Jesse Baggs: diary-style cartoonist
An educator and an illustrator, this former designer of Track 7 artwork created a lighthearted cartoon about his family life.
In his diary-style comic strip, Having it All, cartoonist Jesse Baggs illustrates hilarious and relatable moments inspired by the everyday experiences he shares with his wife and two budding children. He invites the reader to giggle at the curiosities of toddlers, to revel in the ups and downs of parenthood and to connect with the candid experiences of one father navigating life. An English teacher at Florin High School by day, Baggs dreams of syndicated comics, graphic novels and keeping new work flowing on a monthly basis. Local craft beer enthusiasts might recognize Baggs’ artistic style, as he made original illustrations for some of Track 7 Brewing Co.’s specialty can releases: A caricature of Ryan Gosling on a kettle sour ale and other silly characters adorned about 15 of the creative brews. SN&R wanted to know Baggs’ childhood inspirations, his introduction to the world of drawing and, more importantly, what his wife thinks of Having it All. Does he ever leave anything out? Yes, here and there—but, thankfully, not everything.
What are your first memories tied to drawing?
My mom encouraged me to draw, and there was a show on PBS called Commander Mark and the Secret City; it was on in the ’80s. [It was hosted by] Mark Kistler, and he does this whole thing where he teaches kids how to draw in 3D and the different principles of drawing. He’s still around. So, I have memories of her taping that for me, and I would come home and draw after school and watch that.
First thing you illustrated—go.
My first memory is, I drew a monster with a penis, and I was like, “Look what I drew, Mom!” and she was like, “We don’t draw penises.” (Laughs.) I didn’t really understand why not. So I scribbled in something over it, and I was like, “Oh look, he’s wearing underwear now.” Despite that experience, I kept drawing.
Any artists you looked up to during those formative years?
The author Syd Hoff visited our school—who wrote Danny the Dinosaur and Sammy the Seal. He was a cartoonist, but he did children’s books, too. I didn’t like his artwork at the time. I liked Garfield, and I thought Garfield was where it was at, like, art-wise. Syd Hoff has flat, Bigfoot-style, goofy characters with like, big potato noses, and I was like, “I’m not into this guy.” But the librarian asked kids to draw posters to welcome him, so I was copying his drawings to make these posters and I realized I was learning how to draw from this guy, because I didn’t really know how to draw, even though I thought I did.
Tell me about creating illustrations for Track 7.
I did quite a few illustrations … there was a series that I did that had to do with breakfast, and I created this brewer character that I liked drawing. It was just kind of goofy, but I liked it because it was silly. There was a brew called California Kids, and it was supposed to taste like a Creamsicle, and the characters on the can were buying beer out of an ice cream truck. So we had to age them up because of issues of marketing to minors, but it was fun. Helping out a friend and seeing my artwork out there was pretty exciting.
What’s your favorite Having it All strip?
I just did one based on this idea of gravity being like a bed or a blanket. I first read about it in a Michael Crichton novel, where the idea is that gravity is like a blanket, and when you put a heavy object on it, other objects sink toward it. That’s like what’s happening with gravity. Objects are attracted to each other. But I just like that idea of attraction as gravity. And also, we have a family bed, so our kids sleep with us, and we have three cats—who we don’t let sleep with us—but the whole idea of the comic was that our family bed was the gravity that was pulling us together, and that’s like the center of our universe, our family. That was a nice one to do.
What does your wife think about the details of your diary comic?
She likes it. It’s something we joke about. Something I worry about is that I don’t want to [fall] into that trope where I’m presenting the family where the dad’s like this bumbling idiot like Homer Simpson, and the wife is all together, but it’s hard not to fall into that sometimes. There’s definitely been some ideas that I have where she’s not as gung-ho about it, or when our daughter does some really silly stuff … so it’s a good balance overall. She reminds me not to be too revealing, but I’ve essentially created characters that were kind of based on our family [so] there would be a little more distance.