final project dilemma: to create a comic or not to create a comic

I have to decide on my final project for my Reading Comics seminar. I met with the professor and, given my swollen to-do list, we decided that the academic research project and paper on Winsor McCay and Little Nemo in Slumberland was the simplest, smartest route. It’s easier to control the time suck with an academic research project than with a creative project.

Simpler, smarter, yes, but I’m stubborn … I still want to do a creative project instead. I want to create my own comic – maybe 8 pages worth. I want to research McCay’s work and Herriman’s work and others … and from there, create my own version of Little Nemo … I want to write, draw, ink and maybe color the entire thing myself.

So – am I going to be smart?

Or am I going to do what I really want to do … which is create something from scratch and risk total failure and frustration?

And what about that swollen to-do list … it’s not like I don’t have anything else interesting to do. Plus I have a family, a husband and daughter who are already tired of my PhD interfering with our family life.

I have a few days to decide. I’ve been sketching and writing and trying to come up with a good idea to work from. My limited ability in drawing is an impediment. The good news, and maybe the point, is that as I play with the tools of cartooning, I understand comics and their visual, complex richness with a depth I don’t think I would have if I merely analyzed them. I’ve found that to be true with all the arts, literary included. It’s only through writing poetry that I truly appreciate the art and craft of poetry. Maybe other people don’t have to do this, but I develop a better appreciation and understanding of any art form when I’ve tried my hand at it.


on illustration and incredible books

This is one of my favorite prints from Jack Sheppard – an 1839 crime novel by W. Harrison Ainsworth, illustrations by George Cruikshank. VCU Special Collections has the 1839 edition – so I got to see the original prints as I might have seen them in 1839. It’s amazing how rich they look – how much detail and texture gets lost through reproduction.

Taking the comics class has me taking a closer look at imagery as it interacts with text. Amazing, really, how it flows together in my imagination. Medieval illustrated manuscripts, comics from the early 20th century, and illustrated serial novels from the 19th century … mix that together with a class on making books … and all sorts of ideas start to swirl.

The first I’m working on is a personal Book of Hours.

Meanwhile, a friend has curated this Book Arts exhibit in Richmond, Virginia. I couldn’t make the opening (not with my grumpy 8-year-old) but what I want to see is the work – sometimes it’s hard to see art at an opening. To paraphrase the Bard, “the art’s the thing.”

journal and web resource for bookmaking

While researching where to find supplies to complete my Book of Hours, I came across a reference to The Bonefolder, an ejournal on bookmaking.

Here’s what they say about themselves:
The Bonefolder publishes significant articles by established and emerging authorities on a variety of book arts topics. These include hand bookbinding, teaching, business practice, the history of the book, the book as art, general tips & tricks, exhibitions, how-to technical articles, and reviews.

“The namesake of The Bonefolder is Das Falzbein, a bookbinding journal which existed under various other names from 1927 to 1966 in Germany, providing generations of bookbinders with an important source of learning. While the trade and craft of bookbinding have changed greatly since then, it is hoped that our publication will inform and stimulate all levels of practitioners and lovers of the book as an artform and structure.”

Book Arts Web: a good overall resource for the art and craft of bookmaking and home to The Bonefolder.

working retreat and more interviews

I didn’t think I could afford a weekend away from D and N and my to-do list, but it was the best thing I could have done. On Friday I packed up bookmaking supplies and food and the dog and off we went for a working weekend away.

It’s been hard to focus on making books with an overburdened to-do list, but I was able to get quiet and sketch and figure out my version of a Book of Hours. I had the time and space to place with the pen and ink supplies I’d bought for cartooning. Even though I have too much going on, I’m going to try and create my own comic strip for a final project in my Reading Comics seminar.

I scheduled oral history interviews for Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Six hours worth of oral history about farm life on the Eastern Shore later and I’m still learning about this part of rural Virginia and southern Maryland.

I spent an incredibly peaceful and productive weekend in a beautiful and quiet place! I love looking up from my work out an open window into either the woods or a field full of soybeans. This morning I got my calendar out to figure out when I can do this again. I’m thinking a long weekend in November – about the time I have to create a full set of comics for my final project.

friday art: Richard Carlyon

The Richard Carlyon retrospective exhibition opens tonight. Four venues around Richmond are celebrating an amazing teacher and artist. D (my artist/teacher husband) studied with him. I wish I’d had that privilege.

What amazes me about Carlyon was how steady / stable his artist life was. It’s what I aspire to. He taught. He worked in his studio every day … walked to it from his house. For fifty years he taught artists and he made art. To paraphrase Julia Cameron, he kept the drama on the canvas.

Here are links to the four galleries participating in the retrospective.
The Anderson Gallery at VCU
His recreated studio is part of this exhibit.

The Reynolds Gallery
Early / late work & Eleanor

The Visual Arts Center of Richmond
This site has links to the other galleries, plus a podcast and a link to Style Weekly article about his life.

1708 Gallery
Interval – re: his interest in the “in-between” spaces

cool stuff from my comics seminar

This week we’re reading Alias the Cat by Kim Deitch … what an interesting, cool graphic book. Deitch is a well-known underground comics artist who definitely writes for adults. He’s apparently influenced by 1920s / 1930s pop culture including animated cartoons, so our instructor told us to look for some of these old cartoons on YouTube.

Here’s one from the 1930’s, described as “another weird and surreal Waffles and Don cartoon …”


snapshot tuesday

For some reason, this photo says End of Summer to me … don’t know why. Maybe it’s just my mood. It’s raining in Richmond today – a heavy, steady downpour. And it’s the first day of school for N and D. I’ve been in school a few weeks, but it never feels like a new year has started until Labor Day.