It is (admittedly) very small in stature.
I have left this particular reflection to last because it was hard enough to figure out what to draw, let alone write about. Line, shape, colour, image; these are my first language so, to then attempt to translate that one sort of telling back into the written/spoken language of dialogue
felt daunting… a bit scary at times to be honest…
And it is also necessary.
I believe in that necessity not just for practical reasons, but because I recognize and appreciate the sense of accomplishment I feel when I can find my voice in these silent places.
I like to be “readable” – it feels safer somehow –
and I also don’t like to admit this.
I wish that I could just launch into a new visual project with the confidence that it will connect with and be legible by whoever needs most to see aspects of their own story reflected there;
but I’m not quite there yet as a human person;
and I have a very selective memory
Regardless of my focus and determination when beginning a new, long-term project, I forget that the initial stages will be characterized by awkward pauses and slow, stumbling steps.
It happens consistently enough to earn the descriptor “inevitable” –
and yet still I forget…
Still feel badly when it happens.
When I do finally reach a stage of completion that feels significant, I remember why all of that time and space were necessary in the first place. I am reminded by the nature of this arrival (a clear message from my “gut” which I have learned not to ignore) that none of “this” works without feeling: without heart and emotion informing hands and head.
I believe in the equal importance of all these elements in academia as much as in the rest of my creative life, and I am not willing to compromise any one component for the sake of prolificacy.
*(And I’d also consider it a personal victory to remember that from the get-go next time).
All of this being said, I’d like to take a moment to explain;
- What my technical process had been in the production of this one-page graphic story, and
- How I feel about the end product;
what I will likely alter in my next attempts,
and what it means (in this moment) to make-visible… make-more-readable
some truth that is difficult to feel.
1. TECHNICAL PROCESS:
The books from our syllabus that influenced me most aesthetically were The Best We Could Do, Fist Stick Knife Gun, Skim, and Lighter than my Shadow. Each of these stories added some significant elements to what I am now able to imagine as “possible” in terms of graphic-telling. The way that each author/illustrator composed and incorporated text into these visual tellings (and vice versa) was also a point of great interest for me as I read, and every one of these books did so in ways that surprised and excited me.
* NOTE: I completed my own short graphic story before I stepped into “SHAUN TAN WEEK”, and I have written in another blog post this week about how that order of events will likely carry forward to influence my next steps in this project.
Before I started drawing, I wrote text in the semi-poetic form that seems to come most naturally to me when I am trying to figure out how to say something that I am not used to expressing in words – even to myself. The words feel more like visual mediums to me in this state of being and I feel better equipped to layer, move, and mix them as I would with pigment. After several pages of such mixing and re-matching, I arrived at this arrangement that (with a few additional tweaks) became the text portion of my story:
The drawing took even longer.
It evolved – in equal parts mentally
and on the pages of sketchbook – over the course of several weeks.
Once I had figured out the basic composition of what I thought I wanted to say, I set about scheming how to incorporate even some of the elements that I love about the work of Bui, Tamaki, Green and Nicholas (to name but a few) into my own offering. Since I am not trained as an illustrator, a graphic artist, or a computer-savvy-ANYthing in any way, this task proved difficult (and also kinda freeing in a weird way – because I think that it also allowed me to have a tiny bit lower bar for the moment in terms of self-imposed expectations.
In the end,
these are the basic, technical steps that I took towards completion:
- monochromatic watercolour and ink painting of trees for the background
- on another paper: draw complete outlines for cells and detail inside of each *(photoblue pencil, then over-lined in Coptic black pens)
- scan both pages
- use photoshop to layer drawing with painting and to add some of the flat-grey tonal blocks + blue filters.
- final filters to digitize certain sections so as to tighten up lines and give it an overall more “graphic” and less hand-drawn feel.
- add text layers – also in photoshop.
2. THE END PRODUCT:
a) Considering that this was my first attempt at synthesizing the components of these texts that I like/admire with the reality of my own style and technical skills/limitations; I am happy with the results overall. To my own eyes at least: it says what I hoped that it would say in a way that gets closer to clarity than I have managed previously in any single medium.
b) The main thing that bothers me still me about the final aesthetic is the difference in style between the hand-painted tree background and the slightly more flat and graphic images that compose the cells and text portions of the piece. I chose to add these filters to the drawings in the cell layer mainly because I was not happy with the way that the pen outlines I drew first on paper had scanned. As I write about further in my Shaun Tan Week blog entry, I feel in retrospect that my own graphic story-making style will settle in and land closer to Tan’s where his hand is always present in every aspect of the completed images. This will mean more work and planning offline and perhaps only the addition of text through photoshop (if anything at all) – but I am fine with that, and excited to try.
c) Finally, I just wanted to acknowledge that the content of this sample graphic story I made as a final project for our course really has little to nothing to do with the content of work that I will be working with the team to produce as data analysis/representation for the MAUS project. For me as an artist though - it felt the only first step that was possible… Do you ever have that feeling like no further work can ever take place until your work space is completely cleaned, purged, tidied, and re-arranged?... That is how my brain feels about subject matter when it comes to art, and I have yet to figure out how (or if) to override that.
Thank you in advance for your indulgence and understanding,
and thanks for the opportunity to do all of this
reading, making and learning.