Get your hands on the Draw The Line book!

Draw The Line logo by Karrie Fransman

Draw The Line is approaching its next phase, as a printed book — here’s how you can get your hands on one.

You may remember the Draw The Line project, in which more than 100 artists from 16 different countries illustrated positive political actions that anyone can take. Draw The Line launched as a website, but the plan was always to also offer this toolkit of political activism in book form: in fact, my original vision was that you’d be able to read a page a day, get inspired, and then go and try out the action!

From the beginning, one of the nicest things about Draw The Line has been the wonderful community of artists who have generously contributed their time and skills. Now we’re crowdfunding to make the book a reality, and that same generosity means that there are some lovely rewards up for grabs when you pledge.

As we’re working in collaboration with the publisher Unbound, you can be sure that the finished product will be a high-quality, full-colour, hardback first edition. Additionally, you can opt to receive bookplates; prints of your favourite Draw the Line images; original artwork; or even commission a new piece.

The most unusual rewards, though, are those where one of the artists will give you and your friends a talk or a workshop, sharing their skills and knowledge (and you get a bundle of the books as well). These are dependent on where the artists live — each has stated how far they are willing to travel from their home — but as there are Draw The Line contributors in many areas of the UK, and in North and South America, Australia and Europe, we cover a lot of ground. We’ll contact anyone opting for this pledge to sort out the details.

In fact, we have so many different artists all offering so many different rewards, that we’re going to stagger their release. So, if nothing takes your fancy right now, keep coming back to see what’s new. Or pledge anyway, because you can change your pledge at any time during the fundraising period, if you see something you’d rather have chosen.

I’m really excited to see Draw The Line becoming a concrete reality. I hope you’ll also want your own copy of this book to inspire you not to give up hope in the current political climate, with work by Lucy Knisley, Kate Evans, Steven Appleby, Kate Charlesworth, Hannah Berry, Hunt Emerson, Karrie Fransman, Siiri Valjakka, Joe Decie, Nye Wright, Fumio Obata… and me! Not to mention all the many other amazing artists. Here’s where to make your pledge.

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Draw The Line coverage

Draw The Line logo by Karrie Fransman

There’s been quite a bit of press on the launch of Draw The Line, which has really helped spread the word. Some of the more notable examples:

  • Broken Frontier were nice enough to let me natter on at length
  • Forbidden Planet's piece brought us lots of visitors
  • Standard Issue's Jo Neary, who was one of the Draw The Line artists, interviewed me too
  • Our aims obviously chimed very well with Positive News and they’ve been tweeting out the images as well as covering us in this piece

Thanks also to everyone who is sharing Draw The Line on social media — it’s been great to see the images get such wide coverage. As a reminder,they’re all covered under a Creative Commons licence, which means that anyone is welcome to share them on their own website or elsewhere, so long as the artist is credited and the use is non-commercial.

We’re also on pretty much every social media channel ourselves, so if you’d like to see the images at a steady pace of a couple per day, you can follow Draw The Line on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and Instagram.

I’ve already shared my own work for Draw The Line so here are a couple more that I really like (although in truth, it is hard to pick: I am fond of so many of them).

Image by Nicholas Sputnik MillerImage by Nicholas Sputnik Miller


Image by Karen Rubins
Image by Karen Rubins

And of course you can see all the rest at www.drawthelinecomics.com.

Draw The Line is live: 120+ artists show positive political actions that anyone can take

As you may remember, back in October, I went for a run and came back with a glimmer of an idea.

Remind me not to go running again: that little seed grew into a project that has taken up every spare moment since then. But today, most of the hard work is over. Today we launch Draw The Line.

Draw The Line

It’s been astonishing to watch, as what I’d conceived as a modest small press project blossomed, and more and more comic artists came on board (139 of them at the final count). Every single one of them is a superstar in my books, but it’s perhaps worth mentioning the bigger names, just to underline how the project grew so much bigger than I’d imagined. So, look out for work by Rachael Ball, Hannah Berry, Kate Charlesworth, Hunt Emerson, Kate Evans, Karrie Fransman, James Harvey, Lucy Knisley, Dave McKean, Fumio Obata, and Nye Wright among many, many other equally deserving but less-known comic artists.

What’s it all about?

The project was a reaction to the nasty politics that is prevalent right now — politics that is leaving ordinary people feeling hopeless, voiceless and powerless. The original aim has stood fast through the project, even as this large group of comic artists worked together to brainstorm the content: every action would show a way to make things a little better, to get your voice heard, to counter the negatives in the current political environment, or to offer support where government is whipping it away.

Draw The Line logo by Karrie Fransman

Each artist was allocated a single action to draw (some took 2), and then came the fun part, as image after image flooded my inbox. Some artists interpreted the brief in a surprising way, some chose to draw a single image, others went for a full-page comic strip, and every one showed thought, attention and intelligence in the way that they translated the action into something visual.

At launch, what do we have? I hope, a toolkit for political action that is also immense fun to dip into. We’ve arranged the actions so that there are ones kids can take, ones you can take if you’re skint, ones that will help women, refugees, minorities, and many many more.

Many of the actions are, of course, obvious: everyone knows how to sign a petition or wear a badge — these will serve as a reminder. Some of them, like the Raging Grannies, were new to me, and a real delight to discover.

Finally, the Next Steps page is where the real action is: that’s where we link out to the many organisations doing solid work in these areas, to learn how you can support or even join them.

On a personal level, I have something too: a new network of comics friends and associates; an understanding of how simple (if time-consuming) it is to devise and actualise a project like this; and something approaching optimism, thanks to this concrete proof that there are many others who feel the way that I do.

Share it around

Please do tell everyone you know, via your blog, social media, email and in the street. we’d love this project to reach everyone who needs it. And, after a little break, we’ll be moving onto phase two, which is to see how we can create Draw The Line in book form.

If you’d like to follow Draw The Line elsewhere, we have a Facebook page, a Tumblr, an Instagram account and a Twitter feed.

Many thanks to my co-administrators:

Karrie Fransman
Graeme McGregor
Simon Russell
Zara Slattery
Martin Wright

And now, since this is my blog, I’m going to share the two pieces I drew. If you’d like to see everyone else’s work, of course, you’ll have to visit the Draw The Line site. :)

Eschew the New by Myfanwy Tristram, from the Draw The Line comic project at www.drawthelinecomics.com
Buy second hand. You’ll be benefiting a charity if it’s from a thrift store, or helping out the seller if you buy direct. Either way, you’ll be circumventing big business and shrinking your carbon footprint.

Go Cross Country by Myfanwy Nixon, from the Draw The Line comic project at www.drawthelinecomics.com

Taking fewer flights can be a reward in itself, if you take time to enjoy the journey as well as the destination. Work in some extra time to go by train, boat, bus, bicycle, or a combination of all the above.

Well, that escalated quickly

Three weeks ago I had an idea for a collaborative comic book that would bring a few artists together to depict positive actions that anyone can take when faced with hard political times.

I suppose I imagined nine or ten of my comics friends jumping on board. If I was lucky, I thought, some of the bigger small press fish might get involved. We might do a little good.

Fast forward to the present moment, and we have 130 artists signed up. Thanks to the daisychain effect, where my contacts have other contacts who have more contacts, some of them are very big fish indeed. The past few weeks have passed in a blur of Facebook posts, spreadsheets, emailing and copy writing.

We have a committee (thanks so much for all your help, Graeme, Zara, Karrie). We have a new plan: an online presence first, then the book.

The artists all received their briefs this week. Matching them together turned out to be a labour of love: originally, the plan had been to do it entirely randomly, but it soon became evident that the variety of style and the diversity of actions meant that we’d get much better results making our selections manually. Some artists have told me they are thrilled with their picks. That is a very nice feeling.

So, that’s where we are now. Hopefully there’s a bit of breathing space before the submissions start coming in and we have to get them uploaded to our brand new website.

Except that — oh yes, I allocated an action to myself. I’d better get drawing.

What can I do? Collating a comic book for hard political times

what-can-i-do by Myfanwy Tristram

Over the past few days, I’ve seen a lot of my friends, here in the UK, and around the world, reacting with shock to the US election. For liberal-leaning folk on this side of the pond, their messages have a ring of familiarity.

“I’m scared for the poor, the marginalised, the oppressed”, “These values are not my values” and “We have to organise, take action” — these are all sentiments that UK citizens have already seen two times around: once with the election of our Conservative government and once after the Brexit referendum.

Well, here’s an something we can do. I’m crowd-sourcing ideas for concrete actions anyone can take when the prevailing political atmosphere is one they don’t agree with. They can be small, simple actions like putting a poster in your window, or bigger ones like volunteering for a cause that needs your help — or even standing for election.

At the same time I am collecting comic artists together who will illustrate these actions. We’ll create a week-by-week action plan for anyone who feels lost as to how they can make a difference in these times.

How you can get involved

There are several ways to get involved. We’re discussing logistics on this Facebook group (apologies to those who hate Facebook, but there’s no denying it makes this sort of project a lot easier).

If you’re a comic artist

Please add your name to this spreadsheet if you’d like to be considered for inclusion. A small committee of artists will ensure a uniform quality to the project by helping me assess the applicants.

If your application is successful, I’ll be contacting you between 5 and 11 December to let you know what text you are illustrating, and to give details of proportions, colour requirements etc.

All artists will retain copyright of their own work and will of course be credited in the book. We’ll also cost up the project to ensure that you get at least one copy of the final book for yourself.

If you would like to contribute ideas for actions

We’re brainstorming ideas on this document – feel free to add more. The kind of actions we are looking for are:

a) Universal: they can be applied by anyone, no matter where they live.

b) Non-partisan: yes, we happen to be living in a time where power is leaning to the right. But if you can look at your action and see how it could be applicable even if the political situation were reversed, then it’s particularly suitable for inclusion.

In short, this will be a book about how to take action against inequality, unfairness, poverty, hate, and discrimination, no matter where or how it arises.

If you would like to support the project

Hold tight. We’ll be launching it as a Kickstarter once we’ve got all the logistics bolted down, and I will of course be sharing details here as soon as they are ready.

Drawing characters – and two kinds of eye-openers

I’ve had a couple of eye-openers this week – one artistic and the other cultural. Let me try to explain…

birdkid by Myfanwy Tristram

Eye-opener one: mess

So, it’s time to think about the protaganist in my picturebook – the one who’ll be telling the story. Here’s what I know about her so far: she’s very, very sad because her mum’s gone away on business, not just for a day, but for LOTS of days, AND THE NIGHTS too.

And that sadness is manifesting itself in a wild, uncontrollable rage. It is ALL NOT FAIR.

Well, that unfettered emotion fits in rather well with this week’s class, which was all about mess and letting your water-based materials go with the flow – literally. The tutor showed us various methods of creating textures and backgrounds that might kickstart creativity.

Sure enough, when he painted over an old painting with black ink, then rubbed a little away, it was – shall we say? – miraculous.

In portait orientation, I could see a cartoon cowboy’s head. In landscape, I saw a spooky marsh, lit by a single light. Either way, I could have grabbed that paper and started drawing. That was eye-opener number one.

The tutor went on to show us things we could do with window-cleaning squeegees, edges of cardboard boxes, emulsion paint, acrylics, squirty water bottles, bleach, and more.

Ideally, I’d have come home, taped tarpaulin on every surface, and gone wild. But I use the same desk for my day job as I do for painting, and I haven’t yet found the time to prepare that thoroughly for a painting session.

All the same, I would definitely say that I was inspired to let myself go a bit, to unfurl plumes of ink into water-sodden patches of paper – and that suits the wildness of this particular kid very well. I will be pushing it further, and I’ll report back.

birdkid studies by Myfanwy Tristram

Eye-opener two: feathers

I posted an Instagram snap of the page these two sketches come from, and a friend, who is from the US, asked me about the feather headdress. My first response was, well, the book is about birds, and I want to weave in as many visual references to birds as I can in every image, plus, in this picture, she’s meant to be wild, and being dressed up in warpaint and feathers is kind of a visual shorthand for that.

But then I took a couple of moments to contemplate why she had asked. And I understood why. Because in the US, there is far more sensitivity, and indeed understanding, around the whole issue of the Native Americans’ culture, traditions and ceremonies being appropriated for children’s play.

When I was a kid, in sunny Devon (where, funnily enough, my American friend has settled now), we were untroubled by such issues. I suspect most of the UK was, actually. I’m pretty sure you could buy ‘cowboys and indians’ costumes in Woolworth; I know I had a Ladybird book with an exquisite painting of some lovely middle class children playing ‘Indians’ in a toy teepee. The phrase ‘Native Americans’ had not percolated to our corner of the universe, and indeed I don’t think I heard it until well into my 20s.

But when I thought about it, well, I realised that I probably should steer away from using a feathered headdress in the final images. Not just for reasons of self-interest, though goodness knows, no-one would want to draw a book that would be reviled in the States. And perhaps avoiding what was, to me when I sat down in class and started doodling this picture, the ‘obvious’, I will find myself driven to greater creativity.

You never know.