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.

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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.

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.

Going digital

by Myfanwy Tristram

Now that Ladies of the Lakes is largely out of the way (I am going to redraw two or three frames and add a cover before I send it to the printers), I’ve finally had time to play with my new laptop.

We’re very lucky at my workplace, in that they provide us with a laptop to work on: our choice of model, up to a price limit. If we want to, we can add our own money on top to get a more expensive one, and that’s how I have come into possession of a machine that I’d never have considered buying outright for my own purposes only – the Microsoft Surface Book.

I’m enjoying it for my work needs, and getting used to the fact that it’s a tablet/laptop hybrid: you can remove the screen and use it on its own, and even with the keyboard part attached, you can still navigate and interact via the touchscreen.

But what I’m enjoying it for outside my work hours is the fact that, with the special pen it comes bundled with, you can draw directly onto the screen. Now, it’s not like I’ve never done any digital drawing, but this is different from what I’m used to with my desktop, where I plug in a Wacom tablet sometimes: there, you’re drawing on the flat surface in front of you, but seeing the results come up on the monitor.

I wanted some time to figure out the set-up, and after frustrating experiences finding out, for example, that my version of the Photoshop Elements program wasn’t compatible with the Surface Pen, and researching various other apps, I came across Leonardo, which was specifically developed with the Surface Book in mind.

Cannily, they offer a trial period, perhaps in the knowledge that once you try it out you’ll be hooked. Leonardo doesn’t offer quite everything I’m used to in Photoshop (for example there’s no way to export in CMYK, no importing of brushes, and no clone stamp – plus lots of other features no doubt that I haven’t yet come across) but I do like the ‘infinite canvas’ which ensures you never run out of space to draw on, and I’m finding the shortcut menus really handy.

Here’s me giving it some trial runs:

 

Myfanwy Tristram

Myfanwy Tristram

No need to tell you what my train of thought was at this point – you can see for yourself.

And then I decided to try it out on a cover for Ladies of the Lakes (I drew in pencil, scanned in and then coloured over the top – this is it mid-colouring):

Myfanwy Tristram

and finally I’ve been mucking about with an idea for the flyleaves:

Myfanwy Tristram

Myfanwy Tristram

Still needs a bit of work but I’m impressed with what you can do on  a screen. I think my next challenge is going to be learning how to make brush strokes look a bit more natural and less ‘digital’.

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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.

ears-that-move-sm

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.

great-hair-sm

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

could-not-wait-sm

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.

balloon-boy-sm

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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Totnes & Lyme Regis holiday diary, part 6: in which we break everything and go home

Totnes & Lyme Regis holiday sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

This is the very final episode in our Totnes and Lyme Regis holiday. If this is the first page you’ve seen, you probably want to start at part 1, actually.

 

Totnes & Lyme Regis holiday sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Totnes & Lyme Regis holiday sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Totnes & Lyme Regis holiday sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Ha! I only wrote that page (above) out a few days ago, and several new things have happened in politics. It’s as if someone has pressed the fast forward button by mistake.

This map (below) was available free, all over the town, for tourists to pick up — and it was drawn by Hugh, our B&B proprietor. Taking a proper look at it, it’s clear that there is still plenty to do in Lyme Regis, so we will have to return.

Totnes & Lyme Regis holiday sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

 

We were sad to come home, but drawing it all has, as always, helped me relive the holiday. Hope you’ve enjoyed it too!

Totnes and Lyme Regis holiday sketch diary, part 5: Beatrix Potter’s windswept hair

Myfanwy Tristram sketch diary - Totnes and Lyme Regis

This is part 5 of our holiday in Totnes and Lyme Regis. If you haven’t seen prior episodes, you’ll want to begin from the beginning, so start here.

We’re nearly at the end of the holiday now: just one more installment after this.

As before, click on any image and then click again to see it at a larger scale.

Myfanwy Tristram sketch diary - Totnes and Lyme Regis

Myfanwy Tristram sketch diary - Totnes and Lyme Regis

Myfanwy Tristram sketch diary - Totnes and Lyme Regis

The final episode is here.

Totnes and Lyme Regis holiday sketch diary, part 4: cows, worms, moles & other animals

The image at the top of this post is a happy accident which happened on Photoshop, as I was trying to clean up the picture of the bookshop that appears in the third page below. I like it better than the actual painting, so here it is as a header.

Part 1 is here, part 2 is here and part 3 is here. If you’d like to see the pages at a larger scale, click on the image and then click again.

Totnes and Lyme Regis holiday sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

 

Totnes and Lyme Regis holiday sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

 

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Totnes and Lyme Regis sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

 

Totnes and Lyme Regis sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

 

Totnes & Lyme Regis holiday sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Episode 5 is here.

Totnes and Lyme Regis holiday sketch diary, part 3: my baby steampunk gets a taste of celebrity

This is the third section of a holiday sketch diary covering a week in Devon and Somerset. Part 1 is here; and part 2 is here. Enjoy!

Click on the images below, and then click again if you would like to see them at a larger size.

Totnes and Lyme Regis holiday sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Totnes and Lyme Regis holiday sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

 

Totnes and Lyme Regis holiday sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Part 4 is here.

Totnes and Lyme Regis holiday sketch diary, part 2: otters, steam trains and Ballardian dystopias

This is the second part of a holiday sketch diary in which we stayed in Totnes and Lyme Regis. Probably best not to start on day 2: you can read part 1 here.

As ever, click on the images below, and then click again if you would like to see them at a larger size.

Totnes and Lyme Regis holiday sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

 

Totnes and Lyme Regis holiday sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

 

Totnes and Lyme Regis holiday sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

 

More in part 3.

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Totnes and Lyme Regis holiday sketch diary, part 1: one man and his gluestick

So, here it is! Every time we go on holiday I swear I’m not going to bother with a sketch diary — and every time, I end up spending more time and attention on it. I suppose I have to admit that there’s no escape now. This is what I do.

So here’s part 1 of 6, chronicling our recent family trip.

We started in a part of Devon we know well, Totnes, before a few days in Lyme Regis, which was new to us. As usual, the whole holiday was by public transport — well, it had to be since none of us can drive. :)

Click on each image, and then click again, if you’d like to see the page at a larger size.

Totnes and Lyme Regis holiday sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Totnes and Lyme Regis holiday sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Totnes and Lyme Regis holiday sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

 

Apologies about the next page; I know the wording is badly placed for reading – but it turned out to be difficult to fit it in any other way, so in the end I left it as it is. I hope you can still get the gist.

Totnes and Lyme Regis holiday sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

 

More in part 2.

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The mystery of the unobtainable sketchbooks

I’ve finished my latest sketch diary, depicting our eight-day holiday in Devon and Somerset earlier this year.

I’ll be sharing it on here soon, as soon as I’ve scanned it, and fixed a couple of pages where the wording isn’t laid out in a very readable way. Such are the perils of drawing on the fly.

sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Here’s my daughter flicking through the finished article. If you click on the picture you’ll be able to see a short video of the whole thing on Instagram.

Perhaps you can tell from the video how thick the pages of this sketchbook are. If it had sound, you’d definitely be able to tell, by the particular timbre of the ‘swoosh’ noise they make.

For the last couple of years, I’ve been using these mystery 44-page sketchbooks which turned up in TK Maxx, and its sister store Homesense, for £3.99 each. The only indication of the brand is this inscription at the back:

Valentina sketchbook

I’ve never seen another type of sketchbook with such thick pages, and I love them. I tend to draw in pencil first, then rub it out when I’ve inked over the lines, then I add watercolour. While that would cause problems with many sketchbooks – scuffing of the surface, or wrinkling of the page – it’s no issue at all on this paper: in fact these heavy pages would take acrylic just as easily. Colours don’t even come close to bleeding through, so you could also use any type of felt tip, even a permanent marker.

So far so good: but there’s a problem, which I’ve mentioned before, and which, several months later, seems all the more certain. They’re not available any more. If you’re familiar with TK Maxx and Homesense, you’ll know that they’re basically overstock outlets: they buy up surplus goods from the manufacturers and sell them on at lower prices. They even have signs up all over the shop to remind you to pounce on that bargain because you can’t rely on it being available next time.

The Valentina sketchbooks were around for a couple of years though, so I became complacent, just picking up a couple every now and then. If I’d known they were going to become unobtainable, I’d have bought ten or twenty!

Now, I do fancy myself as a tenacious Googler, so I wondered whether, with a little work, I’d be able to find this stockist and buy directly. Here’s what I found:

  • The same blog post that I’ve mentioned here before, asking if anyone knows where to find more. The follow-up comments are full of people who have found that post and shared the same desires and bewilderment:

Okay I’m an art student from Manchester and these are the only books I like using! me and two other of my friends have about 14 between us, after traveling to around 7 different TK MAXX we brought everyone we could find. you need to grab them while there in, its something that you just got to buy when its there! there an amazing price, I have everyone I know trying to find me a stockist to buy them from, no luck so far!

  • This Italian stationers appears near the top of results for “florence vip for valentina” but, despite offering many beautiful items, it does not stock the sketchbooks I want.
  • A company profile showing that Florence VIP shipped 1,572 kg of ‘journals’  from the port of Livorno in Italy to Georgia Ports Authority in the USA, as recently as 28 June 2016! This also provides an address for the company in Florence. If I was willing to pay for a subscription, I could view where else they shipped to…  But in general this is good news, surely, as it shows they are still operational.
  • Street view for that address does not look very much like there’s a stationer’s there, nor does it look like a particularly likely place for a notebook manufacturer. However, it would be a great excuse for a holiday to Florence, and while I was there, I could make another sketch diary… if I found something to draw it in. Heh.

For the meantime, please yell if you see these in a TK Maxx or Homesense near you. I travel quite a bit for work, and my colleagues live all over the country, so I might be able to nab them one way or another!

Right, off to my scanner.

 

Return to the low-tech zine

colouring book cover by Myfanwy Tristram

make a zine

Above is a picture of a print that my husband picked up at Comica London. Sadly, my pedantic side will not allow me to hang it above my desk until I’ve added that missing apostrophe, but the message is a good one nonetheless.

As it happens, in the week running up to Comica I was already rediscovering the joy of self-made comics, unprompted.

It is a lot of fun to have your comics made by a proper printer, and have them arrive with their lovely silky covers and their professional binding, that’s for sure. But it can be expensive too, and I wanted to have something on our stall that customers could pay a little less for.

And so the Slightly Annoying Animals colouring book was born. Quite what possessed me to go into production the week before Comica, while also trying to hold down a full time job and all the other aspects of a busy life, I’m not sure, but never mind: I did.

Don’t leave the house

I work from home during the week, so couldn’t easily go out to buy new materials. So I decided to see if I could make something with only what I already had at home.

When I looked into my stock of paper, it was clear that – even for a print run of just ten copies – I would need to mix and match. As I pulled out tracing paper and sugar paper, along with nice thick watercolour paper, I realised that this could be a deliberate design feature, adding to the book’s quirkiness.

Fortunately, the inks in my printer were pretty full (such is my faith in printer inks that I am always surprised when they manage to print a single page, let alone a project like this). I quickly drew several animals, not thinking too hard about the theme nor stressing too much about making them my best drawings ever. After scanning these in, I chose a limited colour palette that I hope is reminiscent of the so-trendy-right-now riso printer, and changed the line colours.

Then I made a small dummy book so that I could remember which pages backed onto which others. That, and a label I stuck to my printer many moons ago, to remind me which side of the paper it prints on and which way up is the top, were my saving graces.

To the joy of my inexplicably printer-obsessed cats (seriously – the three of them came into the room at a trot), I switched the printer on and then fed the pages through mostly singly, by hand, to ensure there were no snarl-ups.

colouring book by Myfanwy Tristram

Then the next night, I bound them. The household machines were still clearly on my side, because when I got my sewing machine out, absolutely certain that last time I’d tried to use it, it had been irrevocably jammed, it was working like a song. That meant I could do some really quick and really rather pleasing stitched spines, and while I was at it, I sewed a silly little label on the back, too:

silly label by Myfanwy Tristram

Overheads were so low on this that I was able to sell them for just £3 at Comica: well within pocket money budgets, I reckon. Most of the paper had been sitting unused in my drawer for years, so the price really just reflected the time spent drawing, scanning, and worrying.

OK: so you always learn from making anything, even if you’ve done it before. What did I learn this time?

  • I have to admit it – tracing paper is a fun material but it’s not really great for comics because (obviously) the picture on the next page shows through. Perhaps this could work if the subsequent pages were mainly blank, with an invitation to draw something for yourself.
  • Having said that, I think the mixture of different kinds of paper is really appealing and if I was going to do this again, I’d go and invest in some squared paper or something else with an interesting texture or pattern.
  • The pictures weren’t my greatest works of art. I’m not the sort of artist who does her best work within a tight timescale (unfortunately. I’m working on it) and in fact the whole concept could have been refined. I like the idea of ‘slightly annoying animals’; with a bit more time I reckon I could have worked up their personalities into something that would amuse adults while their kids enjoyed the colouring bit.
  • So maybe I’ll do that one day.
  • But the main thing that I learned was that, for low runs of cheap comics, it’s still totally practical to do it yourself at home. I mean, when you think about it, of course it is: the whole zine culture grew up before people had computers and printers at home, with copies made at print shops or on photocopy machines, so it’s a lot easier now.

So, here’s a pen and some paper and a typewriter scanner, printer, and sewing machine. Now what are you waiting for?