31 Days of Pandas: Day 21 and my Annual Review

Wow, we are two thirds of the way through 31 Days of Pandas! It is also the night of the solstice, which is the longest night of the year, unless of course, you live in the southern hemisphere, in which case it is the longest day of the year. Go figure. It’s all a little yin and yang to me, which reminds me of pandas, of course. (Okay, quiet in the cheap seats. I know everything reminds me of pandas! Do you have a problem with that?)

And speaking of pandas, here we go with the next episode of The Case of the Picturesque Panda! Huzzah!

Hmmm...what possibly could be in those large, painting sized crates that Babette has had loaded onto the S.S. Tipandic ocean liner?

Hmmm…what possibly could be in those large, painting sized crates that Babette has had loaded onto the S.S. Tipandic ocean liner? And should we be worried that the captain is a polar bear?

I just wanted to add a little reminder that you have a mere 10 more days to order any of the Panda Chronicle Books or Pandamorphosis and have a portion of the profits go to Pandas International. You know you want them, so don’t wait, okay?

Additionally, the National Zoo in Washington DC is inviting people to print, photograph, and post on twitter, the National Zoo’s version of the flat panda. I propose printing, photographing and posting pandas from my paper panda page (especially Princess Pinky) and tweeting them to the NZ at   and use the hashtag #FlatPanda. Feel free to tweet them to me as well @PandaChronicle or @NoirPandas  Here are a few examples of the travels of Babette:

Babette visiting her good friend Po, before Po's trip to China

Babette visiting her good friend Po, before Po’s trip to China

Babette at the ice skating rink in Rockefeller center a few years ago with her good friend Frances A.

Babette at the ice skating rink in Rockefeller center a few years ago with her good friend Frances A.

And now….

The Year in Review…

If you are just here for the pandas, you can stop reading here, and go look at pictures of pandas on Facebook or wherever pandas congregate on the internet. But this has been a year of challenges and changes for me and I felt the need, on this long night of the solstice, to take a look back and reflect on the accomplishments as well as the sorrows.

I wrote a rough draft of my year in review, by way of a challenge from Chris Guillebeau over at The Art of Non-Conformity.  The idea of writing an annual review is something I’ve wanted to add to my decade long Annual Pre-view, which I do along with another artist friend of mine. We write down our plans and goals, personal and work, for the year. It’s been a very useful tool to organize the chaos and actually accomplish work throughout the year.

But the review that I wrote in that draft seemed kind of cold, with no heart to it. So, while it is useful to me to see where I achieved and where I failed in my professional life, it didn’t have enough of my heart and soul in it, if you know what I mean. If I have learned nothing else from pandas, I’ve learned that even when you are an endangered species, heart is everything. That you pick yourself up from what seems like the worst thing ever, and get up, have lunch, and maybe climb a tree.

So this is a bit more and a bit less than that other review. Bear with me.

This is hard to write about, but it was the event that shaped much of how the year felt. I lost a dear friend to cancer this year. I met her 22 years ago when she and her husband moved to our island community, and I took an instant liking to them both. As coincidence would have it, we had all lived in Philadelphia, PA at some point in our lives, so maybe that was part of why we connected. She encouraged and supported all my creative paths, including pandas. Like all friendships, it ebbed and flowed over the 22 years we knew each other, but she was always there when I needed her. Spending time with her in the last weeks of her life was one of the best things I’ve done. I will miss her forever.

This one's for you, Jude.

This one’s for you, Jude.

I published three books, including my pandam-opus, Pandamorphosis, a wordless picture book, which took me more than 3 years to complete. That process had it’s ups and downs, but I can honestly say that I am proud of it. (also The Book of Wu and Pandapocalypse Now!)

I visited three sets of pandas, in two countries, and met more fans of my cartoon panda creations. I can honestly say, that I never really expected to form so many real life connections with people who read my books and blog. It is a wonder and a gift that I am grateful for every day. The other surprise has been the people who have written to me and told me how much my panda-toons have helped them cope with the challenges in their life. Here, I thought I was just amusing myself. The Panda Chronicles was born out of my need for light and humor, when my art career took a dive during the financial meltdown of 2009. I am gratified (not to mention amazed) that it has helped others as well.

I am still trying to cope with rebuilding my fine art career. It is not easy, but as long as I have pandas, I think it will work out okay. The challenge is to to see with clear vision, to see what is possible moving forward, as opposed to trying to retrieve what was. Easy peasy, right?

In the next week, I will start working on my goals for 2015. I’ll let you know how it all works out. In the meantime, keep being the bear, OK?

Bob T. Panda

6 thoughts on “31 Days of Pandas: Day 21 and my Annual Review

  1. Cara

    2014 seems to have been a strange or sad year for so many people, and I’m so sorry to hear about your friend. As a ‘dipper in’ to Panda Chronicles, I wasn’t aware you’d been struggling, but as we reach the end of the year please accept my hearfelt thanks for everything you do for us black n’ white fans. Your take on precocious Pinky and her adventures, her long suffering but proud mum, the masterful Mei Hem twins, and my wonderful Wu, not to mention Inspector Panda, have made me smile at times in 2014 when it felt like I might never smile again. Thank you for sharing your gifts so generously, and here’s wishing for a bright 2015 for us all.

    1. Panda in Chief Post author

      Thank you for your kind words. I’m hoping for a much better year in 2015. But the panda gang, both human, actual pandas, and fictional pandas will help keep my head above water. Thank you for being part of the panda faithful.

  2. Vicky V

    I hope Babette and the S.S. Tipandic don’t crash into a giant cuppycake!
    I want my afterlife to be filled with overfed cubbies 🙂
    Thank you for sharing your pandas with us but also the ups and downs of your life. Some years are tougher than others and some years leave indelible stains on our lives. I treasure them all because they form the rich tapestries that are our lives
    I hope the end of this year and the beginning of the new year brings you fun, happiness and lots of cuppycakes!

    1. Panda in Chief Post author

      Sometimes I think about people who seem to have an easy life (I say seem, because I don’t really think there is such a thing.) and I am briefly envious, and then I realize that who I am is the direct result of all my experiences. In art school we used to say that there were no people with happy childhoods in art school. A vast over simplification, I’m sure, but I believe that those who end up doing creative work had more than the usual struggles to overcome.
      It makes the creation of works of beauty and imagination all that much sweeter.
      I am so grateful for all of you who have put your trust in me, to spend time and attention reading my pqnda-toons and enjoying my paintings.
      We are the bears.

      1. Vicky V

        I know what you mean. I’m sure there are writers out there that have had a “normal” or “stress free” life but I haven’t met them!
        Most of the creative people I know have used their creativity as a way of dealing with their issues and as inspirations for their art.
        It’s been an absolute pleasure following all your Panda works and I can’t wait for more!

        1. Panda in Chief Post author

          It’s the old: “there are no happy childhoods in art school,” thing. It’s better that I have a paintbrush than a gun. Personally I think that a difficult life makes for better, more interesting art. I am so glad there are others who appreciate that side of me. I’m so happy to have you along for the ride.


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