Thursday, 20 October 2011

tom and anders

there is something about attending signings by people whose work you respect. although in many ways you may feel as if you've out-grown teenage awkwardness, when facing some artists you turn into a bumbling 15 year-old, or even an over-eager pup. in theory there is nothing that should cause this unease: on paper you share a taste in comics, philosophy, music and sense of humour. in the flesh however things work differently.

here is someone who has been on the road for weeks, stuck behind a table, signing and drawing and having to be pleasant to every single person that shows up in front of them. a queue of forced conversation and small talk. and as a punter you queue, sometimes for a very long time, to try and connect with someone who you might feel you know, but who of course you don't.

it is a very peculiar power balance. there are difficult to meet expectations, because how much can you say in the two or three minutes it takes to sign a book and make a doodle? if you haven't brought along your entire library of course, something i'd be embarrassed to do. and who cares about a signature, really?

tom, anders, the millenium falcon and a redhead

tom gauld and anders nilsen were at orbital tonight as part of paul gravett's comica festival. the conversation didn't quite flow the way you might expect between friends, but i found myself taking notes. they discussed influences in comics and in literature: chester brown, john porcelino, jason lutes and pär lagerkvist (barabbas) and c.s. lewis (till we have faces) for anders. for tom it was edward gorey, john le carré and magnus mills. the latter for the flatness of his writing and his 'confused men doing pointless things'. they also spoke about the act of drawing, something which was of particular interest. anders mentioned the 'faking' that can creep into your drawing when you've been drawing as long as he has. he regretted not having drawn an actual type of plane in big questions instead of the more generic plane he drew or 'faked'. then there were the birds in his book, which he kept purposefully simple. he experimented with different details to distinguish them from each other, but decided that details were too much for such simple drawings. tom said he does a lot of visual research, but he uses this as inspiration. what interests him is drawing what something does rather than what it looks like. scientific and anatomical drawings were mentioned and so were the lewis chessmen at the british museum. i have lots more notes not to mention thoughts on everything that was discussed, but the word picture ratio of this post is already lopsided. if you're still hungry check out some interviews here and here.

detail from suster bertken

i also attended anders' signing and talk at gosh on saturday and unfortunately acted as described in the first paragraph of this post. after tonight's talk all i did was push some comics into his hands and legged it. i managed to finish my story for the strumpet today and quickly made it into a stand alone mini too, so anders may be the first person to read it.

suster bertken-mini mock up

in spite of all the weirdness that seems part and parcel of signings i had a wonderful time at both tonight's and saturday's events. anders and tom were lovely. and on both nights i bumped into or met some great people: morgan omotoye, rose robbins, barnaby richards and jessica penfold amongst others. 

Sunday, 9 October 2011

strumpets and anchorites

ellen lindner has kindly asked me to contribute to the first issue of whores of mensa’s new guise the strumpet. the theme for this issue is ‘dress up’.

 sketch for 'suster bertken'

for many of us how we dress is a large part of how we define ourselves and others. suster bertken, the subject of my contribution to the strumpet, was not defined by what she wore (‘rough hair cloth’, barefoot) but by the space she inhabited. in 1457, when she was 30 years old, bertken had herself enclosed in a cell attached to the buurkerk in utrecht. she spend the next 57 years, until her death in 1514, confined there, accepting food (no meat or dairy) through a small window and following mass through another small opening looking into the church. she used her time to write religious prose, poetry and songs, to pray, to meditate, to counsel and to craft. she was dependent on people for food and for the disposal of waste, but in turn the local community sought her out for counsel and they adopted the songs, prose and poetry she wrote.

sketch for 'suster bertken'

suster bertken’s choice to confine herself allowed her the freedom to live a life of devotion. devotion to a god maybe, but maybe more so to herself and to her works. it is a choice i have always admired. as i admire it in those around me who are able to choose their art above most (if not all) else.

the dutch composer robert zuidam has written an opera using some of bertken’s poetry.  
go here to listen to extracts from the opera.

if you are so inclined (and i hope you are) you can pre-order the strumpet on kickstarter.