Tove Jansson, graphic medicine and some small progress

Stencil pants by Myfanwy Tristram; from 'Satin and Tat', a graphic memoir

I have finished page 73 of Satin and Tat and have started drafting page 74; halle-flippin’-lujah.

As per my recent posts: I’m drawing on a new platform and it’s been a slight learning curve to get to grips with the various menus and tools; plus despite my high hopes at being able to import them over from Photoshop, the brushes aren’t quite the same. But I’ve got to the point where I’m just like, oh, who cares? Either the change will be small enough that it’s only something I notice, or it’ll have to be a built-in feature of the book that it takes on a whole new aesthetic 70 pages in.

Er, only joking. Sort of.

Basically, I’ve come to the conclusion that any longform art project requires you to be able to look at certain impediments, shrug, and then carry on. Like, none of the panels is perfect – every single one has required me to look at it and think ‘that’ll do’ (some more than others). When seen as a whole I hope they build up to make something that’s more than the sum of their parts.

My font isn’t anywhere near perfect, but I’m sticking with it for now, and anyway it’s on its own layer, so will be easy(ish) to swap out in the future if needs be. The panel sizes aren’t always exactly the same on the page: well, it’s a look. And so on.

I do worry sometimes, though, that some of the decisions I’ve made will compromise the entire book. This week I read a comment on a Facebook comics forum from someone saying their publisher refuses to accept images that are less than 600 dpi, and I’ve been saving all mine as 300. Should I worry?

Yesterday was day one of the Graphic Medicine online conference, and my one-minute video about my work in progress was shown, along with many others from people working either closely or loosely around the topic of mental health (Satin and Tat isn’t just about goths and the 80s; it deals with a bipolar character and the longterm effects of his suicide).

Graphic Medicine must be the friendliest and most supportive community in comics, and that is saying something, given how lovely most comics people are. Everyone showed great interest and put lovely comments in the chat. My favourite was something like “Bowie always makes a great organising principle” – gah, why didn’t I note down the exact wording?! This was in response to my explanation that Bowie is also a theme through the book, which nods to the mental health issues and eventual suicide of his own half brother, as well as bringing the characters together under their mutual admiration for his music.

As confirmation that it’s always worth going out and sharing comics work, I’ve now followed (and been followed by) a flood of new people on Instagram. Making connections that might lead to future conversations, collaborations or just interesting visuals in my Instagram stream has to be a bonus.

I finally watched the movie Tove, which has been on my radar for a few months: I was sorry it didn’t get shown at any of our local cinemas, even the arthouse ones (why?! Brighton would have gobbled it up).

**Mild spoilers ahead.**

It depicts one period in the life of Tove Jansson, the Finnish creator of the Moomins, focusing on her burgeoning sexuality, the development of her career as a cartoonist (against her — and her family’s — assumptions and initial desire to be a fine artist), and some implausibly attractive knitwear.

As with most filmic depictions of artists, of course there’s much lingering on a pencil lead drawing seductively across coarse-grained paper; days in the sunlit studio wrapped in a smock and cocking one’s head at an oil painting in progress; and parties at which the arrival of ‘the artists’ in silly homemade hats ramps up the raucousness level.

As with the Paula Rego exhibition, this sort of thing plays to some deep held desires in me, and if nothing else I did find myself missing ‘real’ art materials rather than the laptop screen. I must find time to pull out my paints again.

I wondered on Facebook whether the studio depicted was in fact Tove’s real one in Helsinki; my friend Johanna Rojola (whom I met via the Feminist Comics Residence, which she organises, along with many other valuable comics initiatives in Helsinki and beyond) confirms that it is indeed, and that apparently although it can be visited, this is by invitation only and currently reserved for the top brass of the arts world.

I was very pleased to have visited the frescoes that are also featured in the movie, and which are given extra meaning by her relationship with the daughter of the commissioning mayor (a detail which I can only assume is also true rather than artistic licence).

But the most affecting part is in the last minute. I will say no more. View it yourself if you haven’t already.

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 “Tove Jansson, graphic medicine and some small progress

  1. I enjoyed your video yesterday and learning about your Satin and Tat project. It was fun to watch it with others, and just great to see your process. I hope to be able to read Satin and Tat and will follow you where able to learn more about your comics and your brother. Take care and thanks for sharing your work.

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