How to brew the best cup of tea whilst having an existential crisis

This comic was inspired by the fictional self-help book titles of Johan Deckmann.

A big thank you to all my friends at Get Messy for yesterday’s hilarious discussion about the book titles we would create. The two I cooked up became the subject of today’s comic!

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Action Man and Space Woman Build a House!

This piece* is influenced by the Season of Contrast that’s taking place at Get Messy right now. What happens when two seemingly opposite characters get together to work on something? Can each see and value the other’s qualities?

*Is this a visual poem? A comic or a comics poem? An art journaling spread? A movie poster? No one can say for sure!!!

What about all the other moments?

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I went a little wild today layering paints on top of each other. The result is a bit chaotic! I really enjoyed playing around with comics on the page and exploring the relationship between the panels and the surrounding space.

When I started art journaling a few short weeks ago, I felt a little anxious that starting something new would mean leaving comics behind. I’m so excited to discover that the opposite is true: the realm of comics is expanding!

Chorus

Chorus:
Is your world borrowed
From the man in your life?
Buttoned-up,
Rolled-up,
One-size-up?
Unmask
The force inside
And joy
Comes out of the blue.

* * *

This page began with a wonderful gouache tutorial from Vanessa Oliver-Lloyd as part of the Season of Art 101 over at Get Messy. I didn’t have any gouache on hand so I used acrylics instead. I discovered how immensely enjoyable it is to paint an entire page with black gesso. I also enjoyed writing with a white pencil on a black background – the effect is like chalk on a blackboard.

I had imagined that these women’s faces would look cheerful and upbeat. Instead, when I had finished, I found that they looked serious, like they had something important to say. As they looked directly out at me from the page, they reminded me of a chorus of women in a Greek Tragedy. I looked through several plays but couldn’t find anything that touched on what I wanted to say.

Then I had the idea to use a cut-up poem technique. It’s a very simple technique, often with surprising and powerful results. I found all sorts of interesting words in an old Vogue magazine. I didn’t have a fixed idea of what I was looking for, I just cut out whichever words appealed to me. When I was done, I laid all the words and phrases out on the table and began to group them together until a theme emerged.

It seemed natural to me that the women of the chorus should speak in cartoon dialogue bubbles. I love to bring together the different things that I do and it felt really satisfying to bring both poetry and comics into this art journaling page!

Take me with you

It’s one of those moments: I’m really enjoying the Totems class over at Get Messy and I’m loving this taste of the wild and wonderful world of art journaling. 

Yet whenever I start exploring something new, I can end up feeling like a creative harlot. I get anxious that I’m abandoning the things I’ve been caring about and working on — in this case, comics! 

What better way to explore this than in an art journal spread that is also a comic!

You can check out some of the things I’ve been getting up to in the Totems class here and here

It’s time to live!

Today’s comic is one of my favourites from early 2016. Nearly a year later, ‘How To Be An Insurance Salesman’ still cracks me up. And it reminds me that calculating risks is no match for an adventurous spirit and an open heart. This is a great thing to keep in mind as we begin the new year: It’s time to live!

Thank you so much for joining me this year on all sorts of creative explorations. I really appreciate all your visits to Follow The Brush and all your lovely and supportive comments. 

Wishing you all a happy and healthy new year. May 2017 be filled with creativity and joy!

Hitting the dance floor

Writers live twice. They go along with their regular life…But there’s another part of them that they have been training. The one that lives everything a second time. That sits down and sees their life again and goes over it. Looks at the texture and details.

Natalie GoldbergWriting Down the Bones

I’m thinking the same must be true of cartoonists. I certainly enjoy the moments in my day all over again when I draw them as cartoons. This effect is enhanced when the moment I am capturing is already a celebration. 

I used to love dancing but a nerve injury in my foot has caused my dancing shoes to gather a considerable amount of dust. Then, last night, I went to a beautiful wedding and my husband and I danced together for the first time in years.

I have recently been experimenting with a new form of rehab which is allowing all sorts of things to become possible again. The band was playing and the lights beckoned. I thought why not give it a go? I was surprised to find my feet moving to the beat and that wonderful energy moving me around the dance floor. 

Today, drawing this cartoon, I get to enjoy that moment all over again and to celebrate new possibilities. 

If you don’t do your dance, who will?

Gabrielle Roth 

The Queen of the Underworld cooks dinner

One of my favourites from Lynda Barry’s Syllabus is the suggestion to draw yourself going about your day as Batman. I had a go at this some time ago and the cartoons still crack me up each time I look at them!

Then I wondered: what other characters could be going about my day? The Queen of the Underworld immediately popped into my mind and it turns out she was the perfect fit.

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The Queen of the Underworld has brunch with her BFF

One of the things I love about this exercise is that even if you try to remain faithful to the ordinary activities and moments that occur during the day, they can’t help but become extraordinary (and just a little bit hilarious)!

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The Queen of the Underworld brushes her teeth

This is a perfect thing to try on those days that seem unremarkable and uneventful. Eating porridge might seem uninteresting but what if you were an astronaut? A movie director? A shaman? A mermaid? Why not give it a go?

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The Queen of the Underworld visits the spa

Where I’m From

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This is something I’ve been thinking about for a long time now and it feels like the beginnings of a much bigger piece!

Another Face


The mirror showed me another face.

Continuing the poetry comics adventure. Things are getting weird and wild!

The street is not a street


I am diving into comics poetry this Autumn, inspired by Bianca Stone‘s online poetry comics class.

What is a comics poem and how do you go about writing/drawing one? In the happy absence of fixed methods and definitions, I began checking out this mysterious territory.

I started with the text from my recent poem, Fox, writing it out by hand and cutting up all the phrases so that I could see each one separately. Certain phrases jumped out at me, suddenly potent when freed from their neighbours.

I drew 4 panels inspired in part by the original poem, in part by the new arrangements of text that were emerging. The images in turn led to new text choices, this time word by word.

If you compare the 2 poems, they are completely different. Or perhaps the comics poem brought out a layer of meaning from the original?

One thing I find interesting is that when I originally wrote Fox I had some idea of what I wanted to say with the poem. However, with this comics poem, I’m not sure what it’s about! The construction of it was more intuitive. There are more open spaces and possibilities of meaning.

I think I’m going to enjoy this adventure!

Chapter 4: The Great Rodeo in the Sky

In which our heroine meets old friends, takes part in the Great Rodeo in the Sky, and traverses the universe on the back of The Great Bull made of stars.

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I hope you have enjoyed ‘The Cowgirl and the Golden Lasso’. Thanks for following our heroine on her adventures!

You can catch up on previous chapters here.

Chapter 3: The Gypsy on the Moon

In which our heroine lands on the moon, eats Portuguese custard tarts with the moon-gypsy, and has her fortune read in the cards.

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To be continued…

Join our heroine tomorrow for the concluding chapter: The Great Rodeo in the Sky!

You can catch up on the story so far here and here.

Chapter 2: The Convention of the Birds

In which our heroine flies on the back of an Eagle, joins the Convention of the Birds atop a great mountain, and catches hold of the moon with her golden lasso.

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To be continued…

Join our heroine tomorrow for Chapter 3: The Gypsy on the Moon!

You can catch up on Chapter 1 here.

Chapter 1: The Cowgirl and the Golden Lasso

In which our heroine attempts to bale a barnful of hay, dances to the music of the fiddlers three, and is given a wondrous gift.

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The story continues tomorrow with Chapter 2: The Convention of the Birds!

* * *

I wrote this story for a dear friend, drawing on the experience of story-writing I had with Lynda Barry on the recent Writing the Unthinkable workshop.

One of the most enjoyable things we did on the workshop was to create a complete zine in the space of an hour. We made a booklet out of a few sheets of paper folded in half. (Hey presto!) At the start of each chapter, we drew a frame. then we went on to write a short, timed section of the story, returning at the end to draw a picture within the frame.

When writing a story by hand, it’s always interesting to know that at a certain point the pages will run out. By the time you reach the last page, you must somehow wrap things up and reach the end of the story.

According to Lynda Barry, there are books on story structure because it exists. It is something we know intrinsically. In the workshop, when we did each piece of timed writing, she would let us know that we had a few minutes left, a minute or so left, and when it was time to finish the sentence or phrase we were on.

With only 5 or 7 or 9 minutes to write a story, you might think most of our stories were left dangling somewhere in the middle. But when my classmates read their pieces to the group, they almost always rounded the story off perfectly. Even though none of us knew where we were headed when we picked up our pens, somehow we reached the end of the story as if we were headed there all along.

I hope you enjoyed this first chapter! The story continues tomorrow with Chapter 2: The Convention of the Birds.

You can read more about my experience at Writing the Unthinkable here.