This summer I’m heading to the Pacific island of Palau with Scott Fitzpatrick and his team. Possibly rashly, I’ve decided to do a comic-based field journal of my time with the Palau project.
Why comic-based? For years, I’ve been looking for a better way to capture the experience of archaeological illustration – partly because it’s a side of the profession which goes largely unrecorded and unnoticed, but partly also because I think it’s really interesting and I think other people would find it interesting, too. In 2002 I came across – via her archaeobotanical drawings - Naomi Miller‘s “Drawing on the Past” – an all-too-brief glimpse into the world of another archaeological illustrator. I loved the book the moment I saw the cover. Watercolour paintings, sketches and cartoons fill Naomi’s book – a reminder of how much “dig life” an illustrator can see and record. It struck such an immediate chord with me: so much of what I see every day works its way into the visualisations I produce, but so little of that visual environment, that visual journey is ever recorded.
I’m not a very good journal writer, but I do keep one every season, mostly as a way of keeping track of the everyday illustration questions and puzzles that come along. While sorting through my drawing equipment and checking it over prior to heading out to Palau, it occurred to me that my time out in the Pacific might be an opportunity to do something a bit different with this season’s journal.
Since the 2010 VIA workshop, I’ve been working a lot with comics in archaeology. In my 2011 VIA conference paper - Whoosh, Whaam! – I laid out a series of suggestions as to how comics/graphic narratives/sequential media might be used in recording and presenting archaeology. My own Archaeology in the Caribbean comic was an exercise in exploring the potential of comics to present archaeology – a comic-based field journal on Palau might be a way to explore the potential of comics to record archaeology. And so, in a burst of enthusiasm, Palau: An Archaeological Field Journal was born.
So what do I hope a comic-based archaeological field-journal will be able do that a text, video or audio journal couldn’t do? I hope that it will be able to record the experience of archaeological illustration – not just the day-to-day events, or the things that happen on- or off-site, but the whole visual milleaux in which my work develops. There are some technical and practical details to be worked out yet, but I’m looking forward to the challenges. I’ll be posting the results here – probably collections of pages as individual posts, with a link on the “Palau 2012″ page; feedback appreciated – as always.
Oh, and if you’re at the SAA in Memphis next week, I’ll be talking about this very briefly in my paper for the “Public Outreach in the 21st Century” session (Thursday 19th) – so stop by if you have questions or comments.