this is not working.
It feels important to acknowledge that,
as well as some of the reasons why:
I am fundamentally incapable of telling visual stories in ways that feel contrived to me: that do not originate in a gut-feeling and build to coincide with circumstances of need / accuracy / right time + right place… I love layering and combining different styles, media, techniques and approaches to content – but these things need to evolve more naturally (and often quite slowly it seems) – and I can’t just make something happen for the sake of expedience.
This aspect of my nature can be really frustrating when I just want to do something to get it done and it is especially fraught when that impatience gets mixed up in feelings of inadequacy, of not doing “enough” and/or that I have presumed to be able to do more than I end up being capable of delivering within a certain time frame.
This characteristic is also a blessing that I probably wouldn’t trade however, because I know that there is an aesthetic instinct entwined in the compulsion, which helps me to create work that I can ultimately be proud of (and that sometimes - other people can genuinely enter into and connect with).
I’m not always sure what the lesson is – but I do have faith in the eventual benefits of remaining present in those awkward in-be-tween places of learning and thinking a ton… of not quite knowing what to do with all that energy… of knowing also that whatever I decide might not be quite “right” the first time… and of practicing to be ok with those lessons too.
Despite my faith in the usefulness of in-be-tween places, I also think that they can be quite exhausting for those of us who function best with plans. I for one function best with plans-of-my-own-making and as such, I have decided to start a series of sporadic/when-needed blog posts under the subtitle of “the idea incubator”… Somewhere that I can both (a) rest more assured that I will not forget about technique and/or content ideas that I want to return to, and (b) give those ideas a chance to “play together”: blending the bits of possibility that stick with me from week to week into something that will emerge uniquely (and perhaps more holistically) from my overall experience of this course.
ONE HUNDRED DEMONS (Lynda Barry) style of cells split between writing (top) + drawing / thought and speech bubbles (bottom) and the ways these aspects tell the story simultaneously but also differently.
- The tops of the pages are mostly narration, and there is a very clear division of black line + black lettering on blocked out white background. What is “said” is not always in straightforward connection to the scene on the bottom but it always makes brilliant metaphoric sense in the context of the larger story/chapter.
- The bottoms of pages are colour, comic-styles drawings – full characters and backgrounds – and the text is much more immediate to that situation: often a thought or speech bubble from that exact space and time / occasionally a label with an arrow (to an object, person, or even a remembered FEELing).
(And I kinda love that).
FOR EXAMPLE: (p.70)
Carrying on with the idea incubated from last week’s readings (a Lynda Barry, split-cells style of storytelling), I have also been thinking about how smart of a technique this is for a storyteller who wants to communicate content that is emotionally frenetic.
- This thought came while I was reading FLYING COUCH by Amy Kurzweil because I was not a big fan of her drawing or storytelling style, and was also trying to figure out why I felt that way.
- I realized that for me, at least part of the disconnect comes from feeling like a storyteller has not readied a space for the telling that is “safe” to land in… I didn’t feel like Kurzweil as an author/illustrator really “had my back” as a reader. The aesthetic felt disorganized (as well as rushed/unfinished) on almost every page and I think I read this lack of visual depth as a lack of personal grounding on Kurzweil’s part. This intuitive assessment made me much less willing to invest my mind/heart/presence more fully in her story.
- Whether or not this assessment was “fair” or not – the feeling of it did become a barrier to my investment in the story of FLYING COUCH.
There was also a (less annoying but still pertinent) version of this disorganization-frustration that emerged for me while reading METAMAUS. In this text, there are some pages where the integration of interview transcript with images does not feel clear or easy to follow in context. In order figure out what is what I needed to stop reading the story of the conversations between Spiegelman and Chute, and there were points at which this felt unnecessarily distracting. It is also important to note however, that there are many pages of METAMAUS that flowed very well (page 42 for example) and felt reminiscent of what Lynda Barry does with the repetitive split-cell format in ONE HUNDRED DEMONS.
- This subtle difference between the feeling of different pages within one book left me even more interested in the notion of having a predictable visual formula that carries through an entire body of work (especially if that work intends to communicate complicated emotional content)… I found METAMAUS as a whole to be really useful and fascinating so this also made it easier for me pinpoint to what was bothering me when my connection felt slightly “off”... In comparison, Kurzweil’s style did not capture me in most regards, making it less apparent what felt “off” stylistically.
- FURTHER THOUGHTS FROM METAMAUS: I was struck by the idea that the stor(ies) we (may) want to tell about our research experiences with the Addressing Injustices project this past year could be two volumes: 1. set up more like a graphic story (and/or series of chapters that are coded like short/related stories), and; 2. the second in more of a “thinking back/in relation to” analytic style like METAMAUS…
- For this second volume, one I am thinking even of the way that METAMAUS is organized around the transcripts of Art Spiegelman’s conversations with Hillary Chute. Similar to how we essentially interviewed ourselves (members of the research team) to get the footage for Gender is Like an Ocean, we could try this sort of thing as a basis for some of the analysis in volume two of our data representation for the project. Also like METAMAUS, we could combine this text with images and artifacts from our process (student, educator, and researcher process work: drawn and otherwise). In this way, volume two could also be several successive sections like volume one’s “short stories” (and an aspect of our “coding” process for data analysis).
- This might also be an interesting (and manageable) style + content experiment to start as a project for this course: to interview the Delta students about the animal character/avatar they chose to draw/represent themselves: *this is something I am very interested in doing soon, and would also give me a chance to delve more deeply into questions of ethics/representation I am wondering about and figure out how/why we will represent everyone in drawing for our work while the kids are still at Delta this year.
- From FLYING COUCH: in very brief summary... I don’t think it was the lack of “cells” on most pages... but I often felt “cheated” as a reader because of the layout that often featured some very small, very linear and un-feeling image on a page that seemed rooted to nothing else in time and space… this may just be her style / but it really didn't connect for me.
- I wrote a bit about what where this connection comes from for me in the annotated bibliography for Mihăilescu, D. (2018). Mapping transgenerational memory of the Shoah in third generation graphic narratives: on Amy Kurzweil's Flying Couch (2016), and also added a section there with podcast and image connections to the genre of fantasy mapping.