american hell

American Hell - Drawing Conclusions in Black and White

 —  Random  — 

Questions & Answers

May 4, 2007

Who are you?
An Irishman, living in America for over eight years when I started American Hell but now back living in Ireland.

But your name?
For these purposes it’s Eolaí

Is that your real name?
I’m really using it as a name. But no, my parents were more imaginative.

Why are you anonymous?
I’m not; I’m pseudonymous. The name my parents gave me I don’t want associated too strongly with some of the websites I do. But it’s deliberately not hidden too deeply and should take you less than a minute to find if you really care.

What other websites do you do?
I design and build websites and I optimize them for search engines. As a full-time artist I’ve now left web work behind. But I do have a few blogs.

What other blogs do you have?
My personal blog, which concentrates on painting, cycling, my life and my dog, is called Bicyclistic. Another blog is called Irish KC. It’s really 2 blogs in one, the personal blog of me as an artist (before Bicyclistic), and a listings-centered humour site about anything remotely Irish that touches Kansas City. And because I’m Irish that includes anything to do with me.

Would I like Irish KC?
The paintings? I don’t know. The personal stuff? Maybe, if you like me as a person. The other stuff? Probably not. Or maybe you might but only in small doses in between the Irish listings. That’s where I have various attempts at humour including a cartoon thing, conversations, questions I’m asked in America about being Irish, and the less celebrated differences between the two countries. And there may be other categories that tickle you, like nostalgia.

Why is this site called American Hell?
It had to be called something. The domain name was available and irresistible.

Do you think America is Hell?
Anywhere is Hell. Try some unplanned housing estates in Dublin West, or that place in Birmingham which has no pubs.

So it’s not an anti-American site?
You’re very negative. It’s a site of drawings dressed up as a pseudo-cartoon site, with words of foolishness mostly about love and technology. Think of it as a pro-love and pro-technology site.

Where do your ideas come from?
You. Isn’t it best not to think too much about these things?

How often do you post American Hell?
I aim to post a drawing thing every week day, ideally in the middle of the night before western Europe goes to work. At least I did when I lived in the US, but things aren’t always ideal. The protracted move back to Ireland has played havoc with my routine.

You take weekends off?
I might post once over the weekend, but I’m thinking of posting something different on the weekend i.e. not a cartoon.

I’ve noticed some big gaps between postings. Why?
Probably because you’re very perceptive. The reason for some big gaps however is due to moving back to Ireland after 8 years in America. It caused an initial long stagnation and a change in how I post. In other words living out of a suitcase is not as conducive to productivity as having a home was.

Are the cartoons auto-biographical?
I have never killed anybody, worn a dog-collar nor been with three sisters from the same family. Yet. Also, I am not a fish.

Are they about me?
If you think the cartoons are about yourself or somebody you know, I can practically guarantee that they almost certainly aren’t. Except the times where they are – in which case, what on earth are you doing here?

But I know somebody with the name you used?
So do I, and neither of them are the person in the cartoon.

Will you do a cartoon about me, or someone I know?
No, but you can suggest a name – and nothing else – and I may well use it.

When do you do them?
Just before I post them.

How long does each one take?
No idea. The posting is really the final act. I draw all the time. I scan images in batches. I also scribble stuff in a notebook that I think might work. And then when it comes to posting nothing is funny anymore and the pictures aren’t suitable. So I rework from scratch, look through images, maybe draw a new one, write up the words, and post.

I don’t find all the cartoons funny. Am I missing something?
You may well be missing something, but thanks for finding something funny. Regardless, all the cartoons aren’t meant to be funny – some just kind of make me happy.

Do you draw anything else?
I do. I’m an artist and I paint almost every day.

What do you paint?
Anything, pretty much. Cityscapes, Landscapes, Abstracts, Figurative, Interiors, but you could just go to the page on Irish KC called Irish Paintings (Although most are Irish, not all are) where I make some paintings available for sale at reduced prices from time to time.

Can I put the cartoons on my blog/site/toaster?
The odd one, sure, and thank you. I can’t imagine you’d want to put too many up, but if you did there wouldn’t be much point in me having my own site. Links are always appreciated.

What do you use to make them?
The drawings are done mostly on paper, with one pen or another – I have a fondness for using a Sharpie, which is stupid but I like the aggressive inkiness of it; it’s a cruel instrument. I use a scanner to bring them into the digital world and Paint Shop Pro for the final manipulations – like switching the background to white if I’ve drawn the image on coloured paper.

Some pictures are drawn on a tablet. I have a small wacom, not the more expensive type – whatever the Intuous isn’t. All words are written using the tablet.

Can I have an original cartoon?
Are you my Mother?

Can I buy an original cartoon?
Maybe down the road. Make me an offer and shorten the road.

What about a t-shirt of my favourite cartoon?
Probably at some stage. I’m definitely thinking about it, but for now I want to concentrate on just producing American Hell.

How do I contact you?
You don’t even know me.

But this is a blog, you’re supposed to facilitate conversation, no?
Yes you’re right of course. Let me sort something out and I’ll get back to you with a special e-mail address just for American Hell. [ Update: I’m on Twitter as eolai, and also on Twitter as AmericanHell and that’s a great way to contact me. Or you can get me on good old-fashioned email at artist {at} ]

Will you link to me?

Why not?
Because you asked me. This whole web and blogging thing works well in an organic way. Just engage and participate and see what happens. If you never link to me I honestly won’t hold it against you.

Isn’t American Hell just a copy of Hugh MacLeod’s Gaping Void?
No. Neither is it a homage or a parody. I like Gaping Void a lot, and wouldn’t insult it by trying to rip it off. This is possibly a discussion that deserves a page all to itself, which I suspect I’ll do, but for now you can decide for yourself if I’m ripping off Gaping Void. Meanwhile I’ll be brief in my explanation as to why this site isn’t a rip-off of Hugh’s site.

As I outlined in the History & Background, American Hell was conceived of many years ago – in the late 1970s specifically. And when I decided that a blog would be the best form for it to be made public, that was also years before I heard of Gaping Void.

American Hell is something I do and would continue to do even if blogging didn’t exist. At the time of writing (AH #33 has been posted) the vast majority of posted drawings were drawn years before I ever read Gaping Void or heard of Hugh.

Similarly I have been collecting the words that go with the drawings for over twenty years. Both sites use black and white line drawings with handwritten stuff. But that’s pretty much it. The drawing styles are very different, and my words are typically clunky and long-winded in comparison with Hugh’s. I know there are other small similarities, like the conversations and I.T. as a subject.

Perhaps paranoid about being accused of copying Hugh, this cartoon on Twitter (#22) I changed from the original planned conversation form:

Stalking Conversation

But then there are even more differences between our sites also – and I’ll elaborate another day if I feel I need to. Note that I haven’t completely given up on the conversation form either though, however Love is by far the most frequent theme on American Hell.

I think anybody who uses a blog to post single-panel line drawings with handwriting, will inevitably be compared with Hugh, and with Drew of Toothpaste for Dinner. Just like anybody in cartoons who indulges in wordplay is likely eventually to come up with a joke they haven’t seen but has already been told on The Far Side.

If something is genuine it will last over time, and by then its distinct identity should be apparent.

If there was something specific you wanted answered, try putting the question in the comments and we’ll see what happens.

Apart from the background to American Hell, there’s more blog-specific stuff on an interview I gave to the Total Blog Directory, but perhaps there are more clues as to what might be influencing some cartoons in the list of 101 random things about me I posted on IrishKC.


  1. Comment by michelle lamar — June 15, 2007 @ 9:52 pm

    Love the blog. Love the name. Be offended or be honored but you are officially on my White Trash Mom Blogroll Hall of Fame list. I also added you to my other blogroll, shallow&tacky. No I’m not asking for a link—just wanted you to know that you are officially trashy. You’re welcome or I’m sorry, depending on your sense of humor.

  2. Comment by Eolaí — June 15, 2007 @ 10:02 pm

    Michelle, thanks a million – I’ll choose to be hugely honoured.

    And I’ll come a visiting before long.

  3. Comment by Xavier Onassis — July 3, 2007 @ 4:41 pm

    Can I buy an original cartoon?
    Maybe down the road. Make me an offer and shorten the road.

    That cracked me up. Nice stuff, man. I’ll be adding you to My List.

    Dum dum dum dummmm.

    Hey, where did that music come from?

  4. Comment by Eolaí — July 5, 2007 @ 9:28 am

    Thank you, though for a moment I thought you wanted to buy a cartoon. And then I laughed as the road lengthened again.

  5. Comment by Required — October 25, 2007 @ 5:57 pm

    hey. I like your stuff.

    Do you do these drawings with your eyes closed? Are you blind? Did you already answer these questions and my scanning abilities have weakened in my old age? What’s the square root of 139?

  6. Comment by Eolaí — October 26, 2007 @ 9:14 am

    Dear Required,


    I’m not blind. Some of the drawings that appear here on American Hell were initially borne of closed eyes but that’s long been not the case, since it taught me what I wanted to learn about seeing.

    I would expect that the square root of 139 is going to be a number that’s very nearly 12.

  7. Comment by R. E. Quired — October 26, 2007 @ 3:14 pm

    Very good, yes, very good, Mmm, well, yes. Well, thank you very much for taking the time to enlighten me. Had I not been so hasty, I would have typed the number 1SIXTY9 because it has a nice even square: 13.

    Mathematics are the language of love where I’m from. As is, ending sentences with prepositions. Quite a strange land, this place from which I hail. I mean, where I hail from…


  8. Comment by Eolaí — October 27, 2007 @ 5:38 am

    Now I wish I’d known that when I passed through where you’re from. The mathematics bit, not the ending of sentences with prepositions.

  9. Comment by Mina Z — February 12, 2009 @ 2:50 pm


  10. Pingback by American Hell on FaceBook [ Irish KC ] — August 6, 2009 @ 4:29 am

    […] And it’s relevance to Kansas City? And being Irish? Well I’m Irish, so even if I pass gas it’s an Irish wind that blows. And as for KC, well read the background and the Q & A, and you work it out. […]

  11. Comment by Pot — January 16, 2011 @ 5:28 am

    Hahaha, long life for Twitter :)

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