The Draw The Line story

Draw The Line, the book

Apologies for the grandiose title: I’m not really envisioning this becoming a Netflix miniseries.

However, there is quite a bit to say about the Draw The Line project.

Here we are with a gorgeous book, lots of good reviews, demand for a second print run, and having made a decent donation to a charity that we believe in. Any comic artist would be delighted with all that, and if you make comics yourself, you might be thinking you’d like to do something similar.

But those benefits were quite hard won. It’s been a long and sometimes challenging journey, and I suspect that we could save other people time and effort by sharing what we learned along the way.

What was Draw The Line?

With apologies to longtime readers who know full well what it was, here’s a catch-up for those who don’t: Draw The Line brought together 100+ comic artists, each of whom depicted an action you can take if you are feeling powerless in the current political landscape.

It began life as a website, and we have just now produced a print book containing all the illustrations and actions. Together, as our carefully-honed strapline proclaims, they make up a toolkit for activism.

A long timeline

To give you some idea of the timescale, the idea for Draw The Line emerged in late 2016. It was a response to Trump coming to power, the Brexit vote, the rise of ‘fake news’ and all the other worrying aspects of that year.

The printed book finally arrived through people’s letterboxes just after the Biden win, so to give you a timeline that we can all relate to, the project basically spanned the entire exhausting Trump administration.

While it’s fresh in my mind

I’m going to blog everything I can about the entire process, and it’s probably going to end up being a series of several posts, because there’s a lot to cover.

And so, these posts are for you if you:

  • are considering creating an anthology comic or any other group creative endeavour;
  • would like to do so without actually meeting the contributors (on which, let’s face it, we were somewhat ahead of the lockdown curve);
  • would benefit from answers to questions like, “what’s the cheapest book packaging and can I still be environmentally friendly if I pick it?”, or “what’s the difference between ‘Click and Drop’ and ‘Drop and Go’?”;
  • are curious about running a collaborative, not for profit project where everyone has a say;
  • would like to know all the nitpicky annoying things that make even the simplest project more complicated than you’d have anticipated;
  • or, you hadn’t actually considered any of those things but hey, now you think about it, that all sounds pretty interesting.

Start at the end

I must say that the four-year incubation period was not something that any of us expected. Before I dive into the reasons for that, though, let’s begin at the end. After all, this is the reason we did anything at all.

Draw The Line is now a beautiful, full colour A4 hardback book, containing the work of 113 comic artists from 16 different countries, each depicting a positive action anyone can take if they don’t like the current political landscape.

We saved lives through comics

From the start, we knew that all profits would be going to our chosen charity, Choose Love (originally known as Help Refugees); it was a great moment when we were able to transfer the final sum of £3,106.27 to them (more – much more – about numbers and costs in a subsequent post).

Donation to Choose Love

Choose Love messaged us to say:

Thank you so much for your support. This is the sixth winter since our organisation began and the needs on the ground have never been so great. The emergency context, compounded with COVID-19, lack of global funding awareness and the ever-increasing hostile environment for displaced people means your donation will literally save lives.

Literally save lives? I mean, I can’t deny that that feels pretty good.

To put that sum into context, here’s a graphic from the charity about how they spend donations:

So with our donation, modest though it might seem to some, we’re looking at 621 weeks of fruit and veg, or 310 sleeping bags, or 31 phones, or 8 days at sea.

As someone who longs to help but can’t really spare large amounts of money, to be able to make a donation like this was really gratifying. (And if this inspires you to donate, you can do so here.)

An actual book

It’s not just that, though: there is the pleasure of a job well done. The book has been well-received by those who have it in their hands. Thanks to interior design and layout by Simon Russell, and a cover design by Woodrow Phoenix, it looks professional; and thanks to many rounds of proofing by me and Michi Mathias, the copy is error-free. It’s basically a better physical product than I had ever imagined.

And, most importantly, it does what it promised to do. It is a toolkit for activism. It depicts actions, large and small, that you, or anyone, could take right now if you want to change the world. It labels them so you know what you can do if you’re a kid, or if you can’t spend money, or if you’re an artist, or if you particularly want to help homeless people or disabled people, or women, or minorities (and lots more).

We sold out within days of taking delivery of the print run, and we’ve had congratulatory tweets, photos, emails and DMs from readers, many of whom have been asking whether there are more copies to buy. There aren’t, but we’re keeping a list of those who are interested, in case we go for a second print run (if that’s of interest, you can add your name here).

And who could want for more than that? I can’t deny it feels pretty good.

So, that’s the reason we created Draw The Line in the first place; in the next post I’ll go right back to the beginning, with a bit more about why we started it, how we got so many artists involved, and how we were able to shape the project collaboratively.

I’m also planning to cover the various tools we used; the decision to license all the images under Creative Commons; what did and didn’t work for us in terms of crowdfunding; and logistics and costs of the print run and shipping. If you have any questions about these or any other areas, please do comment below and it’ll help me to include the most useful details. Thanks!

A couple of links again:

Published by Myfanwy Tristram

I am an illustrator, situated in Brighton on the south coast of England, and with a special interest in comics and graphic memoir. I also work for a non-profit which encourages people to be active in democracy and to exercise rights such as the right to information through FOIA.

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