Nice timing, Comix Creatrix

(Image by the House of Illustration)

I know it’s already been said by everyone, but the opening of the Comix Creatrix exhibition, featuring cartoons by 100 women, could hardly have been better timed, given the controversial (and plain wrong) statement from Franck Bondoux, executive officer of the Angouleme International Comics Festival:

“Unfortunately, there are few women in the history of comics”

To which, you can either stare open-mouthed, or you can point to some robust evidence. Like, hmm, I don’t know, let me see, an exhibition which highlights the work of one hundred talented female cartoonists (past and present) in one big, stunning bundle.

Obviously, this exhibition has been some time in the making, so it’s not a deliberate riposte, but it is a delicious one.

Has anyone invited Franck over to take a look? That’d be a great GoFundMe, wouldn’t it?

Comics Creatrix poster by Laura Callaghan
Comics Creatrix poster by Laura Callaghan

I managed to visit yesterday, on the first day of the exhibition, and enjoyed a good long couple of hours poring over every exhibit.

It’s a very encouraging exhibition for any comics artist, because it presents such a massive diversity of styles, materials and subject matter. Clearly, there’s no ‘wrong’.

It was also fascinating to see what a variety of size paper people use for their originals, from tiny sketchbook pages to vast A1 sheets. And it’s particularly reassuring to see the amount of tippex and paper cover-ups some of the artists use if they are unsatisfied with their original work:

Cluster Bombs by Leila Abdelrazaq
Cluster Bombs by Leila Abdelrazaq

Apologies for the not very high-quality phone snaps: here are some other pieces of work I enjoyed, in no particular order:

Fay Dalton Reaper Files: Buddy Holiday
Fay Dalton’s Reaper Files: Buddy Holiday

 

Barbara Yelin: Irmina
Barbara Yelin: Irmina

 

From Girl In Dior by Annie Goetzinger
From Girl In Dior by Annie Goetzinger
Frame from Returning Home by Cat O'Neil
From Returning Home by Cat O’Neil

There were many, many more I could have highlighted, including some old favourites that took me right back to my earliest interest in zines and comics.

My only criticism is that there’s no (physical) catalogue. There’s an app, for which you need to have an iPad, but boy, I would have loved to buy a big volume and see all these strips reproduced to examine again at my leisure.

 

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Meeting Gudrun and the women who wear her clothes

Yesterday, I had the very singular experience of sitting in the London Gudrun Sjödén shop, sketching away while customers came to greet Gudrun herself, who was in town for a flying visit.

Gudrun Sjoden by Myfanwy Tristram

As I listened to the women who queued up to speak to Gudrun, and as I chatted to her in between times, it became clear to me what a feat the Gudrun label represents.

Red hair by Myfanwy Tristram

Most of the women had one pressing sentiment to impart: a big, resounding ‘thank you’, for recognising that women come in all shapes and sizes, and that we need not stop wearing colour and pattern once we’re over a certain age. Gudrun, with her trademark bright green specs was one manifestation of that spirit; another was the broad range of ages who approached the table for a biscuit and perhaps a photograph.

Beret lady by Myfanwy Nixon

Old or young, slender or not, the customers all wore colour, and wore it boldly. It made for some interesting drawing (so would the shop itself: the colourful clothes all around, the artwork and lampshades, and the glorious coterie of shop staff provided almost too many potential subjects).

Just discovered Gudrun, by Myfanwy Tristram

Gudrun shop assistant by Myfanwy Tristram

I was glad to have a moment to thank Gudrun for including older women in her catalogues, and catering for women no matter what size they are. It’s one of my personal bugbears that anyone who is a different shape from straight up-and-down has to look at photographs of clothes online or in catalogues, an then do a kind of tricky mental leap to translate that into what it would look like on them.

bought whole shop by Myfanwy Tristram

“It’s what’s inside that counts”, said Gudrun at one point. She was talking to Amanda from the Womens’ Room blog, who had popped in to do an interview.

Amanda from the Women's Room blog

I like the Women’s Room’s premise, too – that women over 35 just aren’t catered for by mainstream clothes shops, and that that’s a jolt for women who have grown up expecting to be able to express themselves through fashion.

It’s probably a strategic business error, as well, if the women I saw yesterday are anything to go by. Put it this way: these people are not gracefully sliding into an age of polyester twinsets.

Blue and red by Myfanwy Tristram

Anneka by Myfanwy Tristramyellow and blue by Myfanwy Tristram

London

This couldn’t have been more strongly illustrated than by the woman I sat opposite on the train back to Brighton. In her seventies, or perhaps even her eighties, she sported a shock of snow white hair onto which she’d splurged a mix of bright pink and purple dyes. She looked magnificent.

Pink haired lady

A note about the drawings: In the end I took pencil crayons, which allowed me to make colourful marks, quickly and without mess. I haven’t used them for a long time, and it was good to rediscover some of their plus points, like how nicely the colours can blend.

Drawing people as they quickly came to say hello was difficult, so I have not tried for exact likenesses. In most cases, I was drawing and colouring in long after the customer had departed, so colours and details are often from memory, or completely made up. Please don’t feel offended if you see an unflattering rendition of yourself – chances are I’ve mixed you in with one or two other people! Likewise, I’ve mixed and matched the things I heard people saying to Gudrun, so they probably aren’t next to the people who actually said them.