The comic below is in the Wordless Wednesday spirit, but I felt compelled to add just a few words. With 2017 just 4 days old, I’m finding myself at an odd loss for resolutions – there are, of course, a few things I’d like to do and some dreams on the horizon, but I’m very struck, this year, by an odd sense of familiarity in place of the New Year feeling of rupture and newness.
I’m coming to realize that the past few months of cultivating a craft practice – while a new adventure – has felt more like a long-overdue homecoming. By homecoming, I mean rediscovering a space of comfort, belonging, care, renewal, flourishing, and kinship. I don’t think of this kind of home as a perfect or uncomplicated place, but as the place I choose to dwell in and come back to; it’s not only where life unfolds and is lived, but where I feel most able to make a livable life. In these ways, the decision to start cultivating creativity again has felt like a slow, months-long process of making a travelling nest for myself – a home on-the-go that isn’t limited by the vagaries of place, chance, and circumstance.
In this vein, here’s a graphic love-letter to the place where I actually grew up – East York, a borough of Toronto. It includes some of my favourite/familiar haunts from back in the day.
To finding (and making) (and making pictures of) home.
While working on a watercolour and ink project a few months ago, I had the urge to make up a cast of characters by giving characteristics to watercolour paint blobs. I specifically remember wanting to create an exercise in following my whimsy.
I tape my ‘cast of characters’ sheet above my work desk, where I do most of my writing and reading. It makes me smile. I see different sides of myself peering back at me, and this silly crew reminds me of what can happen if I just follow my creative hunch without worrying about the outcome.
I have yet to give the characters names, going as far as numbers and a few traits for my favourites. Suggestions welcome. 🙂
What kinds of personalities would you include in your own cast of characters?
The unique panel-structure of comics lends itself very well, I think, to exploring episodic memories, or autobiographical memories linked to a specific place, time, and emotion. The borders of each panel form a discrete unit which are like film-cuts, letting you place in the next scene whatever image you please (or, compelling you to repeat images you’ve already presented). This system of transitions, in comics, is freeing. You can explore the minute details of a single sequence, letting the eye jump from element to element. Or, you can paint a panoramic view, bringing the reader with you into a new temporality which you create, inviting them to experience its coherence (or not).
This comic is episodic in that way, and is my attempt at piecing together different memories of someone that I used to know. It comes out of a short poem that I wrote after I thought I saw this person on the subway many years after we had been friends. She was inside the train while I was on the platform slowly watching the train pull away. I questioned the correctness of my senses but harbored a subtle feeling of lost opportunity anyhow. As I went home, I started to try to reconstruct what I knew of her, and began with the little details–the insignificant things that, for one reason or another, managed to persist in the memory bank.
At the time of making this comic, I was also heavily into the work of graphic novelist, John Porcellino known for his King-Cat Comics. His visual style is as simple and evocative as his writing, and I admire the way that his work creates, for me, a really concrete sense of world and mystery out of the little things:
Titled, Sea Change, this comic was the last page of a series of video game comics started last year by myself and Andrew Nee–gamer extraordinaire and site owner of negativeworld.org,—an online forum and scrolling love-letter dedicated to all things Nintendo.
Knowing very little about gaming, myself (and especially how to deliver a gamer-satisfying punchline), Andrew would create the rough storyboards that I would then draw out, with some editing. We tentatively called the series The Cloud Chasers, and its release even included a kind of author statement about our comic, and its potential for clever reflection on virtual worlds (neat!).While this comic is on hold due to time constraints and my leaving for my fieldwork, I’m hoping to revisit comics and keep at it.
You can view the rest of The Cloud Chasers comics (roughly 4 entries) here, on Negativeworld. This collection is also a good example of what it looks like to learn how to draw by making many mistakes.