Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Comic Tragics Show

Just got a clutch of photos from the Comic Tragics show at the Art Gallery of Western Australia in Perth. From the looks of it they did an amazing job framing and matting everything I sent. Just one drawing alone is seven feet wide and almost five feet tall. It looks like an amazing show. The big drawing is Adam and Eve Sneaking Back into the Garden to Steal More Apples. Also shown here are a large rootball drawing, the originals from Me and the Universe, original art for  posters I did for both Autoptic and the second Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival, a bunch of pages from Dogs and Water, The End, Big Questions and Don't Go Where I Can't Follow, sketchbooks with some early versions of pieces from The End, a one-of-a-kind accordion book, Captain America Resting and a drawing of a car engine. Huge thanks to Robert Cook and to everyone who mounted the show.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Comic Tragics/Emma Talbot

I have a bunch of work in a show called Comic Tragics at the Art Gallery of Western Australia at the moment. The Guardian just did a nice little piece about it, showing a few pages by Ron Rege (who also did an amazing wall-drawing for the show), Gabrielle Bell, Dash Shaw and others, including one Emma Talbot, who I had not heard of before the invitation to the show. There are a number of reasons why I wish I could have made it out to see the show – not least because I've just never been to Australia – but I'm sorry not to be seeing Talbot's work in person. It looks pretty much unlike anything else – super strange and beautiful, sweet and creepy... and heartbreaking. She does really nice things with panels, something I've been thinking about a fair amount lately, and with facelessness, which is also a thing I can relate to, especially in dealing with similar themes. Surprised I hadn't come across her work before, maybe because she's in the gallery world, rather than the book world. Hopefully that will change.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Semi-Annual Post On Book Design

I'm working on a cover right now for a collection of short stories for children and young adults that the University of Minnesota Press is doing (in conjunction with the Mid-continental Oceanographic Institute/MOI). For that reason I just went back to look at some of the stuff I've come across over the last few months for inspiration – when I'm out in the world I generally try and keep my eyes open for interesting book covers. The images below come variously from the Miami Book Festival, a flea market in Paris, an antique market in Portland and a hotel in Astoria, Oregon... and elsewhere. Along with covers I'm also especially interested in ways designers play with a book's spine,. In my opinion it's an under-appreciated aspect of the package. If only contemporary books for adults were as playful and visually interesting as the old-school YA spines shown toward the bottom of this post.

I love the silhouette images that make up the framing on these Doctor Dolittle books. These were especially fun to find because I am trying to do something vaguely similar with panelling in some comics I'm working on at the moment.
The next two images are of a nice use of a die-cut. From a magazine, not a book, but whatever.
And spines:

(My apologies to the various illustrators and designers who's names I am generally too lazy to track down/look up. Commenters please pipe up if you know)

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Early Work

Matthew Baker just started a site called Early Work where he's posting... well, early work by various artists and writers. I gave him some stuff, and tried to write something about what I was thinking about at 16. Also on the site so far are Naomi Shihab Nye and Kelly Luce. Most of the stuff I gave him was posted here a few years back after I went through my old sketchbooks for a project D+Q was doing (which ultimately didn't pan out). I should probably be embarrassed by this stuff, but I remember seeing old comics by Jeff Brown and Brian Chippendale and finding them to actually be kind of illuminating. It's fascinating to me that a person's sensibility can be seen so strongly so early. Maybe that's the case with this stuff, too, and it'll be of interest. I look forward to seeing who else he can convince to participate. 

Thursday, March 17, 2016

"How's your next coloring book coming?"

One day last May I was at TCAF in Toronto sitting at the Drawn & Quarterly table signing copies of Poetry is Useless. Near the end of my allotted signing time the crowd had thinned and a distracted looking kid, maybe ten or eleven years old, approached and began absently turning pages in a copy of Big Questions. His mother, apparently desperate to interest her bored looking kid in something, anything at the show or in life noticed and her eyes brightened. "Ooh! It's a coloring book! You like to color! Should we get that for you?". I tried not to show it, but my soul crumpled slightly. Fortunately there's nothing like a parent's forced enthusiasm to dampen a child's interest in anything – he mumbled something inaudible, closed the book and they both wandered away.

Before my soul could completely uncrumple, my friend Jordan, who was at the table next door and had watched the whole exchange with interest piped up, grinning "Great coloring book you got there." he said. Later, back home in Minneapolis another friend got wind of the joke. "When's your next coloring book coming out?" Lots of laughs, all around. It became a thing.

Two months later I was at ComicCon in San Diego, signing again at the D+Q table, when Julia brought over a serious-looking, middle-aged Chinese gentleman and his interpreter, saying, among other things that he was a publisher in China, had been looking at my work and wanted to do a coloring book. My first thought was that Jordan or someone was playing a prank and I think I actually looked around. I'm sure some small mixture of annoyance and confusion probably flittered across my face, but I managed to have a short conversation with him and arranged to meet the next day for a drink to discuss the idea in more depth. But truly my initial thought was "How can I politely decline?".

The publisher is Ginkgo (in English) and it turned out that they make beautiful books. They've just started translating some literary graphic novels from the West (mostly France, but it looks like they are also picking up a few North American books – including Big Questions and Dogs and Water), and they were very fairly convincing. After turning the idea over in my head and thinking about what I might do I agreed. I'd had no idea that adult coloring books were a huge thing, and it turned out that several people I know use them, unbeknownst to me. It seemed like an interesting problem to play with, and Ginkgo was open to my ideas. The deal didn't get finalized until late January, and to get the 96 page book out in North America (D+Q is doing it over here) out in time for the holidays – done the way I want to do it – I have to basically do almost a page a day, with minimal chance for revision and none for preciousness. As I write this I'm just over half done, and am rather enjoying it. It's more drawing than I've ever done in a short period of time, but it's a genuinely interesting problem to work that fast, and has me pouring over books of plants and animals, visiting museums and conservatories for inspiration and looking at the world a little differently. I'll be posting pictures as I go for the next few weeks at FB and Instagram, and maybe a few more here as well, depending. Here's the cover and one more image:

The book is basically what it's title implies. I've done a bunch of drawings set in the Garden of Eden in the last few years, including the title/cover of God and the Devil at War in the Garden, and Adam and Eve Sneak Back into the Garden to Steal More Apples. The coloring book will basically be that version of Eden, populated with both real, fantastical – and long extinct animals, plants, and fungi, as well as various objects of human manufacture that might feel out of place. In a way I am picturing Adam and Eve's return in some imagined future after humans have disappeared and maybe even God has abandoned the place.