smash the ink with my hand around that fellow's privates area. He could theoretically sue...


At least you remembered to put the © on there.



"your bedroom would be all misty."

That could have entirely different causes... (Eh, Kim, wink wink, notch notch?)


Hmmm - Kim DOES let a lot of rock bands film their videos while we sleep. Firehouse used a LOT of smoke effects...

The Colonel

BSR- Ah, and the operative phrase comes screaming into the light, "when it comes to human beings."

If someone happens by my desk at any point in the day, they're likely to hear streams of profanity that would embarrass even a sailor.

I say rage against those machines. Rage on!


This is my first visit here and I laughed so hard when reading this I had to hold it in so my co-workers wouldn't hear me. It hurt a little. I never knew there were other people who experienced the "freak-out" or even that it had a name. I got some consolation from hearing Red Foreman on That 70's Show with his foot up your arse tirades, but this is so exciting to me.

I have been a closet freaker-outer for some time now. Usually when I'm taking cardboard boxes out to the recycle trash at home and they all fall down of course. I have to smash them to fit them in the bin, but I smash them with profanity and rage because they made me drop them first. This has been quite a cathartic experience. Thank you.


Oooh - I'd LOVE to have an outlet like that... I remember when I was a kid and our family first started recycling, you'd have to take your glass bottles to the recycling center yourself. Once there, you got to hurl them into the HUGE bin for glass.

Pretty similar to box-crushing... maybe I should travel back in time...


Nothing justifies ruining a perfectly good baby with peanut butter.


I like it.


The Missus doesn't let you use the pointy scissors, does she?

I didn't think so.

Mr. T

I think I should get into your line of work. My freak-outs usually entail smashing keyboards and monitors with the occasional karate chopping of CD-Rom trays (although without formal karate training I still seem to do enough damage). I think if anything, in the long run, it would save me money.


Don't complain about your new job, T. — You should never have left the A-Team.

Karl Brightman

I like it, even though its not what you wanted, when i first saw it i honestly thought thats how it was meant to that wrong?


Out of curiousity, what brand of ink do you use?


Well, this particular spill was Higgins Waterproof Black Ink, which isn't technically an India Ink. However, "India Ink" is the generic term I grew up with for any black drawing ink.

Wow... that's the second fallacy revealed about this article! Looks like I'll have to switch categories from "Journalism" to "Letters" on my Pulitzer application.


I stopped using Higgins several years ago, as I wasn't getting as rich of a black as I wanted. (Things were turning sort of blue-ish)

I switched to Pelikan (which is so dark they sell it as a tattoo ink as well.) Perhaps they've changed their formula, because your illustrations look beautiful (and not blue.)

Anyhow, thanks for sharing :) You should do in article in which you discuss/reveal your materials (illustration boards, brushees) etc, it would be very interesting.


The KC School of Bearskinrugging? Courses in "Ink Spillage", "Paper Smudging" and whatnot? Yeah ok, I'll sign up for that!


Oh SWEEEET! I can be a Principle! Maybe a Superintendent!

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