I have consumed about a third of all things Achewood, and it always gives me the same feeling: a combination of the "I don't fully understand what is going on" experience of going out to dinner with your significant other and all of their coworkers when they start making fun of coworkers you haven't met, plus a sort of swooning "this is beautiful and I want more." It's a weird feeling, and Achewood is the only thing that makes me feel that way, which is why I can't stop consuming it.
Achewood artist's sketchbooks available on the honor system
Achewood went on hiatus, and then it came back, but not really, because it was only updated like once a month, and not since June. But during that period when Onstad was not updating Achewood, he continued to write and scribble in notebooks. And now you can peek at them, in chapbook form, on the honor system.
As I write this, Onstad has made six chapbooks available in eBook (PDF) format. They are free to download, with a suggested price of $3 each. Each one is generous in size and spirit. I love looking at artists' sketchbooks, and the opportunity to flip through the sketchbooks of an artist in Onstad's position is unheralded.
Onstad is not a failed artist, not by any means. Achewood is huge, and carries a cultural cachet not found in many paid strips, much less free webcomics. It is sui generis, and widely recognized as the pinnacle of the form. But Onstad stopped doing it because ???
His self-loathing and depression is clearly an issue, and it is well on display in these sketchbooks. I am looking at a sketch (pen and ink wash) of Roast Beef (a character who is defined by his clinical depression) dressed in a hoody and looking downcast. It is captioned "A well-worn hoody or thick cardigan is like having a constant hug. Not that hugs always help."
Onstad is an artistic force: capable of sublime brilliance, held back primarily by his own demons. He is currently positioning himself as a food and travel writer, e.g. for Saveur magazine. I hope that one day he is able to come back to art, to engage with his own talent in a meaningful manner, and to at least reach détente with his self-sabotaging inner editor.
Until then, these six chapbooks may tide you over. More are forthcoming, or so the page says. You never know with Onstad. If you think you might be interested, you should probably go get them right now.