Posts Tagged ‘One of Those People’

Thank you, Laydeez do Comics!

Thank you, Laydeez do Comics!

A big, big thank you to Lou, Jennifer and the huge crowd at Laydeez do Comics in Leeds last night, and for the overwhelming support and enthusiasm you showed for our graphic novel project. It was an evening that demonstrates just why Laydeez is such a phenomenon. It was an extremely rewarding evening for us, definitely firing us with even more determination to push ahead with the book and see it published as soon as possible.

Thanks also to everyone who wanted to talk archaeology and applied comics, too! For those of you interested in our upcoming meet-up in London, you can follow @appliedcomics on Twitter for details – but I’ll also be posting details here, on Facebook and on Twitter closer to the time.

And finally, thanks to our fellow presenter Christine Chettle for a couple of excellent ideas for comics workshops.

For more information on our evolving graphic novel project, step over to our dedicated blog. Hopefully we’ll be able to pay a return visit to Laydeez in the not-distant future to give you all another glimpse of the book as it nears completion.

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I’ll be at my second Laydeez do Comics this month – this time in Leeds, talking both about “One of Those People” and my archaeological comics. It’s another opportunity to talk about the complexity – and rewards – of working on a graphic medicine subject. And it’s a chance for me to give a summary of five years of fairly intense work on using comics in archaeology, plus give some idea of how this is linking up with a general interest in the application of comics to informational subjects.

And I’m looking forward to Christine Chettle’s presentation on using Victorian graphic texts in educational contexts – drawing on ancient and historical illustrations for educational comics is something Dr. H has been doing over at Prehistories.

Laydeez is at Wharf Chambers in Leeds, and starts at 6:30pm. See you there!

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I’ll be at Laydeez do Comics this evening in London, talking about the artwork I’m doing for the graphic novel One of Those People. It’ll be a chance to show how the artwork has progressed over the past nine months (since talking about the book at the Comics & Medicine conference in Baltimore), and also give the book some context by talking about things that have happened since then.

If that doesn’t tempt you to come to Foyles this evening at 6pm, then come to hear Karrie Fransman, who’ll also be there talking about her latest project, Death of the Artist and Owen Pomery, an architectural illustrator-comics artist. Or you could just come for the cake!

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Archaeology and comics: new directions worth exploring?

Archaeology and comics: new directions worth exploring?

I’m off to the annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association in Washington D.C. this week. I’m giving a poster presentation on Saturday on using comics in fieldwork. The poster draws (er, pun intended, I suppose) both on the work I’ve been doing recently with archaeological field-journals (in Palau and the Caribbean), and on the work I’ve been doing on the graphic novel One of Those People.

Most of my archaeological comics up to now have been very much educational, informational documents. Part of the argument I’m making in my poster presentation on Saturday is that we should start to think of moving beyond strictly didactic works. The “field-journal as comic” and the “record of experience as comic” in both archaeology and anthropology is a start, but I think we can – and should – move further than that. I think we should start at some of the other ways comics allows writers and audiences access to different kinds of narratives. Just as writers and comics creators found the development of the concept of “the graphic novel” allowed them to think about exploring new kinds of stories, so archaeologists and others in the sciences should understand that graphic approaches allow them to visualise and conceptualise new kinds of personal and professional discourse.

I’m fond of quoting Dr. Muna al’Jawad’s observation that comics can allow discussion of “difficult areas of practice”. In medicine – as in archaeology, in fact – this implies areas such as ethics, relationships with stakeholders, attitudes and values, and so on. But this can also mean areas of practice where the difficulty is that of articulation. Where do we, as archaeologists, go to talk about attitudes and values within our profession? Peer-reviewed journals? Online forums? Blogs? Social media sites? Perhaps comics can become a way not just to address subjects which are difficult to address, but subjects for which we have no standard media or forum in which to conduct a conversation.

This coming year I’m going to try and devote more time to projects which explore this idea in archaeology.

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Page from "One of Those People" (2014)

Page from “One of Those People” (2014)

Today I’m at this year’s Comics & Medicine Conference in Baltimore, MD, presenting the first chapter of a graphic novel I’ve been working on called One of Those People. It’s a story of illness and recovery, and is based on conversations with my collaborating author and her battle with anorexia, bulimia and depression.

The book has been something of a visual challenge. I wanted to keep the original text of the conversations we’d had intact – it meant that the author’s own voice in unfolding her story was kept intact, adding to the overall feel of the work. But conversations wander – as conversations naturally do – and so this left the text without any real sense of narrative structure, jumping chronologically and geographically from one episode to another as we talked. But what the conversation did have was thematic threads – isolation, the struggle for control, grief, etc.

So what I’ve ended up doing is producing artwork that’s much more allegorical or metaphorical in nature – still very “realistic” (I cannot, after all, entirely escape my more technical illustration background) – but working with techniques such as personification which I never get a chance to experiment with in my archaeological comics.

It will be interesting to see what the reaction is to the non-linear approach to both text and artwork. To me, this approach has worked extremely well, allowing me to create continuity through a discontinuous narrative, and to build a sort of specialised visual language that helps link disparate elements of the conversational text. It feels both a natural and common-sense way to visualise a conversational, train-of-thought or impressionistic text that lacks a strict narrative framework. I can see – and will certainly be pursuing – its application in not just other medical comics, but archaeological ones as well.

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Because You Love You Come Apart - Bianca Stone, 2014, published by Factory Hollow Press

Because You Love You Come Apart – poetry comic by Bianca Stone, 2014, published by Factory Hollow Press

I’ve just finished reading Bianca Stone’s Because You Love You Come Apart, one of her poetry comics published by Factory Hollow Press and available to buy online via Flying Object.

I’ve been reading about her work while I’ve been writing and illustrating my latest medicine-based graphic novel, One Of Those People. I’ve been interested in the approach Stone takes to the idea of making a very different kind of comic out of the pairing of poems and drawings. This is not, importantly, an “illustrated poem” – it is a poem written in comics form, using all the mechanics of comics: panels, gutters, speech-bubbles, layout, etc.. This is a piece of “sequential art”, not just an illustrated piece of text. Bringing poetry and comics together is an intriguing idea, as the dynamic of the text part is unlike the dynamic of story or dialogue which forms the backbone to most comics. Here, the text follows its own logic: non-linear, reflexive, highly abstract. Before I read the comic, I think I expected the artwork to have to play “catch-up” to such a partner, reduced to a poor mirror for the tone of the poet’s usual voice, or even worse, constraining my imagination and my reading of the poem by imposing a pre-selected set of visuals. What I wasn’t prepared for was the way in which the “poem” genuinely emerges from the collusion between text and image. I felt at once that this was not a stand-alone written poem to which Stone had added visuals, but a true “poem in the form of a comic”. The visuals, like the words, were only half the story; the poem emerged from that indefinable location between panel, page, art and word.

This poem comic has suggested to me several new ways of approaching comics both in archaeology and medicine – about breaking away from the “illustrated text” approach and looking for ways of creating something that genuinely emerges from a new dynamic between text and image. This is perhaps most difficult in archaeology, where the visual tradition is one rooted in the “objective” school of detailed, specific visual recording. Perhaps in looking for ways in which comics and archaeology can develop new ways of seeing and showing, we should be looking outside the box of these traditions – perhaps at examples like Stone’s work.

Unfortunately, the second of Stone’s published poetry comics is sold out on Flying Object, and I haven’t been able to find it elsewhere. I’m also not sure if Stone is doing any more of these. I hope she is. I didn’t think of myself as much of a poetry person before, but I think poetry comics might have converted me.

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From "One Girl Goes Hunting" (H. Sackett & J. Swogger, 2014)

From “One Girl Goes Hunting” (H. Sackett & J. Swogger, 2014)

It’s only March, and yet it’s already shaping up to being a busy year for me and comics.

I’ve got two big collaborative comics on the go this year. The first is the comic Hannah Sackett and I are working on, set in Orkney during the Neolithic: One Girl Goes Hunting. I’ve talked about this project a little bit before. This is our attempt at making an archaeological comic in the visual style of Hayao Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli films. It’s a really interesting and challenging project. It’s a project full of firsts: the first time I’ve ever collaborated with another archaeologist on a comic, the first time I’ve ever collaborated with a writer, and the first time I’ve ever collaborated with another comics creator! Hannah’s story is a lovely mix of archaeology, interpretation and magical realism; her art direction is nice and clear, however, meaning that I’m not struggling over how best to show what she’s written (the advantages of working with someone who’s both an archaeologist and a comics creator, I suppose!). The real challenge has been in trying to capture the feel of Studio Ghibli. While I’m a big fan of the films, I’m not naturally that kind of illustrator, so it’s been a bit of an uphill battle for me to find a way of working to that model in a way that feels natural. And it’s a challenging mix of drawing – the cel-shaded characters – and painted backgrounds. Since the autumn it’s been a bit of a case of two steps forward, one step back, but I think I’m just about there!

There’s more going on this year for me in comics and archaeology. Between now and June I’m working in the Potteries – at Middleport Pottery in Burslem – producing comics and graphics for their interpretation displays. The project is a real gem: Middleport Pottery is a nineteenth-century model pottery with a working pottery still occupying part of the factory. The complex includes a bottle oven – the only survivor of seven original ovens, and one of only a handful of such survivors in Stoke that has both the hovel and oven preserved. Anyway, more on that as the project progresses.

I’ll also be returning to Carriacou for my usual field season, and will be pushing forward the next phase of our use of comics in public outreach on the island with some museum displays and some live, weekly updated comics as well.

But I’m also returning to the genre of comics and medicine this year with the first chapter of One of Those People – a comic about eating disorders, depression and dependency. I’m collaborating with a very special author on this project, and we’re blogging the process on a separate site. We’re hoping to present our work so far at the 2014 Comics and Medicine conference in Baltimore, MD in June – still one of the best small comics get-togethers around, even if it has grown by leaps and bounds over the past two years!

So, as I say, a year full of comics. Onward!

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