In the pages of illustrator Jess Rotter's new book, I'm Bored (Hat & Beard Press, $25), a dog wearing overalls wonders aloud as a record spins on a suitcase turntable, “Who will be the next person I hope will like me?” A wizard in a floppy hat and celestial robe asks into a telephone receiver, “Mom, am I relevant?” And a lady ostrich lies supine on her therapist's couch as he scribbles a pair of boobs onto his notepad.
“They’re kind of like little alter egos,” Rotter says of the characters she created. “The dog specifically has to do with age and feeling relevant and trying to make it in the world and all the insecurities we have. It's kind of like, who’s going to inspire me next, who’s going to be my next hero? The ostrich is kind of depressed and alone, and the wizard is just trying to get by. They’re all kind of little extensions of emotions that I feel.”
The declaration “I'm bored” usually reads as a complaint. But Rotter sees boredom as an opportunity — achieved voluntarily, you could even consider it a daring act.
I'm Bored is simultaneously a celebration and exploration of boredom — and a variety of other sorts of existential malaise — and a gift to people who've dared to be “bored” long enough to take in a little book of drawings.
In the book's foreword, Kate and Laura Mulleavy, the sister duo behind the fashion label Rodarte (and friends of Rotter), write, “The emptiness of boredom allows the mind to wander, explore and rest … to avoid modern stimulation and endless activity … to pause and take in the moment … to let oneself melt into nothingness while surrendering to the possibility of individual creation.”
Rotter echoed that sentiment in our interview: “I think in a time of constant distraction, it’s not easy to appreciate the journey. … Being bored is a beautiful thing — being bored is a struggle too, it’s a great place for originality and ideas and all that to stem from.”
Despite her best intentions, Rotter hasn't necessarily had a lot of time to be bored this year. The longtime illustrator credits Instagram (ironically, a classic distractor) with a lot of the opportunities she's had, from designing merch for Cat Stevens' 50th-anniversary tour to working on several projects for Lena Dunham's Lenny Letter. In one of those projects, the Songbird Series, Rotter pays homage to lesser-known female musicians, in comic strip form in her dreamy, '70s style. She also collaborated with Dunham on a recent comic strip entitled “Five Times It's OK to Grab 'Em by the Pussy.” (I'm also inclined to note that her book release party at Winsome in Echo Park last week was attended by Natalie Portman, the Mulleavy sisters and Kim Gordon, and was photographed by Vogue.)
Taking a few minutes to flip through I'm Bored is sort of like soaking in a '70s AM Gold song come to life; perhaps appropriately, Rotter quotes the Wings song “Wild Life” in the epigraph: “You're moving so fast, but, baby, you know not where.” It's a message to the reader and to the characters living within the book's pages.
Rotter says, “I think it’s kind of like we all have to be sort of warriors to experience a great moment. That’s what these characters sort of are.”
Jess Rotter launches I'm Bored on Wed., Oct. 26, at 7:30 p.m. at Skylight Books, 1818 N. Vermont Ave., Los Feliz. skylightbooks.com/event/jess-rotter-launches-her-new-book-im-bored.