Feminist comics residence, part 2 (the text version)

 

What does a feminist comics residence involve, anyway?

I’ve already covered much of what I found in Helsinki in the comic I shared recently: the unique surroundings; the friendly participants who all had so much in common; the food, for which we didn’t have to raise a finger or pay a cent; and the inspiring speakers. Here’s a bit more detail about the elements that made it so useful and enjoyable.

Ice-breaking: Kicking the whole event off the night before in the historic Yrjönkatu swimming hall and sauna was an inspired move, and meant that even while the snow was piled high on the streets outside, the metaphorical ice was quickly broken. Hard to be aloof when everyone’s unclothed!

Drawing: Active events such as comics workshops, games and zine-making were a welcome chance to put pen to paper, and in between events many of us just went on drawing. We were a room full of captive models, none of us exactly in a position to object, given that we were all drawing too.

Talks: For me, the presentations were the high point. Some speakers were from amongst the ranks of the attendees, and some popped in from elsewhere. I appreciate that a programme full of speakers would have been a different event, more akin to a conference; I also imagine that they’re the most demanding aspect to arrange, logistically, but this was definitely my favourite element of the residence, and I really appreciated the range of experiences they shared.

Getting out and about: Finally, it was lovely to finish up with a trip into town, especially for those of us who hadn’t visited Helsinki before. We nipped into a comic shop (happy to say my comics are now available there!) and had a private view of the non-binary photography exhibition at the ArTAG gallery. We all ended up FEMSKT (the organisers)’ workspace and studio for a low key party. Johanna bought many of our comics to add to the feminist comics library, and to take off to Finnish comics festivals. It was inspiring to see just how much FEMSKT and Johanna have done for women and comics in Finland and beyond.

Links

Just in case you’d like to view some of the same artwork and ideas that we were lucky enough to enjoy, here are some of my personal highpoints.

Johanna Vehkoo is a journalist who collaborated with comic artist Emmi Nieminen to produce a visually impressive volume about online hate speech. From her talk it sounded well researched, and I am very much hoping it will have an English translation soon. Meanwhile, you can see an excerpt in English.

It’s depressing to think that Finland (and presumably everywhere) suffers the same problems with trolls and online misogyny as we do in the UK, but heartening to know that the subject is being thrust into the public consciousness with these beautifully-rendered comics.

Sunna Kitti is the Sámi comic artist you might have noticed in the comic in my previous post. “Yes, I have reindeer”, she began. Her website’s in Finnish but you can certainly enjoy her portfolio full of skilled illustrations.

Rachael House was my fellow Brit, who I was glad to buddy up with on the way to the villa. She gave a great talk about her work in zines and feminist artwork, which extends from banners and embroidered patches to ceramics and even piñatas.

Justine Sarlat spoke about the French collective of female comic creators against sexism, which has its own charter and a page (currently only in French) in which women in the industry recount tales of everyday sexism (“It’s long”, she said sardonically).

Helsinki is rightly proud of its famous resident Tove Jansson, and you can see early frescoes of hers at the HAM gallery.

How did it happen?

Sometimes you can look back and see the exact domino-fall of events that led up to a specific opportunity. In this case, it began with the uncharacteristically impulsive decision to contact a couple of unknown Finnish comic makers and invite them to the UK.

Knowing Siiri, herself an active member of the flourishing Finnish self-published comics movement, gave me good reason to chat to Johanna Rojola (perhaps best described as she is on that page: “artist, producer, publisher, teacher and an activist spanning causes such as feminism, gender equality, global justice”) at the Lakes Comics Festival that year.

After that, Facebook played its part. Love it or hate it, there’s no denying that social media is great when it comes to forging links and solidifying connections. A flyby conversation about Uniqlo’s forthcoming Marimekko line (I am consistent in my passions) was diverted into an invitation from Johanna to the residence. If the residence itself hadn’t been inticement enough, Siiri’s comment along the lines of ‘Are you crazy? The Helsinki charity shops are full of Marimekko at far cheaper prices’ was clearly calculated to hit me right in my known weak spots. Within days the plane ticket was booked.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect of the residence, but ‘feminist’ and ‘comics’ were good lures, too. Michi Mathias and I had been tossing over the idea of organising a short retreat here in the UK, and I was keen to see how many of our half-formed ideas were in alignment with this established event. It would be interesting to see what worked well, and what we might be able to copy!

End note and photos

As with anyone who grew up with the Moomins as a bedtime story, loves a good sauna, and has come to appreciate Marimekko’s bold textile design, Finland has loomed large in my imagination for much of my life. Yes, I could have visited at any time to see if those Mymble, Snuffkin and Groke-sparked dreams held any reality, but the residence gave me, at last, a concrete reason to visit.

All in all, it made for a memorable and meaningful trip. I’ve already listed the gains on the comics side — what about the fringe benefits?

Well, I came home having seen the Marimekko outlet store but somehow (for which read ‘the exchange rate’) having resisted a purchase.

I did indeed visit those thrift stores with their promised haul of designer labels. I can report that the Moomin shop in Helsinki airport offers everything from Hattifattener rucksacks to Hemulen saucepans. I didn’t actually see a Moomin in the wild, but I did glimpse a huge white hare.

On the language front, I seem to have picked up the words for ‘comic’ (sarjakuva), ‘thank you’ (kiitos) and, by way of this apparently famous hedgehog, one of the more graphic swear words.

But mostly what I’ve brought home is the memory of those very white landscapes, and of those very inspiring women. All things considered, a highly satisfactory set of results, as I’m sure you’ll agree.

I often wonder to myself why it is that I bother with comics. They’re time-consuming; I’m seldom completely happy with my work; and they certainly don’t make me any money.

I always come to the same conclusion. Comics have been a gateway into the most inclusive and welcoming community I’ve ever experienced. They’ve given me a chance to travel to places I wouldn’t otherwise see, and meet people who can show me new perspectives on life. The Feminist Comics Residence was the perfect illustration of this.

Feminist Comics Residence in Helsinki

Villa Salin by Myfanwy Tristram

I mentioned in my last blog post that I’d had the improbable but wonderful experience of attending a feminist comic artists’ residence on Helsinki, organised by the formidable FEMSKT, Femicomics Finland. The few days gave me a so much: the visual stimulation of a completely new landscape; new friends and contacts; and a window into the practices of two dozen women from many different countries, all making comics for their own reasons and in their own ways.

I’ll write a fuller blog post about it all soon (EDIT: it’s here), together with some links to the several interesting artists and projects I encountered, but for now, here is my response in comic form. It centres around the house we all stayed in, which as I hope is clear, had an extraordinary provenance that made the whole event possible. Click twice on any of the pages to see them at a larger size.

Villa Salin by Myfanwy Tristram p1

Villa Salin by Myfanwy Tristram page3

80s comic part 2: what medium?

While thinking about character design, I was also giving lots of thought to what medium I’d use. Here are some experiments with digital colouring.

I was impressed to find that the digital drawing app I use, Leonardo, can do a very convincing pencil crayon effect:

In the end though, I decided I don’t have enough expertise with digital drawing to make a whole comic look as good as I want it to. Always one for the time-consuming and effortful method, I’ve plumped for gouache.

Planning a comic based on the 80s – character design

punks by Myfanwy Tristram

I wouldn’t have said I was a particular expert on anything, but when I started planning a new comic based on my teenage years, I realised that we’re all extremely knowledgeable about one thing: our own lives.

And if you live long enough, that makes you something close to a historian.

Yes, it has come as rather a surprise, but I suppose the eighties can now firmly be described as a historic era — and one that I could probably use as my specialist subject on Mastermind, should that particular nightmare ever become a reality. Dipping back into my memories of those days, I found that I can strongly evoke the clothes I wore, the bands I went to see, and the lengths we went to in styling our hair (cue a half hour reverie about crimpers and backcombing).

crimping by Myfanwy Tristram

And where there are gaps in my memory? I’ve been gratified to find that even though this was, of course, pre-internet, there are plenty of websites whose owners have carefully scanned in pages of Smash Hits (my magazine of choice at the time) and photographs from their own nights out, with which I can complement my own photo albums.

All this is to say that, over the last few weeks, I’ve been living in an age of stripey mohair jumpers, Doc Martens and my old army jacket, complete with old lady-style brooches and CND badges on the lapel. This is turning out to be an absolute joy of a comic to research, and I’m enjoying being able to include all these little details that mean so much to me (and will, I hope, also mean something to its readers, especially if they are of a similar age).

When I say ‘research’, what I mostly mean is gawping at the internet in astonishment that there are blow by blow accounts of a gig I went to in 1984, or looking up what Bananarama were wearing on Channel 4’s the Tube, or trying to find a photo of exactly how we danced when we were trying to look like Morrissey.

Crass by Myfanwy Tristram

But back to the drawing. There’s something about this comic, probably the fact that it’s so close to my own experiences, that means I want to get it right. Of course, with every comic you want it to be better than the ones you’ve done before, but that feels particularly important in this case. So, before making a start on the drawing, I’ve spent a long time in preparation.

I spent ages on the script, and even got my playwright husband’s (very useful) input on it. I thought for a long time about what medium to draw in, trying to consider the cost and time involved with colour illustrations, and how best to depict the two different time periods (the action switches between the 80s and present day).

I began with a long period of sketching to try and get the characters right, working first in pencil crayon for the freedom it affords in terms of how easy it is to overdraw any mistakes. Here are some of those very early sketches.

long fringe by Myfanwy Tristram

mohican by Myfanwy Tristram

teen by Myfanwy Tristram

carryint the tv out the window by Myfanwy Tristram

another mohican  by Myfanwy Tristram

punx by Myfanwy Tristram

punx by Myfanwy Tristram

coloured in punks by Myfanwy Tristram

Hourly Comic Day 2018

Every first of February is Hourly Comic Day, where mad people comic artists attempt to draw a comic, or a frame of a comic, for each hour that they are awake.

It fell on a Thursday this year, which is not ideal for me: during the week, I am sitting at my desk working for most of the day, which does not make for very compelling cartooning. So I cheated (honestly, I think cheating in various ways is all part of the Hourly Comic Day experience; or, let’s say, some creativity and laxity around the rules, such as they are, is encouraged) and did mine at the weekend.

I’ll be treating you to some full-colour beautifully pictures then, will I? You might think so, but I tell you, whether you’re doing Hourly Comic Day on a weekday or a weekend, it’s still tough to even do more than a quick scribble, especially given that you actually have to live your life between images. Some people do put out amazing stuff. I am not one of those people.

So I’m afraid you get some pencil sketches and they’re not even very well reproduced here. But oh well, hopefully they’re legible and still enjoyable.

Hourly Comic Day 7am Myfanwy Tristram7:00 Got up before everyone else – even the cats. Put a wash on. Coffee and posh toast (apricot and walnut)

Hourly Comic Day 8am Myfanwy Tristram8:00 I’m scripting the next big comic I want to make, about my teenage years. It’s such a bizarre experience putting myself back in that time.

Hourly Comic Day 9am Myfanwy Tristram9:00 As usual, it’s such a rollercoaster of emotions. One minute: “I’m a genius! This is going to set the whole world on fire!” Next minute: “…or maybe it’s just a pile of self-obsessed tosh”.

Hourly Comic Day 10am Myfanwy Tristram10:00 Sidetracked researching authentic music for background detail. Ooh perfect, this was released that very month. Oh-oh-oh the Hounds of Love – God, this is really hard to sing along to! A parcel comes from my bro – a late birthday present for Tabs… pins and patches – nice!

Hourly Comic Day 11am Myfanwy Tristram11:00 Tabs is watching slime videos. It’s beyond me – these people poke and prod and review the literally useless medium of slime.. and millions watch! ‘Now this one has a slight smell of walnuts and it’s a bit dry’ *poke poke* *squelch* Let’s go out Tabs, you’ve been indoors all week (she’s had a bad cold).

Hourly Comic Day midday Myfanwy Tristram12:00 Tabs, Joe and I get the bus into town. Tabs is telling me about YouTube stars Dan and Phil. So, every night, millions of little girls are going to sleep dreaming of Dan and Phil? Yes but they’re not dreaming about going out with them – they’re dreaming of them going out with each other! ‘Shipping’ them.
Dan’s ‘soft’. In the head?

Hourly Comic Day 1pm Myfanwy Tristram1:00 Nice second hand jacket – but Tabs preferred this jumper. She spends her Xmas money on it.

Hourly Comic Day 2pm Myfanwy Tristram2:00 We go to E-Kagen for lunch but it’s SO FULL and we are about to turn away when we hear, ‘Hello!’. It’s our old friends Victoria and Dermot and their daughter Kath & they make room for us – so lucky! And we haven’t seen them for ages so we can catch up on all their news – a theatre tour to Mumbai, buying a holiday house near Toulouse, one daughter in NZ. “They gave us a standing ovation for a joke… it wasn’t even a particularly good joke!” “There’s a big attic – we’re going to knock it all open and put a load of single beds up there so everyone’s kids can sleep together when they come to stay”.

Hourly Comic Day 3pm Myfanwy Tristram3:00 It was lovely to see them, but do you ever feel like our lives are a bit… boring in comparison with other people’s?
Nothing wrong with boring.
Reminded me of Posy Simmonds’ ‘Gemma Bovary’
Reminded me of Peter Mayle’s ‘A Year in Provence’.
It’s raining.

 

Hourly Comic Day 4pm Myfanwy Tristram4:00 We bought a scratch post for the cats.  Talking of boring lives…The bus stop was full of people sheltering from the rain so we nipped into Card Factory. Hey look! They have same-sex cards now. That’s good if even the bargain basement shops embrace it as standard. (hums) Oh oh oh oh the hounds of love… Tabs has borrowed my hat.

Hourly Comic Day 5pm Myfanwy Tristram5:00 Playing Animal Crossing Pocket Camp. I’m probably more addicted than is ideal (level 59). Aw Kid Cat. Sorry Joe, I’m afraid to tell you I’m developing strong feelings for Kid Cat… argh, why are there never any pale chub when you need them?

Oh oh oh the hands of love… what is that song?

It’s HOUNDS! Not hands…

Hourly Comic Day 6pm Myfanwy Tristram6:00 A light supper (egg mayo rolls). That’s funny, you know how we were talking about Peter Mayle? Well he died a couple of days ago.
That’s not FUNNY.
What’s that?
Peter Mayle died a couple of days ago.
Oh, that’s funny!
No, it’s not funny, god! Someone died!

Hourly Comic Day 7pm Myfanwy TristramFrom 7:30 -10:30 pm I was just drawing. Oof… wrist ache!

Hourly Comic Day 10.30pm Myfanwy TristramAt 10:30 pm I very sensibly went to bed and straight into a very deep sleep…well, apart from another hour of Animal Crossing… beep boop bip, snorfle.



I also did Hourly Comic Day in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017!

2017 – a year in drawing

Myfanwy Tristram cards

No matter how much time and energy I put in, I never feel like I’m doing quite enough drawing, so it’s always good to look back over the year and realise quite how much paper (and pixels) I’ve stacked up! Here’s a quick run-through of how 2017 looked.

February

On the 1st, I took the Hourly Comic Day challenge, where you draw one frame for every hour you are awake.

Inevitably, my piece reflected some of the day’s political events:

Myfanwy Tristram Hourly Comic Day 2017 www.myfanwytristram.com

I’ve definitely got the Hourly Comic Day bug now, and I hope to participate again on Feb 1st next year.

Draw The Line logo by Karrie Fransman

On the 21st, having been beavering away since October 2016, we launched the Draw The Line project website.

This is the biggest comics project I’ve ever attempted: it brought together 114 artists from many different countries, each depicting a positive political action that anyone can take.

I’m still hoping to put out the print version of Draw The Line, and in the new year I’ll be looking at ways to make that happen.

April

Draw The Line safely launched, I spent the next few months finishing my comic Ladies of the Lakes. Follow that link to read it all online in installments.

Ladies of the Lakes by Myfanwy Tristram

I also had it printed up so I could sell it at various festivals and stalls over the year – as you might expect, the Lakes Festival was where demand was highest.

Julie Gough’s Illustrated Women in History project mounted an exhibition and I contributed a small image of the Boston marathon runner Kathrine Switzer.

Kathrine Switzer by Myfanwy Tristram banner

May

The Inking Woman exhibition opened in London’s Cartoon museum, and I was honoured to have a piece included in it. This coming March, an accompanying book will be published.

I was away so I couldn’t make the opening night, but here’s a picture from Myriad publishing’s Corinne, featuring many of the exhibitors (click to see it at a larger size):

and here’s a bit of my exhibited image from when it was still in progress:

go cross country by Myfanwy Tristram

April

This is the month when I shared some life drawing I’d done in pastels. I’ve been going along to life drawing sessions most weeks though, so there are plenty more where that came from. Here are a few (click to see them larger):

life drawing by Myfanwy Tristram

Some weeks I still come away with some awful drawings (and my attempts at the quick 3 or 5 minute poses seem to be getting worse and worse) but on the whole I do feel like I’m making progress.

August

I entered a strip into SelfMadeHero’s Jeremy Corbyn comic. Sadly it wasn’t selected for publication but at least I had fun drawing cat of the moment, El Gato.

Corbyn and el Gato header by Myfanwy Tristram

September

I designed some nice postcards to sell alongside my comics at festivals. I still need to sort out a shop so I can sell these online too! Click to see them bigger.

Myfanwy Tristram cards

October

My love/hate affair with the Comic/Cape/Observer Graphic Short Story contest continues and this year I once again submitted a strip. Needless to say it didn’t elicit even a quiver of notice! As usual, I did my round-up of other unsuccessful (and successful) entries once the shortlist had been announced.

I also spent every day of October doing an ink drawing in the name of Inktober, something I enjoyed (mostly, though it was occasionally a bit of a squeeze finding the time every day) and which I think taught me quite a bit about composition. That was my vague aim so I’ll count that as a win.

November

‘Only’ seven months after returning from a trip to Florence, I finished the sketch diary I’d been drawing. I also sadly concluded that I probably won’t do any more of these in the near future – they just take up way too much time and the result, while very nice to have, doesn’t really help to further my work.

Florence sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

This month I also spoke at the Graphic Brighton / Caption event. My topic was Draw The Line and specifically how to organise a large comics project from a distance. I’d like to do more talks like this so I’ll be actively pursuing a few opportunities next year.

herding cats banner image by Myfanwy Tristram

December

Recent readers will recall that I made, and blogged, a four-colour linocut Christmas card. Despite a few hairy moments (literally in some cases, when the cats wandered past still-drying ink) I enjoyed this and would love to have time to get better at working with this medium.

Lino cuts by Myfanwy Tristram

I received the very welcome news that Draw The Line had been nominated for a Broken Frontier award. The results will be revealed in January.

And in my last drawing task of the year, I made a party invitation for my daughter:

It’s been a great year, and one aspect which perhaps isn’t reflected in this account of solitary work sitting at my desk, is how sociable and supportive comics people are. It’s been a pleasure to meet and chat with so many of them this year.

Deserving a special mention are Zara Slattery, who has been my accomplice at pretty much every comics event I’ve attended (not to mention all the lifts home from life-drawing classes!), and Simon Russell, who was on a one-man mission to make small press comic-selling more viable with his pop-up stalls.

And now… forward into 2019! Hope it’s a goodie.

Trampoline party invitation design

The self-imposed drawing tasks come thick and fast for me at this time of year. No sooner have I sent out my Christmas cards than it’s a race to draw my daughter’s birthday invitations in time for her to hand them out at school before term ends.

This year she’s having a party at the local trampolining centre, and here’s what I came up with:

trampoline party invitation by Myfanwy Tristram

I’ve left it blank, so feel free to print it out and use it if you are having your own trampoline party! All I ask is that you keep the web address on the side there, so people know where the pictures came from.

For my own invitations, I added text between the figures with all the details of where and when the party was, etc, and there are faint guidelines so you can fold it into three. It then fits into a nice standard-sized envelope.

And now, some process pics.

Sketches:

by Myfanwy Tristramby Myfanwy Tristram

I inked over these with a lightbox and coloured them in digitally.

Then went to print them out. Oops, I guess my printer is low on yellow ink:

[Inserts yellow ink] Oops, I guess my printer is low on magenta:

[sends husband to buy ink]

Phew, finally. And here they are all printed out:

(I’ve removed some of the text just in case of random internet malefactors!)

Florence sketch diary: last day in Florence, and thoughts about sketch diaries

Florence sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

This is the last part of the series. If you want to start from the beginning, page 1 is here.

Florence sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Florence sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Florence sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Florence sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

That’s it! I hope you enjoyed accompanying me on my trip to Florence.

I’m pretty sure it’s going to be my last sketch diary for a while. While I love to make them, and am pleased to have them as mementoes of our family holidays, as my ambitions grow in terms of how much detail I want to include, so they take more and more time.

I’m still only able to dedicate around 90 minutes a day to artwork, on top of the dayjob, household duties, etc. This Diary took six months (pretty much – the time was interrupted by a couple of other deadlined comic projects which I recorded here) to draw, followed by a further month or more cleaning it up, and there’s still tons I’d redraw or tidy if it was headed for publication anywhere more formal than my own blog. That doesn’t leave much time in a year for any other kind of work. I’ve even been on another three trips since Florence (including an eminently diarisable and puffin-heavy trip to Berwick and surrounds) which I can’t record with this amount of detail. And that’s what I’d want to do. One solution would be to pull out small strands or record less, I suppose, but I don’t feel massively inclined to do that.

So unless someone can find a way to conjure up more hours in every day, that’s it for this particular artform, for now at least. Hopefully that will mean more smaller projects and in turn that will mean more frequent updates on this blog, so it’s not all bad!

Florence sketch diary, day 7: you will not believe what we can do with balloons

Florence sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Here’s day 7 of our trip. If you want to start from the beginning, page 1 is here.

Florence sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Florence sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Florence sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Florence sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Florence sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Come back tomorrow when the conference begins.

Florence sketch diary, day 6: switching to work mode

Florence sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Here’s day 6 of our trip. If you want to start from the beginning, page 1 is here.

Florence sketch diary by Myfanwy TristramFlorence sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram(Apologies for the wavy text, here and elsewhere: it’s because these pages are photographed rather than scanned, and not always perfectly flat)

Florence sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram(The usual apologies to my colleagues – and any other *real people* I might represent — for my failed attempts at capturing a likeness)

Florence sketch diary by Myfanwy TristramCome back tomorrow for a big surprise at the conference venue!

Florence sketch diary, day 5: the holy grail

alt="Florence sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram"

Here’s day 5 of our trip. If you want to start from the beginning, page 1 is here.

Florence sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Florence sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Florence sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Florence sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Read on to Day 6, when I switch over into ‘work trip’ mode.

Florence sketch diary, day 4: deluxe cakes, gardens and posh frocks

Here’s day 4 of our trip. If you want to start from the beginning, page 1 is here.

Florence sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Florence sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Florence sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Read the next entry for a big discovery, plus the only cat in Florence.

Florence sketch diary, part 1: the one-trouser strategy

Florence banner by Myf Tristram

In April 2016, I took a trip to Florence, Italy. This is my sketch diary. I hope you enjoy it.

Intro page. In case you don’t recognise it(!), the dark lumpy thing that one of the cherubs is holding is supposed to be a truffle.

Florence diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Joe’s concern is very British:

Florence diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Florence sketch diary by Myfanwy tristram

Florence sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Florence diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Florence diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Now read part 2: a sweary neighbour and some desirable stationery.

A completed Inktober

Who remembers Clovember, in which the idea was to draw your clothes every day through the month of November?

Well, perhaps I’m a sucker for these portmanteau-titled month-long challenges, because along came Inktober (draw something in ink daily for 31 days) and I did my usual thing (“No promises; I might just do one or two”), before immediately feeling that I had no other choice but to complete the challenge.

Oct 28: Hundreds of migrants are stranded in Budapest after police stop trains leaving for Austria and Germany in a bid to prevent them from travelling onwards.

You can choose to work from a list of daily prompts, but I made a swift and unconsidered decision to base my images on photographs from the news. My motivation was twofold:
– News photographs often contain people in dramatic but unposed compositions, which hopefully would teach me new angles and ways in which humans intersect, to carry through to my work in comics;
– We see so many images online every day; by drawing them, I wouldn’t be able to just scroll by and hardly understand what I was seeing. Instead, I’d be thinking about each person as I drew them.

Oct 30: French president Emmanuel Macron plays it cool when catching a whiff of marijuana during a visit to French Guiana, warning youngsters that it won’t help with their schoolwork.

The kind of pictures I chose


As always with this kind of project, it took a few days for me to settle in and understand exactly what I was doing. After a week or so, I began to know exactly what sort of photographs I was scouting for (a process that often took as long as the actual drawing). Elements that attracted me were:
– Crowds of people, often swarming around a central point: an interviewee surrounded by journalists with recording devices; a protester being manhandled by multiple police officers; a speaker being harangued by opponents;

Oct 23: Demonstrators on both sides demonstrate outside a university where white supremacist Richard Spencer was speaking.

– Compositions where one or more people were in the foreground with others in the background, ie differences of scale;
Oct 19: An outbreak of plague has killed 74 people in Madagascar.

– Complicated scenes where it is hard to tell which body part belongs to whom
Oct 6: Syrian Democratic Forces help a shell-shocked comrade to his feet.

– Interesting clothes, faces, poses and expressions.
Oct 14: High court judges take a selfie at the valediction ceremony for Mr Justice Bodey.

How I worked

The only Inktober rule is that you use ink. In most cases, I went straight to pen without any pencil drawing first, although there are a few exceptions to this, especially early in the month.

Drawings took between 20 minutes and an hour. I managed a daily drawing despite being ill for two of the days, home late on one of them (resulting in a late-night drawing) and away with work and comics stuff for another four.

Oct 3: People filling containers with water in an area hit by the hurricane in Puerto Rico

What I learned


– This sort of project always requires you to set aside concerns about sharing work that isn’t perfect or as good as you’d like (unless you have all day to redraw the images that don’t come out as you’d like);
– But equally, in the doing, sometimes images emerge that really surprise you, drawn in a way you probably wouldn’t otherwise have arrived at;
– By sharing them on Instagram or Twitter, you get immediate feedback in the form of a ‘like’ count, and the ones which followers like are not always the same as the ones you like yourself;
– Drawing hands will never be easy.

Oct 22: Pole dancing could become an Olympic event. A member of the Chinese national pole dancing team practices.

Next time


I really hope I can immediately apply some of the experience from this Inktober to my drawings. And next time, I’d like to choose a theme that encouraged me to loosen up rather than to lean towards my natural tendency of tight detail like this. So, perhaps something more imaginary and fanciful. Can someone remind me of that on Sept 30 2018, please?

Here are all the month’s pictures arranged chronologically in a gallery: you can click on one and then you’ll be able to click through them all at full size.

Inspiration: Paula Rego

Paula Rego: secrets and stories

I’ve always counted Paula Rego among my favourite artists, but before I watched this documentary (Paula Rego: Secrets and Stories) I didn’t know the half of her life story, and how it has fed into her pictures. Having now sat down and watched in riveted attention twice over, I’m finding her work all the more resonant.

One thing to take away from this film is the fact that she’s clearly worked away at her drawing every single day for years, driven — to the detriment of her maternal duties, as she freely admits! I’m always captivated (and slightly jealous) of those who have followed the life of an artist to the exclusion of all else, although beguiling as it is to see her many-coloured pastels and huge artist’s studio, there’s nothing to envy in the life story that unfolds. She endured poverty, a difficult marriage, multiple abortions, and the terminal illness of her husband before becoming the celebrated artist of today.

Art aside, it’s amazing to see a life that was captured so thoroughly in home movies and photographs. Rego was a stunning younger woman: you get to see her from childhood through to the older lady she is now.

Unfortunately, I think you can only watch if you’re in the UK, and it’s only up on the BBC site until 23 April*; however, it has all the signs of a film that will also be travelling to arthouse cinemas and festivals, so keep an eye out if you can.

Now perhaps it’s rather crass to take such inspiration and turn it into something consumerist, but one side effect of having seen the art-materials pornography of those vibrant sticks in close-up as they press and crumble against the sugar paper, was that I went and bought a nice new set of pastels. To be fair to myself, I had also been a very brave person and endured root canal surgery that day, so I was due some kind of treat.

I took my pastels to my regular life-drawing slot this week and really enjoyed the ease of use – I’ve been having a hard time recently, struggling a bit with watercolour and pencil crayon, so it was nice to work at a larger scale and more freely. I’m no Paula Rego, but, hey, I can smoosh pastels onto paper with the best of them.

The model was Frankie, whose hair is a wonder to behold: it really is that long, and she goes by the name of Floor-length Frankie.

*If I have counted properly, but the BBC tell you what date it went up and how many days it’ll be available, and I’m not sure how they calculate the start day. Do just hurry, as I’d hate for you to miss it by one day just because of my poor understanding of calendars.

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Illustrated Women In History exhibition

Kathrine Switzer by Myfanwy Tristram banner

I’m really pleased to say that I have a small illustration in the Illustrated Women in History exhibition and the accompanying zine.

The exhibition is up in Swindon Central Library now, and runs until the end of April. You can buy the zine here.

Its maker, Julie Gough, has for some time now been doing a great job of collecting pictures and short biographies of women from a variety of artists — this is the third issue of Illustrated Women in History. She herself is on a mission to draw a woman a week: the project was prompted by the scandalous story of a London museum which gained planning permission on the grounds that it would celebrate the lives of women. When it opened, it had somehow transformed into a Jack the Ripper ‘attraction’.

Julie’s exhibition and zine profile women as diverse as Tove Jansson, Banana Yoshimoto, Boudicca and Grace Jones. For my own submission, I chose to draw Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to officially run the Boston Marathon. I could identify with her a little, as I enjoy running myself — albeit on a much less ambitious scale — and I found her story interesting (and, it should be noted, not entirely without controversy).

In reading up on Switzer, I discovered that running, like so many other areas of life (and even those which seem so obviously gender neutral in the present day), was once a far more male-dominated pursuit. Suffice to say that the sports bra wasn’t even invented until 1975.

This is my illustration (along with genuine quotes from other runners, journalists and race officials of the time); it takes some liberties with colour and clothing, as I wanted her to stand out. It was in fact raining on the day, and in Switzer’s own account she notes that she was annoyed at having to wear a grey full-length sweat suit, the only weatherproof running gear available in those days. Again, rather different to today’s picture when the sports shops are bursting with lycra running gear with a different colour for each season.

If you’d like to see the accompanying biography, and many more pictures of interesting women by lots of talented artists, you’ll have to swing by Swindon library, or grab a copy of the zine for yourself. Thanks to Julie for bringing so many women, some obscure and forgotten, back to light.

Kathrine Switzer by Myfanwy Tristram

My #HourlyComicDay 2017 in full

Myfanwy Tristram Hourly Comic Day 2017 www.myfanwytristram.com

I’ve been absolutely up to my neck in the Draw The Line project (comic artists drawing positive political actions that anyone can take), but when Hourly Comic Day rolled around, I couldn’t bear the thought of not taking part.

I’ve participated for the past three years, and the concept chimes very well with my tendency towards diary-based comics. This year though, I’d be in Leeds with work, for an all-day meeting that would neither allow for the luxury of regular drawings and uploads, nor provide very interesting or varied content. So I cheated slightly, and completed my hourlies on the Saturday beforehand.

As with every year, it was slightly stressful and time-consuming, and I ended up feeling a bit unhappy about sharing rough work. But also as with every year, I believe that the narrative supersedes the quality of the drawing in the end.

Anyway, awkward preamble over, here’s my Hourly Comic Day. Click any of the images to see them at a larger size.

If I have time, I hope to do my usual round-up post of other people’s too, but it might not be as quick off the mark as it usually is.

Myfanwy Tristram Hourly Comic Day 2017 www.myfanwytristram.com

Myfanwy Tristram Hourly Comic Day 2017 www.myfanwytristram.com

Myfanwy Tristram Hourly Comic Day 2017 www.myfanwytristram.com

Myfanwy Tristram Hourly Comic Day 2017 www.myfanwytristram.com

Myfanwy Tristram Hourly Comic Day 2017 www.myfanwytristram.com

Myfanwy Tristram Hourly Comic Day 2017 www.myfanwytristram.com

Myfanwy Tristram Hourly Comic Day 2017 www.myfanwytristram.com

Myfanwy Tristram Hourly Comic Day 2017 www.myfanwytristram.com

Myfanwy Tristram Hourly Comic Day 2017 www.myfanwytristram.com

Myfanwy Tristram Hourly Comic Day 2017 www.myfanwytristram.com

Myfanwy Tristram Hourly Comic Day 2017 www.myfanwytristram.com

Myfanwy Tristram Hourly Comic Day 2017 www.myfanwytristram.com

Myfanwy Tristram Hourly Comic Day 2017 www.myfanwytristram.com

Myfanwy Tristram Hourly Comic Day 2017 www.myfanwytristram.com

Myfanwy Tristram Hourly Comic Day 2017 www.myfanwytristram.com

Myfanwy Tristram Hourly Comic Day 2017 www.myfanwytristram.com

Myfanwy Tristram Hourly Comic Day 2017 www.myfanwytristram.com

Myfanwy Tristram Hourly Comic Day 2017 www.myfanwytristram.com

Myfanwy Tristram Hourly Comic Day 2017 www.myfanwytristram.com

Myfanwy Tristram Hourly Comic Day 2017 www.myfanwytristram.com

Myfanwy Tristram Hourly Comic Day 2017 www.myfanwytristram.com

Myfanwy Tristram Hourly Comic Day 2017 www.myfanwytristram.com

Myfanwy Tristram Hourly Comic Day 2017 www.myfanwytristram.com

Myfanwy Tristram Hourly Comic Day 2017 www.myfanwytristram.com

Myfanwy Tristram Hourly Comic Day 2017 www.myfanwytristram.com

Myfanwy Tristram Hourly Comic Day 2017 www.myfanwytristram.com

Sketches from Kendal

Our trip to the Lakes Festival was so eventful that I plan to make a comic about it — that’s always supposing life quietens down enough to allow for a bit of drawing soon.

Meanwhile, here are a few sketches I did from behind our table. Click any of them to see at a larger size.

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If you’re drawing directly from life, you end up with a lot of views of people’s backs, which isn’t the most compelling subject. That’s because the ones who have their faces towards you are probably also talking and/or buying stuff.

early-customers by Myfanwy Tristram

These were the very first three people to come to our stall. No-one sticks around long, and I soon remembered how much more comfortable I am working from a photo — so a quick snap on the phone it was.

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Zara and I both drew these ladies, having been struck by their super hair – here’s Zara’s version.

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On the way to the loo, I spied these young adults in a shaft of sunlight: clearly they couldn’t wait until they got home to start digging into their new comics.

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And finally, I drew this child and woman from a photo, while traveling home from Kendal. Not bad, if I do say so myself, on very little sleep and a bumpy train table! I don’t know if the two subjects were related to one another, nor whether the woman’s slightly disapproving look was directed at me for pointing my phone towards her, but I do like the resulting picture.

 

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