This time last week, the long-anticipated trip was in progress and I was sitting in the Workers Gallery in Ynyshir, Rhondda, setting up for my zine workshops!
I had such an unforgettable time visiting my exhibition Word on the Street (which still runs until Sept 11) and seeing the gallery for myself. No small part of the pleasure was in finally meeting gallery-runners Gayle and Chris with whom I’d been exchanging emails for months beforehand, getting all the details in place for the exhibition and accompanying activities.
Visting the gallery meant I could see for myself what a cultural hub it is for the local community, and what a friendly atmosphere they’ve fostered there in what used to be the town’s small library.
I won’t go into all the details of what I saw and discovered during my trip, because most of it will go into the comic I’m going to make. Suffice to say that there was much to be inspired by, from the tall green tree-covered heights of the surrounding hills, to the trusting willingness with which both adults and children threw themselves into making a zine.
To some extent, it was a case of having parachuted in to a new place which has its own stories, struggles and ongoing campaigns – such as Save the Northern Meadows which I learned all about from my co-speaker on Thursday night, Cat Lewis – but also that the underlying themes are universal: people wanting to protect what is dear to them; people fighting what threatens their way of life; or calling for a better functioning society.
It feels like protest is everywhere at the moment, from disruptions in the Tory leadership hustings, to massive banner drops from Extinction Rebellion, to people signing up to say they won’t stand for massive hikes in our energy bills. Gotta say, it’s not like me to hit a zeitgeist but I do seem to have accidentally done just that!
I have been so excited about the comic I’ll be making next that I’ve started some trial drawings. I told myself early on that I must not plump for my usual time-consuming style, or this could be another project that takes months if not years to actually see the light.
That said, it’s been very hard to resist falling into old ways. I’ve had to deliberately restrain myself from fiddly detail, and am thinking about ink or pencil crayon line drawings overlaid with digital washes to save time. Initially I thought I might just do line drawings without colour, or try patch areas of flat colour, but those monumental green hills everywhere put paid to that. If I can’t convey that lushness, I have failed to represent a massive part of the experience of being in Ynyshir.
So I might just do some pages of more sketchy line drawings, but let myself go wild with colour for the landscapes. In some ways it is quicker to fall back on what I know – digital drawing – but with a concerted effort to stay away from the small fiddly details. Anyway here are some of my initial experiments.
If you’re local to the area (interpret that widely – anywhere in Wales and across the border, around Bristol etc and beyond…) – and you’d like me to include your memories of protest in my comic, you can either pop into the gallery and share them there, or fill in this form, thanks!