The ideas of March

Another excellent evening at Laydeez do Comics. Anyway very exciting… two excellent speakers this week, Ros Archer, fine artist turned or turning comic creator and Woodrow Phoenix author of the groundbreaking Rumble Strip.
As usual we met in The Rag Factory off Brick Lane a lovely secret-ish venue – a lot warmer at this time of year, the first time for awhile the heaters haven’t been blasting. We started off in the usual way – everyone introducing themselves and answering a question posed by Sarah or Nicola, this time we all grapple with ‘What have you recyclced this week‘ A nice way to break the ice and get things going. Sarah completely excelled herself with not one, not two but three cakes. Chocolate, apple and carrot. Worth the trip alone.
Ros Archer not published, but I suspect soon will be, has been preparing work to apply for an MA. Ros is super enthusiastic and thoughtful and also very funny. She showed us very beautiful work, pencil, ink, charcoal, lithographs and sculpture. Exploring, narrative, ideas, dreams, memory layering of meaning, use of physical space. In other words lots of ideas and content which I can’t really do justice to in words.
One particularly good example was her first story using a clockwise narrative. There was good debate about how unexpected layouts or paths can be communicated without having to have extra instructions for the reader and if that adds or subtracts from the experience…
The second story Ros showed us was a love triangle set in a circus between the Fire Eater, the Strong Man and the Bearded Lady. Some top advice from Ros at this stage: give your work to your friends as people respond to things in very different ways, some think things are funny, others don’t see humour at all – everyone gets something different. There is no absolute right and wrong.
Ros brought out a very neat thing called a Flexigon. (check out there is a whole enormous world of flexigon people out there) It looks like a hexagonal folded piece of paper but then opens in all sorts directions revealing different facets. On this particular one there were comic pages which could be revealed in different ways – another inventive use by Ros of narrative, time and space. There was much hilarity as Corinne from Myraid Editions managed to dismember it almost immediately,  thereby depriving everyone else of the pleasure of playing with it. But I won’t mention that as it would be rude.
Ros say she loves David Mazzucchelli. City of Glass written by Paul Auster and more recently Asterios Polyp. If you haven’t read Asterios Polyp, DO the drawings are beautiful and elegant, all in cyan and pink and the story is multi-layered and complex.
We then got a glimpse of an intriguing Paula Rego-esque (compliment) ballerina which is part of Ros’s new work. Dealing with the idea of 7 characters/ archetypes, 7 plots and more…
Near the end of her talk Ros revealed that she has been accepted for and MA in Authorial Practice at University College Falmouth. What does Authorial Practice mean I hear you all ask? It means COMICS!!!!!!
Ros’s interest in sculpture and comics leading on nicely to the notices:
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Paul Gravett says: The first ever symposium of Sculpture and Comic Art by The Henry Moore Foundation is coming up this year. See more at: Call for Papers: Sculpture and Comic Art. Conference, Wednesday 16th November 2011
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Jimi Gherkin says: Still some table available for the International Alternative Press Festival 2011 27th May – 13th June 2011 A festival including comix, zines, printmaking, book arts, talks, workshops, exhibitions and performances featuring artists from the UK and Europe. There will also be a film made of the whole festival.
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Jenny says: Are you feed up of drawing nude models? Then draw some clothed ones at The Art Breaks Meetup Group ‘Drawing each others portraits’ That was on Tuesday 22nd of March so you have missed it. Contact Mark 07939 346 930 to find out if there will be more.
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Other comic stuff going on:
Winshluss – Pinocchio 29th March 2011 9:30am – 9th April 2011 6pm Charing Cross Road An exhibition of original artwork from the French comic artist Winshulss’s version of Pinocchio, reinvented for the modern age.
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Insider tip checkout Zoom Rockman very busy 9 year old comic creator Orbital Comics KALEIDOSCOPE: A NEW LOOK AT BRITISH COMICS 06.03.11 – 31.03.11
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A quick break for more cake and a chat and then… Woodrow Phoenix creator of Rumble Strip.
A real break with tradition Woodrow doesn’t have a Powerpoint presentation!!!!! He has pinned ACTUAL pen and ink drawings to the wall. Radical. This deceptively simple act sums up Woodrow’s talk and work. A bit different, insightful, lateral and with real content and ideas. Also, Woodrow is a natty dresser.
Woodrow had lots and lots of interesting things to say. I have tried to report them in point form, some of them are pretty good aphorisms…
WP says he hasn’t talked the much about this book since it was done a couple of years ago.
But UK comics are in a weird place at the moment, in that there aren’t many educated practitioners in publishing. Editors and commissioners are not experienced in dealing with graphic novel/comics – they just don’t have any knowledge about why things are the way they are.
WP started as a lettering artist, then started drawing other people’s stuff, then mini comics, then his own stuff. (I guess that’s the 10,000 hours taken care of).
Because comics are easy to read people think they are easy to make. It can years, and that’s working everyday, drawing all the time.
In the 90s all of the publishers disappeared leaving a vacuum that has been replaced by the internet and has also laid the ground for lots of new creators… but the internet lacks a critical voice. You put your work up and get lots of “love it”, “wow”, “fantastic!” but anything else seems like sour grapes. It’s something to work on.
This is a tricky one as it’s all about respect and context, I would never just take work out to the park and ask passers by what they thought, but a group of people whose work and abilities… respect, that’s different… this was discussed later on as a group.
Comics are about talking about what’s inside you. The best work is going to be difficult to make meaningful and engaging…
When you are in your 20s and you go to art school it’s a big shock to realise that you are NOT the best drawer in the class. Ha Ha I think most people thought this was pretty funny. And true.
Rumble Strip, it’s not a book about cars it’s a book about how society is structured. While working in LA WP was forced to have a car, as he soon came to realise that no car = no food. You just can’t get ANYWHERE on foot. And only with a car does LA become understandable as a city. But as you have to be in the car most of the time on your own, it’s isolating, lonely and weird. What happens when you drive a car? What happens to your brain? How is it different to when you walk around?
WP talked about how in all the drawing, the captions or speech blocks are all in the vanishing points, a deliberate device to make you read the text and be a purposeful irritant. They are used in a very obstrusive way, unlike many comics where the speech devices are unobtrusive. The captions take the place of the protagonist. It is annoying but it makes you think about why they are there and what they are trying to do.
Rumble Strip combines different points of view, case reports and a variety of different personal experiences.
I liked this social transport hierachy and it’s definitely worthy of one of those pyramid charts:
Expensive/sports car = unlimited rights
Reasonably priced car = many rights
Motor bike = some rights
Cycle = no rights
Pedestrian = absolutely no rights
I would add in here Pedestrian with pushchair definately right at the bottom. Not only has it no rights but for some reason irritates all the other more important people.
You see it in how people defer to each other on the road. The guy in the expensive sports car has more rights, he knows it and you know it. But we all pay taxes, apparently, doesn’t that make us all equal? And this isn’t just in the UK, it’s universal.
One of the things that I thought was really interesting was they way Woodrow said that we tend to think of comics as a genre (action, thriller, comedy) NOT a medium and that limits the kinds of things we do with them – in Japan you can even get comics that show you how to fill in your tax return.
There was some great discussion about hand drawing and pens and inks, limiting your tools, electric pencil sharpeners – different types of Indian Ink Sennelier a la Pergode being WP’s choice (more expensive per litre than petrol – the irony!)
Although not autobiographical, WP does have first hand knowledge of friends and family who have been injured or killed in cars so in a sense Rumble Strip is a work of catharsis – but it is primarily a book of IDEAS. And sometimes complicated ideas are hard to sell…
All of this led onto general discussion about cover designs, plotting, traffic, shared traffic schemes and amazing film of Central London in the last century with many forms of transport all weaving in and out without any apparent street markings or organisation.
If you haven’t read Rumble Strip head straight for the library or book shop off ramp, or should I say pedestrianised zone…
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Blogged by Marcia Mihotich, graphic designer and illustrator – this week’s substitute or understudy blogger, the first designated blogger not appearing as planned.

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