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You could write a comic about this

10/01/2017

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Karl Ove Knausgaard has written a crazy long autobiographical novel – 3,600 pages long, in six volumes. I’ve only read the first two so far. I sometimes get into trouble writing comics about conversations I’ve had, and making judgements that perhaps haven’t been wise, but you wonder what kind of trouble Knausgaard got into for the intense scrutiny he placed on his family and friends.

Sometimes I think I should swap to made-up comics – you have quite a lot more leeway, and you don’t get into nearly as much trouble when you overstep the mark . Of course, friends and family are still a bit nervous, imagining a character might be based on them. But there’s something fascinating about real life, and the little things that happen around you. Knausgaard somehow makes going supermarket shopping and chopping vegetables enthralling.

As you can probably tell, I am going through an exploratory drawing stage. The more I draw, the worse I feel at drawing, but perhaps, as my sister points out, I am just being more ambitious and trying to do more with my drawing. After finishing Mansfield and Me, I was completely sick of my thick, brushed outlines, but I also didn’t like the pigment liner drawings of my early comics, especially since the ink ran out of my pens so quickly. Right now I am still trying to master the dip pen, but there are an awful lot of splatters and somehow, yesterday, I managed to spill two small bottles of ink, one of them over my sneakers. Anyway, I am hoping that by the time I start on my new project – maybe February – I will find my voice again!

Radical self-acceptance

04/01/2017

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Happy new year! Have you made any resolutions this year that you’ve managed or failed to keep? I’d love to hear from you – my holiday season emails are thoroughly boring and consist entirely of big companies trying to sell me more stuff.

I really like the concept of “radical self-love” but mostly it’s enough for me to go through the day not imagining committing harakiri over some domestic, social or artistic shortcoming. And making comics is always a battle of self-acceptance for me too. I start off, it looks like shit; I keep going in the hope that it will improve; by the time I’ve finished it’s found a shape and it’s good enough – not great – but I will accept it. I think it’s almost impossible to gauge the value of something whilst you’re working on it – that only comes in retrospect.

My other resolution, which I suspect is more achievable, is to start on a new major project – but I’m holding out until the kids go back to school until I start that. A new novel? A graphic novel? A kids’ comic? A serial I blog here? I still have to decide…

Utterances

21/12/2016

I wrote a comic for The Pantograph Punch! Here is the second page; you have to go here to read the whole thing. It’s quite long – a whole 9 pages – but you can download the PDF if you’re reading on a tablet.

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Also, a big shout out to the wonderful people who have supported me on Patreon – I’ve now broken the $100 a month threshold!

And, if you need any holiday gift suggestions, there’s always this….

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Incidental comics

19/12/2016

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It’s now school holidays, so all my comics will be incidental and impulsive and half-formed things. Another conversation I had, over drinks, was whether or not your drawing style drove the content of your comic. Today I deliberately went for the pencil and watercolour approach, which may or may not have added to the impressionistic effect of it.

I have always been troubled by the idea – was it Rainer Maria Rilke’s notion? – that one should only write if one has something to say. How do you define “something to say”? Don’t we all have something to say? It’s hard to tell how trivial or significant it is in the moment. That’s the kind of thing you figure out in retrospect. Knowing that you have something to say also suggests self-importance. Also, given that I work out what I want to say in the process of drawing and writing, I would never write anything if I took Rilke’s advice.

Madonna in a fur coat

15/12/2016

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I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit lately – where has my intensity of feeling towards art gone? It’s still there; art makes me think, constantly, mulling over how I experience the world as opposed to how the protagonist in a book, or the artist, experiences it. But I don’t experience it in that ecstatic, almost orgasmic way that I did when I was young. (Ok, there was that time at the Morrissey concert in 2012, but I was channelling my younger self, and there was nostalgia thrown in to amp up my emotions.)

I just went to see the Cindy Sherman exhibition at the City Gallery, and I marvelled at all her different guises, all the people that she turns herself into, borrowing their grief and joy, annihilating herself in the process. Talking about her early work, the film stills, she described the facial blankness that she was after in the photos – the time before or the time after something huge happens, and you haven’t quite yet processed your emotions. Sometimes I wonder if I am always on the slow burn. Then, I remind myself that I do experience joy and anguish, I do feel bone-shaking anxiety and anger. But these emotions don’t appear at the appropriate time, they just erupt out of me randomly.

In my random trawling of the internet, I came across this article, (NSFW), written by someone about to give a workshop in Wellington. It talked about our cultural obsession with orgasms, which, paradoxically, makes them harder to attain. I was wondering if there were some kind parallel in writing and art and live performance – we want to be cracked open, we want to have some kind of blissful union with the book we’re reading or the band we’re watching, feeling it in our body. But perhaps we’re expecting too much. Perhaps we need to relax, and open ourselves up to all sorts of experiences, redefine what is pleasure and how much we need to be moved.

Anyway, you should read this book by Sabahattin Ali! It’s really good! Filled with pathos and joy, and excellent writing. The crazy thing is that it’s been around in Turkey since the 1940s (it was published as Anon) but has recently become a bestseller – Turkey’s most beloved love story – and it’s only just been translated into English.

Adios, John

13/12/2016

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Another political comic! It’s times like these that encourage me to reverse my mantra, and turn the political personal rather than the other way round. Of course, my hope is that Bill English will fail to endear himself to the NZ public and there will be a Labour/Greens government by this time next year!

We can only see our lives through other people’s eyes

12/12/2016

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I think I get stuff done by deliberately ignoring the disorder in my life. Perhaps we all do. I can only finish a comic in a day by being singleminded. I live in my little bubble, not looking into the rooms full of severed heads, ignoring the side of the house that is crumbling down the bank. My friend Emma was explaining the yellow car game to me – how her daughter always saw yellow cars, but she never did, preferring the life inside her mind. In order that she could play the game, she trained herself to notice yellow cars, and now she sees them all the time. But she hates yellow cars. She wishes she’d never invited them to intrude on her thoughts.

My mother has amazing powers of observation, but they come without a filter – all the faults are in just as sharp relief as all the positive things. She did admire my salads, and my new gauzy white blouse, and told me I looked very nice when I was off to a party in a pink dress. She notices every new addition to my wardrobe, even though we only see each other every 6 weeks or so. Still, sometimes I wish my parents could play along, and we could all pretend that nothing is broken in my house, and the dust bunnies just add to its shabby chic charm.