30 minutes on comics

I realise that I haven’t blogged for quite some time. That’s because I tend to wait until there’s some concrete news to share, and then I write a carefully-crafted post that takes a bit of time to put together, and while that’s nice, it does mean that I tend not to bother with the small stuff.

But let’s try a different approach. I think about comics and comic art so much: I don’t capture most of those thoughts anywhere, except in the ears of my long-suffering comics friends, either in person over a pint, or – more likely during these long lockdowns – within an infinitely scrolling months-long conversation held across Facebook Messenger and a WhatsApp group.

(Side note: if you create comics, I really recommend gathering a small cohort of supportive comics pals around you).

I’m going to try this: blogging at least once a week; caring less about perfect prose and more about pinning down some of those thoughts.

Right, so here goes. I think the hard thing is going to be resisting the temptation to blog everything in one big splurge that takes hours to put together, so I might set myself a time limit of thirty minutes, and then I stop.

OK – I’m setting a timer now.

Where am I?

I’m still drawing, practically every day, usually early in the morning before work and sometimes a bit in the evenings too.

I’ve got a big, seemingly insurmountable problem, that I keep turning over, poking at, and carrying on regardless: that problem is time.

As you may recall, I set off some time ago on drawing a graphic memoir, Satin and Tat, detailing the suicide of my boyfriend when I was a teen, and set in the 80s so I can really enjoy all the background detail of music, fashion, hair and politics.

I have written a script, thumbnailed the entire thing, and drawn 66 pages (redrawn quite a few of those pages, too). I reckon it is going to be around 168 pages in total.

It has already taken literally years. Part of that is because, although I thought I was ready to begin, actually I was not – my drawing wasn’t good or consistent enough; my storytelling was too clunky; I hadn’t pinned down my tools or the font I was going to use.

As I say, I made a start and then I reworked lots of pages and threw some out and rearranged others and now, although I feel like I’m well on my way with a clear path ahead, I’m also aware that at this rate it will take at least two more years. (I foolishly landed on a full colour, labour intensive style).

I find myself asking whether the story is important enough and whether the result will be good enough to take such a large chunk out of my life. There are other comics projects I want to do; and I often feel like I am unnoticed in the small press comics world, because I haven’t got anything to share (apart from work in progress). I am 52 years old and going through the classic middle age trial of seeing how short life is, and how little it makes sense to dedicate so many years to one piece of work.

On the plus side, my drawing has improved from all this daily practice. And there are details I really do enjoy drawing. I’m currently doing a scene set in a jumble sale – remember those? Just looking at reference photos on Google images drowned me in nostalgia. Jumble sales barely exist any more; it’s all car boots now, for some reason.

But. No comic book is worth the number of hours I am putting into this, and especially not a comic book by me. Famously, graphic novels don’t match the hours spent on them with their financial return (unless you are very, very lucky); and I have definitely spent more manhours on this than it can ever hope to earn.

No-one has asked me to draw this book. Yes, it was shortlisted for the Myriad first graphic novel prize (on the back of a 30 page sample) but I’m at a bit of an impasse.

Do I give up and start on other smaller projects instead? Do I take some time off my day job and dedicate it to trying to finish a bit faster?

My job is actually really flexible – I’m very fortunate in that regard – but I worry about earning less, about not fitting in the work that needs doing, and about looking to colleagues like I don’t care about it.

Some things I’ve been thinking about recently are: talking all this through with a mentor via the excellent LDC; applying for an Arts Council grant that might fund me to spend a day a week drawing; and setting up a Patreon which might bring in money that allowed me to do the same.

I’m not sure I have enough supporters to fund a Patreon at this time, but maybe if I start blogging there instead of here, and allow people to follow me at no cost, eventually I could charge when there’s something tangible to offer.

Maybe instead of aiming to publish Satin and Tat in book form, I do it digitally. Or in printed installments, to Patreon subscribers? This involves maths, doesn’t it. I am not great at maths.

Enough moaning – what else?

So that’s that – but there are other things going on in my comics world:

Draw The Line is coming out in the US, as a published book, with Street Noise (linking to the dread Amazon for now, until it appears on other platforms).

Street Noise is a publishing house with the strapline ‘Real books for people who give a damn’ – so very well suited to the project. I’ll dedicate a whole post to that soon, as it’s been an interesting process.

My very good friend Zara Slattery has published her book, Coma.

Coma is excellent. I am not just saying that because Zara’s a friend. It really is a supremely executed piece of work. It’s been exciting seeing Zara get coverage on the BBC in the Telegraph and Newsweek, and nice to see her getting the excellent reviews it deserves.

Another close friend, Michi, has a collection of ‘graphic vegan recipes‘ coming out soon as well, with Liminal11. These are fab: they barely need words because she’s figured out a means of conveying recipes through pictures alone. I believe they’re going to be put out as a set of wipe-clean cards (like you used to be able to send off for through magazines like Good Housekeeping!) and just around the time that lots of parents will be waving kids off to university, so an excellent gift to sneak into their luggage.

My local comics meetup Cartoon County has finally and (and somewhat reluctantly) gone online at least for the meanwhile while lockdown and rules about gatherings are still in place, so we’re enjoying a string of interviews via Zoom, and LDC continue to do their own regular events with three comic makers each time (they’ve just gone on summer hiatus but they’ll be back). So much inspiration to be had.

I’m to be interviewed on video for the Creating Women project (more about it here). I hate being on camera and cannot look at myself on video, but I believe this is a really valuable project which will help fix the vibrant women’s comics scene of our time in history, so I’m going to do it and I’ll just have to live with my stupid face being available online for all time.

I’ve submitted a short video to the Graphic Medicine conference, 1 minute on what I’m doing with Satin and Tat (fitting the medical theme as it deals with both manic depression and suicide) and will hear soon whether that’s been accepted as part of their online event. I do not appear in this video but I discover that I can also be paranoid about my voice being weird as well as my looks!

There we are – that was 30 minutes, including a brief interlude of helping the teen daughter locate a boot on her way out of the house. I’m going to find some pictures to add, tidy up some grammar/spelling and then unleash it to the world.

See you soon for another comics braindump. Thanks for reading; I’m off to chip away some more at my self-inflicted sisyphean task.

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.

2 thoughts on “30 minutes on comics

  1. Hi Myfanwy Tristram! Why do you want to throw away all your hard work away?
    At this point in time, 1. read your book, 2. make sure there are no typing errors or misspelled words, 📓. 3. draw an ending picture for your comic book, 🖌️ 4. submit comic book to a couple of people for feed back, 5. then submit for publications. 5. Draw the pictures you enjoy and add to your writing.
    Don’ts forget to add a “jumble sale” drawing to your comic book.
    It’s not easy to write! That I have learned since I started to blog. I drive myself “bonkers” looking for clip art to use with my writing.
    1) There is so much we keep thinking about it becomes an “overload” on our brains.
    2) I check what I have written, make sure clip art is in the right spot, tags, categories, font color, header picture, etc., etc., etc.
    3) Finally I say that’s it, it’s ready to release my blog to the world.
    4) If you enjoy your writings, let the world read them!
    I’m waiting. 😉

  2. Mmh, I need to add my comforting 2 cents. I have been reading your blog for quite a while. Given that you have written so much in 30 minutes, I don’t think you have a problem with time, I think you’re doubting yourself. Maybe your comic pals can talk it through with you to help you see what is more important to you. Maybe you should try the Marie Kondo question: what gives you joy? If money is not the first criteria, then if I were you I would follow my heart.

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