September 2011 Laydeez do Comics

Jumping from Shaolin monks and  the Hiroshima Bomb to David Bowie and Kubrick patterns, we journeyed from one artistic world to another at Laydeez do comics on the 19th of September. I am the guest blogger for this month, my name is Elena Vitagliano (please have a look at my web gallery  :D) and I am going to introduce you to David Blandy and his collaborator Inko, and Rachel Cattle.

Let’s Start with the first two…

A sense of thoughtful  quietness, almost a meditation is something that you can find in David Blandy works, or in his character “the barefoot lone Pilgrim”, that is really “his character”, because this Pilgrim is his manga version, the artwork created by Inko.

David is a young man who talks at his own leisure and has a good sense of humour.
Inko is a young woman, perhaps not a typical Japanese woman, since she has lived in the UK for some years.
For this talk, they presented the work they have done together:

       The origins of the barefoot lone pilgrim
       Underground Heroes
       Child of Atom

David’s first experimentation with the comic form was during a two weeks residency as a hermit at Painshill Park, Surrey in a recreated hermitage.  David related to the audience how the man who originally built the hermitage as part of the landscaped gardens, intended to have a resident hermit living there for 7 years. But 2 weeks later the original hermit was found drunk in a pub! Luckily, Blandy’s results were different: a comic diary (of the two weeks) and the birth of the Barefoot Lone Pilgrim. The BLP wears an orange kung-fu suit, which was from the Shaolin temple in Tufnell Park (a temple where David used to go) and is searching for “soul records”.  He is the main character in some videos and the manga comic. He is a “fighting philosopher” and dreams of becoming a Kung Fu master (a dream that David used to share.) His influences are from  computer games, like Street fighter and from martial art films. David’s quest in his work is for him to identify his own cultural position in this world. Here’s an extract from the film he made about The Barefoot Lone Pilgrim…
After making 3 films about the Barefoot Lone Pilgrim, he moved toward others horizons. He decided to explore the origin of the Pilgrim, because every superhero has an origin.
It was from this idea that the making a manga comic based on the film emerged. He meet Manga artist, Inko, who agreed to work with him on the project and so this new adventure began. Inko was given complete freedom with her artistic interpretation of the film and she decided to respect the rhythm of his work. Throughout, with a wise use of black, Inko leads the reader in an atmosphere of meditation. From these pages, the powerful of words are amplified and we are almost able to hear the James Brown song,  “Mind power”, the theme song of the movie as well as of the comics.

 “Art on the Underground” was the next project that involved David and Inko. Based on the theme of  “Underground Heroes”, David and Inko worked with young people from Fairbridge. “Inspired by comic books tales of heroic quests, each young person has created a superhero persona that draws upon their own interests and aspirations”. You can see the full Underground Heroes comic strips here, as it was not possible to show it during the talk.

So we arrived at “Child of Atom”,  David’s more recent film about his bond with the Hiroshima Bomb. His late Granfather would not have survived being a Japanese Prisoner of War if the atomic bombing of Hiroshima had not occurred. So, in a way, David can argue that he owes his own life to that bomb and to the death of thousands of people.
The film is a symbolic visit to Hiroshima made by him and his 2 year old daughter to search for their ‘origins’. This work too has been adapted into a manga comic by Inko. Unfortunately, this time the budget was very small and the comic contains just 6 pages.
At this point, David invited Inko to talk about other works she made but not in collaboration with David and she mentioned a project that we can find on the web site “Go go – metro”. It consists of a manga personification of the tube stations. So you can meet the sweet Victoria or the small but spicy Angel, the brave and patient Waterloo and more.
This is a work in progress, made in cooperation with 
Chie Kutsuwada.

She asserts that as she feels more like a craft man rather than an artist, she feels more confortable working with someone and having the challenge to turn someone else’s stories into images. However she has also worked on her own projects, and has written some short manga stories. Inko is now working on a picture book for kids, “Rachel moves to Brighton”, written by Patricia Horne. It includes 16 pages of colourful Manga style illustration. It is about a girl moving from London to Brighton and it will be published at Christmas time.

After a break, artist Rachel Cattle  presented her work.

She writes, she draws, she has made 3 films and she makes records of some spoken performances. She uses parts of music, parts of songs in a way that is personal, and thinks that comes from films (for example, she has used a pattern coming from the movie “A Clockwork Orange”). There were some other similarities with David’s work. Rachel too likes working in collaboration and often works on projects with Steve Richards. She said that although they have lots of things in common, they also have different attitude to things and different ideas about things. This is why their collaboration is so interesting.

Rachel’s first interest is drawing. She affirmed, “I am basically a drawer. I am obsessed by drawing. By the idea of what drawing is. What it does to me and what it suggests to people. I’m not interested just in what I draw but also in why I draw. And what drawing is.”

One of the tasks she imposed to herself was to make 100 pencil drawings. She actually made just 30 of them. She chose unrelated subjects such as: a brownie, a woman, a ladder…
She generally works with 4B pencil, using lot of blackness in her drawings. She enjoys the process and likes being isolated form the world and the technology  as much as she can. She has no internet access in her studio.

Some years ago, talking with a colleague about comics, she was impressed by the idea that a comic is something between a movie and a book and yet is neither of those. And, it is capable of creating a world of its own. So, Rachel made her first comic, drawing it in one night, representing, without any words, a journey into darkness.

Another of her comics was made in collaboration with Steve Richards. Here, speech bubbles are philosophical thoughts, lyrics and speeches from the films that Steve collected.
Although these sentences are not related, all together they make a kind of narration.
This comic is related to a movie made by Rachel and Steve called Same Old Scene (named after the Roxy Music song).
After this, Rachel talked a bit about her movies and her performances and she ended her talk with a reading.

IN ADDITION…An Interview Special with Inko
I was so interested in Inko and her work that after the meeting she agreed to answer some questions…

– What is the origin of the name Inko? (anything related to ink?)
“Inko” sounds like “ink”, but actually means “parakeet” in Japanese.
One of my manga artist friends Chie Kutsuwada (Hagakure, As You Like It) named me as a joke, and I started using it as my name on web, finally adopting it as my pen name.

– What’ s your story as an artist?
I went to an art university in Kyoto, Japan, also Central Saint Martin’s college in London. I grew up reading and drawing manga and was fascinated in art. After graduating, I started self publishing manga and joining manga conventions such as MCM London Expo, Japan Expo Paris with other manga artists as a group Umisen-Yamasen(

– What’s the project you are working on at the moment?
There are few:
 “Go Go Metro (” – the personification/anthropomorphism of London tube stations. This is a collaboration with Chie Kutsuwada. We are taking history and the unique stories of stations and turn them into manga characters. Manga strips and sketches are shown on the blog.

“Rachel moves to Brighton” – a picture book for kids written by Patricia Horne. This is a 16 page colouful illustrated story about a girl moving from London to Brighton. Expected to publish at Christmas time.

“Ketsueki” chapter 1 – 5 – an action manga about a female sword fighter with a legendary monster slasher “Ketsueki”. Written by Richmond Clements(FutureQuake Press). Expected to be published by Markosia next year.
– Why do you work in the Uk as a manga artist instead of working in Japan, or at least “with” Japan?
As people already know, the manga culture and market is gigantic in Japan, so very competitive. The life style in the UK suits me well and I love being a bridge of different cultures. Being able to work as a manga artist at a time when it is has been so recently introduced to the UK is the luckiest thing for me. 
– What do you think are the qualities of great manga?
I actually learned a lot from manga. Great manga comics suck people’s minds and sometimes bend the way people think. It’s not just escapism, it is a way of experiencing other character’s lives.
Manga has such a wide range of genre, like films. There are light hearted ones and human drama ones based on actual events. Some amazingly well written / drawn manga changes the way you see the world no matter what the genre.

– What are the main differences between manga and the Western graphic novel, in your opinion?It’s not a “which is better” argument, but generally speaking, manga differs from western comics in its construction. Comics normally have a story with an objective view, but manga normally has a very subjective and personal point of view. So while comic readers enjoy the whole orchestration like watching a great opera, manga readers enjoy being a part of a story sharing the whole emotional events the characters go though. Great manga comics really drive your emotions and grab your deepest self.

– What are the difficulties that an artist like you can experience here in Uk?More than 70% of publication connected artists have side jobs to survive, so I do.
Unless artists are in constant demand, everything is hard. once I had a language ability for communicating in English and my visa was sorted out, the promoting finally went smoothly.
About the manga creation, western comics and manga comics are almost like different media in a way of panel layouts, story development speed, time flows. So working with UK writers is almost being a interpreter to transform the original script into manga format. Which is surprisingly hard.
– Would you like to talk a little bit about your activity as a culture and language ambassador with Soas?I have been working as a Japanese language ambassedor for a few years, and basically I teach basic manga drawing techniques and basic Japanese language in one workshop. The idea was to let children have an opportunity to touch other language through these cultural activities such as Chinese + Calligraphy, Spanish + framenco dancing, Greek + Greek cooking, and so on. Combining two different activities together was a challenge, but students seemed to be enjoying leaning Japanese through manga activity. It’s great to know that especially aged between 10 – 18, numerous students are mad about manga and thinking of visiting Japan in the future. 

– Is there anything you would you like to add and say?Quite often people associate manga with extreme violence and pornographic contents but please don’t think they have just a shocking value for kids to satisfy their curiosity and aggressive selves! There are far more varieties of genre and imaginative, delicate crafts are there. Since graphic novels and comics attract mostly male fans, manga attracts both, so girls, don’t be scared to take one, how about starting with “Honey & Clover” or “Natsume book of friends”?

Many thanks to Inko.

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